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Matthew 21:1- 11 (Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19)
At this chapter, begins that which is called “The Passion-Week” or “The Week of Passion”. All four evangelists take notice of this passage of Christ’s riding in triumph into Jerusalem – five days before his death.
The Passover was on the fourteenth day of the month – and this was the tenth – on which day the law appointed that the paschal lamb should be taken up (Ex. 12:3) – and set apart for that service – on that day therefore Christ our Passover – who was to be sacrificed for us – was publicly showed. So that this was the prelude to his passion.
II. The Triumphant Entry.
Humility of Jesus. Jesus comes in humility – yet with appropriate dignity – instead of coming on a horse as a conquering general would – He comes on a colt – as royalty would – the Prince of Peace.
Now compare his arrival in Jerusalem to the inauguration of a U.S. president: a colt vs. an armored limousine; peace vs. a threat of terrorism.
Honor from the People. Regardless – the people honor him – proclaiming him a king – garments were first placed under him to ride on – this was in token of their subjection to him. Then they were placed on the donkey – and then beneath the animal.
Branches were cut by others from the nearby trees and strewn along the way – as they used to do at the feast of tabernacles in token of liberty, victory, and joy.
“Hosannas” were called out by the crowd – meaning “save now!”. By doing so they were openly giving Jesus the titles appropriate for the Messiah and “beseeching him to save them”.
“Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. “Blessed [be] he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD” (Ps. 118:25- 26).
In these words – the Messiah is prophesied of as the Head-stone of the corner – though the builders refused him – and all his loyal subjects are brought in triumphing with him – and attending him with hearty good wishes to the prosperity of all his enterprises. Hosanna to the Son of David is, “This we do in honor of the Son of David.”
The town was stirred – their language here is very grand – intended to express a burst of admiration far wider and deeper than ever had been witnessed before. And – more importantly – it fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 – “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
III. What About the Donkey?
OK – what about the donkey called into service by Christ? Donkeys were much used in that country for travel – horses were kept only by great men – and for war. Christ could have summoned a cherub to carry him.
Just know that the donkey was used as a beast of burden – nothing more.
So, what did the donkey think of all of this? Did she think the celebration was for her?
In an article from Pulpit Helps, November 2000, by Jan Silvious:
Sadhu, Sundar Singh – a great Christian of India – was asked if he was influenced by the honor his friends gave him. He said, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, many people spread their clothing and palm branches on the street in honor of the Lord. Jesus was riding, as the prophets foretold, on a donkey. In this way the feet of Jesus did not touch the street adorned with clothes and branches – but instead the donkey walked over them. It would have been very stupid of the donkey if she had imagined that she was very important. It was not for her that the people threw their clothes on the streets.”
Stupid are those who spread the good news of Jesus and expect to receive glory themselves. The glory should go to Jesus.
IV. I’m Just a Donkey.
“The Lord called us – the Lord hath need of him. The Lord loosed us – ye shall find a colt tied – loose him. The Lord called us to bring glory to him – not ourselves.”
In this day of fallen heroes and Christian superstars – it is important that we get a firm grip on what our attitude should be toward those who bring Jesus to us in any form. Many people are too easily impressed by Christian celebrities: musicians, authors, lecturers, television personalities, and evangelists – many of whom are false teachers. They will quote their favorites almost more readily than they quote the Word of God.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3).
“Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other” (1 Cor. 4:6).
V. Donkeys and Men.
“What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:12-13).
Do you know why some people do not attend this worship service and services at other times? Their favorite donkey wasn’t here singing. Their favorite donkey wasn’t here preaching. They think more of the donkey than they think of the rider. Unfortunately, too many people who go by the name “Christian” base their decisions on the donkey and not its rider.
VI. How the Wrong Donkey Attitude Can Harm You.
We should be concerned about our Donkey attitudes because that attitude can harm you. Let me explain:
We bring the donkey into our homes and feed them with a great meal and honor them with gifts and money. And this we ought to do – but with the right attitude.
“For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it about oxen that God is concerned?” (1 Cor. 9:9).
We put the donkey’s name on our flyers and our billboards. We quote from the donkey’s sayings. Their Word becomes the standard. We pattern ourselves after certain donkeys. But this is not what we are to do.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Phil. 3:17).
A. The Following of donkeys comes with a downfall. I am speaking here of their existence – donkeys live and die. But the rider lives on.
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Rev. 1:8).
B. There’s also a concern regarding their stability. Donkeys can change – however – the rider doesn’t change.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
C. There is also a concern about trustworthiness. Donkeys can be hirelings. Although usually calm – they can turn and bite you – they can be quite ornery. However – the rider was willing to give himself.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
D. Steadfastness can be a concern. Donkeys can leave you in the midst of trouble. But the Rider will never leave you.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” – Hebrews 13:5.
E. Concerning faithfulness. Donkeys can be unfaithful but the Rider is always faithful.
“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” – I Thes. 5:24.
VI. How the Right Donley Attitude Can Help You.
Now understand that the right Donkey attitude can help you. For example:
- Why do I keep going when people are dull of hearing? I consider that I am just the donkey.
- When people are rude and unfaithful – I remember – I am just the donkey.
- It is not just me who is being insulted – it is my rider. I’m a beast of burden.
So, what attitude will help you in times of trials and temptations? The thought that you are just a donkey.
Remember what John the Baptist stated when he was questioned about who Jesus was? “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). In our case – the Rider– Jesus – must increase. On the other hand – I – the donkey – must decrease.
“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31).
We can do it! But we must remember the right attitude of the donkey – a beast of burden for Jesus – and there can be hazards and pitfalls. And we must receive our burden on our knees at the foot of the cross. After all – Human nature likes to be lifted up; But the grace of God alone can humble us.