Back Stories – When you peek between the lines or catch a glimpse of the shadows slipping quietly behind the scenes, there are a lot of people in the Bible—often nameless, faceless people—who play a huge role in the final outcome of the story. Theirs is the back story—those quiet dramas in the background that appear so obscure and trivial at first glance yet put in motion so much. These are men and women, sometimes even boys and girls, who made choices or took actions that either made an enormous contribution to God’s unfolding drama of redemption, or cost His Kingdom dearly. These are their stories.
The Donkey Whisperer
“Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” Mark 11:2-3
The Jerusalem tourist season is at its high water mark. Spiritual pilgrims from every point on the compass have been arriving for days as the Children of Israel count down to their biggest celebration of the year—The Passover. It’s a day when they remember their divine deliverance from Egypt as well as look ahead to their ultimate deliverer, The Messiah.
Of course, neither the locals nor the out-of-towners have any clue what’s about to happen, or the personal part they’ll play in all of it. But the stage is set. All that the Passover symbolizes will be fulfilled before the week is over. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, will be sacrificed and the promised Messiah will show up as a risen Savior.
This calls for a parade!
Old Testament prophecies had scheduled Jesus to kick off this redemption week by riding into Jerusalem and receiving His rightful reception as the God of the Universe. Yet, he knew he’d run into problems if he applied for a parade permit from the religious nutjobs who were presently running the show. Early on in his public ministry he’d learned to ignore these guys and do whatever he wanted. In fact, he knew they were, at that very moment, plotting his demise. Why not give them something huge to talk about. While he’s at it, he could use the parade as the perfect illustration of the fickle nature of the human heart. The same people who would be yelling “Hosanna” that Sunday would be screaming “Crucify him,” by Friday.
Jesus, the King of Kings, deserved the finest horse in the land as his mount. Instead, this “man of sorrows” chose an untried and untrained donkey. Isn’t it ironic that when God wants to make a big splash, he loves to tap out the most obscure and unqualified to help him drive home his point? Nothing could illustrate this better than when he sent for this little animal, climbed on his back and headed up the parade route.
This donkey was an “extra” in this drama, little more than a prop for the man of the hour. But, boy oh boy, did he carry out his role well. We’d all do well as humans to have a fraction of the class this little donkey had.
He was available. He wasn’t out wandering around, but right where he was supposed to be when Jesus needed him.
He was teachable. He’d never been ridden before, but Jesus did some instant donkey whispering. In spite of his lack of experience, he rose to the challenge.
He was humble. In a lot of parades, the horses are so magnificently saddled and tacked out that they show up the rider. Not so with this little guy. They covered him with their robes so that all you could see was his nose peeking out the front and his tail wagging in the back.
He was faithful. He was a young colt carrying a full grown man. He was going uphill as people chucked palm fronds in his way. And if that wasn’t enough, they were yelling their adoration just inches away from his sensitive ears. Heavy. Complex. Frightening. Great excuses to quit, but this colt just kept clip-clopping his way up the steep hill and through the gate.
It’s hard to be available to God when we’re wondering off in a selfish life of sin. It’s hard to be teachable when we’re always looking at magnitude of our assignment instead of the magnitude of our God. It’s hard to humbly serve God and others when our ego has grown accustomed to hearing its name called out over the PA system. It’s hard to stay faithful when we’re whining about the weight of the challenge, cursing the obstacles that litter our path, or allowing the intimidation of the moment to define our attitude.
On the other hand, when Jesus calls on you, and whispers into your heart his desires—and you’re ready to respond—there’s no limit to what he can do in, on, to, with and through you.
I know this for a fact. I learned it from a donkey.