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We see Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in today’s Old Testament reading from the Prophet Zechariah. As Savior and Messiah he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowd puts palm branches on his path. He’s a humble king, not riding in a war chariot surrounded by soldiers. He comes as a poor man, riding a little donkey, bringing peace. (Zech 9)
Jesus came to Jerusalem as the prophet predicted, Matthew’s gospel says. He’s not a Zealot, a member of a Jewish party that sought to change things by violence; Jesus came calling for peace, not violence. “I am meek and humble of heart,” he says. “Learn from me.”
Humility is a hard lesson for us to learn today; we’re an aggressive society that believes the louder you shout, the harder you push, the less you listen, the more you succeed. Strong words and strong actions, that’s what we like. Patience is weakness, we think. It’s weak to be meek and humble.
Let’s think about humility, however. Do you know where the word humility comes from? It comes from the Latin word “humus” which means dirt. When you’re humble you’re feet are on the ground. You’re “down to earth” You know who you are, where you came from, your weaknesses and strengths. You don’t put on airs. You’re anchored in reality.
And you know other people are like you. We all come from the same roots. Other people are like you. If you think you are above others, you’re not.
Jesus was meek and humble, the gospels recall. Yes, he was powerful in words and deeds. But people were drawn to him mostly because they found him easy to approach and, yes, “down to earth.”
The greatest people are humble. Humility makes you strong.
After the Revolutionary War was over, George Washington met one day with a number of his troops who were disgruntled because the Continental Congress hadn’t paid them yet for their long years of hard service. The ex-soldiers were angry, on the brink of another revolution.
Washington took out a paper to address them, but he couldn’t read it. His eyesight was failing. So he put on a pair of spectacles. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” he said, “ but I have lost my sight in the service of my country. “
No one remembered what Washington went on to say after that, but the mood of the men changed. They remembered what he had gone through. The humility of the man won them over.
So we remember Jesus Christ, who lived simply in his years at Nazareth, who loved those who had little, who submitted to insults and injustice, who labored and bore burdens. “Help us learn from you,” we ask, “for you are meek and humble of heart.”