The Lord has Need of It
Jesus came to the final week of His ministry here on earth. John chapter one introduces Him with the words, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He lived and ministered among the Jewish people for 33 years. He spent His earthly life in Palestine. He walked the hills of Judea and the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He taught in synagogues and along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He wore sandals, slept on the ground and ate kosher.
At the beginning of His ministry Luke 4: 16-21 tells us:
16When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
18“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” 20He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
22Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
This was the beginning of His ministry. For three years, He ministered in the power of the Spirit, preaching Good News to the poor. He proclaimed release for captives and freedom for the oppressed. He demonstrated the power of His message by healing the blind and causing the lame to walk. He healed lepers and fed huge crowds with small lunches.
Now, He was at the end of His earthly ministry. Luke 19:11 says, “The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away.”
Pay special attention to the phrase, “to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away.” The crowd was under the impression that the kingdom of God would begin right away. For three years, Jesus ministered in the power of the Spirit, preaching the Good News and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, but even His closest followers, the Apostles, had trouble grasping the significance of all that Jesus taught.
For example, when Jesus spoke clearly about the fact that He would be killed in Jerusalem, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22, NLT)
Jesus, for His part, reprimanded Peter saying, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23, NLT)
Here is a lesson for us. We are always in danger of seeing things from a merely human point of view. Even Jesus said, “You are a dangerous trap to me,” pointing out that seeing things from a merely human point of view was a temptation even for Him. This is why the Psalmist in Psalm 1 speaks of meditating on the Word of God both day and night. How are we to see with eyes of faith? Romans 10:17 tells us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (ESV)[ii] Meditating on the Word of God is one step toward seeing with eyes of faith.
Jesus’s followers knew that the Kingdom of God was at hand. However, they did not understand the full extent of what this meant. The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus spoke clearly to His disciples about the events that were about to transpire, the crucifixion and the resurrection.
In Luke 19:12-27, Jesus tells a story to clarify what is about to happen. The story goes like this:
12He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. 13Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ 14But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’”
15“After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. 16The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’”
17“Well done!” the king exclaimed. “You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.”
18“The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’”
19“Well done!” the king said. “You will be governor over five cities.”
20“But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. 21I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’”
22“You wicked servant!” the king roared. “Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, 23why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.”
24“Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’”
25“But, master,” they said, “he already has ten pounds!”
26“Yes,” the king replied, “and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 27And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.”
From this story, we understand:
1. Jesus is going away.
2. He is leaving servants in charge while he is gone.
3. He is coming back.
4. He is a king.
5. His own people do not want Him to be King.
6. He will punish those who do not want Him to be King.
After telling this story to make the upcoming events clear, Jesus sent two disciples ahead of Him to get a young donkey. He said, 30“Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” (Luke 19:30-31, NLT)
Other translations say, “The Lord has need of it.” The donkey is a lowly, simple creature. It is not a symbol of strength or power. Rather, it is a symbol of simpler things, common things. Why would the Lord have need of such an animal?
First, He needed to fulfill prophecy. Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey--riding on a donkey's colt.”
Second, He needed to make a statement or an announcement. He was the King they were looking for. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One. He needed to make this clear to them one last time. His three-year ministry proclaimed the Kingdom of God is at hand. By riding a donkey and fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah, Jesus was making an announcement.
The crowd praised God, recognizing the significance of the announcement. They said, “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38, NLT) They recognized He was the King. However, as Hosannas rang out, there were those who were not happy. Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” (Luke 19:39, NLT) These Pharisees correspond to those in the story who did not want the King to be their king.
Jesus replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (Luke 19:40, NLT)
The Lord had need of the donkey to fulfill prophecy and to make an announcement. In the same way, it was necessary for the crowd to offer up praises. It was appropriate because of who Jesus was and is. It was necessary for the sake of all present so that they would know that the King was entering into His city.
These events and circumstances show God’s sovereignty. Old Testament prophets had foretold the timing hundreds of years before and Jesus fulfilled them down to the day. For example, Daniel 9:25 says, “Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler--the Anointed One--comes.” (Daniel 9:25, NLT) The timing of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem fits the timing suggested by the prophecy. Jesus also demonstrates His sovereignty in being able to tell His disciples in advance what would happen, where they would find the donkey and what would be said.
The events that followed this are instructive. As Jesus approached Jerusalem, He wept. He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and said:
42“How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. 43Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. 44They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”
Jesus weeps because they did not accept their opportunity for salvation. He used the donkey. He accepted the praises of the crowd. But this was not enough for those whose hearts had been hardened by continually rejecting the truth over the three years of Jesus’s ministry. Jesus was giving them one last chance.
For us today, there are two more lessons we can take away from these events.
First, God is sovereign. We cannot see all the details but we can trust Him. If we own a donkey or are in a place where the Lord has need of us, I pray that we are willing to be used. Learn to pray for God’s will to be done.
Second, do not harden your heart to God’s continued pleadings. Jesus was not subtle with His announcement or His approach. There were those who accepted Him and followed, and there were those who decided it was best to crucify Him. Which side do you fall on?
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.