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Once Upon a Donkey

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My title might suggest a fairytale, but the story I’m about to tell you is absolutely true — and amazing. It is Luke’s account of the triumphal entry.

Jesus has just told the parable of the 10 mina (or talents) in an effort to cue people in to the fact that He’s not planning to be the military messiah for which some are searching. Many of the Jews wanted a messiah who would free them from the rule of the Romans, but Jesus was there, of course, to free them from the oppression of a greater and more terrible ruler.

So, as Jesus approaches Bethany, He sends a couple of His disciples ahead with instructions to find a donkey. … But not just any donkey. He says, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’”

Sure enough, the disciples are challenged, but upon saying, “The Lord has need of it,” the colt is given. Screech to a halt. My wife’s Sunday School class wanted to know, “Why did those words produce such a response? … How did the owners know who Jesus was?”

Good question. For that, we go back to John 11 and the death — and subsequent raising from the dead — of Jesus’ dear friend, Lazarus. It happened in that same town of Bethany from which the disciples are now procuring a colt. Small town, big miracle. I’m pretty sure the owners knew who Jesus was. In fact, John tells us later, in chapter 12, that the reason the crowd came when Jesus entered Jerusalem is because they’d heard about the raising of Lazarus.

And now, because I’m obsessed, back to the donkey. As I get older and start to pay more attention, I’m beginning to look at the little things. So my question is, “Why this donkey?” I think the significance lies in the last part of the first portion of Jesus’ command to the disciples, where He describes the colt as one “on which no one has ever yet sat.”

Jesus entered the world through a woman who had never known a man, and now He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey on which no one had ever yet sat.

But let’s take it a step further. The donkey is a beast of burden. But this donkey had never been ridden, so it had never known the burden of a man. But let’s take that phrase, “the burden of a man,” and turn it to its theological meaning. When we bow our knee to Jesus, we “lay our burdens at His feet.” But what burden? Our sin. That’s the burden of a man.

I know, I know. You’re already there. But let’s put it together anyway.

What this means is that Jesus chose this particular donkey, which had never known the burden of a man, to carry the One Who would bear the burden for all men.

Go ahead. Let that sink in. I’ve had it 24 hours and I’m still sitting in stunned silence. Enjoy, my friends, and may the name of the Lord be praised.

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