As Holy Week approaches, I’m thinking about donkeys. Strange? Perhaps.
Yet it was a mere donkey that played a major role in the events of Holy Week. As Jesus approached Jerusalem on his way to be crucified he sent 2 of his disciples to a village instructing them that they would find a colt, which no one had ridden, tied at a doorway. They were to untie it and bring it to him. It was to be this donkey that Jesus rode into the city on what we call Palm Sunday. All 4 gospels tell this story about the donkey. In the light of the huge event that was about to take place what was the big deal about a little donkey?
Approximately 500 years earlier Zechariah had predicted that the king would come seated on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). The gospel of John reminds us of this. It was not a random thing that just happened. It was foretold-just one of the many prophecies that was to be fulfilled surrounding the death of Jesus. In fulfilling this prophecy Jesus adds to our assurance that He was the expected King.
But there is so much more.
Jesus makes a point of telling the disciples this donkey has never been ridden. An unbroken donkey (or colt) is not nice. It would buck like crazy if someone got up on him. It would not react kindly to a blanket being thrown on its back, and the waving of branches would make it very skittish. Yet Jesus subdues this donkey. If Jesus has the power to subdue even an animal, how much more can He subdue me, my children, those around me? His power is specific and complete.
Jesus also tells the disciples how to respond if someone asks why they are taking the donkey. He tells them to say,” The Lord needs it.” As I contemplate this I am reminded that Jesus is a God of detail. He is a God who goes before us to prepare our way. He is not capricious. He has considered the future and prepared for our every contingency. He has thought of everything. He knows what we will need and when and He will provide. I need not fear.
Imagine the owner of the donkey and their friends. What must they have thought? “This man is crazy to want to ride this animal.” What about the disciples? Can’t you just hear them saying, “He wants us to do what? “ Just imagine the people who witnessed this small incident, marveled and perhaps were brought to the place of considering, “Maybe He is the King.” I love the way Jesus involves many people in His work. Life isn’t just about me and my stuff. Whatever He is doing it’s about something so much bigger than I.
And I can‘t help but think about that donkey, a creature of God. Perhaps this dusty, smelly, funny looking creature knew who He was carrying and became subdued. Scripture says that all creation will praise Him. Yes, I suspect He knew. After all He knew Jesus loves animals. And Jesus had chosen him. Jesus loves His creation and takes joy in it.
In this holy season take time to use your imagination, to insert yourself into the story, to wonder what it would have been like, to imagine yourself as one of the characters and in all of this to notice what this story reveals about the character of Jesus and how it applies in your life.
When our children were young we had a tradition of acting out the story of Easter. Each child and adult was given a character to portray. We had to fashion our own costumes with whatever we could find on the spur of the moment around the house- an old red bathrobe for a robe, a broom for a staff. It was hilarious but it was also a way of entering into the story and it provided an opportunity of discussing those feelings and details we so often miss in the familiar big picture. One of the gifts God has given us in being created in His image is the gift of imagination. Let’s use this gift in our own lives this week to contemplate-in a deeper way- His last days and let’s nurture creative imagination in our children’s lives to help them enter into His story, their hope.
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