A New Kind of King
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 21:1-3 (Holman) When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them, and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”
At Bethphage, a Jerusalem suburb, Jesus crested the hill “covered with olive trees” (Robertson), crossing a summit about one mile east of, and 250 feet above, the temple area. To procede into Jerusalem, Jesus needed to borrow a ride. He was so poor that His head, which carried all knowledge, had nowhere to rest, and His hand, which created worlds, owned not even a donkey. Few in Israel would be poorer than Jesus was. At His birth, He truly did leave behind His heavenly riches.
Though poor, Jesus lacked nothing once He entered the holy city. The Father met all His needs, whether He required a donkey, food, lodging, a place of prayer, a tomb, etc. Jesus totally and regularly trusted His Father. I wish I could trust God this way. This desire has become the holy grail of my spiritual quest.
Being omniscient, Jesus knew even the smallest details. He foreknew where to find the animals, gave specific instructions on what the disciples were to look for: a mother donkey and her colt, and predicted what the owner would say and do.
Jesus spoke of the donkeys with an air of authority that, if He were not “the Lord”, would be presumptuous. “Lord” designated Him as being God. He had the right to claim universal proprietorship over all things. Therefore, He commanded.
Does He have our all? Are we giving Him the first 10% of our earnings to prove all our money is His, are we giving Him one day each week to signify every day is His. It’s hard to claim He has our all when we reluctantly give Him a part.
Matt. 21:4-5 This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Tell Daughter Zion, “See, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
The Triumphal Entry was a living sermon, an exposition and fulfillment of a prediction written 500 years earlier by the prophet Zechariah (9:9), who penned the next to last Old Testament book. Zion is the highest of the hills Jerusalem sat on. “Daughter Zion” meant the city’s citizens, whose King would arrive “gentle”.
Here’s a new kind of king. No army, no wealth, no jewels, no violent revolution, no political insurrection, no blood being shed except His own. He will let the mob crucify Him, and let His death be a ransom for their sins. He came not in wrath to condemn and avenge, but, being “gentle”, in mercy to save (JN 3:17).
Till now, Jesus had walked everywhere, but entering the holy city, He rode. There were for sure practical reasons for this. It would make Him distinguishable in the crowd, easily noticeable by people as the focus of their celebration.
His choice for a mount, a donkey, was made for spiritual reasons, to make a statement settling forever the kind of King He is. One, our sovereign King is one of us. Donkeys were lowly pack animals. Jesus rode on a donkey because He wanted us to know He was accessible, easy to be touched. He was not elevated high above the crowd on a horse, but sat lower to the ground, near the people.
Jesus didn’t desire much pageantry. His greatness flowed from inside Him. He had no need for varnish, veneer, ornaments, or fancy clothes. Jesus could have had any kind of animal He wanted, but in order to let His lowliness on our behalf be absolute, he chose a donkey, about which there is absolutely nothing glamorous.
Jesus was a commoner. Donkeys were and are mainly animals of the poor. They have been used in farming for over 5000 years, and are, next to free human labor, the cheapest form of agricultural power. There are over 40,000,000 of them in the world, owned mainly by people in poorer countries.
Let’s not be too proud to learn a lesson from Jesus’ taxi. Don’t be dumber than a donkey. Donkeys are infamous for being hardheaded, but this stubborn creature was more compliant to Jesus than were the people He came to save. Don’t go there. Better a praying saint than a braying donkey. Balaam showed what not to do (NB 22-24). He was more stubborn than his donkey, which had to talk for God.
Two, riding on a colt proved Jesus was a special King. It is important to note the sole purpose of the mother was to help the young colt cooperate. The mother, led before the colt, would help it move agreeably, a trait not common to donkeys.
Mark (11:2) and Luke (19:30) tell us the colt was not broken in; it had never been ridden on before. This mattered. Its having never been used before made it special for Jesus, as if to say, “It has been reserved only for Jesus. He is special.”
The cart on which the ark was carried had never been used for any other purpose (1 SM 6:7). The red heifer used to cleanse the nation was one that had never been yoked (NB 19:2; DT 21:3). Jesus’ tomb had never been used before.
Jesus on a donkey never ridden before demonstrated our Master was special. Is He exceptional to us, do we value Him supremely, do His praises ring loud in our voice, do we want our hearts to crown Him the number one love in our lives?
Three, riding on a donkey proved Jesus was an obedient King. He was not a dictator, an autocrat, ruling capriciously and impulsively. He was not His own boss. He came to do the will of the Father. One way Jesus fulfilled this was through obeying and demonstrating the Father’s words in the Bible, the Old Testament.
The prophets had looked forward to Jesus. His test would be, was He willing to look backward to them? The course Jesus needed to follow was not a slam dunk.
Zechariah’s prediction was one of the forecasts Jesus had to decide whether or not He would fulfill. It said Messiah would enter Jerusalem as a peaceful King.
Would Jesus be willing to fulfill this Bible prediction, or instead yield to the temptation to fulfill the crowd’s military fanaticism? In the wilderness temptation, Satan offered Jesus this world’s kingdoms by way of a shortcut detouring Calvary. In Jerusalem the crowd would offer Him a free blaze-of-glory ride to a throne.
His choice was stark. Be an earthly king, or die for disappointing popular expectation. Jesus chose to obey Scripture. Saying no to the mob, He put His hand on Zechariah’s prediction, and signified, “I make it mine, though I die.”
I fear we do not honor Scripture enough. I remember arguments over whether or not red lettered Bibles were good. Some argued the red letters seemed to imply the words Jesus spoke were more God’s words than the rest of Scripture.
This is not the case, but has certainly been the position of many, including Thomas Jefferson, whose “Bible” has been painstakingly refurbished and is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum. Jefferson used scissors and paste to compile the portions of the Bible which he believed were pure, unadulterated truth.
Of course, he deemed his own fallible mind was well capable of recognizing the infallible. Many others have followed his example, going so far as to have the audacity to pick and choose from what is written in the Bible what they think the Scriptures actually said at first. They fulfill the old well-worn saying, “They think the Bible is inspired in spots, and they are inspired to pick the spots.”
Jesus did not believe this. He brought His life under the authority of the Old Testament. This is no surprise because He helped inspire it.
Four, riding on a donkey proved Jesus was a King of Peace. Horses were the animal of choice during times of war. Conquerors, for their victory parades, rode into town on white chargers, tall noble intimidating steeds.
Victors brandished spears and swords. Jesus waved a cross. The religious leaders believed they won, and He lost. But!! Oh hear me now. In Jerusalem, no soldiers at arms met Him, but at the end angels and an army of believers will accompany Him. In the holy city, there were no trumpet blasts, but at the finale Michael will blow the loudest trumpet ever. In Jerusalem, there were no chariots of state, but in the end clouds will be His chariots, and roll back like a scroll.
This triumphal entry into Jerusalem was but a dress rehearsal for a coming day when Jesus will ride, not on a beast of burden, but as a conqueror on a white horse (RV 19:11). If you’ve not read the end of the Bible, do so. Jesus wins.