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Don’t judge a book by its cover

“See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Just because the cover of a book up on some shelf is plain and simple and boring doesn’t mean that the setting or the characters or the story inside will be plain and simple and boring. And just because the cover of some library book may be bright and colorful and attention-grabbing doesn’t mean that the setting or the characters or the story inside will be bright and colorful and attention-grabbing. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

What is true of books is true of people. There is more to people than their appearance, their hairstyle, their clothing, their hygiene. Some people who initially put us off may turn out to be the kindest and most caring and most genuine people we’ll ever meet. And some people to whom we are initially drawn can turn out to be some of the most arrogant and rudest and meanest people we’ll ever meet. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

The appearance of a nobody

Think about how true that was on Palm Sunday.

The almighty God, the Creator of the world, the King over all, entered Jerusalem on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He came not in great power but in great humility. He came not to flex his muscles but to sacrifice his flesh. He came not to impress the people but to be oppressed for the people. He came not to get something for himself but to give himself for everyone.

Jesus appeared to be a nobody. After all, wasn’t he just the son of Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth? You can’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge a book by its cover. For the One whose divinity was veiled in human flesh, glory would be found in humility, strength would be displayed in weakness, victory would be won through defeat, and life would come from death.

The announcement of a Savior

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey—not on a noble steed, not on a two-horse chariot, and certainly not in a long motorcade of black SUVs. He did that not just to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah but also to declare himself definitively to be the promised Savior of the world.

That’s what Jesus was doing by sitting on that obedient beast of burden as it made its way up to Jerusalem. He wasn’t resting his feet. He wasn’t being lazy. He wasn’t taking the easy way out. No. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, accepting the praise of the people as they shouted, “Hosanna!”, to say, “I am the Savior whom God promised to send.”

Jesus knew that those shouts of “Hosanna!” would turn to shouts of “Crucify!” He knew that those leafy branches the people were waving would be replaced by whips the soldiers would crack and hammers the soldiers would swing. But he went anyway. To Calvary. To the cross. To bring salvation to you, to me, to the world.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Glory in humility. Strength in weakness. Victory through defeat. Life through death. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Author: Stephen G. Helwig
Volume 110, Number 4
Issue: April 2023

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Stephen G. Helwig
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