Graphic by Jennifer Shipman / Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash
It’s Sunday. You’re home, preparing for the big holiday dinner coming later this week. There’s a lot of traffic outside, so you almost don’t hear the knock on the door. When you get to it, there’s a couple of weather-worn working guys, a little rough-looking, standing there. One of them is untying your donkey and her colt. “Hey, what are you doing with my donkey?” you ask, a little harshly. That donkey is your livelihood, and her colt will be too – when he finally gets big enough to be useful. Right now he’s just a mouth to feed. And he kicks. “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately,” says the guy at the door. “Oh, okay then. See you later!” And you close the door.
Okay. I probably had you up until donkey. Unless you live on a farm (and I thank you if you do!), you probably don’t have a donkey and colt tied up outside your door. But maybe you recognize the story? Jesus, on his way into Jerusalem for the festival of Passover, sent his disciples to get him a donkey’s colt. He rode that colt into Jerusalem amid excited cries of a large crowd, hailing him as king, hoping he was coming to finally overturn Roman rule and set them free.
I’ve never ridden a donkey, but I understand they’re not all that comfortable. (Though they were ridden a lot in ancient times.) They were (and still are) beasts of burden. Working animals. Jesus did not ride in on a fancy war horse; he rode in on an everyday, lowly donkey. It wasn’t even his donkey! The Bible makes it clear that Jesus owned very little. He sent his friends to borrow it from someone in town, and he asked permission.
We are pretty familiar with the events of Palm Sunday – the donkey, the cloaks, the branches, the excited crowds, the grumbling religious leaders, the Triumphal Entry. As children we waved palm branches in church and sang “Hosanna!” You may have heard sermons or had Bible studies on the significance of the cloaks and branches, or the zealous crowd calling “King!” that later cried “Crucify!” And you’ve probably heard about the donkey fulfilling prophecy and the significance of Jesus’ choice of this animal.
But have you ever thought about the people that gave the donkey? As I prayed for wisdom to write about Holy Week, the gift of the donkey struck me. Jesus was preparing for the last week of his life: teaching, asserting his authority as the true King, preparing his followers, serving. He was preparing for his Glory – and he asked someone in town for their simple, unused donkey colt.
I wonder what that owner was thinking. Some scholars think he knew Jesus; perhaps his house was even the site of the last Supper. Regardless, as soon as he heard that “The Lord has need of it,” he sent it off without further question. The colt had never been ridden. Perhaps it wasn’t yet even being used for burdens – Matthew’s gospel specifies that it was still with its mother, that both donkeys were sent to Jesus. I wonder if he thought his gift was a bit… useless?
The point is this: whatever Jesus asks for, it’s useful. You may think you have nothing to offer, or that your gift isn’t ready, or it’s underused, or completely worthless. Maybe you think it will be ready “someday.”
But if Jesus is asking NOW, then your gift is ready, and it is useful to bring him glory. There is no such thing as a gift from God that isn’t ready. He may develop it as you use it, and it may get stronger in time, but as it is, right now, is when he’s asking. What a thought! The God of the universe, who created everything and needs nothing, asks us to come into his story and use what he’s given us. We are called to be co-workers with Christ!
What is Jesus asking you for? Stop thinking it’s useless. It – you – are valued and desired by your Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The people in Jerusalem that Sunday used what they had to serve him: cloaks, branches, their voices… and a lowly donkey’s colt. What do you have? Don’t tell Jesus “no”. Give him your colt, and he will return your gift – blessed and fulfilled.
Graphic by Jennifer Shipman / Photo by TS Sergey on Unsplash