Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.” (Matthew 21:2)
This is the time in the Christian calendar when our thoughts inevitably turn to the events leading up to, and around, the death and resurrection of Jesus. On ‘Palm Sunday’ we remember the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the Prophecy of Zechariah.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
I used to feel sorry for Jesus when I read of him riding on a donkey. He deserved better than this! He deserved the best horse that could be found in the whole of Israel. He deserved a retinue of ‘important” people walking ahead of Him, declaring that the King was coming. Instead, he rode on a donkey with a motley crew of men called ‘apostles’, some of whom were poor Galilean fishermen. Not quite the retinue and mode of transport of Kings and dignitaries. But how wrong was I! God Himself orchestrated this triumphant procession: it could not have been more perfect. Let me explain. There are two important points we need to know.
Firstly, in our 21st century mind, we look down on donkeys. After all, they are stubborn and not terribly intelligent, are they not? And they’re not very elegant creatures! Functional, but definitely not elegant. Yet, in Old Testament times, riding on a donkey signified royalty…yes, royalty!
We read of many occasions when royalty and people of significance rode donkeys. For example, King Solomon rode to his coronation as King of Israel on a donkey.
Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon! (1 Kings 1:33-34)
(I’m not sure I can picture King Charles copying this example on the 6th of May!) We also read of Judges, the leaders of ancient Israel before they had kings, riding on donkeys. One of these was Jair.
After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years.And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. (Judges 10:3-4)
Abraham and King David also rode donkeys.
So, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowd recognised the significance of kingship and shouted:
Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9)
The crowd were knowingly quoting from Psalm 118:25,26.
Secondly, in Old Testament times and in Jesus’ day, leaders rode horses if they were riding to war, but donkeys if they came in peace.
If Jesus had rode into Jerusalem, as I had wished for, on a war horse, there would immediately have been a riot. It would have been disastrous! The Romans would have descended upon him with all the force of their military might, quashing, what in their minds was insurrection. No, Jesus didn’t come to make war, he came to bring salvation to all mankind... to you and to me! He needed to ride on a donkey!
Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he. (Zechariah 9:9)
When I read these scriptures now, I no longer feel sorry for Jesus. I know that, in due time He will indeed come forth riding on a war horse but it will be in God’s time and in His plan.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war... On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev 19:11, 16)
Until that day, let us rejoice that Jesus our King and our Prince of Peace, rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Pauline Ann Anderson
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