Nicolae Ceausescu grabbed power in Romania in 1974 and became one of the most brutal dictators in history. He was so self-serving, showing no care whatsoever for the people. His arrogance knew no limits. The country’s economy floundered while he chose for himself the best of the land and stored away money in foreign bank accounts. All the while he and his wife lived lavish lifestyles while demanding austerity from the people. She insisted on being flown to Paris each week to have her hair done, and he had his dog driven by police escort.
Never was there a greater contrast to human pride and arrogance as there was on the first Palm Sunday. Early that morning Jesus told two of his disciples to go ahead to Jerusalem with instructions to get a colt of a donkey and bring it to him. They found the colt and brought it to Jesus.
Jesus was about to make his triumphant entry into Jerusalem as Messiah and King, and he chose to ride on a donkey. Not just any donkey, but as Zechariah the prophet predicted 500 years before, the colt of a donkey. Kings and emperors rode gallant horses but not Jesus. He came gentle and riding on a donkey. The animal had never been ridden, but Jesus who calmed the sea calmed the animal (Zech 9:9).
As Jesus rode the two miles toward Jerusalem, the people carpeted the road ahead him with palm leaves and cloaks. It was a gesture of reverence for the Messiah (Mark 11:7). Mark says that those who went ahead shouted “Hosanna,” and the group that followed responded with "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Hosanna is Hebrew for “God save us.” How beautiful the sound of that is to those who know they need a savior.
When Jesus arrived at the temple, he confronted the hypocrisy of the people. God still condemns the actions of people who profess to be godly, but who live ungodly lives. Jesus expects our lives to be consistent when we go to church and when we are with our families (Matt 21:10-13).
No sooner had Jesus done this then the blind and the lame came to him and asked him to heal them, and he did. Just like that, he did it, and then children began to shout with joy and worship Jesus. The Pharisees objected to this praise that Jesus received, but Jesus said they were only doing what God had put in their hearts to do (Matt 21:14-16).
A powerful stallion would have frightened these little children but not this donkey, and not this man. We need a fresh view of this man on a donkey—this Jesus who is gentle and yet so powerful. The simple carpenter from Nazareth who came to save us. When he rode the donkey, he exemplified who he was—the one who won’t barge into our lives, but waits for us to open our hearts to him. This story is real. There really was a man on a donkey who eventually went on to carry a cross to Golgotha. He died on that cross to save us from our sins.
We have so much of Ceausescu in every one of us, and we are far more demanding and self-serving than we want to admit. We need the man on the donkey to transform us and teach us how to live with humility. Only Jesus can really show us how to live in a way that brings glory to God and meets the deepest emotional needs of our lives.