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