Entry into the City, John August Swanson, 1990.
Wednesday of Holy Week 2017
The central figure of Swanson’s painting is, of course Jesus riding into town on a donkey. But . . .
“Have you heard the legend of the Christian donkeys? This is the story that has been told about the little donkey who was Jesus’ mount on Palm Sunday.
“It is said that a donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem and is also referred to as a Nativity Donkey. The Nubian burro has a cross on its back because it is believed that these donkeys carried Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
“To ride on a donkey signified coming in peace, this symbolic event served to reinforce what Jesus had told the people of Israel: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he [is] just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9 KJV)
“Many Christians believe that the donkey had known what Jesus was about to go through with his trial and suffering. They say that seeing the tragic event of Jesus’ crucifixion, the donkey wished he had been able to carry the cross for Jesus, as he was the one who should carry such burdens. The donkey turned his back on the sight but he could not leave Jesus whom he had carried. He wished to stay until all was over because of his love and loyalty.
“In reward for the loyal and humble love of the donkey, the Lord caused the shadow of the cross to fall across his back and the donkey has carried the cross ever since as a sign that the love of God carries a reward for all to see.” (http://www.mdresort.com/legend-christian-donkey/)
Though not nearly so loving and loyal to Jesus as this donkey, King Jesus graciously commands each of us to “take up our cross” and follow him. His cross marks not our bodies (tattoos don’t count) but our way of life, our attitudes, assumptions, actions, relationships, our public life in the world . . . everything!
And that’s what it comes down to this Wednesday before the Great Triduum celebrating the Last Supper, Gethsemane, betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and finally, Jesus’ resurrection. Will we go with Jesus to the cross? Will we bear his cross in our lives as witness to his unexpected and certainly undeserved love? Will we?