Legends and stories about Albert Einstein abound in Princeton, New Jersey, where I went to seminary. You don’t have to live in Princeton very long before you discover that one of the gorgeous framed wood houses with black shutters was Einstein’s home. One of my favorite Einstein stories describes the time he was walking down Nassau Street in a disheveled suit, which he often wore, and he was mistaken for a bellhop! A wealthy woman from New York City stepped out of the back of her luxury sedan in front of the Nassau Inn and ordered Einstein to carry her luggage into the hotel! According to the story, Einstein agreed to carry the woman’s luggage upstairs to her room, received a tip for his service, and continued on his way to ponder the mysteries of the universe.
The delightful part of this story, of course, is that you and I savor a secret that the wealthy woman did not know; namely that the strange looking little man in a ruffled suit is the most celebrated intellect in the world. The woman missed Einstein’s true significance because he didn’t look like a brilliant intellect. He seems too ordinary looking… to be Albert Einstein!
Some stories gain their power from our knowing the secret from the start. The ride of Jesus into Jerusalem is such a story. God knows the secret and Jesus knows the secret…and because the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have let us in on it…we know the secret too! The secret is that the one riding a donkey into Jerusalem… is the Messiah, the Son of God!
We are all familiar with parades. We have read in history books about heroes such as General Douglas MacArthur riding into New York City in 1945 as a Victor at the end of World War II, or Neil Armstrong’s parade when he was the first man to walk on the Moon in 1969. We have seen celebrities such as the World Champion Chicago Cubs ride into Chicago after winning the World Series in 2016, after a 108 year drought!
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people spread their garments on the road and spread palm branches on his path as they would to honor a conquering military leader or an earthly King. They were expecting a Messiah who would defeat all of their enemies and restore them to the power and glory they enjoyed under King David and King Solomon. But, Jesus was not a political or a military Messiah. He came as a suffering servant Messiah. His victory would not be over Israel’s political enemies but over humanities ultimate enemies of sin and death. Just as Einstein didn’t look like the most brilliant man in the universe, Jesus didn’t look like the savior of the world. The question is, do we recognize him?