Days before his trial and crucifixion, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a very young donkey. It was the first time – the first time – anyone had ridden the colt. As they traveled together along the dirt road, the tumultuous crowd on either side waved large palm branches across their path and shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Each Palm Sunday I think of the miracle of the donkey.
The colt never bucked in resistance to someone on its back for the first time in its life. It didn’t flinch and swerve with fear at the branches waved in front of its eyes. It never brayed in agitation at the shrill shouts and commotion. Its four-hoof cadence remained calm, purposeful, and peaceful as they made their way through the clamoring crowd toward the city.
During many seasons of my life I’ve been intimate with confusion. And heartache. And fear. There have been times when all three disrupted my life-cadence to near paralysis.
Which is why I should think more often of the miracle of the donkey.
I’ve wondered from time to time why the colt was so calm. And too often I found my musings become too ‘spiritual’ for my own good: Perhaps the beast felt the calming weight of Christ’s glory. Perhaps it intuitively recognized Christ’s authority and power. But the longer I thought about the scene in light of the entire Bible, I rejected those fanciful ideas for something simpler – and far more likely.
The donkey trusted its creator and master.
I always settle on that reason because it is Biblically sound. Not very often does the child of God ‘feel’ God’s presence in the midst of confusion, exhaustion, heartbreak, illness, loneliness, or fear. That is why the Holy Spirit repeatedly tells us to walk by faith, not by sight. Or ‘feelings.’
Here are only a few examples: “When I am afraid I will put my trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3); “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10); “Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not.” (Isaiah 35:4); “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33); “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
The miracle of the donkey is not so much a miracle as it is an illustration for us of how trust in our master brings calm in the midst of life’s seeming continuous clamor.
I’m not there yet. I do not yet have the simple trust of a beast of burden. But I know how to pray – and I pray it often:
”Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.”