"Say ye that the Lord hath need of him, and straightway he will send him hither."—Mark xi. 3.
Do our Lord's minute instructions to the two disciples whom He sent for the colt point to superhuman knowledge or to a previous arrangement with its owner? Perhaps the latter. The animal evidently belonged to a disciple to whom the message that the Lord needed it would appeal. He may have been a guest at the modest feast on the previous evening, and the arrangement may have been made then. A similar explanation may be true of the other incident, when Jesus again sent two disciples to prepare the Passover, and similarly told them what they would find. As the end drew near He exercised more influence in shaping events than He had done, and while on the one hand the secrecy as to the place for the Passover meal was meant to baffle Judas, the equally intentional publicity of the entrance into Jerusalem was meant to assert His claim to be the Messiah. The supposition of a previous understanding with the owner of the colt is, then, in harmony with Christ's attitude at the time.
His action at the final crisis was unlike all His previous conduct. He had hitherto been careful to damp down popular enthusiasm and to discourage any recognition of Him as the King of Israel; but now He deliberately set Himself to cast an effervescing element into the cauldron, at the moment when excitement ran highest and the danger of a popular revolt was greatest, among the crowds gathered for the Passover.
The "need" for the colt was created by His deliberate resolve to "fulfil " in symbolic detail the prophecy of the King who should come to Zion, typifying His peaceful dominion by riding, not on the war-horse of a conqueror, but on the slowpacing ass. Jesus would have fulfilled the prophecy as really if He had never ridden into the city, but the literal accomplishment of the prophetic figure was a help to weak vision.
The fact that He had to borrow the animal on which He would display His royal state suggests the union in Him of absolute authority and utter poverty. He was a King, but He was a pauper King. The same blending of humiliation and majesty runs through all His life, and wherever there appears a special instance of the one, close beside it is sure to be seen an instance of the other. He had to be obliged to fishermen for a boat, but from that borrowed pulpit He spoke divine wisdom. He had to be obliged to a lad in the crowd for barley loaves and fishes, but He took them into His hands and fed thousands. He had to owe His grave to Joseph, but He rose from it the Lord of Life. When He for once desired to stand forth as King, He had to borrow His regalia, and was indebted to this anonymous peasant for the colt on which He was meekly enthroned.
But the message to that villager opens out into a wider thought, for Christ cannot assume His kingdom without His servants' help. He has done all that the world's salvation requires, but for the application of His finished work to individuals, He hath need of us. Men are " fellow-labourers with God." We are Christ's tools, the instruments by which He establishes His kingdom. "God mend all," said one, and he was answered: "We must help Him to mend it."
We have here an authoritative demand, which does not contemplate the possibility of reluctance or refusal. "The Lord hath need of him," that was all. No explanation is given, nor motive adduced for compliance. So kings speak. Jesus expects us to brush aside our own convenience and everything else. It should be enough that He needs us or anything that is ours. For He has absolute power over us, and He has acquired it in the only way in which it can be acquired, by absolute surrender of Himself. He gave Himself for us, and therefore expects that we shall have no reserves nor reluctances when He says: "I need you or yours."
Here, again, we see an instance of glad surrender. "Straightway he will send him hither." Who is "he "? It is usually understood to be the owner of the colt, and the clause is supposed to be Christ's assurance to the two messengers of the success of their errand. So understood, the words suggest the great truth that love loosens the hand that grasps possessions, and unlocks our treasure-houses. There is nothing more blessed than to give in response to the requirement of love. And so, to Christ's authoritative demand, the only proper answer is obedience swift and glad, because it is loving. Many possibilities of joy and blessing are lost through not yielding on the instant to Christ's demands. Hesitation and delay are dangerous. In "straightway" complying are security and joy. If the owner had begun to say to himself that he very much needed the colt, or that he saw no reason why some one else's beast should not have been taken, or that he would send the animal very soon, but must have the use of him for an hour or two first, he would probably never have sent him at all, and so would have missed the greatest honour of his life. As soon as I know what Christ wants from me, without delay let me do it; for if I begin with delaying I shall probably end with declining. The Psalmist was wise when he laid emphasis on the swiftness of his obedience, and said, "I made haste and delayed not, but made haste to keep Thy commandments."
But another view of the words makes them part of the message to the owner of the colt: "Say ye that the Lord hath need of him, and that straightway He will send him hither again." Christ only wishes a short loan of the animal, and it will come back far more precious in its master's eyes than ever it was before. Of course it would be, if the man was a disciple. How in coming days he would look at the colt and think of the honour that had been done him when Jesus rode on his animal 1 If we wish anything to become precious, we shall be wise to lend it to Jesus, and when it comes back, as certainly it will, the touch of His fingers will have left abiding fragrance. We are of most worth to ourselves when we give ourselves to Him. Our possessions become most truly ours, our loves and joys are sweetest and brightest, when we lay them at His feet. What I give to Him, He will return enhanced, and it will be more truly and blessedly mine. The altar sanctifies and ennobles the giver and the gift.