Palm Sunday, April 2. MOUNTED on a DONKEY
Prepare to Listen. Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech. 9:9)
Prayerfully Read Matthew 21:1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ 4This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ 11The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’
A crowd gathered and joyfully welcomed Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. They presumed he was their Messiah and expected him to triumphantly defeat their enemy, the Romans. In expectation they hailed him as their Messiah-King. But nothing triumphant happened that day and Jesus made no revolutionary move against Rome. However, even today we think this story is about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, ignoring Matthew’s warning.
He’s the only Gospel writer to quote the ancient prophecy about Messiah riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. He combined and adapted verses from Isaiah (62:11) and Zechariah (9:9). Significantly, he omitted Zechariah’s triumphal words—“Rejoice greatly” because “your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious.” But he kept the prophet’s sombre description of Messiah’s ride, hardly changing a word: “humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” It’s a sobering scene, highlighting Jesus’ humility and determination to stick to God’s plan, rejecting the crowd’s expectations.
He passively, non-violently rode a donkey, a beast of burden not war, into Jerusalem, saying and doing nothing. This isn’t the victory lap of a conquering hero. It highlights that we’re saved, not by triumphalism, but by the wounds of Jesus, who calls us to repentance, the kind that has a profound impact on us and the world, because it radically transforms our lives.
Enter the story, visualize the scene, imagining a personal encounter Jesus. What happens?
Respond in Prayer
Lord, guard me from a triumphalism that arrogantly dismisses others. Help me keep the vision of you on a donkey in view so I respect and live your humble way. Amen.
Live Obediently. Follow the humble rider on a donkey.
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.