What do these “things borrowed” have in common? This year during Lent, while rereading the accounts of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion, several things jumped off the pages of the gospels to me. Specifically, they were the things borrowed by the Lord — a young donkey, a large upper room and a new tomb.
Why did Jesus borrow these things? The simple answer is because he needed them and did not own them. I grew up in a farming community in the 1950s in Pennsylvania. It was common for people to borrow tools and implements they needed from time to time from neighbors. If you needed something you didn’t own, then you just asked a neighbor who was in possession of the item. In those days people were less affluent and seemed to be willing to share more.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Lord, who had to borrow a coin to illustrate a point about paying taxes (Matt. 22:19); did not own many material things. When he died, the only item he possessed of real value was his robe (John 19:24).
The first thing he borrowed was a “young donkey” (Mark 11:2-3). Jesus used the animal for transportation as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It turns out that this act was the fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9. It was a donkey that had never been ridden. Donkeys were a common animal, symbolic of humility and peace — unlike horses, which were generally associated with war.
Secondly, there was the “large upper room” where Jesus and his disciples gathered for the Last Supper. The Lord was from Galilee and when he traveled to Jerusalem he frequently stayed in nearby Bethany at the home of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. However, for the Passover meal he would have needed a room large enough to accommodate himself and his 12 disciples. He sent 2 of his followers ahead to secure a large furnished room (Mark 14:13-15).
Thirdly, we note the “new hewn tomb” that was used for his burial. Unlike the donkey and the upper room, Jesus had nothing to do with acquiring the tomb. Joseph of Arimathea (northwest of Jerusalem), a rich follower of Jesus, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus to prepare him for burial and to place in his own new tomb (Matt. 27:57-60). The tomb was only used for three days.
What is to be gleaned in meaning from these borrowed things? In our materialistic age with an emphasis on newer, bigger, and better things, there’s a lesson to be learned. This life is transitory — we are all just passing through on our way to an eternal destiny. Do we really need all the “stuff” that we acquire and accumulate? Perhaps borrowing and loaning are actions for better stewardship of our time and money.
L. Kenneth Fellenbaum is pastor of Wildermere Beach Congregational Church in Milford, Conn. He is an alumnus of Eastern Mennonite College and Seminary.
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