The story of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem is a familiar one for most church people. They have heard this story Year after year. But the great thing about God’s Word is that even the most family story is fresh if we listen carefully and sometimes even in familiar accounts you see things you hadn’t seen before. There are a lot of great lessons in the story of the Triumphal Entry:
- there is the way Jesus comes boldly and publicly into Jerusalem even though everyone knows he is a “marked man”
- there is His bold declaration that He is the Messiah. He does this by coming into Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey. The prophet Zechariah points to this event as a pointer to the coming Messiah.
- there is the demeanor of Jesus as he enters the city. He doesn’t comes in as a conquering ruler He comes humbly as a King of Peace. The Warrior would ride a horse, the peace-maker rides a donkey.
- there is the deep evidence of the love that Jesus has for His people which we see through the tears that He cries over Jerusalem.
These are all great lessons. But this morning I want to focus on a part of the story that perhaps you have never really thought about. I want to draw your attention to a bit player in this great event. The person I draw your attention to is someone who is unnamed . . . he is the man who owned the donkey. Listen to our text in Luke,
As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “God to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” tell him, “The Lord needs it.'”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.” (Luke 19:28-34)
Our text talks about “owners” of the donkey. Perhaps one person owned the donkey and one owned the foal of the donkey. Perhaps there were two family members who were owners of the donkey by virtue of their family. Truth is, I don’t know. But I am going to look at this as if there was one primary owner.
We can be pretty safe in concluding that this owner lived in Bethpage or Bethany. Both these towns were “suburbs” of Jerusalem. They were very close together and I don’t think either was very big. Consequently, it is likely that this man knew the people who lived in the two towns. . . at least any significant people. Perhaps you remember that Bethany was the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. When Jesus went to Jerusalem he usually stayed with this family. I suspect when Jesus was in town, everyone knew it.
This may not seem significant to you at first. But remember your chronology. The gospel of John tells us that just recently, in this Bethany (maybe even a day or two earlier) the town was buzzing with the news that Lazarus had died, been laid in the tomb, and then brought back from the dead by Jesus. To say the least, this would have been big news! I wonder if our donkey owner was there? Maybe he was a friend of Lazarus. Perhaps he was there the day Jesus arrived. Maybe he was one of those who stood with awe as Lazarus walked out of the tomb.
Let me tell you why this is significant. There are lots of suggested reasons as to why these men let these disciples take their donkeys.
- This was typical Eastern Hospitality. Especially at Passover, the locals knew that they needed to lend what they could to their visiting countryman. Therefore loaning the donkey was a common courtesy.
- Some suggest that this would have been an honor to let a distinguished rabbi ride your beast. In other words, they allowed them to take the donkey as a matter of pride.
- Some others suggest that perhaps Jesus had arranged for the use of the donkey much earlier and he set up a password of “the master needs him”. In other words they gave him the donkey as part of a business deal.
But I suggest another possibility. I think this man loaned his donkey to Jesus because He saw Him as THE Master. He saw what Jesus did, He heard Him speak and He believed. Since He believed that He was the Lord . . . everything he had was now at the Master’s disposal. For him, loaning the donkey was an act of worship and love.
I think my case is strengthened by the fact that the only question asked is: “Why are you untying the donkeys?” Once it was stated that “The Master needs it” the discussion was over. I think if they gave the donkey for one of the other reasons there would have been some additional questions:
- how long do you need my donkey?
- how far will you travel?
- will you make sure he is cared for?
- will you bring him back when you are finished?
- will you sign this “rental agreement?” !!
I think the owner of the donkey had faith. I also think he had come to three conclusions:
The true follower is willing to give what He has to the Lord
I don’t know how many donkeys this man had. Whether he had one or a hundred it doesn’t matter. Donkeys were valuable.
- they were a burden-bearing animal which meant they could transport things. They were doing what trucks do today.
- they were able to help care for the land. They were doing what tractors do today.
- they were a means of transportation. There filled the need that cars fill today.
I tell you this because I want you to see that this is no “little” gift. But this is what the Master needed . . . so this is what the Master got. God does not always ask for big things. God will not ask us to give what we don’t have. We may not feel we have anything significant to give, but God sometimes takes simple things and uses them in great ways.
- Moses was asked to give his walking stick
- Rahab gave a corner of her roof to hide the spies
- David gave his sling shot
- the widow at Zarephath gave the last of her oil and flour to make a meal for Elijah
- the Shummanite woman gave a room of her home to Elisha
- the widow gave her two cents
- the young boy gave his five loaves and two fish
- the early church shared their possessions with those who had a need
In each of these cases, these people gave what they had to be used by the Lord. What could you give?
The True Believer Knows that What we have belongs to the Lord.
Everything we have has been given to us as a gift from the Lord. Everything: our time, our talents, our resources, they have been entrusted to us so that we might use them for Him. Stewardship is not just about giving money . . . it is about managing what He has given well.
Suppose you had an extra ten thousand dollars (and were unwilling to give it to the church). And suppose you gave that ten thousand dollars to a broker to invest on your behalf. What would you expect to happen? Obviously, you would expect a favorable return on your money. If you lost money or if you gained nothing, the chances are that you would move your money somewhere else.
And what would happen if the money you gave was spent by the broker for his own pleasures? What if it was squandered? I would guess that you would be angry. You would take that person to court to get back what you had entrusted to him.
Have you ever wondered what God thinks when He sees us wasting what He has given us? Or worse, when He sees us squandering the good gifts He has entrusted to us? Listen to Max Lucado’s reflection,
Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don’t give it because I don’t know for sure, and then I feel bad because I’ve missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don’t give it because I’m too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other tiimes I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul.
Maybe you have those questions, too. All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or hug or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check.
Whichever, that’s your donkey.
Whichever, your donkey belongs to him.
It really does belong to him. Your gifts are his and the donkey was his. The original wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: “If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, you are to say, ‘Its Lord is in need.'” [Max Lucado, And the Angels were Silent p. 54]
Do you see I don’t really think the lesson is about donkeys . . . it’s about attitude. God has given us many things:
- our talents
- our resources
- our time
- our children
- our jobs
- our interests
They belong to Him. God has given them to us as a gift. They are ours to use . . . but He can ask for them back at any time. At any time He can request that what He has given be returned in some fashion. He can do this because He is the true owner . . . we are but trustees.
The True Believer knows that the value of what we have is multiplied when it is placed in the Lord’s hands
The man gave his donkey . . . it was valuable to him. But look at how much more valuable it became when placed in the hands of Jesus.
- his donkey was had a part in fulfilling prophecy
- this donkey transported the Lord of All Creation
- this donkey (and it’s owner) have been remembered for two thousand years because of their simple act.
None of this would have been possible if the man had refused to give what He had. If we talked to the man he might very well have said, “Hey, it was no big deal.” But it was. What we place in the Lord’s hands is used is remarkable ways.
- the person who gives their time to read to or visit with people in a nursing home may feel like they are doing little . . . but I suspect that they will be surprised when they get to Heaven.
- the Sunday School teacher who labors week after week faithfully giving of themselves to their students while no one notices . . . will be surprised at how God has used their service to mold the next generation of believers.
- the person who gets alone with God and fervently prays for the saints may feel like their prayers accomplish nothing . . . but they don’t see how God is changing hearts and circumstances in response to those prayers.
- the person who faithfully puts their check in the plate week after week may feel that their tithe is insignificant. But they don’t see that God is using their faithfulness to make it possible not only to have good facilities in which to teach and worship . . . but God is using those funds to reach people in our community and literally around the world.
- the person who takes the time to jot a note, to make a call, to stop by and visit may feel that they don’t have much to offer . . . but by giving what they have God may be using their efforts to encourage someone who is weary, to comfort someone who thought they were alone, or to reach someone who was drifting away.
- the person who shares their music doesn’t see how many times God brings that tune or those words to the remembrance of those who were listening.
- the person who brings a meal or donates to a meal at the church, or cooks a meal doesn’t see how God uses that act of kindness to warm a heart, to convey love, or to ease a burden.
What we have is never more valuable than when we place these things in the capable and strong hands of Jesus. So, here’s the question? What is God asking of you? How can you “invest” what He has given you? What does He want you to give? A talent, some time, some money, a willingness to obey? I can’t tell you. It may be simple, it may be great . . . but what we do know is that the true disciple gives what the Master asks for.
We see four groups of people in this story. Which of the four groups of people do you belong to?
The Opponents I suspect since you are here, you may not be in this group. But it is possible that you resist everything He tells you. It is possible that you resist any notion of someone being the Lord and Master of your life. If so, then you are an opponent like the scribes, Pharisees and others who wanted to kill Jesus.
The Indifferent On that Palm Sunday lots of people came out to cheer for Jesus . . . and lots didn’t. Are you going through the motions without it having any affect on you? Are you one of those who thinks faith is o.k. if that’s “your thing” but you see no need of it in your life? Is so, you belong to the indifferent crowd.
The Enthusiastic These people screamed ‘Hosanna” on Sunday and said nothing . . . or worse, they said “Crucify Him” at the end of this same week. These are the people who follow the crowd. They will sing the hymns, clap their hands, serve on boards and committees but never make a commitment to Jesus. They are going to go whichever way is popular . . . whichever way is the most fun or which “ministers to them most”. Their chief concern is not following Christ . . . it is being “where the action is.”
The Committed These are the folks who trust Christ as Savior and as Lord. He is the Master of their lives. What He commands they will do. Where He sends, they will go. What He asks for, they will give.
So, which group are you in? Only the last group are going to Heaven. Please be clear, they are not going to Heaven because of what they do. They are going to Heaven because they trust Christ. But we know they trust Him because we see that they are willing to follow, to obey, to give freely. That is the evidence of genuine faith. Do you see that evidence in your life?
You see the issue this Palm Sunday is the same as the first Palm Sunday. Jesus declares Himself to be the long awaited King that will redeem those who trust Him. The declaration is the same . . . and so is the choice. Will you receive Him as King and Savior or will you simply stand on the sidelines? You see, it is really not about a man’s donkey . . . it is about a man’s heart.
What the Lord Jesus Christ wants more than anything is your heart. He wants your trust, your allegiance, your willingness to follow Him. And that’s why the owner of the donkey is a model to us. He gave what he had, without asking questions, because He trusted the one who made the request.
Here is a simple assignment for you,
- When you get up in the morning remind yourself that everything you have (your life, your time, your talent, your resources) are His. Make a conscious choice to invest His resources well.
- When you are wondering what your meager gifts can accomplish . . . remind yourself not to merely look at what you can see . . .look for, and trust what the Lord is doing that is unseen.
- Finally, place a rope, or a plastic donkey, or a Palm Branch someplace prominent. Use this as a reminder of the man who owned the donkey. And every time you see that item remember that He believed enough to give what the Lord asked, in faith, without asking questions. And even though you don’t know his name . . . be spurred on by his example.