THAT MAN ON THE DONKEY...WHO IS HE?
Dear Christian friends,
One of the things our president did when he got into office was to cancel the space shuttle program. The fact is we don’t do a lot in space anymore. I personally think we need to have more than having a toe in the water when other world powers are doing more. I don’t know if I like it that when we send someone to the International Space station it has to be done through the Russian space agency.
It is truly amazing how many things we use today that were invented out of necessity for the space program but have found everyday application in our lives. Memory foam used for beds; anti-corrosion coatings; arterio vision technology that allows doctors to go into the vascular system of your body and look for clogged arteries and leaking heart valves; cochlear implants have come from the space age technology that allows the deaf to hear; scratch resistant lenses; emulsified zero-valent iron purifies polluted ground water; insulin pumps came from space age technology; life shears that are used at accident scenes to rescue people from trapped vehicles; charge-coupled devices are used in medicine to detect breast cancer; water filters, microchips. And the list really goes on. Even the water guns of water guns, the Super Soaker was invented by a scientist who worked in the space program. All these items came from the space program as a by-product.
It is interesting that when Paul was writing to the Philippians, he was speaking about the need to be humble. He said be humble like Jesus. In doing so, he tells us who he was. That Man on the Donkey…Who is He? 1) He is God; 2) He is man; 3) He is your Savior.
2000 years ago many people had gathered in the city of Jerusalem to celebrate an important Jewish religious festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It included the Passover. There was commotion in the city. They saw a rather common looking man on a donkey. Philippians two is about the subject of humility. There is no greater example than Jesus himself. As Paul tells us about Jesus we learn more about who he is. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”
The man on the donkey was more than just a man – he was more than flesh and blood – more than the man from Galilee – more than a Jewish carpenter. Paul says he is in “very nature God.” The Bible calls him God. Isaiah the prophet said, “And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Another Bible passage says, “In him dwells the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.”
Not only does the Bible call him God, he claimed to be God. There was a time when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was I am.” Some who are unfamiliar would say that the translators translated into some bad English. That translation is exactly right. The people who heard him exploded with anger because of what he was saying. He was calling himself I AM. That is the name God wanted the people of Israel to call him in the Old Testament – Jaweh or Jehovah. It means “I AM.” Besides claiming himself to be Jaweh, he therefore said that he existed before Abraham. Abraham lived better than 2000 years prior to that day. He was claiming to be God.
As Jesus prayed in the High Priestly to the Heavenly Father, he spoke “the glory I had with you before the world began.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he was with the Father from eternity.
He also had the characteristics of God. He was holy and never sinned. He was eternal. He knew all things. He knew what was in the hearts of people. He told the Samaritan woman he knew that she had been married five times and was living with her sixth man. He knew about things before they would happen. He knew that he would go to the city of Jerusalem to be betrayed, that he would suffer, he would die and rise again on the third day. The disciples got so accustomed to hearing things like this that Peter said of Jesus, “Lord, you know all things.” Jesus knew things that only God could know. He knew that in heaven “no one would be married or given in marriage.” In heaven “there are many rooms.”
He did things that only God could do. Only God could say to a storm, “Be still” and it was stilled. Only God could say to the blind, “See” and people could see. Even Nicodemus, who came to Jesus in the dark, said, “No one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
But the apostle says that “Jesus even though in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” The Greek phrase here is quite complicated, but the thought behind it all is that Jesus, because he was God, did not use his power in a way that was advantageous to himself. Imagine what it must have been like to have all that power. The kings of Egypt build monuments to themselves – the pyramids. They claimed to be gods. Jesus didn’t flaunt it. When he went to his hometown and the people got so mad at him that they wanted to throw him down a cliff. He didn’t get into a shouting match and warn them, “I’ll show you who is going to throw whom over the cliff. He simply walked through them so they couldn’t lay a hand on him. When he was hungry, he had the power to turn stones into bread. He didn’t. When they said, “If you are the Son of God, then come down from the cross,” they would have been stunned had he done that. But he knew he came to serve.
He was here to serve. Paul tells us here that Jesus “made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.” The Greek tells us that Jesus “emptied himself.” That doesn’t mean he quit being God, because he continued to do miracles, but what it does mean is that he didn’t make full and constant power he had as God.
There was a purpose. God had a plan to save humanity. His Son, his one of a kind son, became the servant of servants. He took on human flesh. “Being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Admittedly this is a bit hard to understand; it is hard to put into words; it is hard to understand how our great God could take on human flesh; how he could know all things and yet according to his human nature grow in wisdom and stature; how he could create the universe by the power of his word and then not have a place to lay his head. The apostle’s Creed says it like this that “he was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died and was buried.”
To take on human flesh was the plan that God had devised in eternity. He wanted to rescue and save us… and he did it himself. No one else could pay a price precious enough. He was the one who was on the donkey that Palm Sunday - God in human flesh.
He came to save. Isn’t it ironic that most of mankind would like to be remembered by what they have done while they are alive? Yet we remember Jesus more for his death. Sure we remember his sermons and his miracles; we remember him for what he did in death for us. Paul once said, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to he Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Dozens of Bible passages say it: to die and pay for the sins of all; to offer a payment that could cover everyone.
But he is also the Lord of lords. Jesus’ life doesn’t end with “he became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.” Paul says, “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him he name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Three days was enough for Jesus to be in the grave. From then on he pulled out all the stops. There is no holding back any longer, not setting aside. Jesus story doesn’t end in the tomb either. In fact, it doesn’t just include the resurrection from the dead either. His exaltation includes the descent into hell, the resurrection on the third day, his ascent into heaven on the fortieth day after Easter, his sitting on the right hand of God, and the fact that he will come again to judge the heavens and the earth.
He descended into hell, not to suffer there but to preach. The Scriptures say in I Peter, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” After Jesus was raised to life he went to preach to those imprisoned. Who were the imprisoned? Those who had disobeyed in the days of Noah. Where were those people? In hell. Jesus went to preach to them. His very presence showed them that he was the one that they rejected when Noah preached for 120 years as he was building the ark. He descended into hell to show how complete his victory would be. Hell could not contain him. He literally defeated hell.
The exalted Jesus arose from the dead. We celebrate it every Sunday but especially next Sunday. He showed himself to be alive to over 500 people and by faith to millions on this earth today. We have a living savior, not a dead prophet. Muslims walk around the grave of Muhammad. We celebrate an empty grave of Jesus.
The exalted Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us so that we can be where he is.
He is at the right hand, not limited by time or space. He is exercising full power over the world that is under his feet. He is interceding for his church for his nail wounds in his hands and feet are a constant reminder to the saving work he did for us 2000 years ago.
He is coming again to judge the world. But don’t worry! We are forgiven. We have been declared innocent of our sins because the servant of servants and the Lord of Lords. Remember this same one is the Savior of Saviors. He is also our judge.
There is no one like him. He even has a name that is above all other names. “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” No matter if the history books say a lot about Aristotle or Alexander the Great or the Apostle Paul, no one has a name like Jesus has. No one saves like Jesus saves. One dayall will know it. All people will one day give Jesus name the honor that it deserves. Believers will do it happily in heaven; unbelievers will do it unhappily in hell.
So as we begin this Palm Sunday to remember the greatest week that ever was, remember who that one was on the donkey entering the city of Jerusalem. He is God. He is man. He is our Savior.