Summary: In our pride, we hesitate to take a donkey as a role model, but the donkey of Palm Sabbath has something to show us. That donkey was literally Christopher--"Christ-bearer."
1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
2 saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.
3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ’The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately."
4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;
7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?"
11 The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."
The movie Shrek (2001) stars a green, smelly ogre with a heart of gold named Shrek and his faithful companion the donkey who never shuts up. The voice of the wisecracking Donkey is Eddie Murphy and it seems like Donkey has most of the good lines. At one point when the donkey thinks he is dying, he says, “Oh man. I can’t feel my toes.” Then he looks down and realizes, “I don’t have any toes.”
Shrek was so successful at the box office that they made another one, Shrek 2, released last year (2004). Many folks thought that the donkey was the best thing in both movies.
Of course, Shrek and Shrek 2 were animated films. Unfortunately the real animals of Hollywood films have not always been treated well. They used to be thought of as disposable props. For example, six horses were killed during the filming of Ben-Hur in 1924, and 25 were killed or euthanized during making of The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1935.
Then an organization called “American Humane” opened a Hollywood office to enforce standards for the protection of animals. In the ’50s, American Humane sponsored the first annual “Performing Animal Top Star of the Year” award ceremony. This is the Academy Award for animal actors. It is abbreviated as PATSY, which critics say is appropriate because the animals are usually patsies for their human masters. In any case, Francis the Mule was the first PATSY winner in 1951. Later winners included Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger and Arnold the Pig from “Green Acres.”
With that background then, let us think about another donkey. If the “Performing Animal Top Star of the Year” award had been around in first- century Jerusalem, the animal who carried Jesus certainly would have been a winner. This donkey is a PATSY.
Matthew tells us that Jesus sends two of his disciples into the village of Bethphage to fetch a donkey and a colt. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet Zechariah, “Look, your king is coming to you, “humble, and mounted on a donkey.”
Jesus enters Jerusalem as Zechariah had predicted, and a large crowd spreads cloaks and branches on the road in front of him. They greet him as their king, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
It is a Hollywood spectacular. As for the donkey, she plays her role as intended, and thus she is a role model.
The disciples certainly are not particularly good Palm Sabbath role models. They were still arguing about who would be the greatest among them (20:20-28). This whole trip made them nervous, what with Jesus talking about death and suffering. They may stand with Jesus now, but, in a matter of days, one will betray him and another will deny him, the rest will run away. The disciples had seen a lot, done a lot, listened a lot — but in the end, when Jesus gives them the faith test, the final exam, it turns out they do not have a clue.
But we should not be too hard on the disciples because we are much the same. We have followed Jesus for years now. We have sat in church, we dropped coins in the plate, we taught a class here and there, perhaps we even thought about God occasionally during the week; so, we say, with the disciples, surely we have done our part—indicating that we do not have a clue either.