The Message of the Colt
R. L. Wyser
In the calendar of the western church, today is the Sunday, which is known as Palm Sunday. It is the Sunday proceeding Easter Sunday and commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Churches are decorated with palm leaves today in remembrance of the waving of the palm branches. There are processions in the Roman Catholic countries. And all of this is in memorial of that hour when our Savior took to Himself His royal state and rode amid shouts of Hosanna to Jerusalem. Now in our Pentecostal churches, we lay little stress upon these feasts and festivals. Even Christmas, which is the kindliest of them all, has only a little bit of recognition. Yet, there is a value in such a thing as common thought. In fact, common thought, the fact that everyone is thinking about the same thing, is really the spiritual value of such days as this. In this message, we are going to join that strange procession moving across the valley to Jerusalem. We shall hear again the shout that was heard that day, “Hosanna to the son of David!” We shall watch our Savior fulfilling ancient prophecy, proclaiming His mission as the prince of peace, riding on a colt into the city.
Now, according to the narrative of Matthew, there were two animals in that procession. There was a donkey, a noble, honored beast; and then beside it, there was the donkey’s colt. Both belonged to the same one Jesus’ knew, probably to someone that He had saved. Both were secured not far away from Bethany at a little town called the House of Figs; and both were taken by the two disciples and brought to the village for the Master’s use. Seemingly both were used in the procession. The point to note is that according to all of the gospels, it was not upon the donkey that Jesus mounted. He looked at both of them for one brief instant and then He deliberately chose the colt. And in a life like His where everything is vital, and the slightest action is of vast importance, reverent thought cannot ignore that choice. Can we in any measure understand it?
Well, to begin with, I suggest that He made this choice as a quiet assertion of His majesty. He chose, and He quite deliberately chose, the animal on which man had never sat. That donkey had long been used in burden bearing; and it often carried its master to the market. It had borne his wife and children many a time when they went over the valley to the city. It may be that when some temple doctor had lingered at Bethpage until the shadows fell, village kindness had conveyed him home mounted on that sleek and comely animal. For wife and children it was good enough. For priest or Pharisee, nothing could be better. Even for Jesus in His lowly ministry, it would have been a welcome ease in traveling. But now He was not Jesus only, but Jesus the Christ. He was claiming for one brief hour His royal prerogative; and He lifts Himself up into unique supremacy by choosing a beast whereon never a man had sat. Long ago, down by the banks of Jordan, a very different scene had been enacted. With Publicans and with soldiers and with sinners. He had been baptized in the flowing Jordan. There He had stood where common man had stood. Here He sat where never a man had sat. And that both were quietly deliberate actions, I don’t see how anybody could doubt that. For that, after all, is the abiding ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was a man of sorrows and knew our human frailty; yet He stands apart, confronting us forever. No desperate sinner ever came to Him but knew that Christ understood Him. No wearied woman ever came to Him but felt that He was her friend. No innocent child ever came to Him but saw in those dear eyes something that witnessed to the thought of love. Yet, with all of that infinite compassion and understanding which never has been equaled, His soul was a star and dwelt apart. He stood where sinful, mortal man had stood; and yet, He sat where never a man had sat. He is nearer and dearer than the most loved brother is; and yet, He is mysterious and alone. He stands beside us; and yet, He stands confronting us. He takes our hand; and yet, He causes us to bow down. For if Shakespeare was to come into this room, we would all stand; but if Jesus came in, we would all kneel. I do not think then that it was by accident that He chose the colt whereon man had never sat. Explain it how you will, that is the place which all of the ages has given to Jesus Christ. And when you come to understand His power and to trust Him, and in loyalty to follow Him, slowly and surely, He will emerge for you into incommunicable grandeur. Many a youth begins by putting Jesus on the saddle where other men have sat. They put Him beside Socrates and Plato and give Him a place by Hegel and by Kant. Then the years go by and troubles come, and no one can help and save but Jesus only. He is on the colt whereon never a man had sat.
In the second place, I would suggest to you that our Lord meant this choice to typify His methods. It was a quiet and kindly parable of the kind of choices, which He loves to make. I am sure all of you are perfectly aware that in the Orient the donkey was held in honor. It was a fine creature, often as large as a small horse. Its bridle was studded with silver or with shells. Its saddle was often elegant with tassels. It was associated with the people’s thought with many a striking and historic scene. Now think of the striking contrast between that and the colt there by the donkey’s side. The one a trained and comfortable animal; the other a wild and shaggy little creature. The one accustomed to these crowded roads and going to take it easy whatever happened; the other rude and stubborn and intractable, filled with fiery energy of youth. No Hosannas would disturb the one. It was entirely safe and most entirely reputable. But the other never broken in as yet, no man could guarantee that it would do. I think that it was an acted parable, not without a certain courage in it, that our Lord rode that Sunday on the colt. Had He been thinking only of His comfort, our Lord would have certainly made the other choice. But I never read that in any choice He made our Lord thought of His safety or His comfort.
It is not the first time and it is not the last that He has surprised the world by the servants He has chosen, shaggy, fiery, unbroken instruments for the advancement of His glory. One would think, for instance, of the first disciples and what manner of instruments they were. One has only to read the record of the gospels to really comprehend that they were coltish men. In Palestine, in the period of our Savior, there was considerable culture of a kind. There were men who were thoroughly trained and broken in by years of patient study of antiquity. There was a whole class, known by the name of the Pharisees, who walked in an aura of unquestioned sanctity and who stood in the eyes of all of the common people for everything that was respectable and safe. The strange thing is that when Jesus made His choice it was not any of such persons that He chose. He had no interest in conventionality. His only interest was in possibility. He did not want men who were broken-in. He wanted men who were ready to break out on a dead world that must be won for Heaven and plucked even as a brand out of the burning. That was why He chose these fiery natures, those untempered and unbroken men. Their ways were rude. Their language was uncouth. Their temper was uncertain and unproved. They were no sleek and comely beasts of burden fitted to win applause in any pageant. They were rough colts, shaggy and undisciplined, yet chosen for the triumph of the Lord. It was a very daring choice to make. There were times when it actually seemed to be a failure, and there were times when their stumbling and foolish obstinacy had almost broken the heart of the Redeemer. And I think that when He chose the colt that morning instead of the sleek and comfortable donkey, Peter and James and John would understand. They would feel that Christ had not repented. It would convey to them that He had no regrets. It would tell them that if He had to choose again, His choice would be the same. Perhaps, also it suggested to them that as they had shared His sufferings and sorrows, so would they also share the triumphs that were coming when all of the hosts of Heaven would shout, “Hosanna!”
And if it was thus with the first chosen companies, so it has been with every age since then. Not many mighty have been chosen to carry the Savior to His triumph. I am not one of those who think that Christ has any quarrel with learning or with literature. I believe that everything good and bright and beautiful is meant to be a handmaid in His kingdom. But I am one of those, who looking back on history, and noting the hours when Christ has come and triumphed, to recognize in countless instances that He has ridden on the rude and shaggy colt. I think of the dignity of medieval Christendom rent by the rude hand of Martin Luther. I think of an easy and comfortable England, roused with sense of God and of eternity, not by the fellows of any ancient college, but by the untrained creature called George Whitfield. How often Christ has used the rugged word and left the most polished sermon ineffectual. How often has He owned the boisterous hymn and put to shame with it the praise of organs. How often has He come in power and triumph over the valley of our human need on the rough creature which was never trained and which no self-respecting Rabbi would have used. All of that to me is typified in this action of Palm Sunday. It is Christ saying to us, “When you see this colt, you shall remember the Lord’s ways until He comes.” That is always needed by the church when she waits for the ringing of the bridle bells and thinks that Christ will never come to her, save on the sumptuous and splendid saddle. I have been recently reading of the early days of the Pentecostal movement and the twentieth century, and I read about rough and unlearned men for the most part. God did not use the learned. God did not use the educated. God did not even use the super-talented. But God used the coltish men.
You need to notice also that the colt was tied. It had to be released before it could be used. It was only a potential, a possibility, as long as it was tied. Jesus says, “Search, and you will find a colt that is tied.” And Jesus says, “Search your soul, and you will find some colts that are tied.”
A minister once was returning from a speaking engagement to the little city where he makes his home and this was many years ago. He said that it was early in the afternoon and he said, “I found considerable excitement in the streets.” One of the banks had failed to open its doors and a signed pasted on the door informed the disconsolate crowd that it was not a matter of neglect on the part of the janitor, it was done by order of the national banking authorities. Behind these doors those people had their money on deposit and they knew that a goodly part of it at least would never come back to them. One by one they would walk up to the door read the sign and turn sadly away. An agent would have said with trembling lips, “I put my last dollar in only the day before yesterday.” Said another as she wiped a tear away; “My life’s savings are behind those doors.” Some had harsh words for the banker. Some were courageous enough to say, “Let us hope for the best.” But in general, a feeling of painful depression settled down upon the little town.
The man said, “I inquired as to the reason why the bank had closed its door and I got a most astonishing answer to my question. ‘Frozen assets, I understand,’ said my informant.”
“Frozen assets. Mysterious enough. But,” the man said, “I tried to look wise. I had heard of many other frozen things but frozen assets was a new one on me. But a little later with my intellectual pride quite humbled, I said to a friend, somewhat less of a stranger in commercial circles than you could reasonably expect a gentleman of the cloth to be, ‘Just what is meant by frozen assets?’ And he gave to me the further astonishing information that by frozen assets were meant assets that were not liquid.”
The man said, “By this time I was getting a little desperate and I said, ‘Come on, let’s stop talking riddles and tell me, what is the matter with this bank?’ He then explained that when a bank’s assets are tied up in loans on farmlands and other realty for security but which could not be immediately sold, or sold only for a small part of the security they represented, that such assets were said to be frozen. They were not liquid in that the money represented by them was not available and could not, therefore, function through the channels it was supposed to flow as a medium of economic exchange. So the bank was closed because its money was lost or frozen, so to speak, in unproductive investments.”
Many of us have frozen assets in our souls. The colt is tied.
THERE ARE PRAYERS IN OUR SOULS BUT THEY ARE TIED UNLESS THEY ARE OFFERED.
The prayer is only potential, only possibility, only a potential prayer-life, a possible prayer-life unless it is offered. I think we need to see what prayer is. Prayer is not saying pious phrases and doing disagreeable things. It is not part of an ecclesiastical formalism. It is not an act of penance. It is not a religious task. Prayer is not a way of getting along without work, of getting God to do for us what we are either too lazy or too foolish to do for ourselves. It is not insisting that the Almighty work a continuous miracle whenever the devil seems to get in the ascendancy. Whenever the evil seems to be in control and the church finds its back to the wall, some of the saints are tempted to look up and ask the Lord to come down and do for them what He has told them to do for themselves. Prayer is not a scheme to get the Lord to run the world according to our whims. It is not an effort to induce Him to make it rain when rain suits the kind of crop we are growing and to make the skies dry when dry weather is what we want, to boost the market when you are a bull, and to break it when you are a bear. There are people who never pray except when they are in trouble or scared. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is not pestering Him with petitions until He does something for you He does not want to do. There are people who have that idea of prayer. They have an idea that the more petitions they offer, the more answers they get.
Prayer is laying hold of God’s willingness. You do not need to build an ocean to sail a ship. You need only to get where the ocean is and to launch your ship. “Launch out into the deep,” is God’s command. Prayer is launching your little life into the great reservoir of God’s plenty. Prayer is communing with God. It is the finite coming in contact with the infinite. The light bulb shines when it is plugged in; and life shines in the human soul when, by prayer, it makes contact with the source of light and life. Prayer is letting God function in the world through our lives, our personalities, our thoughts and emotions, our volitions and activities. Frequently it is allowing God to use the powers that He has already given us to accomplish results. It is not harnessing God to our life so much as it is harnessing our lives to God. Prayer is abiding in the will of God. It is fulfilling the most sublime of all conditions for prevailing prayer which Christ laid down when He said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.” God does not respect the arithmetic of our prayers (how many there are), nor the rhetoric of our prayers (how long they are), nor the music of our prayers (how melodic they are), but the divinity of our prayer (how heartfelt they are). Potentially, you are a prayer warrior, and you have a potential prayer life. But you must untie the colt before the Lord can use it.
Along with prayer is worship. You have the potential to worship God. But the colt is tied unless you actually worship God. Maybe you have the potential to sing songs unto the Lord and for the Lord. You have the potential, and maybe the talent, but unless you untie the colt, then the potential is wasted. You must untie the colt before the Lord can use it.
Maybe down in your soul, there is the potential to be a Sunday school teacher but your colt is tied. What about a Sunday school class? “I think it is a great work and a fine thing to have children, young people and adults meeting together every week to study the Bible. I think it must be a very fine thing to be the teacher of a class. But me, a class for me? Why surely you don’t mean that. I’ve never done anything like that. I don’t know enough about the Bible.”
But the Bible is worth knowing, and you will learn more about it teaching a
Sunday school class in a month, than you can probably learn in five years otherwise.
“But there are some things in my life, some little habits, not altogether bad you understand, but just some things that might be thought not to fit in with teaching a Sunday school class.”
Then drop them. What are the dregs from the cup of the world’s pleasure compared with the abiding joys and satisfaction of God’s service? When all of that which belongs to the world and your personal indulgences has withered, faded, vanished, turn to nothing, the influence, the currents of action which you may have set in motion in some humble Sunday School class, will be moving throughout all of eternity.
Some time ago there was a schoolteacher who celebrated her eightieth birthday. It proved to be a marvelous occasion highlighted by the presence of a great number of her former students. It seemed that she had taught school in one of the worst sections of Baltimore. Before she came to that school to teach, there had been repeated instances of juvenile crime and delinquency. When she began her work, there came a change. The change, in time, became noticeable with so many of her students turning out to be good citizens, men and women of good character. Some became doctors, others lawyers, educators, ministers, honorable craftsmen and skilled technicians. It was no accident, therefore, that on that important anniversary like her eightieth birthday, she was remembered with gratitude and love from a great number of her students. She said that she doubted that she could be a teacher today. She said, “I had no real training, only love.” But love was enough.
Someone said, “Give me a little child to point the way, over the strange, sweet path that leads to thee. Give me the little voice to teach to pray. Give me two shiny eyes thy face to see. The only crown I ask, dear Lord, to wear, is this, that I may teach a little child. I do not ask that I may ever stand among the wise, the worthy or the great. I only ask that softly, hand-in-hand, a child and I may enter at the gate.”
A chaplain who was ministering to a seriously-wounded soldier was requested by the dying man to write a man to his former Sunday School teacher, “Tell her I died a Christian because of what she taught me in that class in church. The memory of her earnest pleas and the warmth of her love as she asked us to be sure to live for the Lord, have stayed with me. Tell her I will meet her in Heaven.” The message was sent and some time later the chaplain received this reply, “May God forgive me. Just last month I resigned my position and abandoned my Sunday school pupils because I felt my work had been fruitless. How I regret my impatience and my lack of faith! I shall ask my pastor to let me go back to teaching.”
I have learned that when one sows for God, the reaping is both sure and blessed. Maybe God is dealing with you concerning that matter. You have the potential, but until you untie the colt, it is no good.
Perhaps you have the potential to work in children’s ministry, and there is such a great need, and you have such great talent; but the colt is tied. God can’t use your potential until you untie the colt. Maybe it is a bus route working with bus kids. You have potential, but the colt is tied. Until you untie the colt, God cannot use that talent.
Maybe you have the potential to work with young people, but the colt is tied. They have needs. They need to be ministered to. They need to be understood. Maybe you have a colt that is tied.
Maybe you have great potential as far as witnessing is concerned, but it is a tied colt. It is just a potential. Until you untie the colt, God cannot use that potential as far as witnessing is concerned. If I had a high mountain for a pulpit, and a voice like the sound of many waters, and all of the millions who had been saved for an audience, and but one moment of time left to live before my lips were sealed forever, the words I would like to say under such circumstances would simply be, “Win others to the Lord.” If each disciple of our Lord would take as his motto, “Everyone win one,” and then put heart and soul into the effort, the world would be taken captive and bound in golden chains about the feet of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. The cause of Christ has been hurt beyond compare because the rank and file Christians have not been concerned enough with doing individual work for individuals. Sharing the Lord with others is both a duty and it is a great, great privilege.
One of the most potentially hazardous undertakings in teaching kindergarten, first or second grade, is the show-and-tell activity. Almost universally teachers who moderate these sessions adopt the slogan, “Always expect the unexpected.” One elementary school girl, after her daddy and older brother each had shot a deer, excitedly asked if she could take the two deer heads to school for show and tell. Imagine a petite girl laboriously dragging the two hunting trophies into her classroom and her teacher slipping to the floor from her chair in a fainting spell. Of course, the girl’s ambitious request was denied.
But show-and-tell is a good concept. In fact, it is an excellent description of Christian witness. The Christian witness is to show by his life what it means to be a Christian. He needs to show how Christians react to sorrow and suffering. He may need to show how a Christian takes discouragement or disappointments. He may need to show kindness, gentleness, love, and grace in his dealing with other people. He may need to show how to have a positive concept in the midst of a negative atmosphere. He may need to show how a person can be clean and honest in his life when others around him are dirty and cheating.
But after he has shown all of this, the Christian witness also should tell why it is possible. If you never get around to giving a verbal witness, you could live a Christian life for a lifetime and no one would ever know your secret, your faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. There comes a time when you have to tell, “Jesus Christ has changed my life.”
A man once laid a piece of chocolate candy on a table and then picking up an ant, he put it near the delicious bon-bon. He was surprised to see it take just a single bite and then hurry off to inform the rest of the colony. Soon the little creature returned followed by a long train of other ants who enjoyed the treat with him. Many Christians, who have tasted that the Lord is good, could learn a lesson from that little insect. Having found God’s rich supply of grace, they ought to spread the glad tidings to others and let them enjoy. God does not hold us responsible for the response of people. He holds us responsible to witness to them. If God’s children fail to warn the wicked to save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but the “blood will I require at thine hand.” (Ezekial 3:18) The lost rich man in anguish knew that faithful witnessing to his brother on the way to Hell might turn their downward steps away from doom and destruction. He pleaded, “Send him (that is Lazarus) to my father’s house for I have five brethren that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-28)
The following story is told of a case lost in court by the silence of an attorney. The distinguished Samuel Hoar, father of the last Senator Hoar, once said to a jury that the cause was so perfectly plain that he would not insult their intelligence by arguing it. The jury returned in a few minutes with a verdict against him. When the astonished lawyer asked the foreman how the jury could have returned such a verdict, he received this answer, “The fact is we all agreed that if anything could be said for a case, you would say it; and, as you didn’t say anything, we concluded to render a verdict against you.” How often effective testimony for the Lord is lost because the one who should give it thinks that there is no need of it, while the one who would like to hear, because of the silence, concludes that the matter is not accounted important enough to even speak about it.
History records a remarkable account of the destruction of an ancient town. The watchmen on the walls would call out whenever they thought they saw a foe approaching. Sensing that the people had begun to resent them for giving these false alarms, they decided to remain quiet. Regrettably, not long afterward, the enemy actually did come and the city that could have been saved was assaulted and devastated and nothing was left but smoking ruins. Later someone erected a small memorial inscribed with the following epitaph; “Here stood a town that was destroyed by silence.” Can God’s people afford to be silent about the sin that surrounds them? Can God’s people be silent when people are on their way to Hell?
Some people think, “Well, I’ve tried to witness but it is no use.” Perhaps you recall the story of a man who distributed tracts for many years on a street corner. Finally, seeing no visible results he gave up. When he returned to the same spot two years later he saw another individual handing out gospel leaflets as he had done. Striking up a conversation, he discovered that the man had become a Christian through a salvation tract given to him on that corner about two years before. The convert added, “Many times I’ve come back here to try to find that earnest worker and thank him; but he never returned. So I decided that he must have died so I have taken his place.” The first man suddenly realized that his work had not been in vain. Much encouraged, he went back to giving out tracts the very next day. It takes many blows to crack a hard boulder and if one stops too soon, all of the previous effort goes to waste. For the work of the sledge is cumulative. It is the constant pounding on the same spot that weakens the stone. This is also true of the flinty hearts of men. The word of God, like a hammer, may have to be applied often before it breaks the rock into pieces. Don’t stop witnessing to that needy soul. Be persistent. The next word of scripture he hears may be the final stroke that will open his heart. You have the potential; but until you witness, the colt is tied.
Maybe you have the potential to minister to people who are discouraged or people who are struggling spiritually. You have the potential to minister. There are people who need to be called, people who need to be visited, home Bible studies that need to be taught. God is dealing with you, and you have the potential; but until you act on it, until you do it, the colt is tied.
You have the potential to be faithful. Maybe you’re not faithful. Maybe you miss service for any excuse at all but you have the potential within you to be faithful. Maybe you don’t give the way you should give, but you have the potential to be faithful in your giving. But until you are faithful in your attendance or you are faithful in your giving, your colt is tied. God can’t use it.
It is not what we eat, but what we digest, that makes us strong. Not what we gain, but what we save, that makes us rich. Not what we read, but what we remember, that makes us learn it. Not what we profess, but what we practice, that makes us Christians.
In this mechanical and technical age in which we live, we have some of the finest gadgets imaginable. We can do mechanically almost anything that needs to be done. But, how do you build something that lasts? I don’t know how it is at your house, but there are times at our house when it seems that almost everything that is supposed to work doesn’t. There are breakdowns, parts wear out. How do you build something that lasts? Then that style changes, and you really run into trouble. Vance Packard says that American industry is committed to planned obsolescence. It is no accident that your appliances are soon out of date. They were designed to be out of date.
How do you build something that lasts? Probably you cannot build gadgets, machines, or appliances that lasts; but you can build a life that lasts. You begin by trusting your life to the Lord and to His care; and you continue by living a life of continual faith. Then you try to develop Christian character as an integral part of your life. Church attendance, Wednesday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night, Bible study, prayer, and a conscious imitation of the life of Christ develop Christian character. It also takes giving.
An artist was asked to put on canvas what he considered to be the picture best symbolizing a decaying and dying church. After several months he returned and reported that he had finished the task. The hour finally arrived when the painting was to be unveiled. Several people standing around the easel had already given their description of what they thought the church would look like. Some had said it would be a run-down building in great need of repair and paint. Weeds would be growing in the church yard and there would be some broken windowpanes. Everyone in the group seemed to have the same picture in mind. However, when the cloth was removed, a hush fell over the group. Everyone was stunned. Before their eyes was an absolutely beautiful church building. The grounds were well kept and the exterior of the building was in excellent condition. After a few minutes, one person stepped forward and said to the artist, “I thought we asked you to paint a dying church.” The artist smiled and invited everyone to step closer to the painting. He pointed through the windows to the empty pews and to the collection plate on the table. There was nothing in the plate but cobwebs. The church that has cobwebs in its collection plate is a church that is decaying and dying. Without the giver, there is no giving. Without the giving, ministries cannot be conducted by the church. Without the ministries being conducted, the mission of the church cannot be carried out. If the mission of the church is not carried out, the church is purposeless and dead. The individuals make up the church, and if we as individuals would just be faithful with our tithes, we could take care of missionaries, we could take care of all church obligations, and we could add ministries to the church. But your money is tied. It is only a potential. You must release it.
A LIFE USED OF GOD
Your life may be out of control. You might be miserable and bound. You may be useless to God. But on the inside of you, there is another life. A life transformed by the power of God. A life of victory and a life of triumph. But it is only a colt that is tied. Untie the colt so that Jesus can use it. Untie the colt so the Lord can use you as a vehicle on which to ride from victory to victory.
Bible Preaching Resource/Copyright 2000
By Richard L. Wyser. All rights reserved. This material may be used in preaching or teaching or in local church bulletins or hand-outs. No part of this material can be published or reproduced for any other reason. For information, address: Bible Preaching Resource, P. O. Box 846, Addison, IL 60101
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