The Donkey (11:1-6).
The donkey. Maybe you’re familiar with this passage, but if you aren’t, you may find it strange that Jesus, would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
And all 4 of the gospels take time to describe him coming in on a donkey.
Why in the world would this be in the Bible and why in the world would Jesus even be doing this and why does no one in this scene find this kind of strange?
A Symbol of Divine Authority. You remember the story of Absalom from 2 Samuel 17-24? Absalom was King David’s son, in 2 Samuel, and he betrayed David and tried to have him killed. David, known for his dependence on the Lord, escapes murder on the back of a donkey. But Absalom, who is known for his dependence on his talent, shows up at the on horses. As the story progresses, Absalom is killed. How? He runs away from a battle to riding a donkey, and it runs him up under a low-hanging oak branch. His hair gets stuck and his enemies catch up to him. The Lord uses donkeys to show off his authority over our own. Abraham, Balaam, etc.
A Symbol of Peace.
Solomon, David’s other son, receives the kingdom of his father after his father’s bloody feud, riding into a peaceful Jerusalem (1 Kings) on a Donkey.
Zechariah, and OT prophet, looking forward to the day when the Lord’s final and perfect Messiah would appear predicts in 9:9 –
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is [a]just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the [b]foal of a donkey.
And that king comes in Zech 9:10 to “bring peace to the nations.”
The Divine Son of God brings, with all his authority, Peace. I wonder, do you know His peace? Jesus to heal, to restore, to deliver from the wrath of God. Do you know that healing, that restoration, that rescue?
The world is ready to fracture. But there is only one thing that can heal the world in its misery: the power of the long-expected King, who trots down from the Mt. of Olives, through the streets of Jerusalem, on top of a donkey. Do you know his peace?
The Coat (11:8).
And then, again in what I have to think is a strange detail, the people lay their robes down for him to walk on (Mark 11:8). You have to wonder, “Why are they putting their clothes down for him to walk on? What’s this about?
Symbol of Royalty. This is their version of a Red Carpet entrance. Jesus, they seem to understand, is royalty. So much so that even the feet of his donkey ought to be kept from making contact with the ground. What’s interesting here, is that for many peasant Jews, their Robe would have been their most valuable possession and essential to surviving the harsh Palestinian winters. The fact that they put it on the feet of Jesus’ donkey says something about how much more valuable Jesus is than their own livelihood.
Symbol of Judgment. Just made this connection on Friday of this week, with the help of a good article. I think it’s the right connection but I’ve never caught it before.
King Jehu. Crowned King in OT Israel (2 Kings 9) at a nasty time in the history of Israel. Ahab/Jezebel. And there is a lot of pagan worship in the temple of God. Jehu’s special mission is to cleanse Israel (place of worship) from idolatrous, false Baal worship. And when Jehu is crowned, he rides on top of the coats of his kinsmen.
Takeaway. The reason Jesus begins, like Jehu, in the Temple is because that’s the place where prayer, fasting, righteousness, holiness should’ve been found. You’re supposed to find figs on the fig tree. And just like the fig tree, you’re supposed to come to people who call themselves the people of God and find them throwing down their life, like the coat, at the feet of Christ. And what do we find: constant, terrible, bitter fruitlessness. Carelessness, apathy, fruitlessness.We find the horrible words of John 12:37 too often too true: “even though He had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in HIm.” What about it FBC? Will you be fruitful, faithful? Or will the bitter judgment of John 12:37 be true of us? Will you lay down your robe? Your life? Or will you be the fruitless fig tree, the prayerless Temple (Mark 11;17).
The Palm (11:8).
My new favorite image. But I’ve never really “got” why the palm branches. I mean, if you’re hearing this for the first time, perhaps, you probably are thinking it’s a bit odd. This is not something Christians do every day.
Symbol of Victory. 11:9-10 is a quote loosely based on Psalm 118:26. Now, that verse is the climax of Psalm 118, in which Israel looks forward to the total victory of God over all things. The term Hosanna, even means “salvation.” So, while they’re waving the palms, shouting Hosanna, they are announcing the total salvation of Jesus over everything.
Symbol of God With Us. Isaiah 55. (Singing) You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace, the mountains and the hills will break forth before you, there will be shouts of joy and all the trees of the field will clap, will clap their hands. And all the trees of the field will clap their hands, the trees of the field will clap their hands, the trees of the field will clap their hands, while you go out with joy. That’s from Isa 55, and it is looking forward to the time when God will break into our realm and no longer be hidden, mysterious, or hard to understand. He will be among us in full color, to begin his reign. And what do we see in Mark 11:8 (better in John): waving trees alongside a road. Trees, “clapping.”
Symbol of Our Greatest Need. Any of you remember the Feast of Booths from the OT? It was an annual Jewish festival and was God’s way of reminding Israel that they needed him more than anything else. Here’s how they did it: God told Israel that once per year, they were to construct temporary shelters, made primarily from palm branches, and live in them for a week. Lev 23:42-44: “You are to live in booths for seven days. All the native-born of Israel must live in booths so that your generations may know that I made the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” God’s visual reminder to Israel that He brought them out of Egypt, He gave them manna, He gave them quail, and long before they had houses, land, crops, and livestock, they had Him, and He was enough. That’s what they’re saying to him now: we don’t need our donkey, our coats, or our houses and lands: Jesus is all we need.
The Takeaway. He is all you need. The greatest sadness is that we will chase anything and everything else: money, toys, relationships, popularity, education, anything other than Christ – and I fear that so few of us will say what Peter says after a whole mass of people turn away from Jesus and he asks, “Do you want to leave also?” You remember what Peter says? “Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Meaning, “not just that you tell us how to have eternal life, but that from your lips comes eternally, life giving truth.” He is victorious, bringing about the death of death. He is God – the fountain of joy and life everlasting. And He is all you need.