ONE OF MY favorite incidents from the life of Jesus is when He prepares to enter Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week and sends two of the disciples ahead to collect His transportation. Not the proud white horse of a conquering king, you will recall, but a workaday donkey. A golf cart rather than a stretch limo.
It’s intriguing to me that the two guys He dispatches to get the donkey aren’t named, presumably for good reason. But I have a sneaking suspicion of their identity, which adds even more richness to the whole account.
My wager is on James and John, the fishermen sons of Zebedee. This is the pair Jesus nicknamed “Boanerges,” meaning Sons of Thunder, for their fiery personalities. Their inner-circle witnessing of the transfiguration, along with Peter, seems to have inflated their sense of importance.
Not long after that mountaintop experience, Jesus finds the disciples arguing among themselves about who is the greatest (Mark 9:33-37). Hard not to imagine that those who had been there when Jesus turned ultra-white and God spoke from heaven might not have felt they were probably the top candidates, by virtue of their being invited to such an exclusive event.
Then James and John ask Jesus whether they should call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village that didn’t want to welcome Jesus and His team (Luke 9:54), a self-important power play that earns them a rebuke. And if that’s not enough, the brothers also come to Jesus and ask for VIP seating in heaven (Mark 10:35-45). Maybe they figure that their transfiguration tickets have given them priority in the hereafter, too.
Perhaps the two need a lesson in humility: forget the ruling and reigning stuff, just go and organize the ride. And not only that, but in an awkward manner—they have to go and unhitch a donkey and if someone asks them what they’re doing, they are just to say, “The Lord has need of it . . . ” (Mark 11:3). Talk about being out of control. Why not at least let them know all about the arrangements that have been made so they can explain things more clearly, if need be?
Ironically, of course, the two disciples (whoever they are) end up giving us one of the greatest lessons about following Jesus. It’s this: what we are asked to do may not seem clear to us and may even make us feel uncomfortable, and we may not even get any recognition for it. But by simply doing what Jesus tells us, we can be part of bringing about His plans and purposes from before the beginning of time. God’s donkey work turns everything upside down.
Photo by Baron Reznik on Foter.com/CC BY-NC-SA