In the ancient world, when a conquering hero rode into town in triumph, it was in a regal chariot or on the back of a stately stallion. Legions of soldiers would accompany him in the victory procession and triumphal arches, festooned with relief sculptures, were often erected to immortalize his valiant victory.
How very different though for Jesus. After driving out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead, it was time for the King of Kings to enter the Holy City. But to do so, He rode not on the back of a warhorse, but on a donkey. His companions accompanied Him brandishing not swords, but palm branches. The monument to His victory, erected a week later, was not an arch, but a cross.
His earthly beginning was frightfully humble. And His earthly end would be no different. The wood of the manger prefigured the wood of the cross. All of Christ’s life speaks of His love, obedience and humility.
Though He was the Divine Son of God, dwelling with the Father in heavenly glory, He freely plunged to the depths of human misery, joining Himself to our frail nature as He entered our turbulent world. As if that were not enough, He further humbled Himself, accepting the status of a slave. His act of stooping down to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13) was a parable of His whole human existence, for this act was regarded as so undignified that not even Israelite slaves could be compelled to do it.
But that’s just it. Jesus was not compelled to do anything. He willingly lowered himself in His birth, in His ministry, in His death. No one took His life from Him. He freely laid down His own life (John 10:18) – He humbled himself, giving His life as a sacrifice for sin.
It had to be so. Jesus, the New Adam had to undo the damage caused by the first Adam. And what was the sin our first parents? They disobeyed because they wanted to be like God (see Genesis 3). They were tricked by the Serpent, and thereby infected with the deadly venom of pride. The antidote, the anti-venom could only be humility. The foot-washing, donkey-riding and blood-shedding New Adam would crush the head of the deadly serpent by means of loving, humble and sacrificial obedience.
But God responded to His humility by exalting Him far above Caesars, kings, and even Hollywood celebrities. And He invites us to share His glory with Him. But first we must tread His humble path to glory, taking up our cross daily and following Him? Will you come and follow Him?
Parish article for the start of Holy Week, April 2017 AD