It has been said that everyone loves a parade. It is a time of celebration. There are often music, balloons, decorations, streamers, security, cameras, banners, confetti, food, and a very elaborate vehicle for the superstar. The central figure is easy to find because he or she is escorted in the fanciest float, truck, or car available. When someone “important” is being honored, we bring out the best. One can only imagine what extremes people would go to in order to honor a king. Would you guess a donkey?
Mark 11:7-10 paints the picture of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, “And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’” It is seen from other passages that the “colt” is a young donkey.
The greatest individual of all time had a parade and He rode a donkey. The King of kings was welcomed by the crowd as He rode a donkey. Jesus was plainly clothed riding a donkey as opposed to the typical ruler who would be surrounded by an entourage of soldiers as he rode a mighty warhorse. The Messiah came in humility, gentleness, and peace.
Warren Wiersbe has stated that since it was the Passover, there could have been about two million people in and around Jerusalem. This is noteworthy as it was the only time in Jesus’ ministry that He actually planned and promoted a public demonstration.
There are always reasons why Jesus did what He did. The main reason is found in Zechariah 9:9, “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 wrote about 500 years earlier that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey. I imagine Zechariah must have noticed the arrogance of many of those in power. The contrast between their pride and the humility of the Messianic King being prophesied about could not be starker.
John succinctly describes the event in John 12:14-15, “And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’” It has been said that this passage is “one of the most Messianically significant passages of all the Bible.”
This prophecy is so powerful that all attempts to disprove the Messianic importance of this passage have been unavailing. Even critics who do not want to accept the concept allow that it is abounding with Messianic ideas. It cannot be applied to any other hero of Jewish story or event of Jewish history. There is no other “King” of Israel to whom it can refer. It has been noted that no king had ever before this time come to Jerusalem in such a manner. This circumstance was predicted of the Messiah alone, and Christ alone fulfilled it to the letter, showing what nature His kingdom was. Jesus was not only proclaiming His Messiahship and His fulfillment of Scripture but showing the kind of peace-loving approach He was now making to the city.
It might be too obvious to say, but this was not the normal manner in which kings arrived. Kings usually came as conquerors riding on horses. A colt or donkey was a symbol of peace. It showed that He will establish a government of peace. The donkey was the animal chosen as the symbol of peace in contrast with the horse because on account of its smaller strength, agility, and speed, it is less adapted for riding in the midst of fighting and slaughter than a horse.
Jesus riding in on a donkey was also a token of poverty and lowliness. It also displayed that the Messiah was a King who would rise through lowliness and suffering, to might and glory, and would conquer the world not by arms but by suffering and dying.
It is interesting that Jesus’ earthly life started with that lowly beast (Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem while pregnant with Jesus) and was coming to an end with Him peacefully and humbly showing He was indeed the Messiah by riding that honored creature.