That’s what Jesus did for that lowly donkey on Palm Sunday. We don’t normally think of a donkey as an exalted animal. They are beasts of burden, known for having a strong back but a weak mind. Yet here comes Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. We might as well imagine the President of the United States riding a Ford Pinto in his inaugural parade. You would think that the King of kings would have chosen a great white stallion. When Jesus returns the second time riding the white stallion He will come as the judge of the living and the dead. But the first time He came as the humble suffering servant who would give His life for the sins of the world. Thus He chose a donkey.
And an amazing donkey it was. This was a donkey we are told on which no one had ever ridden. That means that it was not broken. It would have normally bucked off anyone who tried to ride it. But this donkey recognized Jesus while the Jewish leaders did not. Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, would be lowly, humble, riding on a donkey. That’s why I just want to be a donkey for the Lord.
To use another analogy, Paul considered himself nothing more than a jar of clay, not a silver, gold or alabaster jar because the value is not the jar itself but what is in the jar. Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” The lowly donkey teaches us the same truth.
Yet it is in serving that we find our greatest glory. Suppose this donkey was living today. Because he bore the Lord he would be considered of great worth. G.K. Chesterton wrote a poem which spoke of him:
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me; I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet;
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
If we even had the stuffed carcass of this animal he would be put on display. Churches and museums the world over could not offer enough money to buy him. He might even be considered a relic by some. People might go on a pilgrimage to see him. They might even think him to be the source of miracles. But then this donkey was merely the beast of burden upon which Jesus rode into Jerusalem.
Christians believe that our value is not in ourselves but in the treasure that we contain, that is, in Christ. Any person, no matter how lowly, takes on infinite worth when Jesus Christ lives within them. Anything in life becomes valuable and dignified when a higher and nobler power lays its hands upon it and uses it. Myra Welsh wrote a poem called Touch of the Master’s Hand. It was about an old and beaten up violin that came up for auction. The auctioneer couldn’t get a bid of more than three dollars. But then from the back of the room an old man came to the front, dusted off the violin, tuned its strings and began to play a tune so sweet that it sounded as if it was a song sung by angels. He then put it down and the auctioneer resumed taking bids which went into the thousands. That was that donkey. That is what every Christian desires. He just wants to be useful to His Lord.
Donkeys have played important roles several times in Scripture. It was Balaam’s donkey that saved him from doing something very foolish. God even gave him a voice to speak to Balaam. We can be confident that if God can speak His Word through a donkey He can speak His Word through you and me. But it is also our living through which God speaks – when we turn the other cheek, love our enemies and forgive those who have trespassed against us we become a donkey of the Lord because we bear these ills for the sake of Jesus. In so doing our suffering becomes our glory. Jesus is seen in us as we resist the temptation to strike back, crucify our fleshly desires and live as non-conformists in a world that desperately wants us to conform. Others may want us to be white stallions, but the follower of Jesus wants to be the Lord’s Donkey.
In an even higher sense, Jesus himself became the donkey for the Father. He came down out of Heaven and became the despised and rejected Savior of the World. He says in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Jesus’ love for the Father made him humble as no other man has ever been. He bore upon His shoulders the sins of the world. He bore upon His shoulders your sins and mine. Not only was He the donkey for the Father but He was our donkey. Whenever we grieve over our sins and failures He is there to say, “Nothing can separate you from my love.” By His stripes our wayward hearts are healed.
Since He so loved us, we have come to love Him. As He bore our sins on His shoulders, so we bear His name on ours, even if it means bearing His shame in a world that despises Him. It is when we have come to realize, like the street cleaners in New York, that our lives have significance, no matter how lowly our work, that we begin to shine like the children of light. It is all because Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, has chosen to use us as His donkey. That is the highest and truest form of dignity. That is why a Christian cheerfully serves the Lord. It is not a grudging, “Okay, if I have to;” it is the joy of our hearts to bear the burden of the one who loved us with such perfect love. If we will but believe and receive that love we will be faithful donkeys even unto death.