by Joanie Butman
Today marks the dawning of Holy Week, the start of Christ’s Passion, beginning with His glorious procession into Jerusalem. Personally, it’s also an acknowledgment of His triumphant entry into my heart. The thing about the Easter story is that until we make it personal, it remains just that – a story. It only becomes meaningful when we enter into it. So, who am I in the story? A woman singing praises while laying down her cloak in submission? A member of the crowd calling for His execution? Simon helping Christ carry the cross? One of the soldiers driving the nails through His hands? A bystander looking on with apathy? One of His trusted disciples who abandoned Him? A wailing woman mourning at the foot of the cross? Or, and I never considered this before though there are plenty of times I felt like one, am I the donkey?
Truth be told, I am all of the above depending on the day. Jesus understands this about me (and all of us) more than anyone, which is why He went to the cross. His prayer for the forgiveness of others in His darkest hour was for me – and you, because as we are reminded in Romans 3:23-24, “We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
As one who has been redeemed by His work on the cross, Christ calls me to be the lowly donkey. Hmm, I should have no problem with that request. There’s a slew of people who can attest to the fact that I can be an ass at times. And with a surname like Butman, I’ve been the ‘butt’ of plenty of jokes. However, the type of ass I’m called to be is like the simple, ordinary one carrying Christ -- not into Jerusalem per se but into the world. This topic reminds me of a retreat I attended whose theme was “I am Accepted, I am Secure, I am Significant.” I immediately saw the acronym A.S.S. and knew I was in the right place. These were my peeps.
Jesus’ choices were always deliberate. He is making a public declaration by His choice of vehicle as we often do. By choosing the lowliest of animals, He fulfills scripture while announcing a new kind of Kingdom – one of peace, love, humility and service with Jesus on a throne that will last forever. As His followers, when we choose to "exhibit those same qualities, we reveal the one true King living and reigning within us."
Known as the “helping hooves of humankind - donkeys are the original beasts of burden.”* Life comes with its own share of burdens. However, the manner in which we carry them speaks volumes. We aren’t meant to bear them alone. Christ is eager to lighten our load, which allows us to choose an attitude of thanks and praise regardless of our circumstances. That mindset testifies to the God we serve. On the other hand, when we don’t surrender whatever it is that’s weighing us down, there’s no room for Him to work in or through us.
Contrary to popular belief, donkeys are highly intelligent. According to Mike’s Donkeys, “training a donkey relies upon showing him or her, by words and action, that they can trust you to protect them from harm. They learn what it is we want them to do if we take time to show them.” Isn’t that what Jesus did during His ministry and continues to do through Scripture and prayer if we choose to seek His counsel? No one expects much from a donkey, which is exactly why God’s glory shines so brightly when it is displayed on or through one. By laying down our own desires before Christ, like the cloaks placed on His path into Jerusalem, we surrender to the King. We affirm His authority over us. We accept that by His power alone, can we be healed. Then out of love and gratitude, we carry that message to others.
On Palm Sunday no one notices the donkey, only the glory of the one he’s carrying, and the same should be true for us. Too often I forget, or even worse, ignore the privilege and honor of being chosen to carry the Lord into the lives of others. How I choose to answer God's call to be one of His "helping hooves of humankind" is what I’ll be meditating on this Palm Sunday because I don't want to reach the end of my life regretting lost opportunities to be the donkey! HEE HAW!