Scripture: Mark 11:1-11
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
This is a fascinating passage on many accounts. To begin with, Jesus’ riding on the back of a donkey does not seem all that appropriate for a supposed king. Really, a donkey? We need to know a little more Old Testament history and the culture of the day. The people shouting all knew that Jesus was a descendant from the tribe of Judah, the tribe of Israel’s greatest king, King David, and the tribe of the Messiah, hence their shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” In addition, the “hosanna’s” harkened back to Maccabean revolt some 160 years earlier in the aborted attempt to throw off Seleucids occupation of Israel and the Hellenistic influence on Judaism. There was great hope that Jesus would lead the overthrow of Roman occupation. It was finally the perfect setting!
But there is great irony here. You will recall that when David’s son Absalom rebelled and stole the kingdom from his father, David fled Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in sackcloth and ashes by the Mount of Olives some 1,000 years earlier, while Absalom rode a mule as he attempted to take over the kingdom. Now Jesus, the Son of David, was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9) by riding into Jerusalem via the very same road his kingly ancestor had escaped a 1,000 years earlier. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” What irony!
You see also in this culture, the donkey was the “royal limousine.” The donkey was gentle and humble, the image of a king coming in peace. The horses or mules, on the other hand, were signs of wealth, power, and war and aggression. Interestingly, God did not tell the children of Israel to gather horses or buy them from Egypt (Deut 17:16). God, not horses fought Israel’s battles. God was never opposed to donkeys, the real work horses of the economy. For example, Job had camels and donkeys, but no horses. Interestingly, in Revelation 19:11 we read of Jesus riding a white horse in the final battle where the beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire.
Jesus was strong, gentle, and locked in on the road before him. The sword Jesus brings to earth is not one of earthly battle, but one of dividing those who believe from those who reject the Savior. He had come to give his life for the ransom of many. He entered into this task on the back of a donkey. What a fitting picture of the true earthly mission of our Savior. With the presence of the donkey, God was showing his people the humble nature of the mission of his Son, one of bringing forgiveness and peace, reconciling men and women to God.
Music: “Ride on, King Jesus” Kathleen Battle and James Levine
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, you entered a rebellious city filled with fickle people who had their own ideas as to what, when, and how you should rule. Forgive the arrogance in my own heart which too often expects the same things of you. May the reminder of the humble, gentle donkey be in my heart today and throughout the coming week as I reflect on your great love and sacrifice on behalf of all your people. Forgive my aggressive ways and calm me down to quiet service to you that your name may be carried wherever I go. In the Messiah’s name I pray. Amen. –Daniel Sharp