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“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Zechariah 9:9)
It seems like religion will never really understand. If religion struggles, then how is the world supposed to get it? Neither religion, nor the world system (kosmos) understand power. Each just assumes that “more power is better.”
The world systems, on full display today, love their political, economic, racial, religious, and tribal power plays. Like an anthill, each is striving and climbing for an egoic power over the “other.” Our divided world now hates the other half of us, and fights viciously to be OVER the other… to call the shots…to impose one’s WILL upon others. The oppressed seek to become the oppressor. This is the world’s kingdom…and where there is a kingdom, there is a king.
Modern religion has embraced the world’s “POWER-OVER” dynamic. Institutionalized religion gives us a dominant militaristic Christ who’s power “over” compels “every knee to bow and every tongue confess.” (Romans 14:11) The narrative of the church’s eschatological belief is that; “the world can mock now, but just wait… Jesus will come back with a can of whoop ass and destroy this world.” Each religion has a similar trajectory… “my God can beat up your god…my path is better than yours…”
Humanity can’t help it. Competition is our default mode. We want to be like the others…to be led. We want others to choose for us. We are like sheep. Sheople, who want a government to solve our problems. We’ve said this for a very long time…
“Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” (1 Samuel 8:5-7)
The reason religion and the world will never get it, is because both can only exist if the sheep abdicate their power to these systems. Once drunk with power, tyranny germinates from the system’s need to stay in power. The design for humanity was not institutional power, but God’s rule over the heart of each person, as each served one another with their giftedness. We were to each be accountable to the voice of God within, to love others as ourselves, to subvert the influence of the “power-over” dynamics by self emptying, service, and love…“lay down your sword.”
The ecclesia (gathering, assembly, church) was to be the antidote to institutional rule. Had this body remained true to its Head, religion would never have existed.
Of course, the prophets Zechariah and Isaiah knew this was the counter-intuitive path. Subversion, NOT power-over. Unearthing from beneath, not dominating from above. Inside-out leadership, not outside-in. Servant leadership, or humility, was the teaching of Jesus to his disciples.
“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
This is why the true Kingdom of God did not come as a military conquest as Barrabbas and the zealots assumed. God’s Kingdom is not a political negotiation as Judas and the Pharisees assumed. This Kingdom of Heaven is not threatened by big Government and its overreach as Pilate in Rome assumed. Is it any wonder that those trapped in their power structures could not recognize their own Messiah when they looked him in the face? If we think the modern Church would recognize Jesus any better, we are gravely mistaken.
The Kingdom of God is subversive. It begs us…tests us…tries us to underestimate it. It’s king is down, not up. It’s King, rides not in a powerful display, but on a donkey… humble and unassuming, yet utterly devastating and disruptive. Jesus is the Donkey King, the Christ, the promised “anointed one” that satisfies every expectation, but not according to any of our expectations. Hidden in plane sight, he is leading an army that can only be perceived, yet is infinitely powerful, able to unearth the world’s fiction with the light of Truth.
The Donkey King rides directly into the Temple, and tears it apart, revealing the corruption, profiteering, and showboating, that came from a house of solitude and dedication. When Jesus calls the temple a “den of robbers” he uses the term “lēston” which refers to “highway robbery” or those who steal by force and violence. In like manner, today’s ministries have paid staff, budgets, and infrastructure designed to profiteer from the city. In exchange, modern ministry doles out prayers and platitudes for the people which cost them nothing. Wrought with trite worship and offerings, the meeting house of God is an entertaining transaction not transformation. The external temple, in all its pomp, has been rebuilt, in every world religion.
Look around the state of the church this weekend. Which of our Easter services would survive the Donkey King?
On his Palm Sunday, not only did the Donkey King pick a fight, but the next day he came right back and taught those who cared to listen. This unflinching voice of hope, did not fear the powers that be. Yes, he would definitely be cancelled, but he would show that his death was not the end…but the beginning.
Our modern world has rapidly lost its thirst for God and the modern church has so distorted who Jesus is and his message that people avoid looking his way for fear of being associated with that tribe. Yet the Donkey King emerges, the Christ comes, daily as he did in Jesus, so he comes to us. The invitation is always the same…”come out of your tomb“…”do not bow down to the kingdoms of this world“…”store up treasure in Heaven“… “come, and follow me.”
We are each faced with a choice. Power-OVER.. or …Subversion? Dominance or Sacrifice? Take or Serve? Two kingdoms, one with a king to rule over us with increasing oppression, one to rule within us with increasing liberation. The reason the world is so divided is because it hates the Kings of this world but it has no concept that it can be another way. The fact that the world doesn’t get it, is an indictment upon the church, who should know better, that she has lost her way, and forsaken her first love.
This Palm Sunday, may we truly reflect on the Donkey riding King, and may we place our faith in the “Anointed One” and no longer in a system, a government, or a religion to save us. May we, like the many he healed, lay down our own palm leaves and usher the Donkey King in to our temple to dismantle it. May he find himself welcome upon the throne of our lives, in whom we cry “Hosanna” which means: “Save, I pray“
May we finally consider that a sacrifice so big hides within a king placed so low. This is only good news if God gets out of from man’s religion. In the story, when the Donkey King gives up his life, the temple veil is torn, and God does in fact get out. Religion is no longer required for access, just a moment of quiet reflection. So then, why has humanity tried for 2000 years to put God back in religion’s box? Of course we all know the answer.
Control and power.
The question is: This Easter, will you follow the Donkey King out of the temple or religious apparatus? Or will you stay behind and help the moneychangers pick up their tables and get back to business as usual? Remember, when the Kingdom of Heaven is depicted in its full glory, the Donkey King will be at its center of it…shining…and there will be no temple.
So choose your source of power wisely.