“The disciples led the donkey to Jesus. They put some of their clothes on its back, and Jesus got on”. (Mark 11:7, CEV )
Today’s reading may seem an odd one for Advent and more suited to Palm Sunday, some may say. However, when looking at the Gospels and the earthly life and ministry of Christ, the various highlights in His life’s narrative are so closely interwoven that what may be separated by time is united in meaning and impact. The crimson thread, the redemptive plans and purposes of God the Father through Christ the Son is seen weaving it’s way through the entirety of Scripture.
Let’s pause on this passage and further hone in, not on the cheers of the people, nor the palm branches and cloaks strewn on the ground, not even (at least not for a moment) on the Christ. Instead, let’s focus for a few moments on the animal carrying the Christ – The humble Donkey.
How significant the use of donkey to carry the Servant King, while still in utero (when Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem) and now when he enters Jerusalem. Significant, I say, because the donkey falls into the group of animals referred to as "beasts of burden”, defined by one dictionary as “a draught animal that carries or pulls a load for the benefit of a human”. This donkey carried the load for the benefit of a human. At the risk of reading way too much into this than I ought, how interesting:
That this ‘beast of burden’ was carrying the greatest ‘Burden Bearer’.
It was laden with the One who would be laden with the sins of the world.
This donkey was bearing the load for ‘the benefit of a human’ in this case the Human was the God Man, Christ Jesus whose actions in the not-too-distant future would be for the eternal ‘benefit’ of all humankind.
Not only is the donkey a ‘beast of burden’ but it also signifies humility, lowliness; definitely not in the same category as the gallant steeds which would normally be used to transport royalty. The donkey – not the best looking, not the most majestic and definitely not the fastest of animals – yet chosen to bear the Son of God!
This humble, lowly token is once again a fitting accompaniment to the narrative of the One Who came "not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
You see, as Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of this ass, the crowds welcomed Him as they would Royalty! They were cheering Him, and praising Him with all the royal, and presidential glory! However, the Saviour’s focus was not on the earthly glory of man! His focus was that which it had always been throughout His earthly ministry: His Father’s Glory!
His mission and purpose in life had always been to do the will of His Father!
He lived under the shadow of the cross! He lived to die! His dying on the cross, by living out His God-given “reason for living” would bring ultimate glory to the Father, Who sent Him!
This road to Glory, was NOT the route often thought of in the secular world – the route of self-seeking ambition; of making others look bad, so that one can look good!
The Saviour’s journey to the cross; His road to Glory, was the road of servanthood! It was a road of pouring His life into the lives of others - the poor, the broken, the hungry, etc!
As we journey through Advent, towards Christmas, reliving the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ; as we reflect on the reason He was born, viz. to die, and journey with Him along the way of servanthood, may we rest in the knowledge that where human frailty fails us, we have the promise that our risen Lord and Saviour, our Great High Priest, Who Himself was tempted in all ways, just as we are, but was without sin, is walking with us. He is our help! It begins with Jesus! It Ends with Jesus!
Humble donkey, thanks for playing your role in carrying the humble, yet victorious, Lord! Beast of burden, thanks for bearing up under the load of the One Who was born to bear the burden of our sins on a cruel cross.
Onward you rode, Lord of my life, Lover of my soul,
Not on a warrior’s warhorse, nor soldier’s steady steed;
Instead on the back of a beast of burden, an ass,
To win the battle over death, meeting my greatest need.