“God’s anonymous: the man who owned the donkey”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
In an article entitled, Five Reasons You Need a Donkey, author Emily Fought of Ohio’s Humblewood Farm writes, “From miniature to mammoth, the donkey is a versatile companion that easily earns its place on farms. They have big ears, make funny sounds and eat air to stay alive. That’s right, I’m talking about donkeys!”
So what are her five main reasons you should have a donkey? For one, she said, they’re keepers of the field. While they get along perfectly well with horses, goats, sheep and small barn critters, foxes, coyotes, dogs and other predators usually run the other way. If you want a safe and happy farm, she said, you better get yourself a donkey!
Second, they’re calm, making them ideal to have around children. They’re patient and forgiving and rarely, if ever, freak out. And since they’re so easy to have around, they’re even good for nursing homes, schools and fairs.
Third, they work hard! They can carry equipment and supplies for day trips or overnight camping expeditions, pull carts and even plow small fields.
Fourth, they’re inexpensive, (you can pick one up at most any auction), they don’t eat as much as a horse and are healthier than a horse.
And last, but not least, they’re smart! While most people think they’re stubborn, actually they’re simply being careful. Unlike horses which would rather bolt and run, donkeys first try to figure out what’s going on, then they alert the rest of the herd.
Finally she writes, “Donkeys are the perfect addition to any farm. Their big, silly ears and inquisitive personalities make them perfect for all ages.”
Believe it or not, all of us know some rather famous donkeys. Think of “Conchita,” (also known as “Lana”), and her master Juan Valdez, or “Benjamin” from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, or “Gus,” a field-goal kicking donkey from Yugoslavia, or “Dominick,” who brings presents to children in Italy because Santa’s poor reindeer just 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 about donkeys, mentioning them more than four hundred times! They were the “workhorses,” the beasts of burden, a farmer’s best friend.
If you wanted to know how rich someone was, not only would you count their oxen and sheep, their cattle and camels, you’d better count their donkeys 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 famous one of all is found in the words of Matthew chapter 21. 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” (Matthew 21:1-6).
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. To depict their great and glorious victories, they built buildings, gates and entire fortresses. Then they marched triumphantly straight through those gates, under those arches and alongside those buildings. In ancient Babylon, kings rode through the famed gate of Ishtar under the approving stares of sixty enormous lions.
Then when Rome came along, they took their parades to a whole new level. Instead of simply being parades, they were triumphs, meant to display their great victories, captives and plunder to their adoring, roaring crowds.
And who could blame them? You measured 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 the 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 from the Bible, remarkable men and women like Adam and Eve, Sarah, Rahab, Gomer, and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But of all those we’ll someday see in heaven, we’ll also get to meet the guy who gave his 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 speak to 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 someday tell your story?”
And while he was so good to let Jesus borrow his donkey, he wasn’t the only one. In fact, the Bible has quite a lot of “donkey-givers.”
One day, when a crowd 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 when He preached on a hillside to a crowd numbering in the thousands, stomachs were growling, and there wasn’t any 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, three 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. Though He owned all things, He 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 a room in which to meet His friends and to share in His 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 that He called His own.
So today, let me ask, “What’s your donkey? What do you have to 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” (I Corinthians 12:4-6).
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”?
And think of what He can do! Give Him a wandering nomad named Abram, and He’ll give you Abraham, a mighty man of faith. Give Him a schemer and a trickster named Jacob, and He’ll give you Israel, the father of twelve sons. Give Him the cruelest and most despicable man you can think of, Saul of Tarsus, and He’ll give you Paul, the foremost of all the apostles. Give Him a rude and crude fisherman named Simon, 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, “If you do what you can, where you are and with what you have, then you can never be a failure.”
It’s easy to say that you can find quite a lot of amazing things in the Bible. In the Garden of Eden, a snake struck up a conversation with a man and a woman. The sun stood still, high in the sky, for an entire day, ravens flew in breakfast to a hungry prophet, the head of a hatchet floated on top of the water and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
Or think of that boy named Isaac, stretched out over firewood on top of a makeshift altar. There’s his father, standing over him, holding a knife in his hand. “Take your son,” God told him, “your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2).
Yet a split second before the knife plunged in, an angel stopped him. And instead of his son, Abraham offered a ram.
Fast forward a few centuries to the book of I Chronicles, to when David disobeyed the Lord and a plague steamrolled across the land.
Fearing the worst, David bought a threshing floor owned by a local farmer as well as the oxen used for threshing. Then he sacrificed them there, saving the lives of thousands.
Or think of Solomon building his temple, where day after day and year after year, the blood of thousands of cattle, sheep and goats was spilled, bearing the guilt of sinners.
Now fast forward once more to 33 A.D., to see Jesus climbing that very same mountain once more. The promised seed of Abraham, the new and better Isaac, the promised son of David, the new and better Solomon, would be the substitute, the sacrifice, the sinless Son of God. He’s the Lamb of God dying on the altar of the cross.
At His death, the angels standing guard outside of Eden suddenly sheathed their swords and welcomed us back into the paradise of God. He’s our substitute by whose sacrifice we aren’t just spared, but welcomed into the life and family of our heavenly Father.
And so we cry as the people once cried: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9).
Dear Father, though we may not have much, we give to You fully, wholly and completely, for all we have is a gift from You. Hear us for the sake of Jesus. Amen