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.
Entering into a visualization of the Gospel on today’s Palm Sunday reading I became the donkey which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on. Chesterton’s well known poem came to mind.Hey the donkey sure had his day outside of Bethany those many years ago.
No matter what we make of that scene in Mark’s gospel the point is this: The master comes riding in on a humble animal. This scene is probably an example of what Dominic Crossan would call “prophecy historicized” , the donkey is “borrowed” from Zechariah:
“Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem! See now, your king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus is the king of nobodies riding not on a war horse at the head of a triumphant army but on a poor donkey. Mark’s gospel written in the glow of the searing memory of the Roman decapitation of Jerusalem is nothing more than “a passion narrative with an extended introduction” as one great German scholar called it.
The Palm Sunday reading is a reminder of what the demands of discipleship really are. Bonhoeffer had it right: “When Jesus calls us, he bids us come and die.” This long reading has so many characters to identify with but in this day of advancing understandng that creation includes all of sentient life, why not become the donkey?