In the Gospel, Jesus is acclaimed as King of Israel by a great crowd of people as he rides to Jerusalem on a donkey. It is a great triumphal parade, a high point of fame and popular success for Jesus.
But I want to ask about the donkey. It’s not Jesus’ donkey. How did he get it? The Gospel says he sent his disciples to a neighboring village to untie it and take it away. But why would anyone let those men simply make off with somebody else’s donkey? As far as that goes, how did Jesus even know that donkey was there?
Here’s one possible answer. The Gospel says that Jesus was near Bethany when he sent his disciples to get the donkey. So maybe that donkey was in Bethany. Bethany is the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus. Like the donkey, which is a humble beast, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are small and ordinary people. Nobody would acclaim them in great parades. But they are nonetheless the particular friends of Jesus. Maybe the donkey belongs to them or to their neighbors. Maybe Jesus knows exactly where that donkey is because he has seen it when he was visiting Mary and her family. Maybe the villagers are so ready to let the disciples of Jesus take the donkey because they know and trust Jesus.
On this way of reading the story, the great King of Israel rides with popular acclamation into Jerusalem on the small beast which comes from the village of his particular friends, two ordinary women and their equally ordinary brother.
And here’s the sequel. The crowd that acclaims Jesus so greatly is next seen shouting for his crucifixion. That’s how much fame and popular success are worth. And here’s what particular friendship with the Lord is worth. When Jesus ascends to God the Father, do you know where he chooses to be? In Bethany (Luke 24: 50), where his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are.
And so in his royal procession, on that little donkey, our Lord shows us what is truly worth caring about: the small things, the particular things so dear to us and to our great King.