Pastoral Care (Ezekiel 34:17-23)

“Now then, my flock, I, the Sovereign Lord, tell you that I will judge each of you and separate the good from the bad, the sheep from the goats. Some of you are not satisfied with eating the best grass; you even trample down what you don’t eat! You drink the clear water and muddy what you don’t drink! My other sheep have to eat the grass you trample down and drink the water you muddy.

“So now, I, the Sovereign Lord, tell you that I will judge between you strong sheep and the weak sheep. You pushed the sick ones aside and butted them away from the flock. But I will rescue my sheep and not let them be mistreated any more. I will judge each of my sheep and separate the good from the bad. I will give them a king like my servant David to be their one shepherd, and he will take care of them. (Good News Translation)

“Only through love can we obtain communion with God.”

Albert Schweitzer

I have a zero tolerance for bullying. And, I believe, this is a conviction which must be shared together with everyone. If not, we will continue to see spiritual abuse in the news, so-called Christians and churches throwing their weight around, and a world enveloped in the darkness of mean-spirited persons who only care about themselves and getting their way.

It is most necessary that spiritual folk let compassionate pastoral care have its way in the world.

Pastoral care, for me, is rooted in the compassion of Jesus Christ. It is my connection and relationship with this living Savior, Teacher, Healer, and Lord which enables me to extend genuine care to others. 

I believe that it is the grace and mercy of God in Christ through the enablement of the Holy Spirit which brings comfort, hope, and encouragement to people in need. My philosophy of pastoral care addresses three significant factors, in this order:

  1. Being in a safe environment is paramount. Building trust and connection is important. The caring relationship needs confidence so that the pastor can compassionately encourage and help the person to pursue being in a secure place – whether that is a physical moving away or out, or finding a safe and sacred place within one’s own soul from which healing and holistic health can begin. Bullying can be physical, verbal, emotional, mental, or personal in talking abusively to oneself; and it must be stood up to and stopped.
  2. Grieving is necessary. Mourning and lamenting a significant change or loss must occur to learn to thrive and flourish again in a new situation. This requires being open about one’s feelings, communing freely with God, and being vulnerable with a pastor, therapist, church group, or some other secure human connection. It is common to get “stuck” in grief and believe our situation can never change. But it can, so we must not remain there. 
  3. Reconnecting with the world is vital. Bullying and belligerent people can take a lot out of us and from us. Therefore, we need to find joy in the simple pleasures of life again; to reach out and relate to others who have gone through similar experiences; and, to regain ordinary rhythms and routines of life are all crucial to being alive. The compassionate pastor gently assists, encourages, exhorts, and walks with others toward relating well with the world once again.

Recovery is not an event, and not even a process; it is a way of life. 

All of us are vulnerable to the brokenness of this fallen world. We must learn to navigate troubled times with someone who cares, and not by ourselves. 

We all struggle to live out our faith commitments in a complex web of various family, work, social, and neighborhood relationships.

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility!”

Søren Kierkegaard

I am passionate about a biblical understanding of living in the world for its betterment and blessing as a pastoral minister. The following is a kind of manifesto of what I feel called to be and to do….

With God as my help, and with the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as my guide for grateful living, I seek with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength:

  • To foster, support, and realize spiritual healing in the world
  • To cultivate the human spirit and do the work of soul-craft deliberately, carefully, and patiently
  • To consult and collaborate with others who share a spiritual vision for blessing the world
  • To engage in spiritual practices which strengthen faith, enlarge a compassionate heart, and expand the soul’s capacity for growth
  • To walk in the way of Jesus through engrafting silence, solitude, fasting, giving, and prayer into regular and habitual rhythms of life
  • To wed integration of learning with an alignment of head, heart, and gut.
  • To embrace suffering and adversity as sacred Teachers of the soul
  • To continually pursue self-awareness and utilize that awareness for the common good of all persons
  • To liberally use the spiritual tools of faith, hope, and love; and, to sharpen those implements with great care
  • To weep with those who weep
  • To keep vigilant presence with the dying
  • To extend mercy, respect, and hospitality to those considered by society as the least, the last, and the lost
  • To eradicate loneliness in all its forms
  • To extend basic human dignity and divine grace to all with mental illness, cognitive disorders, soul-sucking addictions, and suicidal ideation
  • To embody the Beatitudes of Jesus and live by Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
  • To embrace humble service as demonstrated and taught by Jesus in his Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17)
  • To picture a world without poverty, racism, patriarchy, gender bigotry, verbal and physical violence, religious wars, and emotional immaturity
  • To imagine a future with an abundance of the Fruit of the Spirit, clean water, creativity, beauty, and equity of resources
  • To promote an egalitarian spirit and social justice, especially for those without power and/or privilege in the world
  • To see the image of God in persons very different from me
  • To grieve and lament my unwanted changes and losses
  • To express daily affirmations of faith
  • To exercise gratitude in all circumstances
  • To live in a healthy rhythm of receiving and giving
  • To encourage the telling and listening of stories
  • To champion women everywhere and alleviate all barriers to their voice in the world
  • To reform and keep reforming
  • To choose vulnerability and courage in life and leadership
  • To perpetuate, in both word and deed, the ancient Scriptures and ecumenical Creeds, paying attention to the worldwide church’s contribution to scriptural understanding
  • To use Holy Scripture for the encouragement of others and the strengthening of faith, and not as a weapon to damage others and create divisions
  • To observe the Christian Year and conform to its liturgical rhythms.
  • To die well, with no regrets and with a legacy of faith

Care For the Flock (Ezekiel 34:1-16)

The Lord God said:

Ezekiel, son of man, Israel’s leaders are like shepherds taking care of my sheep, the people of Israel. But I want you to condemn these leaders and tell them:

I, the Lord God, say you shepherds of Israel are doomed! You take care of yourselves while ignoring my sheep. You drink their milk and use their wool to make your clothes. Then you butcher the best ones for food. But you don’t take care of the flock! You have never protected the weak ones or healed the sick ones or bandaged those that get hurt. You let them wander off and never look for those that get lost. You are cruel and mean to my sheep. They strayed in every direction, and because there was no shepherd to watch them, they were attacked and eaten by wild animals. So my sheep were scattered across the earth. They roamed on hills and mountains, without anyone even bothering to look for them.

Now listen to what I, the living Lord God, am saying to you shepherds. My sheep have been attacked and eaten by wild animals because you refused to watch them. You never went looking for the lost ones, and you fed yourselves without feeding my sheep. So I, the Lord, will punish you! I will rescue my sheep from you and never let you be their shepherd again or butcher them for food. I, the Lord, have spoken.

The Lord God then said:

I will look for my sheep and take care of them myself, just as a shepherd looks for lost sheep. My sheep have been lost since that dark and miserable day when they were scattered throughout the nations. But I will rescue them and bring them back from the foreign nations where they now live. I will be their shepherd and will let them graze on Israel’s mountains and in the valleys and fertile fields. They will be safe as they feed on grassy meadows and green hills. I promise to take care of them and keep them safe, to look for those that are lost and bring back the ones that wander off, to bandage those that are hurt and protect the ones that are weak. I will also slaughter those that are fat and strong because I always do right. (Contemporary English Version)

We have a pastoral duty to care for one another. Individuals need not have the title of “Pastor” in order to function as pastoral people who seek the welfare of the flock. A part of our responsibility (and privilege) is to know the flock well enough in discerning when there are some lost ones out there. Whenever that happens, we care about them enough to go after them.

If we either ignore the flock, fail to care for it, or seek to fleece them for our own benefit, we will have to contend with a God who has no tolerance for unnecessarily putting the sheep at risk. And we are to be attentive to the ones who have strayed and are lost.

Caring about the lost, enough to go after them, has always been, unfortunately, a scandalous activity for Christians who do it. In the Gospels, the religious leaders had a big problem with how Jesus was spending his time (Luke 15:1-3). From their perspective, Christ was guilty by association. Many of the people Jesus pursued and hung-out with were unsavory characters; there was really no doubt about their bad character. 

But we must come back to why Christ made the decisions he did: Jesus did not come to earth to make already righteous people feel good about being around him; he came to rescue sinners and restore them to God. 

Jesus never wavered from this fundamental mission. With everything he said and did, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, communicated that lost people matter to God – and that practice eventually got him killed.

Early in my Christian life, I adopted a practice, on most Friday nights, of going to a certain bar known for its less than virtuous clientele. I typically ordered a bowl of chili gumbo, and simply sat and talked with fellow students. I learned a lot about people – their hopes, fears, and spiritual inclinations. 

I learned even more about God. I saw the terrible brokenness of many people’s hearts, and saw that the heart of God was pained in longing to restore such persons to a place of spiritual abundance, peace, and joy.

One Friday night, in the middle of winter, as I was walking back from the bar with a friend at about midnight, we encountered a guy so drunk that he could not walk straight. He wasn’t wearing any pants, nor did he have a coat. In below freezing temperatures, he was in only a shirt and underwear. 

All the people who passed by him laughed and kept walking. But we stopped. It took several minutes to get some semblance of a story out of him about what happened, where he came from, and where he lived. The poor guy couldn’t remember losing his pants, which had his wallet and keys. 

He lived far enough away that there was no way he would have ever made it home. It’s quite probable that without someone helping him he would have passed out somewhere and died. We got him home, found a way to get into his place, and tucked him in his bed.

The next day I went and checked on him. Even though he had a bad hangover, we still had a good conversation about what happened and why I helped him. We ended up meeting several times together and talked a great deal about God, guilt, grace, Jesus, and salvation. 

Meanwhile, however, not everyone was happy about my practice. Some of the people in my church were not pleased with me spending time in a bar with “sinners.” They told me things like, “Bad company corrupts good character” and “it doesn’t look good.” I merely matter-of-factly responded, “I like the way I’m reaching out to lost people better than the way you’re not.”

We are in danger of becoming encrusted with so much insulation from lost people, and their very real hurts, that we do not know God’s heart for them. 

Jesus, better than any of us could ever imagine, knows how awful and horrific sin really is. That’s because he suffered by taking on the shameful baggage of every person who ever lived. Since Jesus understands how awful guilt and shame is, it’s God who goes uncorked with joy and celebration when just one lost sheep is restored to the flock.

Grace lies at the center of God’s heart – a scandalous grace that defies all earthly sense. God’s deepest desire, greatest yearning, and most passionate dream is that lost people return home. (Luke 15:11-32) 

In light of the reality that God’s heart burns for lost people, we as churches, faith communities, Christian ministries, and believers everywhere really need to: 

  • Put away all petty concerns and realize there are lost people, far from the flock, at risk and dying apart from God
  • Put all worries about the future in biblical perspective – because there are people with no hope and no God all around us
  • Put aside all pre-occupations with optics and marketing, numbers and money; and instead have a holy obsession with people knowing Jesus Christ, and him crucified, risen, and coming again 

We are to make it our aim in this life to pray for, long for, look for, run after, and pursue lost people and restore them to life.

For what does it profit a person to gain the world but lose their life because they was too pre-occupied with everything but caring for the flock? And what does it profit a church to have buildings, budgets, and butts in the pew, but never see a lost soul come to Jesus?

Jesus Shows Up (John 20:19-31)

Jesus shows himself to Thomas, by Rowan and Irene LeCompte

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (New International Version)

When Jesus shows up, there is peace. Wherever Jesus goes, the Spirit of God is there. When Jesus appears, people believe.

The Meeting

After the crucifixion of Christ, the disciples were huddled together, mostly in fear of being found out and put out by the religious authorities. Out of nowhere, Jesus showed up, smack in the middle of the anxious group of men.

Christ in the center makes all the difference. From this central place, Jesus bestowed to the disciples his peace. The very first word the risen Christ spoke to his disciples was neither a command to stop being afraid, nor a rebuke for sitting around and doing nothing, or disappointment that they all ran away in the final hour of need at the crucifixion; instead, the first word of Christ was a gift of peace.

The presence and peace of Christ melted the disciples’ fear. Christ-centered peace is graciously given; so let us gratefully receive it.

The Reality

Jesus showed up, then showed off his hands and his side. He was not fabricated out of the disciples’ imagination; he was not some ghostly apparition. Rather, Christ was standing in the middle of them, very real, very physical, and very alive.

Christ gave his disciples real truth: actual wounded hands and side on a real body. Christ is risen and alive – not just spiritually, but physically. Since the resurrection of Jesus really happened, then nothing else matters; our joy is complete. We have what we need.

The Mission

As Jesus was sent by the Father, so Jesus sent his disciples; and is still sending us out into the world. And as Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it, so we go out with words of grace and peace. The church exists for the life of the world – to bless it with the presence and peace of Christ.

“Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:44-46, NIV)

Our spiritual DNA makes us little Christ’s walking around, doing the will of God, for the benefit of a world in darkness. We bear the name of Christ: Christians, proclaiming a message of life, delighting in God and creation; and not destroying the earth and its inhabitants.

The Gift

Right now, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit has been graciously given to us by Jesus. Although our mission is a big one, our resource for accomplishing it is even bigger. Jesus gives the Spirit in the same way he gives himself – as a sheer gift with no strings attached. Just as God breathed life into the very first people on earth, so Jesus breathes on the disciples and gives them new life and a new heart.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws… and you will be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:26-28, NIV)

The Privilege

Christ has redeemed us, forgave us of our guilt and shame. Now, we have the privilege of passing the forgiveness to others. The special mission of the Church is giving Jesus to others with grace and peace, so that they may believe he is truly the risen Lord; and so, receive Jesus, the Spirit, forgiveness, and purpose in life, with Christ at the center of all things.

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:34-36, NIV)

The Risen Lord, by He Qi

The Appearance

When Jesus appears, its good if we also show up to see him. It seems Thomas was late for church and missed the beginning of the service. He wasn’t with the other gathered disciples. Nobody knows where he was or what he was doing. But the important thing is that he did eventually show up, because showing up is the beginning of a changed life.

The Witness

After Jesus showed up, the disciples bore witness to what they saw and heard to Thomas. Yet Thomas, bless his doubting heart, wasn’t having it. He’s a realist. He wants proof, some actual physical evidence. Thomas was clearly a tactile learner because he needs some touch to believe any of this crazy talk of his disciple brothers.

Sometimes Thomas gets a bad rap, but he is really our Everyman. Doubt and skepticism are an important part of a full-orbed and honest faith. Jesus gave Thomas some space, time, and respect to begin wrapping his head and heart around this new reality of resurrection. I wonder if we all can do the same with others.

The Middle

A second time, Jesus shows up in the middle of the disciples. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – and didn’t become a ghost and hang out in secret places. Once again, peace is given by Jesus to his followers.

Both appearances happen on a Sunday (which is why Christians have always worshiped on Sundays); and both meetings are literally Christ-centered (which every Christian meeting is supposed to be). Every Sunday. Christ always in the middle. Keep those two, and keep them together, and you can’t go wrong.

Jesus appears to Thomas with the Latin words, “See my hands,” in Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire Church, Saint-Ouen, France 

The Invitation

There’s no beating around the bush with Jesus. He immediately engaged Thomas and invited him to touch the wounds on his very real body. Christ knew Thomas’ hang-up, and went right to it. Thomas wanted evidence; Jesus offered it. If we get anything out of this encounter, it is that risen Christ honors honest doubt.

The evidence is here. Now believe it, and stop disbelieving. We have documentary evidence of the Old and New Testaments; the Church’s witness in Creeds, Confessions, and contemporary narratives of changed lives; and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, look into them carefully and draw a sound conclusion.

The Confession

“My Lord and my God!” That’s the confession and the conclusion Thomas drew from the evidence – not only that Jesus is real, alive, existed, a good teacher; or other people’s Lord and God – but that he is my Lord and my God.

Jesus cared enough for Thomas to specifically meet him personally at his point of need. The grace of God keeps coming and never runs out. Jesus is filled up to the full in both grace and truth.

The Believer

Thomas had the physical evidence. But it doesn’t take that to truly believe. God blesses those who’ve never seen nor touched, but still believe. Jesus was thinking of you and me, and not only the people in front of him at the time. The Lord Jesus blesses us with the gift of peace, grace, and faith.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9, NIV)

The Conclusion

All this is for our benefit, so that we, too, may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Since Jesus is alive, he continues to bless us with his presence, power, and peace.

Jesus is with us:

  • through the Word of God, giving us his peace, showing up and meeting needs people.
  • at the Table in the sacrament of communion, bringing grace and forgiveness
  • in the person of the Holy Spirit, enabling and energizing us for mission and ministry to the world

It’s a life worth living, a Christ-centered life, full of God’s blessing.

O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we receive the legacy of a living hope, born again not only from his death but also from his resurrection. May we who have received forgiveness of sins, set others free, until we enter the inheritance that is imperishable and unfading, where Christ lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Gentle King (Matthew 21:1-11)

The Triumphal Entry, by He Qi

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (New International Version)

A Humble Leader

Gentle humility and strong leadership are not mutually exclusive concepts. They can and should co-exist together.

Los Angeles County traffic cops receive plenty of complaints about their work. After all, most motorists don’t think they deserve a ticket. Each complaint gets documented and placed in the officer’s personnel file. One officer, however, Deputy Sheriff Elton Simmons, made 25,000 traffic stops over a span of 20 years, without a single complaint on his record.

When his supervisor started looking through Simmons’ file, he was stunned to find plenty of commendations, but not a single complaint. It was so unusual, that a CBS News crew was assigned to follow Simmons in an attempt to learn his secret. They described Deputy Simmons as having a “pitch-perfect mix of authority and diplomacy” without a trace of arrogance or self-righteousness.

Although handing out plenty of tickets, they never came with a guilt trip.  Deputy Simmons described his mentality: “I’m here with you. I won’t look down at you.” 

One driver who got a ticket from Simmons said, “It’s his smile. How could you be mad at that guy?”  “Apparently, you can’t,” concluded the CBS News team. “Time after time, ticket after ticket, we saw Officer Simmons melt away a polar ice cap of preconceptions.”

A Meek Celebrity

As Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last week of his life, he was at the height of his fame. Christ’s teaching and healing ministry touched thousands of people. Jesus was the most famous celebrity to come into town since David captured the city a thousand years before. 

But Jesus did not ride into Jerusalem as a great and mighty warrior who conquered Jerusalem in a military battle. There is coming a time, at the end of the age, when Jesus will take on this role, but that was not his purpose on this occasion. 

Hosanna in the Highest, by Malaysian artist Hanna-Cheriyan Varghese

One of the challenges for people in every era is to properly balance scriptural truth. Many Jews emphasized King David’s victories in battle, and his great political dynasty, and so, tended to overlook that David was also a humble servant. 

King David showed steadfast love and kindness to his subjects and submitted himself to God in such a way that, even with opportunities to seize the kingship from Saul who was trying to take his life, he left vengeance to God alone.

Christ’s triumphal entry portrays Jesus as King, the Son of David, but as a gentle king. He embodied both powerful authority and gentle humility. Jesus wanted the crowd to understand that he was not like most kings – he was a lowly king. 

Jesus as a meek celebrity seemed so odd that many people saw that combination of gentle authority as being wishy-washy. Jesus didn’t fit any of the typical labels that people expected. They wondered, “Is he a Pharisee? Or a Zealot? What’s his position on the Romans?  How is he going to lead us out from under Gentile rule?” There was lots of anxiety and concern over Jesus; the people could not nail down exactly what kind of guy he was.

A Servant Pastor

Over the years, as a Pastor, many people have wanted to label me as something, but have had a hard time doing it. Am I liberal or conservative? liturgical or non-liturgical? open or closed to particular people or groups? e.g. LGBTQ folks, Black Lives Matter, etc.

The problem with all this is that it assumes you cannot be both, as if life is all either/or, instead of both/and. It makes ministry about choosing sides, instead of breaking down barriers.

Meekness and strength, gentleness and authority, humility and leadership, grace and truth, love and anger, are all meant to be together – not compartmentalized in sequestered ghettos of the mind.

Jesus sought to hold kingly authority and divine righteousness together, at the same time, all the time. Christ came into Jerusalem to face the cross and take upon himself the sin of the whole world. He came as a gentle king.

Yet, many people do not want this kind of leader because they think leadership is all about power – taking charge with strong authority, telling people what to do, and controlling every aspect of the realm.  

Jesus, at times, acts like a decisive and absolute authority. He knocks over the tables of the money changers in the temple, curses fig trees, and refuses to answer direct questions. But then he turns around and goes against the people’s expectations of him as a leader by riding on a lowly donkey, inviting tax collectors and prostitutes to join him, going after the lost, and embracing the least persons in society.

A Donkey Lord

Jesus displayed a combination that seemed confusing and wishy-washy to many. Christ is both sovereign lord, and humble servant. Jesus riding on a donkey seemed a strange fusion of authority and humility. 

On the one hand, a donkey was the beast of burden for most working class poor people. Donkeys are ordinary, and not like war horses. Kings didn’t ride into conquered cities on donkeys. But, on the other hand, the donkey is also linked to Messiah’s power and authority.

Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion!
    Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem!
    Look, your king is coming to you!
He comes triumphant and victorious,
    but humble and riding on a donkey—
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The Lord says,

“I will remove the war chariots from Israel
    and take the horses from Jerusalem;
    the bows used in battle will be destroyed.
Your king will make peace among the nations;
    he will rule from sea to sea,
    from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:9-10, GNT)

Jesus is the ultimate leader who uses his authority for the benefit of others, to bring peace. Jesus did not use his authority to consolidate power and squish enemies, but instead, gave his life so that others might live. 

Gentle and meek does not mean being a washrag or a limp noodle. Rather, it means to have power under control, e.g. a broke horse; it is power for useful purposes to serve people, not like other kings who were concerned with getting, consolidating, and keeping power, at all costs.

Jesus is the crucified Messiah; the modest leader; the lowly Lord; the God Man. We must hold it all, not emphasizing one aspect above another, so that we have the complete picture of Christ.

A Gracious Royal

Believers and followers of Jesus are royal children of the King. That means we live in the way of Jesus by bestowing grace to others. What does this “look like?”

  • In our families, Christian parents do not merely bark orders at kids, but love and support them by humbly and gently coming alongside and helping. 
  • In our neighborhoods, Christian citizens pray for the welfare of their neighbors, even and especially the ones who we may not like very well.   
  • In our work, Christian workers use their skills and abilities to serve others, transforming what we do from a secular job to a sacred vocation. 
  • In our daily life, Christians scan the horizon to seek people whom we might show God’s kindness, instead of just waiting for something to fall into our laps, if it ever does.

A Talking Donkey

From the Old Testament, we know that donkeys can talk (Numbers 22:21-38). If Christ’s donkey could speak, I imagine him saying: 

“King Jesus, why did you choose a lowly donkey like me to carry you to ride in your parade? Didn’t you have a friend who owned a horse – a spirited royal mount, fit for a king to ride? Why choose me, a small unassuming beast of burden, trained to plow and not to carry kings?”

It is a privilege to be a Christian. Perhaps you will say: 

“King Jesus, why did you choose me, a lowly unimportant person to bear you in my world today? I am poor and unimportant, trained to work, and not to carry kings – let alone the King of kings; and yet, you’ve chosen me to carry you in triumph in this world’s parade. King Jesus, keep me humble, so everyone may say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,’ and not ‘what a great Christian he is.’”

God of all, you gave your only begotten Son to take the form of a servant, and to be obedient, even to death on a cross: give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus that, sharing in his humility, we may come to be with him in his glory, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.