By: Jennifer Barten
There was a Pastor’s son who came to this father and asked if his dad would help him buy a car. His dad looked at the young man and said, “I’ll help you buy a car if you complete these three requirements. First, get your grades up. Second, keep your room clean. Third, get a haircut.” So the preachers son started working very hard, and after a period of time went back to his dad to ask about the car. He said, “Dad, I did what you asked me to do. I’ve gotten all A’s and B’s on my report card, and my room has been spotless for weeks. Now will you help me go buy a car?” To this his Dad replied, “Yes, you have son, and I’m very proud of you. But if you recall our conversation, there were three requirements, and you have not gotten a hair cut!” The son looks at his Dad and says, “But, Dad, Jesus had long hair!” Then his Dad looks at him intently and says, “Yes he did, but outside of one donkey ride, he walked everywhere he went!”
I know we are closer Christmas than we are to Palm Sunday and yet as here I am having Luann read the story of Palm Sunday to you. I also know that you’ve all probably heard the story every year for as long as you can remember. But I think this story has many important lessons that we can focus on year around. Today we are going to focus on the story of the donkey.
Donkeys are mentioned in the Bible 142 times as a donkey or as an ass. The donkey is a member of the horse family but are known for being more stubborn, especially when they are asked to do things which are dangerous. Like horses though, these animals are very gentle and incredibly dependable. They travel diverse terrain which would be too rough for horses. They are found all over the world and have several advantages over horses, including that they can carry as much as 40% of their body weight. They are also easy keepers, requiring minimal food and capable of digesting almost anything edible. They are very patient and trusting with people they know.
Knowing all of this it shouldn’t be surprising that donkeys were often used to carry people and cargo during Jesus’s time. Two of the most important times in the Bible where the donkey carried people, are in the story we just heard and when a donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem before she had Jesus.
In the story we just heard, it makes me sad that the donkey in this story doesn’t have a name, but neither do the disciples that are asked to go get the donkey. We know two of the 12 are asked, but we aren’t sure which two. Here is what we do know about the two, they go and do what Jesus has asked, even though it is an odd request and they do so without asking questions, procrastinating or arguing. When we are asked to do something, do we go as the disciples did, without a fight or questions or do we spend days and weeks trying to figure out if it will work into our schedule and wondering why God would give us such an odd task?
When the disciples came to the man who owned the donkey, it is no surprise that the owner objected to their taking the animal, just as Jesus knew the owner would. For donkeys were usually working animals and therefore valuable in an agricultural society. But neither should it be a surprise that the owner permitted them to take the animal when he learned who wanted it.
This may imply that the man was a disciple, a likely conclusion since Jesus knew so many people in and around Jerusalem. One thing that has always amazed me, is at least in text, the owner doesn’t ask if he is going to get the donkey back. Once he is told “the Lord needs it”, he does as the disciples did. He obeys without question by letting them take his donkey, unsure what will happen to it and if he will see it again.
Can you imagine how this story would have changed had the owner had a change of heart and decided he wasn’t going to let Jesus ride the donkey? The story would have felt different had people been throwing their cloaks in front of Jesus as he walked by on foot.
Have you ever felt that God wanted you to give Him something, but you were reluctant for some reason? Then later realized you missed the chance to make a difference in someone’s life? You missed out on being used by God Himself. How many times have we known God wanted us to give something up but we didn’t because we were too selfish? Somehow at times, we think we have a right not to give. Instead of thinking that we have everything because God gave it to us and thereforths it is his, we start to think of things as ours.
Other times, we are like the donkey’s owner and we listen when God ask to give away something of value or pride and we feel honored that something we gave will help Jesus in some way here on earth.
Each and every one of us has a donkey that we can give that would help carry Jesus into another place. It doesn’t have to be something of value. It can be something as simple as a hug, letter in the mail or a phone call. With that being said though, God has given many talents to all of us. None are talent-less or useless. God has blessed and endowed all with various talents. God might have given you a talent to sing, preach, teach, counsel or praying for others. Use your talents. Use them among your friends, relatives and neighbors for God.
It could be that God wants to mount your donkey and enter another city, another nation or another heart. If you don’t listen, don’t give up your donkey or hesitate for too long, your moment could be gone to help God with his work. You could miss an opportunity that God is wanting you to have.
Here are five reasons why you need to give God your donkey:
- Because you aren’t doing anything with it. As we heard earlier, when the disciples came for the donkey he wasn’t being used. He was tied up.
- Because the God of all creation is asking for it. God cannot steal. Everything already belongs to Him. He is the Divine Creator. Jesus told His disciples to say “The Lord needs it” and that is all the instruction we should require: God creator of everything wants it from us.
- Because God cannot fulfill His holy purpose without it. Zachariah prophesied that the Messiah would come on a donkey. The verse was very specific saying a donkey, colt, which some think is a sign of peace. Whereas if he were coming in on a white horse it could mean he was ready to fight or that he was coming in to try and conquer the king. But he didn’t do that. He came in on a donkey, in peace. When Zachariah wrote about what was going to happen, he didn’t know how or where Jesus would get the donkey colt but he knew God had given him the words to write. We don’t know when God needs our donkey what purpose he will fill with it.
- Reason number four because God can make something majestic out of something ordinary. A parade was happening, one that people would still be talking about 2000 years later and the donkey was part of it. Think of how proud each of us would be if our donkey were one that could be talked about 2000 years later.
- The fifth reason to give up our donkey is because God always gives it back new and improved. When God ask for something, at the time it might seem big and it might be something that we feel we have worked for years to accomplish but if we are willing to give up our donkey, God will replace it, not just with one but with five donkeys. He will make sure we are provided for in that way.
I grew up on horses. When I was in high school, my horse Shannon had a colt that I named Colby. I remember working with Colby from the time he was born. At first it was just getting him used to being around me. Then it was getting him used to a halter after that it was the blanket that you put on under the saddle. Once he was used to that my dad and I put the reigns in his mouth. Finally we put the saddle on and I would lead him around the yard with it on. Then eventually I put my foot in the stirrup and got on. I did this in the quiet of the farm though. I did this in surroundings Colby was used to. I can’t imagine doing this for the first time with tons of people around yelling and waving palm leaves in front of the horses face.
We know the donkey in this story had never been ridden before. We know he was tame enough to be tied up but we don’t know what other work with him they had done though. Even tame horses get spoked in situations they aren’t used to. When I was younger I showed my horse Shannon in 4-H. The first night of the rodeo each year, they would have all the kids who showed horses in 4-H ride in the arena before the rodeo. Shannon was the tamest horse you will ever meet. But being in there with the speaker blaring about the 4-H horse program, people yelling and in an area she wasn’t used to and I was never sure how Shannon would react. I could feel how tight her muscles were. I could tell she was ready to bolt by her body language and how she was acting.
I was willing to ride Shannon through that though, because even though I knew she was uncomfortable, I trusted her. I trusted that she wouldn’t ever purposely put me in harm’s way. I think most people would say the same thing. We are willing to be with our horse or our dog and trust they won’t throw us off or bit us but we are more cautious around other people’s animals.
Unless you are the Son of God. Then you get on the donkey trusting that though it has never been ridden and isn’t used to the loud surrounding, you will be fine. Some believe that someone was leading the colt while Jesus rode it. Others think God led the colt with his powers. Either way, the colt was led, just as we are.
In our lives God has a plan for each of us. To be part of the plan the donkey had to be willing to go where it was led, just as we must. God does not always give us the route or even the destination in which he wants us to go. We must simply follow His lead and show our love by following obediently.
When God is ready to use us, we often feel ill equipped and unprepared, but God knows he has given us the tools we need to be successful. God knows when we are ready to accomplish what he needs us to do.
There are many examples in the Bible just like the donkey being ridden for the first time, where things are given to God that aren’t perfect but God uses them perfectly. A few examples are: Rahab’s rope, David’s sling, Samson’s jawbone, the rod of Moses, Mary’s ointment, a wooden manger, a fisherman’s boat and a rough cross. All of these things were of little significance but when given to God, a mighty miracle followed. We never know what donkey we have that can make a huge difference if we are willing to give up our donkey to the Lord.
When we or our donkey’s are used in this way, we make Jesus more visible. People wonder how we are able to do things we do with what resources we have. Hopefully when this happens, we are also becoming more humble, as we allow God to do more in us and this also becomes visible to people around us.
People realized right away that Jesus chose to come in to town just that way. Humbly on a donkey. He did not choose the proud prancing mare, but a humble lowly donkey. He showed that, even though he was riding on a beast of burden rather than a stallion, he was the center of attention.
It didn’t matter what Jesus was riding on. People just wanted to be there close to Jesus to see and be part of his grand parade. How often do we worry more about what we look like or how we are dressed or if we are good enough instead of just worrying about being in the moment with Christ?
Jesus is near. He may not be coming back anytime soon but he can see and hear us at all times. He gave us his all when he died on the cross for our sins. As we think about this Palm Sunday story, we can’t forget what happened a week later and the reason that he did what he did. My fear on judgment day isn’t being asked what I did wrong, but is being asked “what did I ask you to do that you ignored?”
With this fear, we must give up our donkeys when asked and know that God has a bigger purpose for each and every one of us. We must know that no matter how ill prepared we feel, God will use us when he is ready with the resources we have.