What was the significance of Jesus riding a donkey as He entered Jerusalem?
As Jesus was entering into Jerusalem on a donkey, we are told that the people spread cloaks on the ground and hailed Jesus as their victorious Messianic King. This entry into Jerusalem fulfilled Old Testament prophecies that showed that the Messiah would be a King like David.
Picture of Christ: A King like David
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’’ (2 Samuel 7:16 NIV)
One thousand years before the birth of Christ, God had graciously promised King David that the victorious Messianic King would come through his house… and that his throne and kingdom would last forever. This is commonly referred to as the Davidic Covenant. See Luke 1:26-33 for the fulfillment of this promise and pay special attention to the four key words that the angel said to Mary: house – throne – kingdom – forever!!
“King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and set Solomon my son on my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.” (1 Kings 1:32-35 NIV)
Prior to his death, King David anointed his son Solomon to succeed him as King of Israel. We are told that Solomon was set upon David’s own mule and taken before the people. We need to understand that mules and donkeys were used to carry royalty during times of peace (see Judges 10:4; 2 Sam. 13:29). Thus, we see King David making a public proclamation that Solomon was the heir to the throne. Interestingly, Solomon’s name is commonly understood to mean the Hebrew word for “peace.”
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9 NIV)
Approximately 500 years before the birth of Christ, God in His grace spoke through the prophet Zechariah and gave this picture of how the victorious Messianic King would enter into Jerusalem. Rather than riding on a war horse, the great King would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of peace.
“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosannato the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:1-9)
Do you see the significance of what Matthew is saying in this passage? Notice that he describes Jesus as the “Son of David” who entered Jerusalem on a “peaceful donkey” as is the promised “Messianic King” who perfectly fulfilled the prophesy of Zechariah!!! Interestingly, we are told that when Jesus returns again he will not be riding a donkey. Rather, he will be riding a horse!!! (See Rev. 19:11-16)
For further reading: 1 Samuel 7; 1 Kings 1; Revelation 19