Summary: This Lenten series is based loosely on the facts and stories in the "Living Lent" series written by Donald Neidigk.

Living Lent 1- The Peaceful Savior

Matthew 21:1-11 NIV

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" 11 The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

(This sermon is loosely based on facts and stories found in the "Living Lent" series written by Donald Neidigk

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent. This year, we will spend Lent learning more about Jesus through the eyes of the animals he came into contact with. For Ash Wednesday… we kicked this all off by hearing from a Fox. Today… we hear from a donkey. Donkeys hold a special place in scripture… they show up time and time again. And why not… they are so useful. They can carry big loads for their small size and don't mind doing it.

You may think they are stubborn, but that's just another old wives' tale. Donkeys aren't stubborn. They're just very cautious. They're happy to do anything you ask of them unless they think it's dangerous. They're a lot smarter than horses, and some people I might add, in that regard.

One person in particular needed the help of his donkey. You may know the story of Balaam's and his donkey. When it was time for the children of Israel to cross from the wilderness into Moab. Balak, Moab's king, wanted to keep them out. So he hired Balaam to curse them. But when Balaam went to meet with the king, Balaam's donkey refused to cooperate.

The donkey sat right down in the middle of the road and refused to go on… because it saw something Balaam couldn't see, blinded as he was by money. The donkey saw an angel with a sword blocking the road. She sensed the danger and forced Balaam's foot against a wall, crushing it. Then, the angel moved on a bit further to a narrow place where there was no room to turn. So the donkey just lay down.

He dismounted and began beating the donkey with his staff, trying to make her go. At that point the donkey actually spoke to Balaam. She reminded Balaam that she'd been a faithful donkey. She asked him if she'd ever been in the habit of just stopping for no reason. Balaam had to say, "No." That must have really been funny, a donkey talking to her master and him answering her back! Then, Balaam's eyes were opened to see the angel and God scolded Balaam for his cruelty and foolishness. You see… the donkey was actually keeping Balaam from doing something very wrong.

Perhaps we could avoid the same mistake as Balaam, and learn to listen… to a donkey… to hear the lesson they have to teach us about our Lord. It all hinges on the fateful day when Christ rode into Jerusalem, and chose to ride on a donkey instead of riding in on a horse. There is a reason that Christ “chose” a donkey.

You see… donkeys have special qualities that have endeared them to farmers for centuries. They're not aggressive, except when defending their young. They're so naturally protective, they can be trained to defend sheep and goats, driving away wolves or thieves if they sense danger. Farmers find them helpful in halter breaking calves and horses. They have a calming and soothing effect on the other animals. If the donkey's not afraid, neither are they.

And that's not all. They're so calm and affectionate, they make great companions for those with special needs--both physical and mental. And being cautious and sure footed, they provide lots of safe fun for children who want to ride them.

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