Jesus Uses an Ass for His Work: Oh What Comfort This Sweet Sentence Gives

ImageToday churches around the world will celebrate a rather weird spectacle: God astride a donkey. We’ve dubbed it Palm Sunday, for palm branches form part of the story. The people cut them and strew them before Jesus as a green carpet greeting. But, were it up to me to christen this holy day, I would have named it Ass Sunday. It was on this day that Jesus, riding that donkey into Jerusalem, revealed the most profound fact about Christianity.

G.K. Chesterton, in his short poem, “The Donkey,” looks at this Sunday from the perspective of the beast (read the poem here). This animal with “monstrous head and sickening cry,” with “ears like errant wings,” who is “the devil’s walking parody of all four-footed things,” he is the beast that God ordains to be his ride. Jesus, dear Jesus, what were you thinking? Of all the animals you could have chosen, you select this “tattered outlaw of the earth.” Why?

On Ass Sunday, the Lord lets us in on a secret. That secret is that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God,” (1 Corinthians 1). In other words, whatever the world deems most appropriate for divine work, God rejects and selects the exact opposite. The Lord hides himself under the most unlordly of things.

Do you want to find God? Then don’t go looking for him where you think God will be. Common sense won’t help you. Rational thinking will lead you astray. Following your heart will only get you farther from God. If you want to find God, he’s hiding in plain sight, in the very things that you, as a decent human being, would never select as a vessel befitting divinity.

Like an ass.

Like a fat old man with hair growing out of his ears and out-of-style pants and coffee-stained teeth who nevertheless stands in the pulpit every Sunday to open his mouth and let Jesus speak.

Like a woman who’d had way too men share her bed over the years and who wasn’t even married to her current lover but whom our Lord asked for a drink and who afterward couldn’t shut up about Jesus.

Like a womanizing Hercules of man who screwed up, then screwed up again, then finally had his eyes gouged out and was reduced to a slave but as a blind slave did the Lord’s bidding and killed more enemies of God in his own death than he had in his life.

Like that tap water that fills your toilet and washes the filth off your hands and waters your yard that our Lord mixes with his word to bring wailing infants into the kingdom of God.

Like that naked, ripped-to-shreds convicted criminal who hung impaled before the world that is our glorious, loving, holy, forgiving God.

On this Sunday, I am profoundly grateful that God uses an ass to get his work done. Oh what comfort this sweet sentence gives. For who knows, maybe, just maybe, he might use this ass of a man with a scandalous past, no stranger to sin, to bray a few words here and there on his flying scroll that will point people to the crucified and resurrected God who rides upon his back.


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9 thoughts on “Jesus Uses an Ass for His Work: Oh What Comfort This Sweet Sentence Gives

  1. Hi Chad

    Somewhere in your thoughts I read the parallel “spiritual/physical” that exists in the metaphysical poets especially John Donne in “The Flea.” A “carpe diem” satire of sex and seduction that parodies marriage and chastity. While the risque imagery does shock (as designed) conventional Christians, the shock does not serve us with any kind of edifying imagery.

    Then too, while punning on the word “ass” does offer a shocking imagery of man’s lower “end,” it is equally true that such imagery (the trope) is not in accord with the image and presence of the donkey at the time of Christ. The “ass” pun is anachronistic and would not have been present to the original audience of the Gospel. In Christ’s and the biblical time, the donkey was a fairly good asset to own because it was a beast that carried incredible burdens for the benefits of humanity.
    The self-humiliating imagery of an ass does offer a “shock” but the spiritual value of such a connection is suspect.

    There are a lot of “children” jokes/puns” that play on scriptural imagery, and the pleasure of such jokes is the “risque” (giggly) present. One of such jokes is set up with the question: “Which can stretch the furthest?–rubber or skin?” The answer is “skin,” and the answer/proof-text is that ” Moses tied his “ass” to a tree, and walked 40 miles.” As kids we reveled in the juvenile risque imagery, but would never tell it to any adults–ever.

    I do not have trouble with “shocking imagery” as long as the spiritual value is edifying; however, just punning on my being an “ass” seems not to offer a lesson save for a pretentious humility on being an “a–hole” in the outhouse of life.



    Micah 6:8

  2. Great post! My pastor this morning said that kings coming into a city would ride a horse if they meant to reign with an iron fist and a donkey if they were going to rule in peace. I had never heard that before. Thanks for your fine writing.

  3. Love the baptismal reference!

  4. Keith Prusak on said:

    The Lord God knows if it’s truly a humble donkey serving or a wolf in donkey’s clothing (or a donkey who actually fancies himself a stallion). May our outer shells truly reflect our inner selves.

  5. Paul Schrieber on said:

    Asses aren’t noted for their cooperative disposition. Note that it was the foal of an ass. How ‘ridiculopus’ this must have looked.

  6. I have started to read your blog and recently I started a Facebook page titled Quad City Conservative Lutherans and it would be great if your blog was also posted on my page. I would like to make this page a place to find information from various Lutheran sites.

  7. Pingback: Jesus Uses an Ass for His Work: Oh What Comfort This Sweet Sentence Gives | Expectational

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