Bethel Evangelical Lutheran worshiping Jesus at 8th and N. East Ave. in York, NE.402-363-0022

April 9, 2017 Sermon

Click HERE for an audio version posted on our Facebook page.

Luke 19:28-35

Dear Friends in Christ,

If you were Warren Buffet or Bill Gates would you give up all your money, your house and everything you had to go live in a third world ghetto and devote your life to helping those who lived there? What if you knew that most of the people there wouldn’t accept you?

We can’t imagine anyone doing something like that. We are happy to have the richest people in the world set up foundations and provide funding for a lot of good things, but no one really expects them to give up everything. We know that we wouldn’t give up everything. Maybe we wouldn’t even be as generous as they are. But Paul reminds us that Jesus did even more. He wasn’t just a billionaire living in a mansion. He is God. He owns everything that exists. He was living in the glory and perfection of heaven itself. Yet, he didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, or as one translation puts it, he did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. He willingly chose to give it all up. He set aside the full use of his power as God. He left the glory and perfection of heaven behind to come to earth, a place that is infected by sin and subject to decay. He chose to take on flesh and blood, an earthly body that could feel hunger and pain. He chose to live among people who didn’t want him to be there, who didn’t accept him or think that they needed the help he came to bring. Yet he was determined to give them what they needed even though it meant he would have to suffer and die. Jesus came
from heaven to earth, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Today we begin what we call Holy Week. We begin to review the events that bring the humble service of Jesus to its climax. As we consider the events of Palm Sunday we are reminded that our humble Lord seeks humble service from us.

Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey, in fact, as God foretold through the prophet Zechariah, he was riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. We often talk about how this demonstrated his humility. He was not entering on a powerful white horse to do battle with the Romans. That’s true. But Scripture is careful to remind us that no one had ridden on this donkey colt. That was to be the case when things were used for holy purposes, like the red heifer whose ashes were used for the water of cleansing, it was to be without defect and one that had never been under yoke. This colt, the foal of a donkey, was to be one on which no one had ridden because the one who would ride on it was holy and without blemish. He was entering Jerusalem to accomplish the most holy purpose of defeating Satan and winning forgiveness for the world.

Where would such a donkey come from? As God, Jesus could have drawn one to himself the way that God caused the animals to come to Noah when it was time to load the ark. But notice that Jesus chose to provide his disciples an opportunity for humble service. He told two of them, Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

You can imagine some of the questions that might have been going through the minds of these two disciples. They might have been tempted to think, “Why me? Why should I have to go on this errand? It seems like something big is about to happen here, what if I miss it? How does Jesus know there will be a donkey and its colt tied in that village? What if it’s not there when we get there, we’ll just be wasting our time?” And, then there’s the question Jesus answers for them. “What about the owners? Won’t they accuse us of stealing if we just start untying their donkeys?”

Jesus was giving these disciples an opportunity for humble service. He was giving them an opportunity to subject their will and their questions to him. He was giving them the opportunity to be like Peter when Jesus told him to launch out into deep water and let down his nets for a catch. He was giving them the opportunity to be like Abraham when God asked him to take Isaac to a mountain he would show him and sacrifice him there. He presented them with a situation that might have seemed confusing, that might have made no sense to them, but would give them the opportunity to make every thought obedient to Christ and simply say, “whether I understand or not, whether it makes sense to me or not, I will humbly do what you ask, Lord.”

What opportunities has your humble Lord given you for humble service? Has he given you an opportunity to invite someone to worship, or maybe simply to share with them what Holy Week and Easter are all about? If people know you are one of Jesus’ disciples and that you plan to go to church a few extra times this week they might ask why you would do that, especially if the weather is nice and you have a few days of vacation. And you might be tempted to think that telling them the real reason will get you laughed at or mocked, or that taking the time to tell them might make you late for something you had planned. If you focus on yourself, on your own feelings and your own needs and wants, you will make excuses; you won’t make use of the opportunity the Lord has given you. You won’t provide the humble service the Lord seeks from you.

Thankfully, when we realize later that we missed an opportunity the Lord had provided for us and we kick ourselves and think “why didn’t I say this, or that, or even mention Jesus to them”, we can watch Jesus humbly ride into Jerusalem and remember why he did. He entered Jerusalem, humbling himself to the Father’s will, because we don’t. He entered Jerusalem, humbling himself to death, even death on a cross, so that he could pay for the times when we refused to humble ourselves and missed out on an opportunity to serve our humble Lord.

The question that the two disciples seemed to be most concerned about was what to say to the owners of the donkeys if they asked why they thought they could just walk up and untie the animals. Jesus instructed them to say, the Lord needs it. It turned out that their fear of being challenged by the owners of the donkeys was well founded. They found the donkeys just where Jesus said they would be. As they started to untie them, the owners challenged them. They asked them why they were doing what they were doing. And the two disciples used the exact words Jesus gave them, the Lord needs it. Surprisingly, the owners then provided humble service to their humble Lord. They made no objections. They seemed happy to let their animals be used in the Lord’s service.

Let’s put this in modern terms. You have a convertible that is all shined up and ready to be used for a parade. Before you can use it that way, two strangers come up, hop in and start it up. You ask them, “What do you think you are doing just jumping into my car and starting it up?” And they say, “Jesus sent us and he says to tell you he needs it.” Do you just let them drive off? What if you recognize that these men are Jesus’ disciples?

I think you get the picture. It wasn’t just the disciples who provided humble service to the Lord, subjecting their thoughts and questions to Jesus and humbly doing what he asked. The owners of the donkeys also provided humble service to the Lord. They didn’t ask for credentials. They didn’t ask how long they animals would be gone, or even if they would be returned. All they needed to hear is that the Lord needed them, and they willingly let the disciples take them.

Now, it can be said that the Lord doesn’t really need us or anything we have. He is completely self-sufficient. He has everything he needs and he can do anything he wants without us or our help. He is God. But it is also true that he chooses to “need” us. He chooses to use people and things to accomplish his will on earth. He could have created a donkey to ride on. He could have had the stones shout “Hosanna”. He could have angels proclaim his word, but he chose to give his disciples and the owners of the donkey an opportunity to serve. He chose to have the people sing his praises. He chooses to proclaim his word through those who have become his disciples, through us.

Think about times when the Lord has asked to borrow your donkey, times when he has given you an opportunity to serve, an opportunity to do something or to give something to support his work of sharing the gospel with others. The message was clear, not that the church needs it, but that the Lord needs it. Did you respond as the owners of the donkey did? Or did you think, “let him find another donkey, I need mine for myself.”

Thankfully, as we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem, we remember why he did. He didn’t selfishly hold on to all the things he had in heaven. He willingly set them aside for you and for me. He chose to give up everything, even his life, because that’s what we needed. We needed him to be the perfect, humble, unblemished sacrifice for our every sin. We hear him say, It is finished. We see him risen from the dead. And we are assured that he has given us everything we need for eternal salvation, even though we don’t deserve it.

Considering how Jesus humbled himself and gave up everything to serve us to make sure we have everything we need for salvation, how can we not willingly and humbly serve him? As we remember how he willingly rode into Jerusalem, knowing what he would have to endure to give us what we need, we are moved to say, “I am your humble servant Lord. All that I am and all that I have are yours. Use me and all this is mine as you will. Fill me with the attitude that you displayed. Give me a heart that is humble, that wants to serve you above all things and to serve my neighbor in love.