By Curtis K. Shelburne
It is an astonishing scene, that journey God’s Son makes to Jerusalem as the last week of his earthly life begins. God in the flesh is walking toward Jerusalem. And the Lord of all creation is about to do something that will astound the universe.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, he will be hailed as a conquering king. The Great Commission will come later. But on that day we now know as Palm Sunday, he simply commissions two disciples to head into a little village and lead out a young donkey, to serve as the bearer of the King.
I have preached many Palm Sunday sermons, but the one I felt most qualified to preach is a sermon I tried to give from the perspective of the donkey!
We are specifically told that this was a “young” donkey that had never been ridden before. I doubt you need to be an expert in donkey-training to know that just climbing aboard such a beast and managing to stay mounted with no previous training or preparation for the beast at hand would itself be, apart from divine intervention, quite a feat. But the Lord of creation is Lord also of all four-footed creatures.
I don’t know why of all the pilgrims in Jerusalem, Simon of Cyrene would later be chosen to carry the cross of Christ. And I don’t know why Jesus chose this particular beast to bear him into Jerusalem. I understand that it wasn’t unusual in those days for a conquering king returning victorious from battle to ride on a donkey. In that sense, a donkey was a royal beast. I may not be much of a cowboy, but I’ve been blissfully out of the city long enough to know that a donkey is not a mule. Yet, as a fellow hailing from Muleshoe, Texas, I don’t have much trouble seeing some nobility in a donkey.
I’ll bet it was a fine specimen of donkeyhood. This blessed beast is dedicated for the use of the King of the Universe. It was never enough to take to the temple for sacrifice just any old lamb. You didn’t take just what you could easily spare. You didn’t give a half-blind, half-dead, mangy beast; you gave your best to God. We probably should think about that when we catch ourselves giving just what we can spare, a sacrifice we can afford with no real sacrifice at all.
This young beast is dedicated to God. What he is doing, what he is allowing to be done to him and with him, is something completely new. For him this is not business as usual.
Even though I may be a donkey myself at times, I can’t claim any insight into their heads. I’ll hazard a guess, though, that until this moment, this beast did not know that he would be honored above all beasts. On that Sunday centuries ago, what God would do with that little donkey — something completely new and amazing — was a prelude to a week full of astounding events and another Sunday such as the world had never in its wildest dreams even imagined.