The king on a donkey

OPINION | Tim Costello
Eternity #67 March 2016

It is hard to imagine a war more cruel, violence more unspeakable, a political impasse more oppressive, than what we see today in Syria.

While we in faraway Australia argue about whether we can afford even a marginal contribution to relieving this appalling suffering, Syrians in their hundreds and their millions are driven from their homes and their homeland, and forced to endure nightmare journeys of fear, hunger and uncertainty, with real risks of violence and death.

As we approach Easter we remember the extraordinary story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey.

Here was a king, but not as the world knew kings. As God proclaimed in the prophecy of Zechariah (9:10): “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.”

This king is simple, not haughty, riding a gentle and humble animal.  He has come to lead the world to its rightful path by teaching and example, to sow the seeds of peace, not to conquer by force of arms.

The Palm Sunday Jesus is a profoundly counter-cultural figure.  His words and deeds, and his ultimate triumph over death, turn the world on its head. In the face of despair his message is hope. Evil is powerful but it will not have the final say.

If we really believe what Jesus taught, if we really believe his life and resurrection offer the hope of victory over evil, then we should find the strength to live and act according to our convictions.

We need not be prisoners of conventional wisdom or cultural norms. When we see evil being done and accepted as normal, we can name it, reject it, and choose to live differently.

When Australian churches offered sanctuary to asylum-seekers including children being threatened with removal to Nauru, they were following the example of Jesus.  What else should they do?

Too often we surrender to thinking that shuts out options, that declares there is no alternative to business as usual, even if that means scarring cruelty and obscene injustice.

Thank God our churches found their voice. Thank God for the guidance and inspiration of Jesus’ last journey towards the acceptance of death and his ultimate victory over it. Thank God for his affirmation that life and love will finally win.

As we approach Easter, let’s give thanks for the renewal of life and faith that it brings. Let’s think of innocent lives ripped apart by war.  Let’s find the compassion, the thirst for justice, and the courage to speak and act as if we really believed the faith we proclaim.

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