“Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly and riding on a donkey.”
John’s Gospel doesn’t have the word “lowly,” as does Zechariah’s prophecy, but it is the word I most want to focus on this morning. The disciples did not at this time understand these things. Only after Jesus was glorified did they remember and understand them. Only after Jesus died on the Cross, was raised from the dead by the power of God, ascended into heaven, sat at the right hand, and sent the Holy Spirit did the disciples get it.
Only after the King was received into glory did the disciples understand. For us, the glorification of the Son and all of the heaven and earth shaking events that accompanied the final work of Christ are past events.
And yet we are still like the disciples, uncomprehending. The truth is that for us our King still come to us, lowly and riding on a donkey, even for us who are blessed to have the Holy Spirit. Actually, it’s because we have the Holy Spirit, in a way, that He comes in such humble ways to us. Through the Spirit we are to have faith and see Him in all things, especially the humble things. And we, being good disciples, routinely miss Him.
One day in our family evening prayer, we have been going through the book of Exodus. I asked my children to listen to Exodus 6 with this focus in mind: how is what happened in Exodus 6 like what happens to us, especially in terms of God’s promise to deliver us from our enemies: sin, Satan, and death? When I came to verse 3 and asked my kids if the Lord appears to them, as He did to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, my 13 year old daughter, Renee, said, “No.” I was surprised because Renee is a very spiritually perceptive young person.
Understood one way, the Lord doesn’t come to us like He did to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We don’t hear audible voices, He doesn’t come in the form of angels, and He doesn’t call us out to make a special covenant with us as individuals. And yet He does come to us, like He came to the patriarchs. When I mentioned this, Renee was still uncomprehending for a moment. I insisted that He still came to us and asked my boys if they could think of any ways God came to us.
Eventually, they all figured it out. But if you examine the ways He comes to us that we all came up with, they are all rather humble, and indeed, even invisible. We came up with the following: the Bible, the Church, parents, other Christians, the Creation, and a few others. For most of us, He doesn’t come to us in spectacular, miraculous ways, at least not very often, if at all. I haven’t witnessed a single miracle, and yet I don’t think that God has somehow passed over me.
Now different people call different things miracles. How many times has God intervened in my life? Innumerable times, each and every day, but they are not necessarily to be counted as miracles. Even the answers to prayer I have experienced are not miracles in the sense of the miracles in Scripture. They are not signs from God in which an instantaneous change occurs by human agency that cannot be explained by normal means and which is accompanied by the Word of God. I haven’t seen anyone with an obvious affliction like blindness or deafness healed in an instant, and I’ve not seen anyone raised from the dead or bread multiplied. I’m not in any way discounting any true miracles any of you may have witnessed, but even if you have, I’m sure they are relatively rare.
So how does He come to us? Lowly, and riding on a donkey. His presence among us now is diffused throughout all our time and space and circumstances and relationships so that it is so pervasive as to be invisible and seen only through the Spirit.
The Lord comes to us through His creation, but unless you’re looking for Him you’ll see only uniformitarianism and evolution, time and chance, and natural processes. How often do we experience the Creation, the sun or the rain, the clouds and the breeze, the insects and birds, the flowers and trees, and see God through them? How often do we run our toes through the cool, moist grass and thank God for this?
God comes to us through His Word. When I read the Bible in my home, in my study, or with my kids and wife at evening prayer, do I see God? Often we miss Him. Even when we are studying the Bible, we often miss God Himself and get lost in the details or our systems of thought or quota of reading for the day. Do we really believe that God would speak through our pastor or preacher or Sunday school teachers? Or parents?
Can God really be hiding out in the Sacraments? All I see is bread and wine, and yes, it reminds me of God, but is He really there?
But Jesus Christ comes to you, through the Spirit, through uncountable experiences you have every day. That jerk on the road who almost sideswiped you – was he just a jerk, or was he also an occasion to give thanks for God’s deliverance? That speeding ticket you got – was it simply a mistake or a cold-hearted cop, or was it God’s wake up call to you to “Pay attention!”
I believe that each and every moment of each and every day is saturated with God’s presence and therefore with the potential to encounter Him. It’s not that God’s absent in our lives: it’s that He comes to us lowly, and riding on a donkey. He comes in, He inhabits, the small things of our day, and we don’t see Him because we’re waiting for the next parting of the Red Sea or raising of Lazarus.
The King has come – in fact, He’s here. But lo! He comes lowly, and riding on a donkey.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, alive and present in my world today, help me to find and follow you throughout the day: in all times and places of work and of leisure; in all happy events and all disappointing ones; through all relationships of family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even enemies; in the money and time that I spend; and in the things I see, hear, and read; that in all things, through Your Spirit, I may come to the King who comes lowly, riding on a donkey. Amen.
Point for Mediation: Practice pausing before every new event of the day today and offering a short prayer to God.
Resolution: I resolve to look for Jesus Christ in the small and humble things of my day today, all throughout the day.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson