Saturday, March 28, 2015

Learning from Donkeys: A Palm Sunday Meditation

The other day Dionne and I were driving over to the park for a walk, and she pointed out a group of horse riders on one of the equestrian trails that interlace the park. What caught her attention was a little kid riding a donkey. Not something you see every day.

Horses and donkeys have a lot in common. They both carry people and people’s burdens. They look like genetic cousins (both genus: equus) and can produce hybrid offspring.

But horses seem beautiful and majestic; donkeys not so much. You picture John Wayne galloping across the prairie on a magnificent stallion, rescuing runaway stagecoaches. You picture Gabby Hayes toodling across the desert on a scruffy donkey. They make movies about horses like Secretariat or The Black Stallion. If they made a movie about a donkey, it would be something like Buttercup the Burro and Her Friend the Magpie. (My suggestion…Hollywood, call me.)

Anyway, you get the point. But I started thinking about donkeys in Scripture. They appear quite often at key moments. 
  • A donkey carried Abraham and the wood for a burnt offering as Abraham obeyed God in preparation for the sacrifice of his son Isaac. Genesis 22:3f
  • Freshly commissioned by God, Moses loaded his wife and two sons on a donkey and returned to Egypt after 40 years in the wilderness. Exodus 4:20
  • Balaam (shyster, pagan prophet, and corrupter of Israel) was saved from angelic execution by his own donkey’s spiritual sight. (God enabled the donkey to talk, too, and he pretty much sounded like you you’d expect a donkey to sound – calm, unpretentious, and reasonable: "Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?") Numbers 22:21-33
  • We see a young David, wide-eyed and innocent, bringing a donkey-load of provisions to his brothers on the battlefield, where he will fight a giant and begin a legacy. 1 Samuel 16:20f
  • And later there’s Abigail, hastily saddling her donkey to placate a furious David, who is about to take revenge upon her Nabal (lit. fool) of a husband. Her humble appeal calms David’s anger, protecting him from rash violence, and ultimately enabling her to marry up. 1 Samuel 25:20f
  • But of course the most famous and important appearance of a donkey comes as a promise of the one true King. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

On Palm Sunday five hundred years later, Jesus sent His disciples to confiscate a donkey, a young colt, never before ridden. This one donkey had been set apart before time began, chosen to provide transport for the King of Kings. Not bad for a donkey.

“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.’ ” Luke 19:30-31

Here are a few donkey lessons:

1. Obedience may not look fancy, but humble steps are what get you there. (Look again at the heart wrenching image of old Abraham methodically loading up the donkey, and his son, on the way to Moriah.)

2. Real quality doesn't require fancy. (If the one true King prefers to ride on a donkey, maybe we should scale back on the bling and work on our hearts.)

3. Christ is willing – no, He actually wants – to use the lowly and the simple. (The Lord revealed Himself to a donkey and gave him the power of speech. There’s hope for you and me.)