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Riding on an Ass:

The Metaphysical Meaning of Palm Sunday

April 8, 2001




 This I saw, or else some inner presence made it known to me; 

The Universe is filled with life; the air, the sky, the sea

Teem with intelligence, with majesty and might;

And deep within me, some subtle inner sight

Beholds and sees, comprehends and knows the All,

Nor fears nor falters, but answers the Divine Call

To be as one beyond the bounds of time and space,

To overcome the bondage of the human race,

And leap, with trust undaunted, free,

Into the deeps of that Infinite Sea

Whose waters, calm, are ready to receive

Those, who in simple faith, believe.  ­­­1/


What Palm Sunday teaches

John G. Stackhouse Jr. 

Jesus of Nazareth was a frustrating person. Palm Sunday is a dramatic case in point. On this Sunday, probably around the year 30, Jesus entered Jerusalem. He was just one of thousands of pilgrims streaming into the holy city to celebrate Passover, one of the great annual feasts of the Jewish calendar.

Well, He wasn't just one of the many. The crowd around Jesus had been so impressed with the wonders He had worked and the sermons He had preached that they were hoping He was the promised Messiah, the great descendant of David who would establish a new kingdom of peace and prosperity. So, they began to celebrate him as their savior from the Roman oppressors and as the founder of a new state.

In a gesture typical of the culture for showing great respect, many pilgrims cut down palm branches and spread them on the road to "soften" the path for the donkey on which Jesus rode. Others waved palm branches and shouted their praises to their new leader.

Jesus accepted the tribute, but He did not accept the role the crowd attempted to foist upon Him. He had not come to remove the Roman yoke. He had not come to set up a new Israelite kingdom. He had come to offer Jews and Gentiles alike what they really needed, not what they thought they wanted.

So, upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus proceeded immediately to overturn the status quo, but not in the way anyone would have predicted. He violently interrupted those at the great Temple who were going about the business of selling pilgrims the required sacrificial animals or changing money into the required coinage. He spoke of His impending death as the necessary means by which the kingdom of God--not just some earthly state--would be established.

He perplexed the crowd that had just praised Him so joyfully. What kind of talk was this? Mighty leaders don't get killed, let alone volunteer for death--they destroy their enemies. Good Jews don't disrupt the Temple worship--they honor it and those who serve in it. Was this the Messiah after all?

Less than a week later, crowds of pilgrims in Jerusalem would call for Jesus' death. He was a great disappointment--a failure, really, who inflamed people's expectations and then did nothing to fulfill them. There's nothing that arouses fury more than dashed hopes.

Today, many want to put Jesus at the head of their own parades. Certain Bible scholars want Jesus to be a clever philosopher or a witty prophet--just as they see themselves to be. Certain preachers want Jesus to be a miracle worker and charismatic leader--just as they see themselves to be. Others want Jesus to be a social worker, or a political revolutionary, or just a really, really nice, tolerant, accepting kind of guy--just as they see themselves to be.

But Jesus just walks away from our parades and agendas. He walks away from the sad little glories we have in mind for Him if He will only patronize our projects. He walks instead toward Good Friday and the crucifixion of all that is temporary and partial and limited and self-centered.

He walks resolutely toward the death of the world's objectives--toward the goals of the next. With the massive momentum of God, He strides directly into the maw of Good Friday, in hopes of emerging on the other side on Easter Sunday morning.

The lesson of Palm Sunday is that Jesus refuses to be co-opted by our programs and preferences, however well-meant, however enthusiastically promoted. He turns away instead and bids men and women everywhere to "Follow Me" on a road toward tasks and successes and blessings of eternal value.

He dismisses our priorities, lets them all get nailed to a cross to die, and still has the audacity to expect us to follow Him and pursue His quest instead.

What a frustrating person--which, Palm Sunday tells us, is just what we need.

 Riding in on an Ass: The Metaphysical Meaning of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the day the Christian church remembers Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. According to the Bible, this day Jesus was hailed as King of the Jews was most literally predicted by the prophet, Zechariah, when he wrote, 

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Zechariah 9:9

  Zechariah wrote these words about 480 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass. The ass, or donkey, is an animal symbolic of humility, peace and symbolized the House of King David, in other words, it was a sign of royalty. The colt of a donkey not only symbolizes humility and meekness, but the colt had not been ridden, so it was not ever put to secular or worldly use. He told his apostles that they would have to go out and find the colt (the young offspring) of a donkey and bring it to him because that's what he had to ride into Jerusalem on according to the prophetic scriptures.

Again, this part of the story is in all four of the Gospels. The apostles apparently did not understand why they had to do this, but at this point, they didn't question Jesus much because he was healing people and raising the dead--so if he said to do something, they did it. They went out, found a colt of a donkey, and brought it to him. Again, in all four of the Gospels it is stated that the reason he did this was so the scriptures would be fulfilled.

It had been prophesied that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey.

Now here is something really interesting.  It wasn't that this just happened naturally, and it wasn't how Jesus wanted to go into Jerusalem. It was that Jesus, being the religious scholar, realized what was expected of him and he simply surrendered into it.

He might have said to himself, "Oh, it's written that I'm supposed to do this so let's just be on with it and do it. Bring me that colt!" If you read the Gospel, it is described just like that. He did it only because it had been prophesied. As a religious scholar he would have, of course, known of this prophecy. You find this frequently in many stories in the Bible. The people in the Bible were very hip to prophecy and the fulfillment of prophecy was considered to be a demonstration of Truth.  Failing to surrender to prophecy would be the same as saying “I refuse to live into the destiny foretold by the still small voice within me.”  Jesus fulfilled the prophecies not because it happened naturally but because he knew what they were and so he just did it. He surrendered to it.  This surrender was an act of the deepest sort of faith.  Imagine if your still small voice told you to ride into town on the colt of an ass?  Now ask yourself this: What would the equivalent act be in your life?

Doesn't this make you think of how we rebel against being told what to do? Most of us don’t like being directed, instructed, or guided.  We want to be the boss of me.  And you have to ask if this is this how you are going to listen to the still small voice within you? 

Your intuition is the voice of God; it is the prophet within, it knows before anything else knows.  There are a couple of reasons why Jesus rode into Jerusalem on ass, and while I am telling you what they are, I would like to you to consider whether or not you would be willing to do the equivalent of this act of faith in your relationship with the Divine. 

The first reason is, that Jesus was able to surrender to the image people expected of him, not necessarily the image that Jesus found natural, but the image that people wanted, that the prophets wanted. Translating this metaphysically, “the image” is the good that is within you, rather than all that stuff you could be doing instead of expressing this good, such as the worries, doubts and fears about yourself.  It is the Divine royalty of your birth. This is like surrendering to being the beloved child of Divine parentage.  It is as if you were saying that the same parents that were Jesus' parents are my parents. It is saying yes to the “Christhood that you were born into.” It is the recognition of your true self and the origin of your being.

Secondly, the prophets wanted their Messiah to ride into Jerusalem in a very humble way. There is a no more humble way to ride into Jerusalem than on the colt of an ass. I'm sure that was considered the most humble way you could do it.  Imagine that!  How silly would he have looked? Jesus was willing to do that. He was willing to take on the trappings of humility because that was what people expected of him. He didn't fight it. 

The metaphysical meaning here is this:  If you know how the Law of Mind works and you resist it, the Law continues to work and it will mirror back to you your resistance.  There is a law in the universe and you can use it.  This will not change, that's why they call it the law.  It is you, and the use that you put the Law to that has to change.  In other words, you have to surrender to the way it works! 
When Jesus of Nazareth arrived in Jerusalem riding into town on an ass, the people, including children, took palm branches and went out to meet Jesus. Palm branches were used in celebration of victory. The disciple John even saw a vision of a multitude with palm branches in heaven before the event. The burgeoning crowd also spread their cloaks on the road, much as we would roll out the red carpet today. This gesture to recognize royalty was also done when Jehu was anointed king of Israel. What Palm Sunday is about is the celebration of victory – which is the acceptance of Truth.

People in front of Jesus and also the people that followed behind Him, shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Remember earlier I said that the colt of an ass was a sign of Davidian royalty. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" Hosanna means "God saves."  These folks were looking for Jesus to save them from the way that their lives were.  They were unhappy, dissatisfied, the wanted hope.

In Luke's gospel, the Pharisees in the crowd wanted Jesus to rebuke the crowd for calling Jesus by these terms that would have acknowledged Him as their promised Messiah, but Jesus told them, according to Luke 19:40:  "If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."  This is how deeply Jesus witnessed their hope for a way out of their sorrow and oppression.  We are never alone in our pain.

According to Matthew 25, Jesus said "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, take you inheritance." What was the inheritance he was offering?

He knew that he was soon to be killed by the Romans.  What did he have left to offer that has people saying his name with the deepest reverence on this Palm Sunday?

He was saying that now is the time, not later, today is the day to humbly allow yourself to ride in on an ass, to be a frustrating person when necessary.  Yes, you are the Divine child of God, and don’t forget, so is everybody else!  Being humble is natural when everyone is your peer. Like Jesus, you can accept the tribute, but know what he knew; it is not wise to be swayed by such expressions or to let the agendas of others determine your course.  Accept tributes gratefully; continue to do your right work.  When someone tells you something complimentary about yourself, say “Thank you.  It is so very kind of you to appreciate that about me.” 

I was in a seminar once where the leader asked the question “Who likes to be of service to others, who likes to contribute to life?”  Nearly everyone in the place raised his or her hands.  Everyone wants to help, to give us a good word, a hand up when we slip.  Then the leader asked, “Who here likes to be helped?”  Only 3 or 4 hands out of over a hundred were raised.  How in the world can we be anything less than frustrated with 100 people each of them trying to help the same 3-4 willing recipients?  We all can open ourselves to contribution the way the Jesus did.  Those disciples helped Jesus get his job done and carried on Jesus mission when he was gone.  Where can we do this in our lives?  Can we be humble enough to allow another to give us a hand?  Does not such humility result in the deepest Joy?  Think of how you felt the last time you were able to help someone.  Wasn’t it the most wonderful gift?  This is a spiritual partnership; similar to the partnership we can have with God.  God is always there.  We depend on that Presence for life itself.  This is much like the partnership that practitioners have with their prayer partners.  Practitioners stand for the perfection in you when you cannot remember how to stand for it yourself.  In prayer, your practitioner is trained to mirror the Power of Spirit. 

When we allow God to guide us through our days we commit to a partnership with God. Much like Jesus when he surrendered to the idea of riding into Jerusalem on an ass, we must surrender some control and we do this in deep faith.  A faith that tells us that God is good and has the power to remove our fear and to guide us through each and everything we were going to do today anyway.  You are going to go to work tomorrow.  Why not go with God?  You are going to drive your car, why not drive with God. 

According to the Bible, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass he knew that he was going to die on Friday.  He did not flinch. He did not turn back.  Jesus Christ knew that he was eternal and he knew that he was forever in the loving embrace of his divine origins.  He surrendered his doubts and his fears to his Father.  Those who would kill him had no idea how their plans would backfire.  Paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson “What we are speaks so loudly that sometimes it is hard to hear us.”  Choose today to co-create your life with God.  Choose today to live a life that is powered by Love, the same fearless Love that flowed through Jesus flows through you.  Recognize it. Claim it.  Spread it around, it multiplies upon contact.  There is no shortage of good.  There is a power in the universe, greater than we are, and we can use it. 


Peace be unto thee, stranger, enter and be not afraid.

I have left the gate open and thou art welcome to my home.

There is room in my house for all.

I have swept the hearth and lighted the fire.

The room is warm and cheerful and you will find comfort and rest within.

The table is laid and the fruits of Life are spread before thee.

The wine is here also, it sparkles in the light.

I have set a chair for you where the sunbeams dance through the shade.

Sit and rest and refresh your soul.

Eat of the fruit and drink the wine.

All, all is yours, and you are welcome. 2/  

This is the way that Jesus lived.  He was not afraid, he lived in Love and so can you.



 Nothing can hinder my Word from working;

It will work, and nothing can stop it.

My word is the Law unto that thing whereunto it is spoken, and will become fulfilled in the right way and at the right time.

My Word is complete and perfect, and is the presence and the

Power of the One Mind that is in and through all.

I speak that Word and know that it will accomplish.

I wait in perfect confidence for the Word to fulfill itself in my life.

My Word is law.

 Thank you for being here today.

1/   The Science of Mind, Ernest Holmes

2/   Ibid



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Last modified: August 23, 2002