There was a time as a young dad, I could put my kids on my lap and I could bounce them on my knee and they could pretend to ride a horse. I'm far from being a horse expert but I know there was very little that we did that would have taught them about correctly riding a real horse! But at an important time of their lives, when our children are learning about the world and life, this simple game connects parents and children. But it conveys a positive view of horses – animals that are quite large and intimidating to small children.
I wonder if it wasn't fathers and mothers in the Ancient Near East who taught this game to little ones to calm them in the presence of horses. We forget that it was just 100 years ago, that the centuries old dependence on horses and donkeys for travel came to an end as a result of Henry Ford's Model T and assembly line.
We lived in a world where life and death were part of the order of the day. Our family pets served the family as hunters and pest control. Our senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch, were used to brushing up against horse and donkey and the sounds of “clip-clop, clip-clop” echoed on our city streets.
Three hundred years prior to the coming of Jesus Christ, Alexander the Great, claiming the title of “King of Kings” marched his horse through the streets of Jerusalem as he had done through many other cities in his military campaigns. In Jerusalem, it is said he was shown the scrolls of Daniel chapter 8 that described the coming of a Greek king. It is in part for this reason, Alexander spared Jerusalem on his way to conquering Egypt.
Like other kings and conquerors before and after him, Alexander's display brought discouragement and disappointment to the people. So while the words of Daniel may have brought Alexander a greater sense of his importance, the words of another prophet would preview what was to come for the people of Jerusalem - Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Those would be the words from the prophet Zecharaiah (Zec 9:9 NASB)
Zechariah previewed the significance of Jesus' coming. God had declared that the kings of Israel should not multiply horses. The stories of the kings who did, reveal kings who were destructive to themselves and the nation. Zechariah's words in verse 10 make clear that war isn't to be the means by which the Kingdom of God would spread but by the humble example of Jesus Christ.
Not only would Jesus fulfill the prophecy of humility he would speak a prophecy. It would be a prophecy and a preview to those in that day, that power and authority of humankind is not worthy of trust – it will fail. This past week, I learned of a colleague and church struggling and divided in their politics – ears that have grown deaf to the sounds of the simple “clip-clop" of a donkey with rider on a stone street.
But what of us? Have we grown silent then to the coming of Jesus in our own lives? Some times Jesus comes to us to comfort the afflicted and at other times he comes to afflict the comfortable? When you hear the sounds of clip, clop and the approach of Jesus – what will you do?
Author's Note: Rev. Wallace H. Kirby's sermon entitled "Clop Clop Palm Sunday" was referenced during preparation.