This past week we preached through the not-so-triumphal entry in Matthew 21.1-11. This is the well-known passage where Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem.
I find the first verses of this passage, preparing to enter, the most moving. The disciples were curious as to why Jesus would ask them to go impress a donkey from a stranger. What is even more curious is that they obeyed! The disciples did not know why Jesus asked them to get a donkey. John’s record of this event says it plainly: His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had to be done to Him. John 12.10.
For all of the things the disciples say and do wrong, they did get a few things right–even if unintentionally. There is much to learn from their commitment to follow Jesus commands when they didn’t understand:
The disciples trust His commands more than their power to understand of them.
The disciples did not understand why Jesus asked for a Donkey. Jesus did not quote Zechariah to them, and they didn’t remember it until after He was glorified. It was strange for a man who had hiked hundreds of miles over three years to ask for a “ride” over the last two miles. It is easy to obey the commands that “make sense” to us intellectually or “feel” right emotionally. The disciples trust Jesus command even when it makes zero sense and feels weird. Why? Because Jesus had said so.
The disciples trust His promise to overcome any hindrance to what he asks us to do.
We can imagine what the disciples were thinking when they heard Jesus’ command. Jesus wanted them to go and “steal” a donkey (most likely a man’s livelihood) from a stranger in a strange village. Their minds immediately began to formulate of list of reasons for why this would not work out. Before they could voice their concerns, Jesus preemptively instructs them to say, “The Lord needs it” if there are any questions. Basically, they are to go and take the keys of a man’s Ford F-250 work truck and drive off; if anyone questions them…say Jesus needs it. I find myself impressed that the disciples obeyed and did so immediately. Despite the myriad of problems with the plan, they trusted that Jesus would remove any barrier to do what He asked.
The disciples trust that their obedience contributes to fulfilling his mission.
Our obedience is not about our righteousness. Once we come to understand the gospel, we realize that our obedience does little to produce righteousness. At the same time, it does accomplish something . First, it glorifies God and reflects His goodness in us. Second, it is loving. God’s commands are not only a means to demonstrate our love for Him, but also a guide to know how to love others. But third, and often ignored, is the fact that our obedience contributes to fulfilling His mission. This makes the smallest of Jesus commands big; and the most insignificant tasks important. From their limited perspective, these men were just getting a Donkey. In the eyes of God, they were confirming his prophetic promises and helping to identify the King.