16 - “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.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.””
Matthew 21:1-11 ESV
“Jesus was so humble that He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem by riding on a donkey!”
Jesus is absolutely the most humble person to ever walk the face of the earth. That’s not in question. HOWEVER... His riding into the city on the back of a donkey is not actually representative – only – of His humility. Think about the rest of the scene – Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Does this processional sound like a particularly humble affair? Not really. In fact, it sounds a lot more like the entrances of the Ceasar’s when they would have entire parades as all of Rome ushered their ruler back from foreign wars. Those scenes were so NOT humble that there were literally men in the processional whose sole job it was to walk beside the emperor and cry, “Memento Mori” or “Remember your death” so the whole thing wouldn’t go to the Ceasar’s head.
Rather than being simply a declaration His humility, Jesus riding in on the back of a donkey was actually a declaration of both His royalty and His Messianic authority. Ancient Kings and dignitaries would enter the city gates similar to this frequently, but they would ride either horses or donkeys. If the leader was riding on a horse, it signaled to the people that he was on a militaristic conquest – that he was coming because he had conquered and was establishing his rule or that he was coming with the intent to conquer. However, if the leader was riding on a donkey, this signified that his entrance was done in peace and civility. Seeing either type of entrance, the people would instantly know what the intentions of the entering king were. By riding in on a donkey, Jesus was telling everyone that He was, in fact, the royal authority but that He had come to bring peace. He was inspiring people to come to Him safely rather than recoil from Him in fear.
His Messianic claim was evident to the Jews as His entrance was also in direct reference to and fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9. Not only was He saying that He was a king, but that He was The King; the long-awaited Messiah, the Savior they had been looking for! The people clearly understood this because of how they responded to His arrival. They were jubilantly praising God for the coming of their Savior King. Can you imagine the hope and joy that they were feeling in that moment? Jesus had come to bring peace, but it was not the peace they expected. They were looking for a Jewish Messiah who would overthrow the Roman occupation and make them great again. Instead, they were welcoming a King who, in just a few short days, they would be shouting to crucify. And He let them. He wasn’t the King that they wanted so they wanted Him dead. But, the crazy thing is, that was exactly the peace that He came to bring them and to us – an everlasting peace with God that could only come by His atoning sacrificial death. He came to bring us peace and, by His death, He did!
When He entered Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was humbly riding on a donkey as the King who had come to bring peace. Soon, Jesus will return again and when He does He will be coming on the clouds, riding a white horse and armed for battle – a conquering King, coming to conquer once and for all.