Tuesday, April 07, 2020

But why a donkey?

This past Sunday the church commemorated Palm Sunday, the day our Lord entered Jerusalem with the mission of going to the cross. One of the striking things about Palm Sunday is that our Lord entered the city riding on a donkey. Why a donkey?

The quick answer is that he rode on a donkey to fulfill prophecy. For example, the evangelist Matthew, chapter 21, wrote that Jesus rode on a donkey to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah:

“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.’”

And yet we would ask, why a donkey?

When Solomon was anointed as king he rode on King David’s mule. (A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse.) 1 Kings 1:33ff tells of this. Why did David have a personal mule? Why did the king not ride a horse? Does not a prancing galloping stallion befit a king better than a mule or donkey?

See the complete Zechariah prophecy:

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.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth. (9:9-10)

Photo taken by a former parishioner
The Prophet Zechariah said that the messianic king would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, but look what this donkey-mounted king would do: he would cut off the chariots, the war horses, and the battle bows, and he would speak peace to the nations. He would rule from sea to sea and from the River Euphrates to the ends of the earth.

You see, horses are animals for war. When it was a time for war the king would ride a horse, but when it was a time of peace the king would ride a donkey. On the last day when Jesus comes in victory and to judge his enemies, he will be astride a horse (Rev. 19), but coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he came to do what had to be done to establish peace. A donkey was the appropriate mount.

Jesus came to establish peace, the peace the angels sang about at his birth. The angels sang, “Peace on earth and goodwill to man.” During his ministry Jesus taught people about being at peace with God. At the end of his ministry he would die on the cross to bring about peace between God and us. Through his death on the cross the warfare has ended.

When we sinned we declared war on God. It was a war that we were going to lose. God would destroy us in the battle we waged against God—if not for Jesus. Jesus came and died for us and in our place. He gave himself as the one atoning sacrifice, and now all is well between God and us. We are at peace.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psa. 20:7).