“God works in mysterious ways…”

While it’s not in the Bible that way, the concept is.  The Lord doesn’t think or act the way we do (Isaiah 55:8).  I would imagine most of my readers understand that idea.

A pastor once asked his congregation, “What’s the difference between God and you?”

After a pause, the pastor answered the riddle, “God never thinks He’s you.”

We can forget God’s ways aren’t ours.  We can forget He doesn’t do what we expect Him to do.  He works outside of our “box”—our preconceptions and ideas for what He needs to be doing.

The events we begin studying today occur the next day after Mary’s anointing of Jesus in worship (last week’s post).  We read in John 12:12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”  

John 12:12-19
New International Version

It was nearing the time of Passover!  In this celebration of the Lord’s deliverance and their identity as a nation, the Jewish people were looking forward to this time of rejoicing, dancing, singing, and sacrifice.

The intimate, reflective, and somber dinner from the night before gave way to an explosive and electrifying demonstration of coronation. Suddenly, Jerusalem was ALIVE with not just a HOPE of the Messiah but a man riding in being hailed as Messiah! 

Palm branches normally waved in the victory of the hope of the Coming One were placed under the feet of a prophecy-fulfilling donkey’s colt.  Moreover, laying the Palm branches to make a footpath was what they did for triumphant kings and warriors returning home from battle.  The sights and sounds of this procession into Jerusalem with the thronging masses must have been electrifying.

They called Him “the King of Israel” because they wanted a military leader to rid them of the Romans.  King Jesus, though, would rid them of the stain of their sin.

In the quiet humility of Jesus, the crowd was awestruck.  Perhaps they were even more excited because of his quiet demeanor.  They thought Jesus had on “His game face.”  Indeed, He did.

But He wasn’t preparing Himself for the game of warfare against the Romans; He was looking towards the warfare against sin on the cross.  The battle He prepared for had cosmic significance.

The Great Sanhedrin realizes all indications point to their failure to get the populace from turning to Jesus.  Jesus’ following was growing exponentially.  With every clip-clop of the donkey’s hooves, the crowd’s singing, shouting, and support grew stronger and stronger.

But every one of them in that crowd—the nameless crowd, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, Peter, James, John, Thomas, Judas, and all the rest of the Apostles—completely and totally missed the point of what Jesus was there to do.  He was riding into Jerusalem to fulfill a mission no one else could accomplish.

Instead of a conqueror of nations, this King conquered the heart.
Instead of overthrowing the Romans, this King overthrew sin.
Instead of a war hero, this King was a soul hero.
Instead of a limited ruler, this King had power without limit.

King Jesus entered Jerusalem in the most expected way to do the most unexpected thing.

Whom would you be in that crowd?  The disciples?  The members of the Sanhedrin?  The crowd?  The donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem?

But do we truly expect the Lord to work in unexpected ways?  Do we embrace that His mission is more grand and significant than what we’re seeking Him to do?

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Do we embrace the profound mystery of a humble King?

A serving Creator?
A saving God?
A forgiving Sovereign?

Do we embrace “Jesus of the donkey” or desire the “Jesus of the crowd”?