If God Can Use a Donkey Just Think What He Can Do With Us
Matthew 21:1-11 & Zechariah 9:9-10
Most of us familiar with the Palm Sunday story and can tell the story. But are we really familiar with the story – got a little quiz for you:
True or False Quiz?
Palm Sunday celebrates the day Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Test your knowledge of that day’s events, recorded in all four Gospels, with these true or false statements.
- According to the Gospels, the people waved palm branches when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
False (Matt. 21:6, Mark 11:8, Luke 19:36, John 12:13). None of the four Gospels say the people "waved" branches but that they spread garments and branches in Jesus’ path. Only John mentions palm branches, a tree not native to Jerusalem.
- The date of Jesus’ triumphal entry-five days before Passover-was a special holiday in his time.
True. It wasn’t called Palm Sunday in Jesus’ day, but each Israelite family chose the lamb they would sacrifice for Passover on the tenth day of the month. As the people shouted "Hosanna," they didn’t realize they were choosing the Lamb of God as their sacrifice.
- By their actions, the people were publicly proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.
True. When Solomon was anointed king, he rode into the city on a mule, to the shouts and praises of the people (1 Kings 1:43-45). Zechariah prophesied the Messiah would arrive the same way "gentle and riding on a donkey" (Zech. 9:9).
- The fact that Jesus rode a donkey portrayed him as a warrior king.
False. Conquering kings would ride war horses; the donkey symbolized peace and humility (Zech. 9:9, 10). Jesus’ entry was a stark contrast to the war-like Romans, whose military presence was very visible.
- The shouts of "Hosanna!" meant "Praise the Lord!"
False. The Hebrew word Halleluiah means "praise the Lord;" Hosanna means "save us!" or "save!" The Palm Sunday crowd falsely assumed that Jesus would bring political liberation.
- The route Jesus chose for his triumphal entry was down the side of Mount Zion.
False. Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives offering him an excellent view of Jerusalem, which is built on Mount Zion. According to Zechariah 14:4, Jesus will again stand on the Mount of Olives at his second coming
- When the people spread branches and garments in Jesus’ path it was to pay him honor.
True. The people were boldly declaring that Jesus was their king, an accusation eventually written in condemnation above his cross. It was common in Bible times to spread garments in the path of princes and kings, especially at their coronation (see 2 Kings 9:13).
- The shouts of "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" were words of a Jewish hymn.
True. The phrases "Hosanna" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" both come from Psalm 118: 25-26, one of the "Hallel" or praise psalms (113-118) used every Passover. These Jewish hymns would be as familiar to the Jewish people as Christmas carols are to Christians.
SOURCE: Copyright © 2000 by the author or Christianity Today International/Christian Reader magazine. March/April 2000, Vol. 38, No. 2, Page 39.
Listen as Libby reads from Zechariah and Matthew
Zechariah 9:9-10 (NIV)
9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Matthew 21:1-11 (NIV)
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" 11 The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."
- It’s pretty amazing don’t you think? The first truly public acknowledgment of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and he comes, as predicted in a way that seems, frankly, a little bit silly.
- God had chosen to fulfill his plan riding upon a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey. What is the meaning of it? Well for one thing I think it makes the Messianic claim unmistakable, it wasn’t every day that people rode victoriously through the cheering crowd lined streets of Jerusalem on donkeys.
- But I’d like to think there’s another message for us here,
- Proposition: If God can use a stinky little donkey in the triumphant fulfillment of His plan then just maybe He’s got a plan for you and me too.
- So the question I’d like us to consider this morning is "how does a donkey become fit for the service of the King of Kings and How can we be made useful for him too?"
There are three important things that make this donkey fit for royal service, and they are equally important for us:
- First the Donkey Is Selected by God and So Are We
A. The Donkey was chosen a head of time – it was by pre-arrangement vv. 1-3 As they approached Jerusalem... Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."
- Clearly Jesus has made arrangements to use this donkey ahead of time.
- It’s pretty cloak and dagger actually, the only thing missing are code names. The point is this specific donkey had been set aside for a noble purpose. He also selected us for service.
- The Donkey was prophesied about – a donkey was an answer to a prophesy. VV 4-5 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, ’See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’"
- 550 years earlier Zechariah had prophesied about this little donkey. God had a plan and this donkey was selected by God to play a part in His plan.
- And he selected us too: John 15:16 (NIV) 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
- Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We have been chosen not only for blessing but for service. God knows each of us by name and He has a plan for each one of us to serve Him, He has prepared in advance good works for you to do.
- Next, notice with me that this donkey that was selected to carry Christ into Jerusalem is sanctified – set apart.
- By Preservation - It was set aside for a particular reason. The Mark 11 story tells us the disciples would find a colt tied there which no one had ever ridden (Mark 11:2).
- Such animals in Jewish tradition often had special religious significance, because they had never been used for any worldly purpose.
- We must be separated from the world also to be useful to the Lord. 2 Timothy 2:21 (NLT) 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.
- It’s also necessary for us to safeguard our time and energy to use for the Lord’s service. So often we give him the leftovers of our life when He desires our first fruits.
- Being sanctified also means being prepared / set aside for the Lord’s use. The donkey was set apart for God’s use – it was saved for a purpose and so are we. We designed to be used by God.
- 2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT) 15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.
- 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
- Spending time getting to know the Lord in Prayer and study of His Word prepares us for his use and allows the Holy Spirit to work in us to sanctify us for Service.
- Finally, to be useful to the Lord, like the donkey we must be Satisfied to be a servant led by the Master.
- Donkeys are not known for a submissive temperament, it is worth noting that this donkey presents himself to the master to be used. Like him we must present ourselves to the Lord...
- The fact that this donkey had never been ridden you would think that he would have bucked or kicked. We see nothing of that in the Palm Sunday account. There are many times we argue with God about what He is calling us to do. We aren’t as cooperative as this little donkey. We need to learn to be submissive to the Lord.
- We are to present ourselves to God is what Paul encourages Timothy and commands us to do.
- Romans 12:1 (NIV) 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
- Yes, He has chosen us but he will not work against us he wishes for us to present ourselves to Him, to be submissive to his will in our lives.
- The Donkey was also satisfied to play a humble part. In spite of the importance of the donkey’s role in the fulfillment of prophecy, he still plays a bit part. His job is to lift up Jesus so that Jesus can be seen by the crowds.
- We have a similar role in God’s plan, not to be exalted but to exalt Christ; to make Him be seen by the world. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:13 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jesus warned us in His Sermon on the Mount not to be like the religious people who did their good deeds to be seen by men, the Good Works that the Lord has prepared in advance for us are works that bring glory to his Name and not our own. Like the donkey we must be satisfied with a humble part in God’s plan.
We have made a big deal about the donkey this morning but in reality donkeys aren’t really great it is just what Christ made of the donkey. They’re stubborn, they’re smelly, they’re small, not really able to do that much. But Jesus used a donkey in his most triumphant public moment here on earth. He could have chosen a white stallion outfitted for battle as He’s portrayed in the book of revelation. He could have chosen a camel decked out in velvets. But He chose a donkey.
- We may not be a white stallion, or even an old gray mare. We may have never really thought of ourselves as a part of God’s grand plan, but the Bible says that’s exactly what we are.
- We Have Been Selected by Him to fulfill a part of His plan prepared in advance for you.
- To fulfill that role we need to be Sanctified – Set Apart, prepared for His service by Separation from the world’s evil and commitment to Him
- And we must be Satisfied to take the role of a servant, fulfilling God’s plan for God’s glory and not our own.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.