April 9, 2017: If you were the owner of the donkey, would you have let Jesus borrow it?

Posted on : Apr 6th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Of all the questions I’ve heard asked about the meaning of the Palm Sunday story, recently someone shared with me one I had never thought of or heard before: “If you were the owner of the donkey, would you have let Jesus borrow it?

That is an interesting question.  In the ancient world, livestock were extremely valuable.  Animals were used for transportation of goods and people, for plowing, for milk if they were mammals, and they were a sign of wealth.  Only those with wealth could afford to buy and keep an animal.  So, when Jesus sent two of the disciples to a neighboring village to “borrow” someone’s donkey, that was pretty strange.

This wasn’t some old worn-out donkey; this donkey was a colt, a newborn, a highly valuable animal with a lot of useful life ahead of it.  Asking for it was a pretty bold move on Jesus’ part, and even bolder for the disciples.   If two of Jesus’ disciples came up to you and wanted to borrow your brand-new car would you let them?  Especially if you knew, which everyone did, that Jesus was headed straight into a street riot?

And, just to amp this up a bit, think about this from the perspective of our conspiratorial world in which anyone who materially participates in any act of violence is both incriminated and liable for such action.  Asking for the use of the donkey was more than just asking for a favor.  It was implicating the owner as a follower or supporter of Jesus.

So, when we ask the question, “If you were the owner of the donkey, would you have let Jesus borrow it?”  we’re really asking, “How involved with Jesus do you want to be?  How implicated do you want to be as a disciple of Jesus?  How much are you willing to give to follow Jesus?

Those questions take on new meaning for us with every passing year.  Since the Trump Administration and ICE began actively arresting and deporting people who are here in the US without documentation, the number of Sanctuary Churches in California has grown from about 200 to 800.  These are churches that publicly declare, as an act of faith, that they will follow Jesus’ commandment to love and welcome the stranger, even if that conflicts with the law of the land. They are also Christians who understand what it means “to let Jesus borrow their donkey.”

This past Tuesday evening, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and one of its ministries, Justice Not Jails, hosted an interfaith service at Macedonia Baptist Church in Watts.  The service was in commemoration of the 49th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.  One year prior to Dr. King’s assassination, he preached a sermon in the historic Riverside Church in New York City (UCC and American Baptist) which many believe was his most profound sermon and certainly one of his most controversial.  In that sermon, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” Dr. King’s prophetic voice can still be heard today. Quoting the words of his friend and colleague Dr. Vincent Harding, Dr. King warned the nation against following a path laden with “racism, militarism, and gross materialism.”

In response to the numerous questions regarding her husband’s life and work, Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s consistent preamble was “If Martin were alive today…”  As we heard Tuesday evening, if Martin were alive today, he would be on the frontlines encouraging us to live the values of our faith by protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation and defending the rights of formerly incarcerated members of our community.

And so, as we begin the spiritual journey from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and ultimately to the Resurrection, we begin with this simple yet challenging question: “If you were the owner of the donkey, would you have let Jesus borrow it?”



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 19: 28-40

Luke recounts Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Hosanna! Hosanna!

Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.

Hosanna in the highest!

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Beth’phage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.   If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, ‘The Savior has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them.  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Savior has need of it.”  

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt, they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.

As he was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying,   

Hosanna! Hosanna!

Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.

Hosanna in the highest!

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

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