‘The Lord needs it’ – A Sermon for Palm Sunday Evensong


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Text: Luke 19: 31

If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’(NIV)



Who if they came out of their house one morning to find that a stranger was getting into their car and about to drive away would ask the obvious question, ‘Why are you taking my car?’

And who would accept the answer, ‘The Lord needs it.’

My reply to that statement probably wouldn’t be very charitable – and indeed, what the owner of the donkey says isn’t repeated in Luke’s gospel. But the next verse begins, ‘They brought it to Jesus’, so there is the implication that the owner gave up the donkey willingly for the Lord’s work.

So why did he do it? Why did this man accept the – let’s face it – somewhat dubious statement of ‘The Lord needs it’ as an explanation for someone leading away a valuable animal?

Some theologians believe that the owner’s reaction shows a pre-arranged agreement between Jesus and the man who had what he needed. In this case, the phrase ‘The Lord needs it’ becomes a sort of password to let the owner know that the right people had come to take the donkey.

Others believe that it is indicative of Jesus’ authority – he asked, and it was given to him. The original Greek seems to support this – the Greek word for Lord used here could mean both a man in authority and the Lord God – so even though the disciples were ambiguous about who needed it, it was given to them.

Interestingly, in Greek, the phrase translated as ‘The Lord needs it’ literally means ‘The Lord of it has need’ – meaning ‘The Lord’s donkey is needed’. Jesus was telling the donkey’s owner that all things belong to Him, and that he had need of this particular possession at this time.

The fact that it was unridden meant that it was pure and it was suitable for a sacred purpose. Tradition held that if a king rode into a city on a horse, his purpose was war, but riding into city on a donkey was a symbol of peace.

Even taking all this into account, I believe that there are two ingredients needed in the bargain between Jesus and the donkey’s owner in order for it to work, the same ingredients that give this phrase a resonance for us today.

The first is faith.

On a basic level, the owner of the donkey had faith that his animal would be returned, or at least that it would come to no harm in the care of these strange men. He didn’t run out and yell at the disciples, call them names or threaten them with magistrates’ court. He accepted their explanation and let them take the animal, so that the prophecy of the king riding into Jerusalem on an animal of peace could be fulfilled.

The second element is choice.

The owner of the donkey made the choice to believe that the Lord really did need his possession, and that it would be of more use to Him than being put to whatever use the man had planned for it that day.

What link does this small act of agreement have to our lives today? Well, how many times have we wanted to do something, been asked to do something, and not had the courage or faith that it would work out?

Conversely, how many times have we had doubts that something would work, but went ahead with it anyway, believing that it would come together if we looked at it hard enough, if we prayed hard enough or got enough people together? What about the times that there was just one person who spoke out long enough and loud enough for things to change?

There was a man who believed that all people, regardless of the colour of their skin, deserved to be treated as human beings. He saw a great injustice in his society, and he fought for over twenty years to see that it was corrected – his name was, of course, William Wilberforce. However, that name could also be Nelson Mandela. Other people of faith who made the choice to try and change something were Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa.

The thought of these people is rather daunting if you look at what their great faith did combined with the choice to try and change things. But we don’t have to look far to see examples closer to home of people who have had faith that their choices were what God wanted. What about Lady Liddell who left her house and grounds to this church to continue the work that began here almost a thousand years ago?

So what actions are being asked of us from this simple phrase, ‘The Lord needs it’? On a basic level, the Lord has need of his church, of places to meet together to worship him and do his work, so, in a plug for the conservation fund, he needs you to help in the work of restoring this church, and conserving it and its use for future generations. We do need money, but we also need your time and energy to run activities, cake stalls, fun days, raffles and whatever else you can think of to help in raising the money that is still needed.

We also need prayer to support and uphold those in charge of the conservation work, and those who choose to give of their time and talents.

What else in our lives does the Lord have need of?

Think of all the people who make up the physical body of the church, who meet in the buildings we have provided for worship. Without the efforts, the faith, the prayer of these people, God’s kingdom wouldn’t exist on earth at all.

There is one woman who is a great inspiration to me, who showed me what it’s like to give to her church community – on Sunday mornings, she got her family up and ready for church, she prepared the pew sheet, made sure there was enough communion wine, made some sandwiches to give the vicar lunch after the service, then drove 30 miles to her church, often having to play the organ or do the readings and prayers once she got there.

She’s my mom and she continues to do this week after week in the small church in rural Canada where I grew up and where Richard and I were married. It’s people like my Mom and Lady Liddell who show us all what God means when he asks us to commit to helping those around us.

But it’s not just people who do the big things – God asks you to commit to whatever you can help with in the church, to use the gifts that have been given to you. The people who arrange the flowers, who look after children in the crèche, who buy the cakes made by the Sunday Club, all contribute to the life of the church, and to God’s kingdom.

But what about outside of these walls? What gifts do you have that the Lord needs which you could be using in your home, or at school, or at work? God needs our commitment to others for his church to be active on earth.

Do you have a few hours a week to volunteer to help read with children at your local school or library? What about the person down the street who doesn’t get out much because it’s difficult to move about – can you give half an hour of your time to have a cup of tea and a chat?

We also know from organisations such as Comic Relief and Christian Aid and the Mother’s Union that there is so much need and pain in the world that we can help alleviate through supporting these organisations – what about dressing up in funny clothes for a day to raise money to buy mosquito nets that prevent children from dying of malaria?

I know I’ve just inundated you with possibilities for giving of your time and talents – and I know that it’s easy to feel guilty that we’re not doing more for others. To some extent, that’s healthy – we should be examining our commitments to others and how they fit with what God wants for our world. But what God wants most – what he has need of – is our commitment to do something. He doesn’t ask that we do everything, but asks that we have faith, and that we make the choice to follow his sacrificial example of giving up things that are precious to us – time, money, even possessions – in order that his work can be done in his Church, in his name.



About Beth

Canadian English teacher living in the UK with husband, daughter, imminent baby and cat...
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5 Responses to ‘The Lord needs it’ – A Sermon for Palm Sunday Evensong

  1. Rev. Marty Johnson says:

    I want you to know I enjoyed your message. I will be speaking on Palm Sunday and hope you won’t mind the use of a couple of ideas. I was glad to see the use of the colt as peace and horse as war, which I had already included in my message. But the thoughts on do I trust the Lord to use the possessions I have and see them as valuable to him was very good. I felt your heart in what you said. Thank You. Pastor Marty. Tacoma, WA.

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