Why A Donkey? (Year C – Liturgy of the Palms)
The Coming King of Zion
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. (Zechariah 9:9-11 ESV)
In the week leading up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, He “Triumphantly Entered Jerusalem” on the back of a donkey. When Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem, he paused to send two disciples ahead to find a colt, a foal of a donkey, that had never been sat upon. Not only was He fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah, He was also placing himself on a collision course with the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin, educated in the Law (books of the Old Testament), would know that Jesus was signalling that He was the Messiah by entering through the gates on the donkey.
Dale Allison and William Davies’ modern commentary on the Gospel of Matthew states that Middle and Near Eastern symbolism set up a dichotomy between the Horse and the Donkey. They said that, at the time, people considered the Horse a beast of war because it would carry soldiers and pull chariots into battle. The donkey evoked the idea of peace in ancient Middle and Near Easterners, because the donkey was used to work the fields that provided grain (a symbol of Lent) and other crops that nourished the people.
Notes: While this is the sixth Sunday of Lent, instead of LENT 6C, it is usually labelled as PALM C, and it begins the Holy Week observance leading up to the Easter service seven days later. Also, one could look at the basis in prophecy or symbolism of what other people in the Palm Sunday story were doing, but I decided to focus on what Jesus was doing and the meaning of the donkey.
Liturgy of the Palms
Gospel Reading- Year C
The Triumphal Entry
28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19: 28-40 ESV)
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
118 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 ESV)
A Palm Sunday Prayer