Messiah’s new ride

Does the kind of car you drive makes a statement about who you are? What does it say if you ride a donkey?

A painting of Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem, by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1897 (Image: Wikiart)

Up until His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Yeshua of Nazareth tried to keep His messianic identity quiet. He warned His followers and disciples not to tell anyone who He was. He hushed up the eerie voices of the possessed, which tried to declare His identity. When Simon Peter confessed, “You are the Messiah,” He told him not to reveal it to anyone. By sending for a donkey, however, He indicated a shift in public policy.

The Master was ready to declare to Israel that He was her long-awaited Messiah King. He prepared to enter Jerusalem as predicted by the prophet Zechariah:

Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

Rabbinic literature unanimously interprets Zechariah 9:9 as a messianic prophecy. The rabbis interpreted almost every donkey-reference in the Bible as a subtle allusion to the coming of the Messiah.

The Master sent two disciples into the village of Bethphage with instructions to untie and bring him the first donkey they found. If anyone objected, they were to explain, “The Master has need of it.” They went into the village of Bethphage, and just as Yeshua had said, they found a young donkey tied at the entrance, outside in the street, tied up next to its mother. They began to untie the donkey, but some of the owners and some of the bystanders objected, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” (Mark 11:5). The disciples replied, “The Master has need of it.” The men immediately consented.

Had the Master made arrangements in advance, or was this a demonstration of miraculous foresight? If the matter had been arranged ahead of time, the Gospels would not relate the story as exceptional. It would have sufficed to say, “They brought him a young donkey.” The Gospel writers understood the event as remarkable and miraculous. Somehow Yeshua had foreseen it all.

If not for the messianic enthusiasm frothing around Him, the Master’s ride on a donkey would not have attracted any attention. Donkeys provided a common mode of travel in first-century Judea. The disciples themselves missed the allusion to Zechariah 9:9. Not until Yeshua had risen did they realize that He intended the donkey ride as a messianic claim: “Then they remembered that these things were written of Him” (John 12:16).

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion and is reposted with permission.

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First Fruits of Zion specializes in the study and teaching of Scripture from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. Using the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature, we present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity. We do this by publishing books, ebooks, magazines, journals, study programs, audio and audio-visual resources, and presenting new material through seminars, conferences, and guided Israel tours.