Saturday, February 20, 2010
Matthew 21 A Picture Parable Of Servanthood
When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples,
2 telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.
3 If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”
4 This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
5 Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them.
7 They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them.
8 A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.
9 Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting: • Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
10 When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”
11 And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee!”
When Judas Maccabeus led the Israeli victory over the Syrian Secuelids (the Syrian dynasty which followed Alexander the Great), the crowds celebrated his victory by waving palm branches, and to commemorate the victory, Judas “The Hammer” stamped an image of palm branches into their coins, thenceforth symbolizing victory for the Jews over their oppressors. So when, about 150 years later, Jesus Christ was greeted to Jerusalem by thousands of followers, waving palm branches and shouting hosanna (which means please help us now), the Roman authorities must have smelled the potential for revolution
2Mac. 10:6-7 1 Now Maccabeus and his company, the Lord guiding them, recovered the temple and the city: 2 But the altars which the heathen had built in the open street, and also the chapels, they pulled down. 4 When that was done, they fell flat down, and besought the Lord that they might come no more into such troubles; but if they sinned any more against him, that he himself would chasten them with mercy, and that they might not be delivered unto the blasphemous and barbarous nations. 6 And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts. 7 Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place. 8 They ordained also by a common statute and decree, That every year those days should be kept of the whole nation of the Jews.
Yet, rather than a donkey , The Lord rode the more humble colt. Perhaps there is more than a triumphal entry here. Perhaps the Lord is signifying His Servanthood. And signifying ours as well. The donkey was held in honour. It was often as large as a small horse. Its bridle was studded with silver or with shells; its saddle was often elegant with tassels; it was associated in the people's thought with many a striking and historic scene. Now think of the striking contrast between that and the colt there by the donkey's side: the one a trained and comfortable animal, the other a wild and shaggy little creature; the one accustomed to these crowded roads and going to take it easy whatsoever happened, the other rude and stubborn and intractable, filled with the fiery energy of youth. No hosannas would disturb the one; it was entirely safe and most entirely reputable. But the other, never broken in as yet--no man could guarantee what it would do. And I think it was in acted parable, not without a certain courage in it, that our Lord rode that Sunday on the colt. Had He been thinking only of His comfort, our Lord would certainly have made the other choice.
The village of Bethphage, which is here mentioned, lay in the immediate neighbourhood of Bethany. It was situated somewhere on the Mount of Olives, amid the gardens and vineyards of its slopes. It is singular that nowhere else do we light on any mention of this village. This is the one and only reference to it, in the Old Testament or in the New. 2000 cubits from Jerusalem. Mark 11:1; When they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples
Thew Lord Jesus was probably not doing anything miraculous in getting of the colt at Bethphage. We are not to take it, as is sometimes done, as an example of the omniscience of Christ. Probably Jesus had some friend at Bethphage, perhaps a farmer in some olive-garden. And they had talked together amid the olive trees, where Jesus loved to be in the warm days. And it was then, as they talked and walked together, that the farmer had offered the Lord the use of his donkey and its colt. The Lord may have promised that if the need arose He would remember the offer of His friend. It may be they then agreed upon a donkey word, and the donkey word was this, "The Lord has need of them." If anyone appeared and gave the donkey word, he was to get the donkey at once for Jesus' use. And now the morning had come when it was needed, for Christ was to go in triumph to the capital, and Christ remembered the bargain with His friend. "Then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an donkey tied, and a colt with her: loose them and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them, and straightway he will send them". The two disciples did as they were requested. They went and found the donkey and the colt and they brought them to the Lord Jesus. Then followed the triumphal entry, amid the wild enthusiasm of the people.
The Errand Was A Message of Humility
Firstly this errand was a gentle and a wise rebuke. Last week we saw the mind of the disciples as they went up with Jesus to Jerusalem. First there had come to Him the mother of Zebedee's children, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him. And her sons were with her -- she did not come alone-- they knew and sympathised with her request. And her request, as you are all aware, was that her sons might share in Jesus' glory, and be seated on His right hand and His left, in the coming of His kingdom. Christ was setting His face toward the cross, and they were dreaming of kingdoms and of crowns. They thought that the hour was very near at hand when the glory of their Lord would be revealed. And they were dreaming their dreams and picturing the splendour of it all, when Jesus was within a day or two of Calvary.
And when the ten heard it they were indignant. They were angry at the two, and why were they angry? Because they had tried to steal a march upon them. They were not indignant because of the wrong thoughts which their two brethren were cherishing of Jesus; they were indignant at this mean attempt to rob them of what was to be common to them all. They got in first! So the Lord spoke about the princes of the Gentiles, and of the kind of dominion which they exercise. And He told them that in the Kingdom it was different, for there the greatest was to be the least, even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.
So that was the spirit of the twelve as they went up with their Master to Jerusalem. The hour was coming when they would all be kings. In spite of all the teaching of the past, it was of such a future they were dreaming when Christ was travelling towards Gethsemane and sweat blood upon the garden ground just near by there.
Now, in the light of that ambitious spirit, do you begin to see the meaning of this errand? It is one of the gentlest and the sweetest reproofs that Jesus ever gave to those He loved. Bethphage was quite nearby. There was no real need of sending on the two, as if the village had been a way off in the distance.. it was probably only 500 yards away. . But the Lord deliberately made them run this errand just so that lovingly He might teach them practically just what they all needed to learn. Dreaming of thrones, He sent them for a donkey. Picturing themselves exalted above Caesar, He sent them about the business of a slave. Wrapped in a vision of the coming glory, when they would be exalted in authority, He gave them a really little task to do. I do not suppose they understood it then, but I am sure they understood it afterwards. As they looked back on it, in the sweet light of memory, they saw in a flash the meaning of their Lord. And Nothing would ever be too lowly for them, when Calvary was past and .Christ was risen, when they remembered the last lowly service which they had been asked to render to their Lord.
It seems to me that Christ often rebukes us like this. When we are filled with visions of our self-importance, He calls us to some very humble task. There is a sense in which every Christian is a visionary. He sees far more than can ever meet the eye. He follows a Lord whose vision was so wonderful that it could see the Kingdom in the mustard seed. But the mark of a Christian is not vision only; it is also instant and unquestioning obedience; and so are we summoned to some lowly duty, just as the two were sent to fetch the donkey. There is nothing too mighty for a Christian's hope; there is nothing too lowly for a Christian's hand. With the largest and the loftiest outlook, he must always be ready for the lowliest service. Christ does not only teach us by His words, He teaches us by what He asks from us. He sets us a task to do--a very humble task, perhaps in the church, perhaps at home. And then as we do it we discover this, that we are learning more of the spirit of our Master than in all the golden dreams which we were nursing as we walked beside the Master to Jerusalem.
The Errand was a fulfilment of prophecy
When the disciples, at their Master's bidding, set out for Bethphage to fetch the donkey, I don’t think they had any thought of any prophet's word. They were astonished at the errand, for Christ had never ridden anywhere before that we know of. Probably they were unaware that there was anything of unusual significance. Though they didn’t know it, , they were fulfilling the prophecies of God. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an donkey, and upon a colt the foal of an donkey" (Zech 9:9). So, long ago, had Zechariah prophesied, heralding the coming of the Messiah, and now the hour of history had come when that prophetic word was being crowned. Through all the ages that prophecy had waited--had waited for this moment on the highway. And now the hour had come, and these two men were the chosen instruments of God to crown it. And yet they did not know what they were doing, and never remembered that it had been foretold, and never dreamed that for a thousand years this lowly service had been willed of God. Had it been anything great that they were called to, it might readily have stirred prophetic memories. But a trifling errand like this to Bethphage--who would have thought that this was a fulfilment? And yet it was as surely a fulfilment as the dying of their Master on the Cross.
Learn this lesson about the will of God. We are working out His plans in the little as well as in the large. You remember how Job, when in his great affliction, cried to his friends, "The hand of God hath touched me." What he felt was that in that mighty sorrow there was something that cried aloud of the divine. But it is not only in our greater hours that we should recognise the hand of God. It is the common service and the obscure trials that visit us as we journey every day. Great services reveal our possibilities; small services reveal our consecration. Great services come to us rarely; small services are with us every day. God can be near us in our lives, ordering everything in love and wisdom. Detect His hand in the insignificant things of each day. It is not only on the field of battle that the prophecies of God come to fulfilment. It is not only where the great and mighty are toiling in the eyes of all the world. It is where the mother is working for her children, though no one across the street has heard her name. It is where the workman is busy with his task, though there is not a voice to cheer him on. God may be near to us when we are exalted; but He is nearer still when we are faithful; when we pursue our way unnoticed and unknown, clinging to what we know is right and true. It is such a life that has His blessing and moves in the line of His appointed plan, and in the end, when all the books are opened, will be found as the fulfilment of His will. Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Remember these two disciples and their errand. It was only the fetching of a village donkey, and yet the prophets had sung their song about it. And so with you, amid your daily drudgery, that seems so far sometimes from heaven and liberty, the will of God, more ancient than the hills, is working out its purposes of love.
The Errand Was Meant to Be an Exercise of Trust
Now we all know how in their greater tasks the disciples were inspired by trust in Christ. Had they not trusted Him they never had gone forth to preach the Gospel and to heal the sick. "Lord," they said, when they came back to Jesus, "the very devils were subject unto us." They were amazed at what they had accomplished--these ignorant and uneducated men. And they had done it because they trusted Jesus, and leaned upon Him as children on a father, and drawn their strength from fellowship with Him, who was the wisdom and the power of God. They did their mighty deeds because they trusted--but was trust needed for such an act as this? Did it take faith to go and fetch an donkey, and bring it to their Master at His bidding. If you remember the visions that they cherished, and the kind of dreams of which their hearts were full, I think you will agree that this obedience was only possible in loyal faith. They went at once. They never asked one question. If the Master said it, it must be all right. Was no one likely to interfere with them? Were they not certain to be charged with stealing? Other men would have had doubts like that. They never hesitated for an instant. They went at once, without hesitancy, and they went because they trusted Jesus. Not only in their great deeds did they trust Him. They showed their trust in little deeds as well. They honoured Him not only when they preached, but when they went upon a seemingly small errand, when they were sent to fetch the donkey from Bethphage.
Now I want to ask you this question--is your faith like that of the disciples? Is it conspicuous in inconspicuous times? That, after all, is the test of living trust that is the joy and blessing of believing. We are all cast on God in the great moments. We feel that we must trust Him, or we perish. There are services and there are trials so great that they bow us down at the feet of the Almighty. But a trust like that, born of a great despair, though God will accept it, and grant the needed grace, is not so honouring to love and fatherhood as the trust that irradiates the common day. To waken on our immemorial mornings and say, "Please God, I shall have faith in Him today"; to take up our cross in the profound belief that underneath are the everlasting arms; to go to our drudgery, to bear our burden in the happy and sweet sense that God is with us, that is the trust which is honouring to heaven. That is the trust which the disciples showed when they went at once upon their lowly errand. That is the trust which you can show today, without waiting for that impossible tomorrow. And when the day breaks, and the shadows flee away, and life is unrolled before the great white throne, that is the trust which will receive the welcome, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
The Errand Was An Example of Humility
Think of those first disciples, and of what sorts of people they were. One has only to read the record of the Gospels to apprehend that they were coltish men. In Palestine, in the period of our Saviour, there was considerable culture of a kind. There were men who were thoroughly trained and broken in by years of patient study of antiquity. The Pharisees, walked in an odour of unquestioned sanctity, and who stood in the eyes of all the common people for everything that was respectable and safe. The strange thing is that when Jesus made His choice, it was not any of such persons that He chose. He had no interest in conventionality; His only interest was in possibility. He did not want men who were broken in; He wanted men who were ready to break out, on a dead world that must be won for heaven, and plucked even as a brand out of the fire. That was why He chose these fiery natures; those untempered and unbroken men. They were rough colts, shaggy and undisciplined, yet chosen for the triumph of the Lord. It was a very daring choice to make. There were times when it actually seemed to be a failure. There were times when their stumbling and foolish obstinacy had almost broken the heart of the Redeemer. And I think that when He chose the colt that morning, instead of the sleek and comfortable creature, Peter and James and John would understand that He was thinking of them.
Well what about you? Are you proud of your achievements or are you willing to be used by God whatever and wherever He sends you? Do you recognise that it may be because you are rough and difficult that the Lord has called you to serve Him? Be mindful of your weaknesses, and be mindful of the grace of God that can use even you.
With thanks and reliance upon GH MORRISON The Glasgow Pulpit Series
I preached this passage under the points
See the contrast between Judas Maccabeas and Jesus. A Royal Donkey versus a small lowly colt.
If You Would Serve The Lord You Must
1. Learn The Frustrations Of Service
Sent to the workshop for a “long” weight!
Given 20 cents to buy the boss an ice cream.
this would have been frustrating to James and John’s pride… Matthew 20
2. Learn The Faith full ness Of Service
Does Big service need Big faith? Small service needs bigger faith.
Instantaneous Faith (“immediately”)
3. Learn The Fulfillments Of Service
Zech 9:9 this small trifling request turned out to be the fulfillment of Scriptures pointing to Jesus as the Messiah!
What is little could turn out to be important. Who knows who that Sunday school child may turn out to be?
4. Learn The Familiarity Of Service
The daily grind the small things are what are important.
Sunday school, scripture teaching, Boys or Girls Brigade.
These are the stuff of life service and ministry.
The family altar is important.