How many people ride donkeys? — Matthew 21:1–6

The King’s judgments

How many people rode into Jerusalem on a warhorse? Not many, only Kings and generals coming in victory, or conquerers who enter to take over the land they have vanquished.

How many people do you think entered into Jerusalem on or leading a donkey? There must have been thousands of them, the reading in Zechariah is a prophesy of the Messiah, but it has a question and an answer: The question is what kind of King is the Messiah and the answer is the messiah is like an ordinary person.

A Sicilian farmer leads his donkey full of produce.
A Creative Commons picture.

21 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 fulfil 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,
    and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.

Matthew 21:1-6 ESVUK

The reading referred to is this:

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

What Zechariah is saying is, this is what your Messiah is like, he is an ordinary person.

What Jesus is doing is deliberate. He knows about the prophesy of Zechariah and he is making a statement, this is no chance prophesy fulfillment, Jesus is saying to the people, “You know that prophesy you are talking about, well it is about me.” This is no sudden change in Jesus’ plan, though it is clear that it has taken the disciples by surprise, there has been planning put in place, the owner of the donkeys has the beasts ready and a password has been arranged.

But it is a change, for the latter half of his ministry, ever since the people of Nazareth rejected him he has been avoiding the crowds, though without success. The feeding of the 5,000, the healing of the Canaanite woman’s daughter, the feeding of the 4,000, Peter declaring Jesus to be the Christ, the transfiguration and the journey to Jerusalen down the east bank of the Jordan all took place outside the bounderies of Galilee and Judea as Jesus avoided he growing opposition to his ministry. But now that Jesus has got to Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, things change. Jesus is going public.


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