March 20, 2013 - They came back with the ass, the colt that he had asked for. They placed their coats on the animal's back for him to sit on.
Not only did this make his ride more comfortable, they were tokens of honor toward a man who was a great teacher, a rabbi, their leader, a prophet, the Messiah or Christos: the anointed one who would lead them into the new kingdom, the King of the Jews.
The crowds who were walking up the hill into the city for the Passover recognized the prophesied sign of the coming Messiah: a holy man riding on an ass, the colt of an ass.
Maybe some of them had followed him into the wilderness and remembered his promised blessings to the poor in spirit, to those who mourn and to the meek or maybe they had been witness to the miracles.
Believing that now was the time that the promises would be realized some began to lay their coats on the ground to honor him. Others cut branches off the palm trees and laid them on the road saying, "Save us, Son of David."
Few truly understood the holy mission of this Christed one. Most were expecting a warrior king who would call upon the angels to smite those who persecuted them, the Romans.
Among these was Judas Iscariot, who was a Zealot, who was prepared to fight for his freedom and the freedom of Israel. These literal minded fundamentalists were greatly disappointed when their Messiah was arrested, imprisoned and crucified as a common criminal.
Judas was so distraught that he took his own life. He had been so excited and nervous when his Master had called upon him to bring the soldiers to him.
He knew in his heart that this was the moment when the Master would reveal himself as the Messianic Warrior King and the angelic host would arise in his defense; the final battle with the forces of evil would be fought and won now.
Most of the soldiers were nervous and afraid when they approached that hill and the garden where he had come to pray with his disciples. They were expecting a fight, falling to the ground when he revealed himself to them; they were ducking for cover for the ensuing battle. And there was no battle, at least not in the outer.
Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Lent and Easter, are all reminders for me to put myself in God's hands. Symbolically and literally; I let go of my preconceived notions of how things should be; I give up my limited experience and understanding of what is really going on; I surrender my selfish, self-centered, egotistical wants and wishes, and let God be God in me.
I can literally place myself in the hands of Good Orderly Direction and pray, "Thy will, not my will, Thy will be done!"
Many learned, righteous and holy men and women, good people, may choose to take offense at my defense of Judas and at my dismissal of the traditional message about Jesus, the "Jesus died for our sins" philosophy.
However true this may be, in my mind it pales in significance to the fact that Jesus lived so that we may live life abundantly. His death and resurrection, the miracles, were all acts that were necessary so that we may hear his words, his message of Heaven in our midst, the Kingdom that is within you, that God is our Father and we are God's children in whom God is well pleased.
This is the message of Jesus, the message that he wanted us to hear.
Whenever and wherever you are reading this; today is a holy day, the place where you are standing is holy ground, and right now you have the opportunity to be in Heaven.
A wise man once asked me if I would rather be right or happy. I responded that I would rather be right and happy. That shows you how much I know.
Sometimes we have to give up the good for the gooder: not proper English, but proper thinking. Sometimes we have to give up knowing the relative truth in order to know the Absolute Truth of God's presence and power active in our life and affairs. Sometimes we have to lose everything in order to gain everything that is worthwhile. Or, it may have been just a man riding a donkey.
Blessings of peace, joy & love,
The Rev. Matthew E. Long is senior minister at Peace Unity Community.