The Palm Sunday Steward
Palm Sunday is rapidly approaching, and with it comes one of my favorite stories I learned as a young child from the Bible— Jesus sending his disciples to get a donkey for him to ride into Jerusalem and greet the people.
In the weeks before Palm Sunday, Jesus had performed a miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead. Throughout Jerusalem people had heard of the awesome power of this Jesus and lined the streets in eager anticipation of his arrival. Jesus, traveling from Bethphage, sent two of his disciples into the adjacent town to retrieve a donkey.
He instructed his disciples not to ask for the donkey nor to announce they were taking the donkey. If the disciples were questioned, they were to say that the donkey was needed by the Lord to use, but that the Lord would return the donkey once they were done.
Let’s take a minute here for some modern-day context: Imagine you and your best friend are the disciples. Jesus sends you to go into a town where you know no one, walk up to a tied-up donkey, and pretty much steal it in broad daylight. “Don’t say anything, just take the donkey and leave.” Walk into this town like you own it and grab someone else’s donkey. In Jesus’s time, owning a donkey was kind of a big deal. If you think about the donkey in terms of today’s transportation, having a donkey back then was like owning a really nice car— like a Mercedes or Rolls Royce. Imagine you are walking through Philadelphia, in a nice area like Rittenhouse Square, and you just walk up and hop in someone else’s S-Class. And when someone comes out and says, “Hey what are you doing? That’s not your car, why are you taking it?” You would turn and say We’re here to take your beautiful Mercedes because this guy you never met needs it. But he’s our Lord and savior and he really needs it. Don’t worry, we’ll bring it back when we are done!” I don’t know about you, but this is definitely something I would NOT be comfortable doing.
The disciples, while wary, trusted Jesus and headed into town to retrieve the donkey. They walk up, start untying this donkey, and sure enough, the donkey’s owner stops them and says, “What are you doing?” So the disciples go into their story that yes, they are taking the donkey and no, they are not asking permission. The Lord, Jesus Christ, needs to use the donkey and they promise to return it when done. Much to their surprise, the donkey’s owner says “Sure! Take my donkey for the Lord, no problem! Jesus needs it more than I do.”
The donkey’s owner realized that he never really “owned” the donkey to begin with- rather Jesus had blessed him with the gift of this donkey, and while he retained ownership of this donkey on earth, Jesus could call upon him at any time and he would have to answer the call. I’m sure the owner must have worked very hard to acquire the money necessary to buy and house the donkey, and that something that was such an investment of both time and resources could not have been easy to part with. But the owner put aside his own wants and needs, his own reservations and gave what Jesus had asked of him.
When we hear the story of Palm Sunday, of how the hordes of people came out to lay palms at Jesus’s feet as he rides through Jerusalem, the stories often focus on the crowds shouting “Hosanna!”, and the palms and coats that were laid on the ground to pave Jesus’ way into the holy city. This is the day that Jesus received recognition as the Lord and his great miracles were renowned throughout the nation. Often overlooked is the sacrifice of the donkey owner and the obedience he exhibited when called upon to put aside his own wants and needs and give to the greater good that is Jesus Christ. Without his great stewardship and willingness to do anything the Lord might ask of him, the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday might have been a lot different.
Many times God calls upon us when we least expect it. It’s easy to get caught up in the physical possessions we have worked so hard to have for ourselves and our families, forgetting that these items and our lives are God’s to use as he sees fit. Reminds me of a few times in my life where I was shown great kindness and stewardship. In 1985 and 1988, as a young foreign student coming to the United States from Sri Lanka to attend school, I was shown tremendous stewardship from two families who opened their homes to me. Much like the disciples were to the donkey’s owner, I was a complete stranger to these families. They offered to take me in and expend not only precious resources they could have used for their own families, they also spent the time to welcome me into their families. Now that I have my own family, I think back to the great stewardship shown to me and forever grateful for the opportunities that were presented to me because of the stewardship and sacrifices of the Eckhardt’s and the Gould’s.
I have prayed many times to God to give me the heart of the donkey owner. There have been times where the calling to stewardship and obedience has been easy, such as lending a reliable car to a member of our church who needed it or lending my home to friends and family members for baptisms, birthday parties, or wakes. Other times the call has been unexpected and subtle, such as hiring employees down on their luck from the community or helping an aspiring student pay for textbooks so they could reach their full potential. The call to stewardship can come in expected and unexpected ways. When we open our hearts and minds to the Lord and accept that our lives and worldly possessions are for Him, we allow ourselves to become stewards in all areas of our lives.