One of the great ironies in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last days on earth is the story of His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. We still remember and commemorate this event each year on Palm Sunday.
The Bible tells us that Jesus sent two disciples to find a donkey colt no one had ever ridden before and to bring it to Him. They did, and put their cloaks across the little animal’s back for a saddle.
Then Jesus rode from the Mount of Olives, across the valley and through the narrow streets up to the gate of Jerusalem. A multitude of people prepared the way for Him, spreading their garments and strewing branches from trees in His path.
“Hosannah!” they cried. “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosannah in the highest!”
So Jesus entered Jerusalem, and into the temple, with the adulation of the multitude who hoped He would become their new king. Sadly, only a few days later, many of these same people would join the throngs demanding that Christ be crucified!
But there’s a part of the story about the Triumphal Entry that has always fascinated me. It’s about the donkey colt Jesus rode that day. That little animal has some important lessons for us, I think.
The donkey was available
First, the little donkey was available, ready to be used. Jesus knew the colt was there, and sent His disciples to the particular place they could find him. And when the animal’s owners were told that the Master had need of the donkey, they willingly let him go.
But the donkey was willing, too. Mark’s Gospel says no man had ever sat on his back. He was unbroken, untamed, untrained. But he was available.
Why didn’t Jesus choose a larger, better-qualified animal to carry Him – a spirited horse, or at least the mother of the colt? Why did He ask for such a humble little animal?
I believe the reason might be to show us that the Lord can use small things – if they’re available and ready to be used. One doesn’t have to have a great voice to sing God’s praises. Nor is it necessary to have great talent and training to teach a Sunday School class. One need not have “a way with words” to send birthday greetings, get well, or sympathy cards to people who need to hear from someone who cares.
Are you available? Are you willing to do what you can for the Lord, however small your talent or ability seems to you? There is something you can do – God has given each of us spiritual gifts to use in His service.
But we have to be available. Had the little colt been hidden away where the disciples couldn’t find him, he would have missed having the Son of God ride upon His back!
Remember the story of the five foolish virgins who were invited to the marriage supper. When the bridegroom came, the five foolish virgins were gone – not available to go into the wedding.
How many times do you and I miss out on God’s great blessings simply because we’re not available when the Lord desires to use us?
The donkey was submissive
I don’t know a lot about animals, but I’ve been told that horses, mules, and donkeys have to be broken, or trained, to be ridden. They have to learn to accept the burden of a rider and to respond to his direction and guidance.
This wild little donkey had never been ridden before – no man had ever sat on his back. But when the disciples brought him to Jesus and put a cloak on his back for a saddle, he was submissive. There is no record in the Scripture that he protested, bucked, or rebelled.
He couldn’t have known what was happening, or what was ahead. One moment he was standing peacefully at his mother’s side – the next he was dragged away and a heavy burden put upon him. And as far as we can tell, the little donkey submitted to these strange events without a fuss.
How often do we balk and buck when asked to carry out some assignment or bear some burden? “Why me?” we cry. “Get somebody else.”
So often we tend to hold back until we can see the end from the beginning. We want to see the light at the end of the tunnel before we go into it. We want to understand everything happening in our lives before we submit to it. But that’s not the way life works. Submission is more than agreeing just with what we understand and approve.
How proud and presumptuous to say to God, “Show me Your will for my life, then if I like it, I’ll do it!” The Apostle Peter warns, God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:5,6).
When God leads us to do something for Him, rather than worrying about being embarrassed, put on the spot, or even misunderstood, or disliked by other people, we should submit immediately, trusting in Him. We need to be willing to be led by the Holy Spirit in such a way that we will obey – blindly, if need be – no matter what God asks.
The little donkey submitted to Jesus … and so should we.
The donkey was unafraid
Can you imagine a more difficult and frightening time to be ridden for the first time than this colt experienced? He had no preparation, no training. He is snatched away from his mother by strangers, another stranger gets upon his back, and he bears his first burden through narrow streets crowded with exciting, shouting people, waving tree branches and clothing, crowding around him from every side.
Such an experience would be enough to excite any animal and make him nervous and skittish. But the little donkey didn’t kick anybody or try to get away. He just kept going, carrying Jesus the way He wanted to go.
I’m sure the Lord must have leaned over and whispered to the little animal, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t fear – I’m with you.” And in the most confusing circumstances, with the press of the multitude all around, the colt kept calm and cool. He just kept on doing what he was supposed to do, going where he was supposed to go. And because Jesus was with him, he was not afraid.
God’s supreme sacrifice
Bible scholars tell us there was great significance in Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem at this time, just before the Passover sacrifices. The gate Jesus entered to reach the city was the one through which people brought their sacrifices to the temple. No doubt the streets were full of sheep and lambs being led to the sacrificial altar. And here comes God’s Son, riding on a donkey, about ready to be offered up as the supreme sacrifice for the sins of the world!
So, because he was available, submissive and unafraid, the little donkey played a key role in one of the most riveting events in all of history.
If the donkey could speak to us today, what do you suppose he would say?
It would not be the first time a donkey spoke. The Old Testament, in Numbers 22, tells of Balaam’s donkey who chided the prophet who rode him for opposing the will of God. The donkey saw what Balaam’s spiritually blinded eyes did not – the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword, standing in the path.
If you listen very carefully with the ears of your heart, I think you can hear the little donkey’s voice even now. He’s saying –
“If God could use me, He can use you, too. No one is too humble or insignificant to have a place in God’s service.
“Just be available – stay where the Lord can reach you. Keep an open heart, an open, holy life.
“Then, trust God enough to submit to him. Don’t buck and kick against the unknown. Decide that the Lord knows what’s best and simply do what he asks. He’ll never steer you wrong!
“And last, you don’t have to be afraid when Jesus is with you. His presence, His touch, will calm your fears and keep you on track no matter what goes on around you.
“Maybe you’ve never done anything great, or accomplished very much before. But this year can be different. If you’re available, submissive, and unafraid, who knows what you’ll be chosen to do and how important it may be to the world.
“After all, you’re even more important to God than a little donkey such as I. And the very first time I was ridden, I carried the King!”
As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord. Joshua 24:15