Holy Week: Why a Donkey?

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he; humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

“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.” (Matthew 21:1-3).

While we do not hold much regard for the donkey today, in ancient times these animals were often used for ceremonial purposes. But why would Jesus choose to ride on a donkey?

By doing so, He fulfilled The prophecy of Zechariah above. Moreover, riding a donkey sent a specific signal to the people. Looking back to 1 Kings 1:33-34, David ordained that his son, Solomon, ride on his own mule through the street as one proof that he chose Solomon to be the next king. Solomon ushered in an era of peace for Israel, and by riding on such a lowly animal, Solomon symbolized such peace. To the opposite, had Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a horse He would have symbolized a triumphal entry of a warrior king—a message that is clearly not consistent with His ministry (Luke 19:10; Matthew 9:13).

It is important to draw a distinction between the first advent of Christ and the second advent of Christ. In His first coming, Christ came to remove sin and through His death on the cross, provide a path once again to the Father for all of those who repent from their sins and choose to follow Him. He came to save the lost and was the ultimate Sacrificial Lamb of God.

However, when we look ahead to Revelation 19:11-16 and the Second Coming of Jesus, we see Him as a Warrior riding a white horse. He will be a conquering King and will bring peace and judgment to the entire world (Isaiah 9:6-7; Jude 14-15).

Additionally, notice the donkey is one that had never been ridden. This is also significant because it indicates that this animal had not been used for any worldly purpose yet and thus was consistent with Jewish tradition for use in religious purposes. Further, consider how often Luke refers to the donkey being tied prior to being used by our Lord (Luke 19:28-33).

Is it a stretch to see how the untying of the colt to serve Jesus can be a parallel to us being freed from sin’s entanglement when we choose to serve Him? Just as the donkey had a purpose, so do we as His creation. When we choose Christ, we can be free from all of the worldly encumbrances and choose a life of humility and service. 

We can be untied as well.