The Unknown Missionaries

As I was reading this morning, I came across the following account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem the week during which He would make atonement for the sins of His people through His death and resurrection. 

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”  This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

 ‘Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them” (Matthew 21:1-7).

When I read of this event, I rarely give thought to anything other than the context, the prophetical significance and the movement of events leading to the cross. However, this time two interesting things drew my attention as I thought about the unnamed owner of the animals mentioned in this passage. First: The indispensable contribution made to the plan and eternal purpose of God by a man whose name the Holy Spirit chose not to reveal to us. As a result, his name is unknown in the world.

His fame, in this world, will never match that of  apostles like Peter, Paul or John but his contribution to the kingdom of God was absolutely necessary. He owned and cared for the very donkey that would be ridden by the Messiah as He presented Himself to Israel (Zechariah 9:9). In doing so, this un-named servant of God was instrumental in magnifying the name of Jesus.

What does this have to do with missionaries? A lot! We all know the names of great missionary heroes like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor and many others. The Ecuador Five are known by name because of their martyrdom in the cause of mission. However, there are thousands of unknown, unsung heroes of the faith who gave their lives in years of faithful struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds to make the name of Jesus known to the lost. Their names, like the man in our Biblical account, are unknown and their biographies unwritten but they are just as important to the advancement of the kingdom of God as a Brainerd or a Livingston.

Unknown and their stories untold. This will likely be the earthly legacy of the majority of missionary trainees who pass through the Center for Pioneer Church Planting. Though they will probably not be famous, their contribution is no less vital to the kingdom. Moreover, in the place where it really matters, their stories and sacrifices will be told and celebrated in the presence of the King.

Also, as I considered this passage of Scripture, I thought about the value of every day labor. As the owner of the animals, mentioned in this account, daily carried feed to and cared for the Jenny and her foal, he may have had no idea how important his work was to God. He probably had no inkling that the King of glory would sit on that little donkey as He entered Jerusalem on the week of His crucifixion. This reminds us that, no matter how menial and insignificant our work may seem, it is God’s work.

All of the Christian’s work is for God. If you have been providentially placed in a circumstance that requires you to work a regular job, just remember that you are ultimately not working for your earthly employer. You are working for God. If you are treating your daily work as your service to God, you are contributing everything to the advancement of His kingdom that He demands of you. Your work is as important to gospel advancement as that of any more recognized servant of Christ.  The great orator, Martin Luther King once said:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Preach on and serve well, unknown missionary. Your heavenly King is paying attention and being glorified in your ministry. Serve on and work faithfully, unsung laborer. Your service to the King is beyond any earthly value.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Galatians 6:9