The Gathering/ Pastor Barry, Palm Sunday
The Donkey Jesus Rode Luke 19:28-38, Matthew 21:1-11
I don’t know, of course, if the donkey that Jesus rode had been given a pet name by its family or not. I don’t know what kind of work it did or didn’t do. All that I know is it was a young donkey (colt or a foal) that had never been ridden before, and I know the reputation of a donkey (at least from a Western point of view).
Donkeys by nature are stubborn and rebellious. They don’t take kindly to strangers, and they don’t like being told what to do. On the other hand, they are strong and sturdy animals, capable of carrying great loads over long distances…but it was Jesus carrying the greatest load that day. He knew that one week later He would be carrying a cross through those same streets to die for the sin of any that would call on his name. Strange that Peter and John (likely the two disciples who went ahead to make the arrangements) could simply walk up to the owner of animals and say, “The Lord has need of your donkey” and then take him (and his mother: Matthew 21:2) without incident all the way from Bethany into Jerusalem among howling crowds! Maybe the owner joined the parade!
I find it amazing that this donkey (which had never been ridden) and also its mother (Matthew 21:7) acted so out of character to become such docile and willing servants to Jesus. What did these animals know that made them behave in such a way that day? What can we learn from the donkey (and its mother) on this Palm Sunday?
Balaam’s Donkey Numbers 22:26-33, 2 Peter2:15-22
Before I sermonize about the donkey that Jesus rode, let’s go back in time to God’s use of a donkey in another Bible story. Balaam was a prophet who had plans to make “personal gain” from the gift of prophecy that the Lord had given him. He sought every way he could to collaborate with the enemy of the Lord (Moabite King Balak) while trying to look holy at the same time. When Balaam refused to listen to God, the Lord spoke to him through his donkey! Now if that wouldn’t get your attention, nothing could. The main thing we need to see here is that God can teach us anything through any vehicle He chooses. We can also see how angry the Lord is when we choose to live recklessly with one foot in the world.
We live “recklessly” and in danger of God’s “Opposition” or wrath when 1) We refuse His Lordship for our selfishness 2) We refuse to serve Him as Lord.
Balaam was so bent on going his own way that, even as a prophet (seer) he couldn’t see that the Lord was against him. The donkey he was riding was smarter than he and had even suffered three beatings for Balaam’s recklessness. Nonetheless, Balaam figured out a way to get his reward from Balak. Balaam advised the Moabites on how to entice the people of Israel with prostitutes and idolatry. He could not curse Israel directly, so he came up with a plan for Israel to bring a curse upon themselves. Balak followed Balaam’s advice to entice the Israelite men with their women, and Israel fell into sin, worshiping Baal of Peor and committing fornication with Midianite women. For this God plagued them, and 24,000 men died (Numbers 25:1–9; Deuteronomy 23:3–6).
Peter bitterly refers to Balaam when speaking to those who “left the straight way” and wondered off to “follow the wages of wickedness.” Although Peter was talking to “false teachers” who influence others with their sin, the warning to any who would stray from the lordship of Christ is evident. In fact, we are all teachers of the gospel and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) of the living God. How we live does influence others.
The Lordship of Christ Luke 19:39-44, Romans 1:18-21
The donkeys in both of these stories, first, teach us about not gratifying self but submitting to the Lord’s will. Any donkey, and all of creation, knows who the Lord is. Only humans are foolish and prideful enough to question such an obvious truth. (Romans 1:18-20) To the Pharisees who told Jesus to rebuke (silence) His disciples, Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet the stones will cry out!” God’s Word tells us that the “whole creation groans” to be liberated from its bondage (Romans 8:21-22) and to experience the redemption that only the Lord Jesus can bring. No wonder the donkey and its mother went so willingly with the Lord of its creation. He and its mother both knew who it was that requested their service. Do we?
They would not kick against the master as Balaam did and later died by the sword (Joshua 13:22), or as the Israelites did with the Midianite women and 24,000 men died, or as the Jews did when they rejected Christ one week later (having him crucified). On the way to that parade in Jerusalem where three million would gather, Jesus wept as he looked toward the city and prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Within 40 years it happened exactly has He stated in A.D. 70 when Rome destroyed the holy city and slaughtered its inhabitants. Willful sin (rejecting God) does have its consequences and many innocents are ravaged in the process.
Willingly Serving Christ Matthew 16:21-26
Secondly, the donkey that Jesus rode teaches us about willingly serving Christ. Like the donkey, we are all created with the ability to “bear” the load that He requires, but will we? Jesus said that none can follow Him unless he “deny himself and take up his cross.” His rebuke of Peter was for us as well. What worldly thoughts and actions keep us from serving Him and bringing His kingdom to this earth? Will we allow our will to be broken by the Lord so that we can carry His burden for a lost world? Even a donkey knows what his purpose in life is…do you? Will you let Jesus have the reins?
Today I made mention of many people who messed up and acted like beasts, but all the donkeys were good! Yet Jesus didn’t come for donkeys…he came that we might be saved. The donkeys were servants to that hope and Jesus the servant of all. All creation (donkeys included) know that Jesus is Lord and king of all. Do you?