When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
“The Donkey” by G.K. Chesterton is a wonderful little poem and yet another example for the Christian of how “the Lord sees not as man sees” (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7). His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts (cf. Isaiah 55:8).
But “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:15).
Donkeys are wonkey, so I’ve read, and ugly.
There is, in American slang, the phrase “donkey ugly” which describes something that is so ugly it could only have been produced by an already ugly donkey.
No one wants to look, sound, act, think, or be like a donkey.
No loving husband says that his wife reminds him of a donkey.
No loving wife says that her husband’s voice is as soothing and as sweet as the Hee-Haw of a donkey.
And yet—one far fierce hour and sweet…
There was a shout about his ears.
And palms before his feet.
The Lord of glory chose to ride upon that which is most ugly as He made His way into Jerusalem.
Briefly, let’s wonder at the seeming contradictions of God: The Eternal God is born in time. Holy, He endures shame, conviction, cross, and death. Lord of all, He serves all. Glorious, He rides upon that which is ugly.
These things don’t make sense to us.
None of what is going on makes sense to us. “This is serious—save lives and stay home.” Or, “This is serious, but if I can go to Costco, I can go to church.”
Fear not, daughter of Zion—all is as it should be.
You don’t understand it all, because you’re not God.
You would never choose a donkey.
You would never choose to endure shame or cross or death. You would never submit.
So God gives you a cross to bear.
You can ignore it and make matters worse.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). But you can let your worries crush you if you give up hope.
Why are there crosses? Sicknesses? Trials? And tests?
Why are there days like these?
We would never choose this.
Fear not, daughter of Zion—that is as it should be.
You’re not God. He chose a donkey.
The burden of the sin of the world is carried by our Savior. The donkey literally bears the burden of Christ.
The burden of our sin is carried by Jesus to cross and death and grave. There, sin stays dead, but Jesus lives. The Christian bears the burden of Christ—that is, we bear the burden of His name and His Word. The burden of the world’s scorn and the ire of the evil one.
Fear not. This is as it must be.
Never give up. Here is your hope!
There is a shout about your ears and palms before your feet: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13).
Through cross and death, He rides to resurrection victory.
And we follow.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Palm Sunday, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt