As we explored Palm Sunday from the viewpoint of the donkey (Luke 19:28-44), we discovered that in choosing a donkey, Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy, for Zech 9:9 tells us, ‘Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Zech 9:9) By choosing a donkey rather than a horse or other animal, Jesus made it plain to all that he was indeed proclaiming himself to be king… but perhaps not the kind of king that was expected.
Zechariah’s prophecy of a righteous and victorious king would have been music to the ears of Jews who had suffered under Roman rule and oppression for over 80 years. Jesus had consistently demonstrated God’s concern for the poor and needy, showing a concern for them which highlighted righteousness as doing what is right (see Matt 11:5). However, Zechariah also spoke of a ‘lowly‘ king. Jesus had taught his disciples that he was gentle and humble in heart (Matt 11:29) and in choosing a donkey, Jesus illustrated his identification with mankind in all its suffering and lowliness (Heb 2:14-15, Heb 4:15, Heb 2:18).
God’s kingdom is not like our idea of a kingdom, where a king rules by authority and might and no consideration for others. The kingdom of God, Jesus taught, belongs to little children, can only be entered by being born again, is a kingdom where the first will be last and the last will be first and the greatest will be those who serve (Mark 1:15, Mark 9:1, Mark 10:15, Luke 6:20, John 3:5-8, Matt 19:16-30). The donkey’s role is to emphasise yet again that this kingdom where Jesus rules is a topsy-turvy one as far as the world is concerned. The people were cheering and celebrating because they thought this triumphal entry into Jerusalem heralded a new king and a new kingdom… and they were right. But the fact that less than a week later Jesus was crucified on a cross tells us that the majority of people did not really grasp at this time the kind of king Jesus was or the kind of kingdom He would introduce.
Paul reminds us that ‘the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength’ (1 Cor 1:25) and that ‘the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ (1 Cor 1:18) What better way to communicate this truth than through a simple donkey?