There’s something about the week leading up to Easter. Most Bibles refer to the events of this week as the triumphant entry and it begins with Palm Sunday. When you put the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John together there are 89 total chapters. Almost a third of the gospel chapters, 29 chapters, are dedicated to talking about the one week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday because it’s the most important week in history.
The reading plan above can be used this week to walk through the events leading up to the resurrection of Jesus. There are Old Testament verses prophesying what would happen and the account of Jesus fulfilling that prophecy. Every movement and every moment speaks to us. All four gospels explain what happened on Palm Sunday and we’re going to read from Luke’s account of it.
“After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Luke 19:28-31 NIV
Jesus is heading into Jerusalem. He’s going a certain way, through certain cities so that he’ll go down a little hill then come up into Jerusalem. Right before He’s going to take the turn into the city, He asks two disciples to go ahead of Him and bring back a donkey. He gives the disciples a password incase someone questions them as to why they are borrowing this donkey.
“Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Luke 19:32-34 NIV
We’d do the same thing if someone rolled up in our yard and started riding our bike or took our motorcycle. This was the man’s donkey, the man’s resource. He wanted to know why someone would just come up and take what was his. But when they give him the password, he releases it. Jesus’ name was like a password through all the red tape and road blocks. The man realizes that it may be his resource but ultimately if Jesus needs it, it is His anyway. The donkey is the man’s resource but Jesus is his Source. He didn’t need any more explanation.
“They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” Luke 19:35-38 NIV
Jerusalem is buzzing because of a festival called Passover. Multitudes of people are there including the disciples and all the followers of Jesus. Jesus is entering the city and people are so excited they lift up their voice and praise God. They holler with a seismic voice. You can hear it everywhere, a rampage of praise as this parade with Jesus moves toward Jerusalem.
Some of the other gospel writers say the people cut down palm branches and began to wave them as though Jesus was a triumphant king entering the city to conquer. It’s why we call it Palm Sunday. They begin to lay the branches down while some of them are yelling, “Hosanna!” It’s an incredible scene and Jesus has planned it all. Scholars tell us that there could be a million people outside the city watching, hearing and singing about this triumphant entry. There are probably another million inside the city prepping for Passover. But there is also a side view of something else that’s going on.
“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’” Luke 19:39 NIV
They can’t take this praise. They can’t take this crowd and everyone excited about Jesus. They begin to call to Jesus as He’s riding into Jerusalem, telling Him to quiet His disciples.
“’I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’” Luke 19:40 NIV
Let that thought sink in. We don’t want a rock to get our praise. A rock doesn’t have to cry out for us. We can lift up how He has saved us and redeemed us. We have our own voices that will say glory in the highest.
There are a lot of different people lining the parade route. The religious leaders are nervous and full of hate. They cannot stand this Messiah that came for the common person. Jesus has included all the people they have excluded. He’s given love, forgiveness, healing and power to just the simple person. It’s caused them to lose a little bit of power because His words have carried more authority than their words.
The Romans are also nervous. They don’t know what this mob is going to do. They’re concerned this will create a problem and the news will get back to Rome that they’re not controlling or governing the people like they’re supposed to. The people who have been oppressed think they finally have a king that can liberate them from the Romans. They want a king that would be the man of war. Then you have the disciples. They don’t know what’s going on. This whole week is confusing for them. They were headed into a parade but then were sidetracked to pickup a donkey.
Then there’s Jesus. He’s riding on a donkey and the people are excited. The religious leaders are nervous. The Romans are fearful. And the people have their own agenda. But Jesus didn’t come to go to war with Rome. Jesus had come to do war against sin, death, hell and the grave. There’s a greater purpose to which Jesus has come. It’s not a temporary agenda centered around earthly kingdoms, it’s way beyond that. Jesus is being moved by Heaven’s agenda. Jesus has another plan. He has another purpose, just like He does with our life.
All the eyes are on the wrong thing. Jesus knows why He has come. He knows that He was born to die a specific way. One day they say, “Hosanna” then another day “crucify him!” When they get to that final scene at Calvary they ask why Jesus won’t save Himself. But Jesus had another purpose and if He saved himself, He couldn’t save humanity.
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8 KJV
This verse helps us understand the purpose of Jesus and what He did for us. He’s not trying to rid the people of the earth’s problems and inconveniences. Jesus knows what our real problems are and He came to give real freedom and true hope through His death, burial and resurrection. He knows where He’s headed and why He’s headed there. Jesus is carrying this burden. Once He turns to Jerusalem there is no turning back. Thank God there isn’t. He knows He’s the lamb headed for the slaughter, not for His sin but for ours, but the people were missing this.
As we read this story it seems the only other object that’s clued in and fulfilling its purpose is the colt. The little donkey. Jesus is carrying a burden but He decides to borrow the beast of burden. It was a good day for a donkey. Out of all the time that could be spent on writing about the Passion Week the Bible takes some time describing this donkey that Jesus will use to bring Him down the way to the cross. There are five life lessons from this sacred moment if we break down the movements of the donkey.
Five Life Lessons From The Donkey
1. He was planted
He wasn’t just here or there. He’s right where he’s supposed to be. The devil wants to preoccupy us and get us roaming from here to there so we’re never where we’re supposed to be. So much of worship is surrendering that we’re where we’re supposed to be, that the Lord has planted us. A tree that’s not planted cannot bear fruit. The Bible says that God has marked out our appointed times in history and the boundaries of our lands. God did this so that we would reach out for Him and find Him, because He is not far from any one of us. For the eyes of the Lord search throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.
2. He got untied
He had to be untied before he could be used. He had to be loosened to live out his mission.
This world wants to bind you up. Sin wants to enslave you. The world wants to hold you captive to your past and pain. Jesus came to set us free from that and who the Son sets free, is free indeed!
This is where we proclaim in that addiction, negative thought, bad habit, or relationship that we are coming untied and going to live in freedom. God has a mission for our life and we can’t untie anybody if we’re tied up. It happens in fellowship and relationships. We live in a world where it’s easy to get tied up. We need others to help us get untied.
3. He received the coats
They put their cloaks on him. You can’t discover your purpose and can’t grow to become like Christ if you keep shedding His coat. When we run from the cloak of Christ, we lose our way. So much of discipleship is receiving the work and the identity of Christ, to bring us into a new way. You have been put on this planet to live out the life God intended for you, not the life that your past tries to tell you. Not the life that others try to tell you. Not the life your negative thoughts tell you. God has a plan for you. A bigger purpose at work. This donkey found a purpose. This donkey received this identity.
4. He carried the weight
Luke tells us the donkey had never been ridden. He has not being ridden by everyone nor has he given himself to everything. It’s so fitting that an unridden donkey was reserved for this moment. Sometimes it’s so hard to reserve ourselves for the good works God has for us. We get committed and tied up doing other things that aren’t as meaningful. We start carrying burdens that aren’t worth carrying. Meanwhile, there are serving opportunities that impact eternity and ministry opportunities that serve God through serving others.
5. He made a way for The Waymaker
Jesus needed to get from one place to another so He enlisted this donkey to carry Him to the people and through the people. He was headed to the cross, making a way for us because we could not make our own way. We can’t forgive ourselves or untie ourselves. He made a way for us and He used the donkey to help make a way. The donkey is leading a parade with the Savior of the world. It wasn’t about Him, but who He was carrying. He got to share in some amazing things.
God has made a way for us that we could never make ourselves. He wants to use us to help make a way. He’s the Waymaker. He can do for you what you can never do for yourself. If He could use a donkey, He could use us. If a donkey could fulfill those five purposes, certainly God can fulfill worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism in me. Certainly I can know God, find freedom, discover purpose, make a difference and share it with others.
Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you remember from your discussion? How is your basin choice going?
Hear the Word
Spend some time in the word. Read Luke 19.
In this sacred moment we follow Jesus as He comes to Mount of Olives and then sends two of His disciples to bring Him a donkey that He can ride into the city. There are many participants in this story—religious leaders, Romans, the people, Jesus’ disciples. But our focus is on the donkey, and throughout this animal we learn much about how God wants to use us for His glory.
The donkey was planted, got untied, received the coats, carried the weight of Jesus and made a way for The Waymaker. If Jesus can use a donkey, He can use us.
People thought that Jesus had come to redeem them and free them from the Romans, but He came to free them and us from more than temporary problems. Jesus came to set us free from the chains of sin and death, to loosen the bonds of confusion, loneliness, and pain so that we can walk in the purpose He has for us: to make a way for The Waymaker throughout the world.
- What stood out to you in this message?
- Discuss the lessons we can learn from the donkey in the message: he was planted where God wanted him to be, he got untied and found freedom with the fellowship of others, he received the coats and the new identity and purpose God had for him, he carried the weight of Jesus serving him in a real way, and he made a way for The Waymaker to get to people.
- Are there any areas in your life that you haven’t found freedom? If so, what are practical steps you can take a s a response?
- Are there any ways you’re shaking off the things God has for you?
Tell Someone Else
How can you share the love of Christ this Passion Week? Don’t forget to invite someone to church this weekend!
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