Palm Sunday ~ “Extravagant Gifts”
I don’t know about you... but when I get to heaven, there’s definitely someone I wanta meet!
You go ahead and swap stories with Mary... or talk theology with Paul. Find Joseph, Abraham, and Noah. I’m sure someone wants to chat with Lydia, or Peter... maybe even Luke and Moses. And don’t you worry... because I’ll get around to finding all those folks, too.
But first (right after I see Jesus), I want to meet the guy with the donkey.
I can’t tell you his name... I can’t describe what he looks like. In fact, there’s only one thing that I know about him at all: and that’s what he gave. He gave a donkey (a colt) to Jesus on the Sunday He entered Jerusalem.
And what it entry it was! Can you imagine? A huge crowd of townsfolk from Jerusalem lined the streets... shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Of course what they were really shouting was, “Save us! Save us now, Son of David! Deliver us, Jesus! Save us!”
Yeah, when I get to heaven I want to visit the man who gave Jesus his donkey... because there are so many questions that I want to ask him. Questions like... how did you know? How do you know it was Jesus that needed your donkey? Did you have some mysterious vision of some sort? Did you get a telegram... was it ESP? Did an angel appear to you in a dream?
I want to ask him if it was hard to give up his donkey? It had to be hard to give up something that was so valuable! I mean, after all, back then, a donkey was like a car... like a BMW or Lexus... or in my case, a KIA!
I want to know these things, because sometimes it’s hard for me to give up what little I have for Jesus. Sometimes I like to keep my things to myself, don’t you?
Of course, sometimes when God wants something from me... I just act like I don’t know what he needs, or I ack like I don’t think he could ever possibly, actually, want what I have to offer!
I can’t help but wonder how it must’ve felt... how it must’ve felt when this man looked out and saw Jesus riding on the back of the donkey that lived in his barn! Can you imagine? Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, riding on the back of his donkey!
I wonder if he was proud, or surprised, or maybe even annoyed. I mean, after all... why did Jesus need his animal? Others surely had better... and others had more! Why didn’t Jesus use some other man’s donkey instead?
And then... I wonder if this man even knew… I wonder if he had a clue whatsoever, that it was the Messiah that had need of his animal. I wonder if he appreciated the fact that his generosity would be used for such a noble... such an honorable purpose? Did it ever occur to this man that God was riding on his donkey?
Was he even remotely aware that all for Gospel writers would tell his story? Did it ever cross his mind that a couple of millennium later a curious redheaded preacher from West Point, Georgia, would be pondering his story with other believers, on Palm Sunday morning?
Of course, as I ponder his story, I can’t help but ponder my own. Because sometimes I get the impression that God DOES in fact want me to give something... maybe it’s my money... or my time... or my talent. But I don’t… because I’m not quite sure... I haven’t heard a voice... I haven’t seen a sign... I haven’t experienced the visitation of an angel.
And then, when I don’t give... I feel bad because I’ve missed my chance... I’ve missed my chance to serve God, with what I have, at that moment!
Of course, others times I know full well what God wants... but I just don’t do it... I don’t give what God desires... because I’m too selfish, and I want to keep what I have for myself. Let someone else do it! They have more anyway... I think.
Of course, there are those times, too, when I hear God’s voice... (far too few times I’m afraid)... and I listen, and respond... and I feel honored that some meager gift of mine could be used to carry Jesus to another place. Still, at times I wonder if the small, seemingly insignificant things that I can offer today, will make any difference at all.
I don’t know, but maybe you have questions like these, too. I do know, however, that all of us have a donkey... a gift to offer... a gift that’ll help carry Jesus and his story further down the road.
Who knows? Maybe you can sing... or hug... or program a computer, or speak Korean, or write a check! I don’t know... but... whatever it is, that’s your donkey, and... whatever it is, your donkey belongs to Jesus.
And it really does belong to him, doesn’t it? All of our gifts are already his... just like the donkey was has to begin with. In fact, the original wording of Jesus instructions offer us proof… He said, “if anyone asks you why you’re taking the donkey, you are to say, ‘it’s Lord is in need.’” The language Jesus used is the language of a Royal Levy. It was an ancient law that required a citizen (a subject of the King) to “handover” to the king anything that he, or one of his emissaries, might need. So by making this statement, Jesus was claiming to be King... He was speaking as one with authority! Jesus was stating that as King, he had the right to any possession of his subjects.
Who knows, it could be that God wants to ride on your donkey. It could be that Jesus wants to enter the walls of another city, or town, or nation, or heart, while riding your donkey. The question, for you and for me today is… Will we? Will we let Jesus have our colt? Will you and I give up what we have for Christ, or will we hesitate… or even worse, will we outright reject Jesus altogether?
You know the Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver! And that’s true... but I think it goes much, much deeper than that, don’t you? Because I think God loves an extravagant giver.
Think about the Temple in Jerusalem. There wasn’t a thing cheap or standard about it... nothing plain or ordinary in the temple. It was made of marble and gold in the finest materials that were available. It was first class all the way! An extravagant place of worship built in honor and respect of an extravagant God.
The New Testament tells us (in the book of Revelation) that in the Kingdom of Heaven... there will streets paved with gold, walls finished with every precious stone known to man! It’s gonna be a little extravagant!
In the early church, centuries before our day of “boxy” generic metal buildings... architects certainly understood the meaning of extravagance! In Europe, they weren’t content to build a simple sanctuary… They built towering cathedrals! Great places of worship that stirred the imagination... causing you to feel an immediate sense of awe and reverence, and a sense of the love and devotion that inspired such exceptional, impractical, overly extravagant places of worship.
Think about the cross for just a moment! Wasn’t the cross extravagant giving? God the Father sent his One and Only Son... to suffer and bleed... and die, for you and for me.
Yeah, I think God‘s gift was the most extravagant of all.
You know that guy who gave his donkey, his colt, to Jesus, was just one in a long line of people... people a lot like you and me... who were willing to give little things to a big God.
In fact, the Bible offers us quite a collection of donkey givers! In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John we’re given the story of Mary, the sister of Lazarus. She was just a plain, simple, ordinary woman, who loved her Lord and Savior so much that she recklessly, extravagantly, unexpectedly poured on Jesus’ head and feet the most expensive perfume she owned. It was worth a whole year‘s wages for heaven sake! And she did it for no other reason... than she loved him!
But, then she was only one of many… Just flip through the pages of the Bible and you’ll see all kinds of gifts that were given to God by the people who loved him. There’s Rahab’s rope... Paul’s bucket, David sling, and Samson’s jawbone. You’ll also find the staff that parted the Red Sea. You can run your hand along to smooth wood of the manger, soft as a baby’s skin… Or set your shoulder beneath the heavy weight of the Cross... as rough as a traitor’s kiss.
Fact is, I seriously doubt we’ll see any of these items in heaven... but one thing I’m sure of! The people who used these things... the people who gave these things... will be there.
Brothers and sisters we simply cannot out give Jesus. He entered Jerusalem in triumph as palm branches waved in the air... and people lined the street with their robes!
But soon, those shouts of “Hosanna” - those cries of “Save us, Son of David” - became “Crucify him, give us Barabbas, crucify him.”
What is it... what do you and I have... that we need to offer Jesus today? Is there anything in your life (or mine) that’s too precious to offer Jesus? Is there anything too good? Is there anything too valuable to offer the King of kings and Lord of lords?
He gave everything he had for us... shouldn’t you and I give everything we have for him? What is our donkey?
For this is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.