Sunday, March 16, 2008

Before There Was Seabiscuit

Palm Sunday
Sunday of the Passion
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Matthew 21:1-11

In 1938, a time of turmoil, when people were reeling from the Great Depression, the number one newsmaker wasn’t FDR or Adolph Hitler. It wasn’t even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse that most everyone had written off. He went on to be an inspiration, showing that things are not always what they seem to be. A man who himself had been down on his luck chose Seabiscuit to be his racehorse and turned the racing world on its head, even knocking off the most dominating horse of the time, War Admiral.

Before there was Seabiscuit, there was a donkey tied to a post in a small village outside of Jerusalem. And just as probably nobody would ever had heard of Seabiscuit had it not been for a man who was willing to take a chance on a horse nobody wanted, this donkey that has been immortalized for two thousand years would have ended up like most ordinary donkeys.

The owner of that donkey probably saw nothing more than that, an ordinary donkey. If Jesus wanted to use Him, He was more than welcome to. But Jesus saw more in that donkey than everyone else did. He saw an animal that would do what no person would want to do for Jesus: bring Him into the city in order to die. A donkey was just the animal for Jesus. Because though He entered Jerusalem to accolades He was one who was coming in humility. If anyone in the crowd had had an inkling of why Jesus was coming their accolades would have turned to questions and disappointment. Nobody wanted a part of that kind of Savior. They preferred that the one who would save them would bring about victory, not end up defeated, hanging on a cross.

Nobody wanted Seabiscuit, either. That is, until he started winning. Then everyone was enamored with him. They saw something worth cheering for when he was leaving the competition in the dust. But what about when he didn’t seem to be worth much? No one gave him a second glance.

We learn about what redemption is in the man who took Seabiscuit in. He took Seabiscuit exactly as he was. There were plenty of other horses out there with greater potential. Instead of giving up on him like so many had done, he cared for Seabiscuit and gave him a chance.

The fact that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in order to save the world from sin tells us something about redemption, also. He chose a donkey because He chose humility. He chose to humble Himself so that we’re not tempted to look to what seems glorious, which tends to take our attention off of Him. You see, the crowds were hailing Him on that Palm Sunday but their focus really wasn’t on Him. It was on glory. It was on exhilaration.

It was much less appealing to look upon Him when He was bloodied and hanging on a cross, only hours away from death. It was, frankly, disheartening. But our focus needs to be exactly there. Because what the world and our sinful flesh doesn’t give a second look at, is where Jesus shows us that there is much more than meets the eye. Just as sticking with Seabiscuit brought victory to his owner, sticking with the very un-Godlike details of a Savior riding into town on a donkey, being ridiculed and beaten half to death and then finally murdered, is the only way we will see the victory God has secured for us.

On this altar is bread and wine. They’re kind of like Seabiscuit, none of us will think twice about these things if we just see them sitting there in an ordinary kitchen. They’re kind of like that donkey, used for ordinary things. But Jesus does spectacular things with ordinary things. He will take this bread and wine just as He did that donkey and bring salvation about through them. He will forgive your sins through them.

The donkey was the humble vehicle used to carry Jesus into the city where He would be crucified for the sins of the world. The bread and wine on this altar are the vehicles used to carry Jesus directly into your mouth were He is eaten and drunk by you for your sins. Don’t get caught up in the glory, thinking that what you need needs to come in a way that looks or feels spectacular, because you just might miss out on a Seabiscuit. You might miss out on the very Lord of Life Himself coming into your life right where you’re at.

It may not seem like there’s much glory or exhilaration to your Christian life. But God does not give up on you. He doesn’t tell you you have to be powerful and successful like War Admiral. He takes you as you are. Jesus died for you while you were still a sinner. He didn’t come to save those who aren’t in need of salvation but precisely those who are. By God’s grace we are able to see that we are anything but a War Admiral. We are much more like a Seabiscuit or the donkey that was tied to a post.

But God was willing to give up His life for you. That was His great joy. He wants nothing more than for you to experience glory with Him in heaven forever. That He brings it about in a very un-glorious like way gives us comfort to know that like Seabiscuit or that donkey there is always hope for us. There are no conditions on His love for us. There is only pure mercy flowing from the side of Christ as He hung on that cross. Rejoice not in the glory but in the grace of God. Give Him glory not because of His power but because of His mercy. And give thanks that He takes you where you’re at and lifts you up.

Before you were around, there was a donkey that brought into town a man who would die for your sins. He remains your Lord and Savior. Jesus comes into this place again today here at this altar, humbly coming to you to forgive you. On the Last Day these humble means will give way to glory like no other when He welcomes you into the glory of heaven. Amen.


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