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April 9, 2017

Sermon Matthew 21:1-2  . . . “People to meet in heaven:  the guy with the donkey”

“People to meet in heaven:  the guy with the donkey”

Matthew 21:1-2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Looking for a place to go and something fun to do this summer?  Try “Donkey Derby Days” in beautiful downtown Cripple Creek, Colorado, population 1,189.  This year marks the 86th anniversary and meets on June 23-25th.  Everyone is invited, even your family dog!  And best of all, it’s free!

The fun-filled, action-packed weekend begins on Friday night at 7 o’clock with “Darling of the Donkey Derby” at the Butte Theatre, and is followed by a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning, a beard contest, a western shootout gun skit, donkey rides, a donkey calling contest, and, of course, a donkey parade.  

But the best part of all, what everyone comes to see, is the Donkey Derby Race, beginning on Saturday at 2.  Ever seen a donkey race?  Well, here’s your perfect chance!

This little festival began back in the 1930s, when a local businessman thought it’d be a good way to bring people to Cripple Creek.  So he and a few business partners built a donkey race track, then found some sponsors, food and entertainment.  It’s been quite the thing ever since!

In the words of Steve Kitzman, director of marketing and events, “These are donkeys, and they have their own mind.  Sometimes they go fast and sometimes they stop.  Sometimes one person will pull and the other will push.  Other times the donkey wants to go, and it’s all you can do to keep up with him.”

Whoever would have thought anyone could get so excited about donkeys?!

Believe it or not, all of us know some famous donkeys.  Think of “Conchita,” (also known as “Lana”), from the Juan Valdez commercials, or “Benjamin” of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, or “Dominick,” who brings presents to children in Italy because Santa’s reindeer can’t make it up the hills.  And let’s not forget about “Donkey” from Shrek, (apparently they couldn’t come up with a better name!)  And perhaps the most famous donkey of all—“Eeyore,” from Winnie the Pooh.  “Thanks for noticing me,” he likes to say.

Even the Bible talks a bit about donkeys.  It mentions them more than four hundred times!  They were the “workhorses,” the beasts of burden, a farmer’s best friend.  In times of war, they were a great and treasured booty.

Want to know how rich someone was?  You counted their oxen and sheep, their cattle and camels.  But don’t forget to count their donkeys!  They were incredibly valuable too!

There’s even a commandment about them!  Think of number 10:  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

But of all the donkeys that have ever lived, or will ever live, the most important one of all is found in the words of Matthew chapter 21.  Please turn in your Bible to page 1049.  I’ll start at verse 1:  “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her.  Untie them and bring them to Me.  If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord needs them,” and He will send them at once.’  This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion,’ “Behold, your King is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”’  The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.”

Now all this is very strange.  Jesus?  Riding a donkey?  It seems that’s the last thing He should ever do.

Kings in ancient Mesopotamia would never do such a thing.  They built buildings, gates and entire fortresses just to depict their great victories.  Then they marched triumphantly through those city gates, under those arches and beside those buildings.  In ancient Babylon, for example, kings rode through the famous gate of Ishtar under the approving stares of sixty enormous statues of lions.

Then when Rome came along, they took their parades to a whole new level.  They weren’t parades, really.  They were triumphs, meant to display their great victories, captives and plunder to their adoring, roaring crowds.

And who could blame them?  You could judge a man’s importance by the grandeur of his entrance.

But Jesus would have none of that, for though He was the King of kings and Lord of lords, He was the Servant of servants.  He came in peace.  

That’s why it says in verse 6:  “The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them.”

Someday, when we’re in heaven, we’ll have the chance to meet quite a lot of people of the Bible, men and women like Adam and Eve, Sarah, Rahab, Gomer, Tychicus and Hushai the Archite.  But of all the people we’ll meet in heaven, maybe we’ll also meet the guy who gave the donkey.

And when we meet him, we can ask, “How did you know that Jesus needed your donkey?  Did He tell you ahead of time, or did an angel come to tell you in a dream?  Did you mind when His disciples used it for such a purpose?  And when you saw Jesus ride it on that first Palm Sunday, were you proud, surprised or concerned?  Did you know that all four gospels would tell your story?”

And while he was so good to give Jesus his donkey, he’s not the only one.  In fact, the Bible has quite a lot of donkey-givers.

One day, when thousands came to hear Jesus speak by the Sea of Galilee, He needed a platform on which to stand.  So one of His disciples approached the owner of a boat and asked, “Would it be alright if Jesus used your boat to speak to the people?”  

And one day, He preached on a hillside to a crowd numbering in the thousands, as people listened for hours and begged Him to speak some more.  But stomachs were growling, and there was no food anywhere to be found, except five loaves and a couple of fish.  Philip asked, “But how far can this go among so many?”  But when Jesus was done, the crowd went away full.

Or think of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, long-time friends of Jesus.  They gave their home and their hospitality.

The Bible is full of donkey-givers.

Is it any surprise that Jesus would need to borrow a donkey?  It shouldn’t be.  He owned all things, yet possessed nothing.  He borrowed a stable in which to be born.  And later in His ministry, He said He still had no place to lay His head.  He borrowed baskets and food the day He fed thousands and sent them away full.  He borrowed a room in which to meet His friends and share in a Last Supper.  He borrowed a basin and a towel when He stooped to wash their feet.  Then He borrowed a cross on which to die, and a tomb in which to lie.

The whole universe was His, yet there was nothing He called His own.

So today, let me ask, “What’s your donkey?”  “What do you have to give to your Lord in need?”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”

And think of His endless supply of gifts—preaching, teaching, giving, leadership, compassion, wisdom, healing, hospitality, evangelism and service.  What’s your gift?  What’s your “donkey”?

Give Him an Abram, a wandering nomad, and He’ll give you Abraham, a mighty man of faith.  Give Him your Jacob, a schemer and a trickster, and He’ll give you an Israel, a prince of God.  Give Him your Saul of Tarsus, a cruel, despicable man, and He’ll give you Paul, a mighty apostle of God.  Give Him your Simon, a weak, troubled, cowardly man, and He’ll give you Peter, a rock.  And give Him your broken, sin-scarred life, and He’ll give you grace and an eternal home in heaven. 

As one author wrote:  “Give Him your acorn, and He’ll give you a mighty oak.  Give Him your crabapple, and He’ll give you a golden delicious.”

Paul Brand was a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon.  He pioneered reconstructive surgery on the hands and feet of those who suffered from leprosy and diabetes.  He wrote a hundred scientific papers and six books.  His thesis, Mechanics of the Hand, is still a respected reference for surgeons and therapists around the world.

And his wife, Margaret Brand, one of only a few women who studied medicine during World War II, was an ophthalmologist and became a foremost authority on ocular leprosy.  Together, Paul and Margaret could easily have grossed $1 million a year.

Instead, they chose to serve lepers in Karigiri and Vellore, India, earning just enough money to buy food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their six girls.

Or think of Leoma Gilley, a single woman and an only child.  She served as a speech therapist and a professor of language studies.  She earned a doctorate at the University of London in the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Why did she do all that?  So she could go to southern Sudan, in the heart of Africa, to write a language that had never been written before, so people could hear the Word of God.

“They must be crazy!” you say.  “There are a thousand things better to do!”

No, they’re not crazy.  They’re obedient.  Each of them are “donkey-givers.”

And by the grace of God, so are you.

As Joseph Barnby wrote so long ago:  “Let none hear you idly saying, ‘There is nothing I can do,’ when the souls of men are dying and the Master calls for you.  Take the task He gives you gladly; let His work your pleasure be.  Answer quickly when He calls you, ‘Here am I!  Send me!  Send me!’”

 

Dear Father, we may not have much, but what we have we give to You, fully, wholly, and completely, for everything we have is a gift from You.  Hear us for the sake of Jesus.  Amen

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