So I had occasion to begin studying the portion of Scripture known as Passion Week, starting with Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and culminating with His death, burial, and resurrection. As I was reading Luke 19, my mind was bombarded with one question…why were verses 28-35 included in Luke’s account? For those of you who want to go read it later for yourselves, it’s a detailed account of how the colt was acquired by the disciples for Jesus to ride in on. See, in John 12, the details of how the colt was obtained is not there, and we see that Jesus sat on the colt and proceeded to enter Jerusalem. So why do we need to know in Luke’s account the details? Think for yourselves…why this story? Isn’t it more important to know He rode into Jerusalem on the same animal prophesied in Zechariah 9:9? What is so important about the disciples’ adventure in obtaining this animal?
I believe there are three important nuggets of truth that can be learned from this brief and seemingly unimportant detailed account, thus, making it very important indeed. In general, the three reasons are these: First, it would help to strengthen the Apostles’ faith at a very tumultuous time that was soon to come. Second, it serves to give us courage in times when we are to follow God’s command to do something. Lastly, it teaches us the importance of garnering a good reputation and treating people properly. What do I mean…
Looking at the first reason (the Apostles’ faith) we find that Jesus was very detailed in where He wanted the disciples to go, what they would find there, what they were to do once they got there, and exactly who they would encounter and what that person would say. If you read the account, it happened exactly as Jesus had told the disciples. “So what” I hear you saying. If I told you to go to the local gas station, and there you will find a man in a red car. Ask him for $50 and if he asks you why you need it, tell him you know someone in need and then that man will give it to you. What would happen if, when you went to the gas station, there was no red car. There was no one to ask for the money. There was no one to help you complete your task. Now think about how believable would I be if I had previously told you I was going to be killed, but not to worry, I’d rise from the dead three days later. You’d think to yourself there was no way you’d believe that I could predict with certainty future events as amazing as being put to death and raising myself from the dead when I haven’t proven to you my ability to be right about the future by sending you to a gas station where none of what I predicted came to pass.
Now think about this. In less than a week, the lives of the Apostles will be turned upside down and many will become fearful and flee. Jesus knew their faith would be not as strong as it was going to need to be. So He sent them on an adventure that happened exactly to the tee as He had told them before hand. Why? Because Jesus had already told them several times before that He was going to be put to death and raise Himself up three days later. The first time He told them about His future ordeal was about one year prior to His death, right before the Transfiguration (Matt 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). A very short time after the transfiguration, Jesus again foretells His purpose for coming to this earth (Matt 17:23; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:44). Again, this was about nine months to a year before Passion Week. Now, Jesus tells His Apostles that He will be put to death and will rise again three days later, only this time it’s much closer to His crucifixion than ever (Matt 20:17-19; Mark 10:34; Luke 18:33). So three times He tells His Apostles He’s going to die, and He knows they’re not understanding this at all, but when they begin to see, and remember what He said about rising again the third day, their going to look for something that they can hang their hats on regarding the credibility of His claim to rise again in three days.
So here’s reason number one for this story. Right before Passion Week would begin for Jesus, His disciples are given an episode that proves Jesus’ credibility in the foretelling of His own death, burial, and resurrection. How? By having all He foretold to them of their adventure coming to pass exactly as stated to them BEFORE they went out to get the colt. The theory behind such an action on Jesus’ part was this…My credibility was proven to them while obtaining the colt in the way they did, so that that experience, fresh in their minds, would give them hope at a time when all seems hopeless, and they would be able to look forward to My resurrection. But alas, they all fled and abandoned Jesus. But that story about the colt, and the rest of God’s Word, should work the same for us. There are many promises in the Bible that, if we believe them, should give us hope in times that seem hopeless. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have proven themselves true to us many times over and that should strengthen our faith. But just like the disciples, God’s credibility doesn’t always calm our fears the way He would like them to be calmed.
Reason number two as to why I believe this story was recorded for us is to remind us that if God has charged us with a task to do, He’s gone ahead and prepared the way. This time of year, Easter, is a time like Christmas when people are more inclined to be open to church invitations, and being open to hearing about Easter services. Especially if you’ve been praying for someone, now may be a good time to broach the subject of attending a church service with you. Chances are, God’s been working in their heart making this time ripe for the presentation of the gospel in some form…whether it’s through a church service, tract, special Easter fellowship, or personal one on one evangelism.
Look at what Jesus asked the disciples to do. He commanded them to do something…go ye into the village…ye shall find a colt tied. He even told them what to say to anyone who inquires of them. So before the disciples even went out, there was the colt tied up like He said. But even more than that is that He prepared the heart of the owner of the colt ahead of time. “As they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, ‘Why loose ye the colt?’ and they said, ‘The Lord hath need of him’ (Luke 19:33-34). In Mark 11:6, it says that as the disciples said exactly what Jesus had asked them to say, the owners let them go. So what exactly does all that mean?
Consider any scenario that you’ve been praying about. God’s laid something on your heart and you’ve studied the Scriptures for the right way of going about doing whatever it is that God laid on your heart. The important truths to this story is the fact that you can go in confidence knowing that if it’s truly something God has asked you to do, He’s prepared the way for you ahead of time. But the other important thing to realize is that you have to do things God’s way. In Mark 11 the owner of the colt agreed to let them go, but look what it says about how the disciples dealt with this man. “And certain of them that stood there said unto them, ‘What do ye, loosing the colt?’ And they said unto them even AS JESUS HAD COMMANDED: and they let them go” (Mark 11:5-6).
What if the disciples had brought money instead and tried to buy the colt from the owners and the owner said it wasn’t for sale? That would not be a fine time to ask if they can just take it. No, they weren’t even told to ask if they could have it. Jesus simply commanded them to say, “The Lord hath need of him” then Jesus assured them “and straightway he will send him hither” (Mark 11:3). So Jesus had already laid a task on the disciples’ hearts and all they were charged with doing was to do things His way, and they were assured success because God had prepared everyone involved. I’ve been praying for about a year for a particular person, and now, I’ve been given the door to give this person the gospel and invite them to church for Easter Morning. I have peace in my heart about how God wants me to do this, so I look forward to seeing how God has prepared her heart to be open to the invite.
But there’s one more interesting aspect of this story. Consider the owner (or owners) of said colt. Why did they part with their animal? There are a few theories about the owner of the colt. First, perhaps he was blessed by the Lord’s ministry at one time. Perhaps he never was touched directly by the hand of Jesus, but he may have had respect for who Jesus was none the less. Then again, he may not be a believer who respected Jesus, but God used him to fulfill prophecy. Whatever the case, there are lessons here…
First, if you have a ministry, whether it’s breakfast at the church, teaching a Sunday School class, or riding the bus to pick up children, you may never know what kind of influence you have on the people you minister to that would lead them to be a blessing to others at another point in time to someone else. If the owner of the colt had been a direct recipient of Jesus’ ministry at one time, maybe that’s why he was inclined to give away his animal for the Lord’s use. So, lesson number one…ministering to others may give them a heart of service to be used at another place and time down the road.
Secondly, if this owner never was touched by Jesus directly, but gave of his animal because of the respect he had for Jesus, it should teach us to treat all people with respect while conducting our ministries above reproach, wrongdoing, and questionable practices. People may not agree with our positions on things, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of doing good to us when we have need because of the respect they have for our integrity. That’s why it’s important to have as sterling a testimony as possible when dealing with the unsaved or those who may be believers but aren’t likeminded.
Lastly, it’s not beyond the ability of God to use the unregenerate person to accomplish His will. Look at all the countries that have unsaved leaders who allow the gospel to be preached by our missionaries. Think about it, our missionaries have a burden laid on their heart for a particular mission field, and God gets in the heart of the government in those countries to continue to allow His missionaries access to the field. If God needed that colt to fulfill prophecy, there was no way God wasn’t going to get it in spite of an unregenerate owner. I’ve heard of a few stories of wealthy land owners giving up a portion of their land to missionaries or churches and some of them testifying that they can’t understand why they are doing these things. They can’t give any logical reason for parting with their wealth. But we know the reason…God got at them…the way He maybe got at the owner of the colt. So, if you need to go up against a staunch atheistic type person, do what God laid on your heart the way He wants you to do it, and watch God work in the life of that unregenerate soul to meet God’s needs.
Wrapping up this study, let’s review the three possibilities as to why the account of the disciples’ adventure to find a colt was recorded in the gospels for us. It was designed to strengthen those with a feeble and weak faith at a time when their faith would be tested immensely. It was also written to remind us that if God laid something on our hearts, we can be assured He did work in the involved people ahead of time, but it’s important to approach them doing it God’s way. Lastly, it teaches us that people can be influenced to do things for God by our direct ministry in their lives, or by having a good and pure reputation, or by the convicting power of God on the person directly at the time when He needs things to be done. Nothing in the Bible is written without purpose, and this seemingly innocuous account is no exception.