“Go into the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt beside her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone questions you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” Matthew 21.2-3
The week starting with Palm Sunday and culminating in Easter is a season full of festivities in the Middle East.
Palm Sunday marks the seventh week of the Lent fast, where over 15 million Christians in Egypt and elsewhere go on the Daniel Fast for 55 days prior to Easter.
All churches in the Middle East, start the eve of Palm Sunday, weaving palm branches into different shapes, for the people to celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Palm branches are weaved into crosses, crowns, fans, and many other shapes.
Palm trees are everywhere in the Middle East since it is mostly desert. The palm trees in the Middle East produce delicious dates, both red and yellow in color. The red we eat and the yellow is made into delicious jam.
On Palm Sunday morning, everyone enters the church service carrying palms. After mass (Coptic Orthodox and Catholic) and church service (Evangelicals), the whole church has a procession singing Hosanna carrying the palm branches up high and parading around the church and in some Christian majority areas on the streets.
We all know the story of Palm Sunday, but I want to share with you today a different perspective, imagine if the mother donkey had wanted to see herself and her colt being used by God. As a father of two, Laila and I would spend every night praying for our boys to grow up knowing and loving Jesus, to be used by Him and to bring many to His Kingdom.
There were days when my kids would do things that frustrated me and deep down, I’d start praying again, just reminding God that I wanted to see our kids be more like Jesus and serving Him.
I had never noticed before that the way Mark tells the story in Mark 11, the donkey takes up half the story. How Jesus gets the donkey is apparently very important. And the only words Jesus says are, “Here is how you’re going to get the donkey.” So it’s a strange detail, but it’s not one we can run past.
Why did Jesus need the donkey? Why does he get it in such an unexpected way?
Going behind the scenes for those two questions, it shows us something that we might otherwise miss about Jesus. It also challenges you and me on how to respond to Jesus.
When we go to the Old Testament, we realize that riding a donkey was the traditional way of announcing a new king.
“”Take my servants with you” said the king. “Set my son Solomon on my own mule (donkey) and take him down to Gihon. There Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet are to anoint him king over Israel. You are to blow the ram’s horn and declare, “Long live King Solomon.”” 1 Kings 1:33, 34
We know that Jesus walked everywhere. He either walked or used a boat. He was too poor to own a donkey since a donkey during that time was equivalent to a car today. But Jesus had to fulfill all prophecy.
It says, in Zechariah 9:9, that He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, “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.”
So when Jesus starts this two-mile inauguration day parade down into the heart of Jerusalem, he comes riding on the back of a donkey, precisely the same beast that Solomon rode when Solomon became king.
Seeing Jesus riding a colt, they all understood that Jesus was the King they had been waiting for.
They take off their jackets, lay them on the road so that the hooves of the donkey carrying the new King don’t even have to touch the ground.
I am not sure whether the mother donkey understood what her colt was doing, carrying the King of Kings, just like many times I don’t understand what God is doing. But even though I may not understand now, He continues to answer years of prayers over my children.
How long have you been praying for something, and you think God has forgotten about you? Have you given up on promises the Lord gave you years ago? Don’t! Our God is El Roi, the God who sees. Our God is El Shama, the God who hears.
Can you imagine what the two disciples felt as they went to fetch the colt and its mother? Were they terrified? Dubious? Making all kinds of assumptions? Maybe they thought they would be arrested for theft and miss Passover.
Donkeys to people then were as valuable as cars are to us today and never ridden means it’s like a brand new car.
“If anyone asks you, “why are you doing this,” say, “The Lord needs it.”” That is the key, “The Lord needs it.”
This sounds like an oxymoron. The Lord needs nothing.
But stay with me here. Imagine that we are the people who happen to own this young donkey that is brand new, we are excited about it, and it turns out that we get the request: The Lord needs it. I know how I would be if somebody said “I saw you just brought home a brand new Lamborghini. It looks fantastic. I need it.” How will you respond?
What is it that Jesus Christ has been nudging you to make available to him? Is it your time? Is it your money? Is it tapping into your savings? Is it something where you would use your reputation and influence for Him? Is it your worship? Is it your heart?
Now, imagine what would happen if when the Lord Jesus comes to us and says, “The Lord needs it” you and I gladly release whatever that is to Him.
The good news is this: He will return it and in abundance. “I’ll give you a hundred times as much in this life and in the life to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:30. Do not hold back from God.
Happy Palm Sunday, everyone.
Let us celebrate Palm Sunday during this social distancing.
This picture shows what we did to celebrate Palm Sunday, the COVID-19 way.