Palm Sunday is rapidly approaching (Sunday, April 9th) and with Palm Sunday comes a plethora of sermons, lessons, and mentions that revolve around several passages of scripture within the Gospels. Of course, these scriptures alluded to all reference what is commonly referred to as the “Triumphal Entry of Christ.” Let’s take a look:
John 12:14-15 14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.
Matthew 21:1-9 1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
Mark 11:1-10 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him 5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
Luke 19:28-38 28 And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them.33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt?34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him.35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;8 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. (Lk. 19:28-38 KJV)
Here you have, in a nutshell, the essential story of the events leading up to and encompassing the story of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ. However, there is one facet of this story that is often times the most misunderstood-the donkey that Jesus came riding into Jerusalem upon.
Mind you, we are not going to discuss the many “supposed contradictions” between the Gospels that the secularists attempt to utilize in order invalidate the historical event of Christ’s ride into Jerusalem (perhaps we will address that at a later date). What we will discuss is the misunderstood aspect of the donkey as it relates to Christ’s triumphal entry.
By misunderstood, I mean that the idea of the donkey is commonly associated with a faulty application or idea that is unsupported by scripture. The most common misapplication of the donkey as it relates to the story is found in the attempt to connect a modern connotation of “lowly” with Christ’s position upon the donkey. Where does this connection originate? Directly from a prophecy recorded in Zechariah.
Zech. 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
Here, Zechariah envisions the eschatological figure of Israel’s anticipated King. According to Zechariah, the King (whom we know as Jesus Christ), marked by being just and having salvation, would come lowly, riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt (the foal of a donkey).
The first mistake that we make with this scripture is that we immediately make the connection with our idea of “lowly” with the action of riding upon a donkey. In other words, we make scripture say what scripture does not say!
Nothing about riding on a donkey caused a “lowly” effect! No! One must remember that Christ,
…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.(Phil. 2:7-8 KJV)
Christ, from an eschatological standpoint, was the suffering servant (read the Servant Songs of Isaiah 53) that, through his redemptive humiliation, would bring salvation to the world. This is the “lowly” of Zechariah 9:9, NOT the act of riding upon the donkey.
In fact, Zechariah 9:9 is also directly connected to Genesis 49:11 which states:
Geneis 49:1111 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
The imagery of Genesis 49:10 and Zechariah 9:9 alludes to the eschatological ruler (Jesus Christ) that would bring peace. This fundamental idea (peace) is something that needs mention as it relates to the donkey. Donkey’s, within the context of Ancient Near Eastern Culture, was a symbol of peace that was often used as the official envoy of nobility or those who served within the scope of judicial liaison.
The donkey, according to several sources:
It is associated throughout the Bible with peaceful pursuits (Genesis 42:26f; Genesis 22:3; 1 Samuel 16:20; 2 Samuel 19:26; Neh. 13:15), whereas the horse is referred to in connection with war and armies. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.)
They are spoken of in connection with the history of Pharaoh (Genesis 12:16), Abraham (Genesis 22:3), Jacob (Genesis 32:5), Moses (Exodus 4:20), Balaam (Numbers 22:21-33), and in fact most of the notable persons mentioned in the OT. There was nothing in any sense degrading in the idea of riding on a donkey, as might perhaps be inferred from Zech. 9:9 (cf. Matthew 21:7). It was the sign of the peaceful mission of Christ. Kings, high priests, judges, and the richest people of ancient and modern times have ridden on donkeys. Many of the donkeys of Damascus, Baghdad, Aleppo, Cairo, Cyprus, and other parts of the East are beautiful animals, easy in gait, and perfectly surefooted. They often cost high prices and are adorned with magnificent trappings.( The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.)
Sadly, our modern idea of a donkey as completely misunderstood the events that occurred on Palm Sunday!
We must take care not to read our own attitudes toward the donkey into the biblical materials. In Christian tradition the ass is a symbol of absurdity (cf. the motif of the ass musician) and obstinacy, as well as the mount of the demon of sloth; and the red donkey becomes a figure of Satan. But respected rabbis rode asses. Furthermore, Ugaritic sources depict deities on the backs of donkeys, Islamic tradition calls several heroes “donkey-riders” and the early Christian tale Vita Sanctae Pelagiae Meretricis presents as the apex of beauty and sensuality a woman riding on a donkey. Clearly attitudes have differed from place to place and time to time. Not all have consistently thought the donkey “perverse” (Plato) or “the meanest of animals” (Minucius Felix). In the Bible the donkey is a beast of burden (Gen 42:26) and a plower of fields (Is 30:24). But its main function is as a vehicle for rich and poor alike (cf. the popular story of Balaam’s ass in Numbers 22). Despite its widespread use by all, the donkey and the mule were also evidently a staple of ancient Near Eastern royal ceremony. In 1 Kings 1:33-44 Solomon rides David’s mule to Gihon to be anointed king (cf. 2 Sam 13:19; 19:26). Riding on a donkey for ceremonial entry into a city is already an act of kingship in the royal archives of Mari; and in the old Sumerian text “Gilgamesh and Agga,” the sons of kings ride donkeys. (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery).
It is this royal association with donkey’s that is behind the imagery of Zechariah 9:9 and the same that is envisioned upon the triumphal entry of Christ into the city. Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) who came to usher in a “kingdom of peace” (cf. Jn. 14:27; Matt. 11:29; 5:3; 5:5). While there were many things happening when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, one of the fundamental aspects of the event was that Christ was showing why kind of King He was and what kind of Kingdom he sought to enact within the world.
The donkey, while an element of an eschatological prophecy, served to present the people with a symbol of peace. Christ is the “very God of peace” (I Thess. 5:23) who promised, “peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”, a direct allusion to the future outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Remember, the spirit was likened unto a dove (Matt. 3:16) which served as a symbol of peace.
When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem, He came riding in as the Son of God, the Prince of Peace whose purpose was to usher in a Kingdom of Peace. The donkey only sought to establish an eschatological vision of peace, not to identify with poverty, neediness, or lowliness.
Personal Note of Application: This should cause us to reconsider our approach to bringing in the kingdom of God within our cities, suburbs, and rural areas. We have too many men riding into the “mission of God” upon the war steeds of opposition and anger, declaring war against the very cities we are meant to reach and save. God has given us the “ministry of reconciliation!” Remember, blessed are the “peacemakers.” Declare war against the devil, but remember, it is PEACE that we PREACH when we preach the infilling of the Holy Ghost! The Holy Ghost is “righteousness, peace, and joy!” In the words of Jeremiah 29:7…SEEK THE PEACE OF THE CITY…..
Hope that helps…