The Lord Has Need Of It
A homily based on Luke 19:28-40
by Rev. R. Robert Cueni, Biblical Preaching Journal
edited by Rev. Tom Hall
This is called Palm Sunday and it begins Holy Week, the most
sacred time on the Christian calendar. Today we recall the Triumphal Entry of our Lord
into the city of Jerusalem. It gets the week off to a wonderful start. Jesus was welcomed
into Jerusalem as a conquering hero. The whole city turned out and lined the parade route.
They waved palm branches and shouted, "Blessed be the one who comes in the name of
the Lord! Hosanna to the King of Kings!" Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly.
Jesus enemies hatched a plot to do away with him as soon as the parade ended. On
Thursday Jesus was betrayed and arrested. On Friday, he was tried, convicted and executed
The Bible tells us that prior to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus had
been to Jericho, an ancient city just to the north of the Dead Sea, on the edge of the
wilderness. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem is a steady uphill climb. With his
apostles, Jesus comes to place near Bethpage, a little village near the top of the Mount
of Olives that no longer exists. As they come near Bethpage, Jesus dispatches two of his
followers to go into this village and find a donkey. The Lord specifies that the donkey
needs to be one on which no one has ever ridden. If anyone asks a question, simply say,
"The Lord has need of it." Jesus tells the apostles to bring that donkey to him.
Think about that! The Lord has need of a donkey on which no one has ever ridden!
Jesus wants to ride this beast in a parade. The Lord wants an unbroken donkey. I know the
Bible says that Zechariah prophesied about the Messiah, "Lo, your king comes to you,
triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a [a donkey]: (9:9). But if Jesus
needed a donkey to fulfill some Old Testament prophecy, why didnt he select an old
and well-trained one? Why risk riding in a parade on a donkey that has never been ridden?
I recall a particularly creative minister of education in a neighboring church who
arranged for a donkey to ridden down the center aisle in the Palm Sunday worship service
by someone dressed as Jesus. I wont go into all the details, but that donkey
demonstrated how obstinate, stupid, and problematic these can be when they are not
housebroken! The Lord has need of it? An unbroken donkey? Could it be that Jesus was
Sometimes, we think we just have to have something and we really dont need
it at all. We just think we do. In 1845, Sir John Franklin and 138 men set sail from
England in search of the Northwest Passage. Today we know this does not exist, but in the
middle of the nineteenth century many were convinced that in the northern Canadian Arctic
there was a passage of open water between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The common
wisdom was that anyone who found this Northwest Passage would become fabulously wealthy.
The Franklin expedition set off calculating that they would be gone two to three
years. They took the things they thought they needed. Unfortunately, they were more
concerned about the comforts of England than the realities of the Arctic. For instance,
they took only one coat per man-dress uniform of the British Navy. Those coats looked
spiffy dockside in England but were not sufficient for a two to three year journey in the
Arctic. They loaded only a twelve-day supply of coal because they needed room for a 1,200
volume library, an organ programmed to play fifty tunes, sufficient china and crystal for
a formal dinner, and flatware engraved with the family crest of each officer-all
especially commissioned for the Franklin expedition.
Twenty years later the men from the Franklin Expedition were found. The very first
winter their ship froze in the Arctic Sea. The tried to walk to safety. They loaded all
their stuff into a lifeboat and had tried to drag the loaded boat across the ice.
Unbelievably, they had included among the boats cargo the organ, much of the
library, and the engraved flatware. They were convinced that they needed those things, but
Did Jesus really need an unbroken donkey? Sure seemed like one of those items in
the Franklin Expedition boat right next to the organ.
Some have pointed to this unbroken colt that Jesus rode on that first Palm Sunday
as one of Jesus most astonishing miracles. People who raise donkeys point out that
any one attempting to just jump astride an unbroken donkey is in for the ride of their
life! The donkey will rear back to throw its strange load or it may break into a
gallop, making unexpected sudden turns, kicking and bucking all along the way. Better to
ride a Brahma bull than jump bareback on an unbroken donkey.
Yet, maybe thats the point of this whole story. It was an unbroken
beast-stubborn, obstinate, and stupid. But Jesus rode it. He took it in the parade, and
seemed to do quite well. The Lord has need of it. Something that seems so terribly
ordinary as that beast was able to do something extraordinary under the guidance of Jesus,
under the discipline of the Christ. Is that not the message? Could this not really be a
parable that dwells right at the heart of our faith? The Lord has need of the most
ordinary folks who are called to do the most extraordinary things.
Jesus road that donkey over the top of the Mount of Olives, wound his way through
the Garden of Gethsemane, across the Kidron Valley and into Jerusalem. With Jesus as he
rode were his apostles, the twelve that he had called a couple of years before, saying
"The Lord has need of you." They were really an unlikely group of folks. For the
most part, they were from the northern hill country called Galilee. To the sophisticated
people of Jerusalem, Galileans were redneck hillbillies, country bumpkins.
The leader of the group was Peter, by the standards of the times a manmuch too old
to do the job he was called to do. The brothers James and John stumbled over their own
egos as they argued which should sit on the right hand of Jesus. Simon belonged to a group
of revolutionary terrorists called the Zealots. That group was dedicated to the violent
overthrow of Roman rule. What an odd person to be a part of a group committed to bringing
the message of peace on earth and good will among all people.
We know little more than the names of most of the apostles. In fact, were
not even absolutely certain of all their names. Different Gospels include different lists.
We dont even have anecdotal information on some. We only know that they were
ordinary people to whom Jesus said, "The Lord has need of you." They responded
to the invitation. In a generation, this group of ordinary people under the discipline of
the Christ did the most extraordinary thing. In one generation, they extended the good
news of the gospel as far to the East as India and as far to the West as Spain. They began
the Church of Jesus Christ. It was a movement that not only attracted people in every
generation through two thousand years, it brings us here today.
"The Lord has need of you." Thats the message. Most of us, in our
most private moments, when we set aside the mask of pride, wonder, "Why would God
have need of me? What do I have to offer? I am so very ordinary."
I recall a college friend who had a wonderful personality but a face only a mother
could love. He was such a pleasant person that he never had trouble getting a date. Yet
his common looks so troubled him that he developed a curious ritual. As he prepared to go
out in the evening, as he was tying his necktie, he looked in the mirror, shook his head
and said to no one in particular: "Boy! I sure am glad I dont have to kiss that
Most of us think we are about as likely to do something significant as that
unridden donkey tethered in Bethpage. But thats the point. God calls very ordinary
people, and under the discipline of the Christ we can do the most extraordinary things.
Our world is faced with enormous problems-wars and rumors of war, crime in the streets,
deteriorating family values, the decline of the family itself. The Lord says to us,
"I have need of you; when youre under My disciple you can do extraordinary
things, no matter how ordinary you think you are."
The ethical problems our world faces are enormous. The vision that our church
embraces is enormous. As ordinary people we dont have much to offer. Yet we are
ordinary people responding to Gods call in Christ Jesus. We are ordinary people
under the discipline of the Christ. That means we can do the most remarkable things.
Thats the good news of the gospel.
Next week we will gather to hear the most important part of the story: that it is
still true. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, not even death that can separate us from
Gods call in Christ Jesus. And ordinary folks just like us, under the discipline of
our Savior, can be called to do the most remarkable things.
Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen