The Palm Sunday Mysteries: The Mystery Of The Donkeys
This article is Part 3 of "The Mysteries of Palm Sunday" series. Be sure to read:
Part 1 - The Triumphal Entry: A Living Parable
Part 2 - The Mystery of the Day
On the first "Palm Sunday", Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem riding on a young donkey. Why did He do this? The simple answer is that He was fulfilling the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9-10.
"...Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey."
Jesus' intent to fulfill Zechariah's prophecy was confirmed when He sent His disciples to fetch the donkeys in Matthew 21:4-6.
"...this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet..."
However, the question remains, Why donkeys? This mystery can be solved by:
- Understanding how donkeys are symbolized throughout the Bible,
- Examining the "Law of the Firstborn" in Exodus 13, and
- Deciphering the parable of The Fruitful Grain Of Wheat in John 12:20-26
Donkeys In The Bible
Donkeys are mentioned more times in the Bible than any other animal. Studying these passages carefully gives us the clues we need to piece this puzzle together. The references in the More Links section below were also helpful in this treasure hunt. Be sure to read them.
Key Study Principle (Read); 2 Pet 1:20-21 & Prov 25:2
The Scriptures are "God-breathed", every word, concept and mystery is intentional. God expects us to work to discover and understand hidden truths about His nature and His plans for mankind. We should expect the Holy Spirit's help as we search.
How The Creator "Made" The Wild Donkey
In Job 39:5-8, God describes how He "made" the wild donkey::
"Who set the wild donkey free?
Who loosed the bonds of the [wild donkey],
Whose home I have made the wilderness,
And the [c]barren land his dwelling?
He scorns the tumult of the city;
He does not heed the shouts of the driver.
The range of the mountains is his pasture,
And he searches after every green thing."
Who Loosed The Bonds Of The Wild Donkey?
God asks Job if he knows WHO loosed the bonds of the wild donkey. This is a strange question as the donkey has yet to be freed from its nature. This is also a good question for us to consider. God is obviously speaking of a future evemt (the loosing of the donkey's bonds) that Job knows nothing about! The description of the donkey is very interesting. It seems that God patterned the donkey as a type of the Gentile (non-Jewish) nations and their history. This animal is characterized as wild, living in a barren land, and a scorner. Note how Romans 11 characterizes Gentiles as "wild" before being set free and changed by Jesus.
And if some of the [Jewish] branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree... -Romans 11:17
Before coming to Christ, Ephesians 2 characterizes Gentiles as being in a wilderness. We were hopeless aliens to God, His people and His covenants.
that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. -Eph. 2:12
The donkey is known as a beast of burden. It is typically used to carry heavy loads because of its unusually strong legs. Re-read this passage after you finish this article and review the attached videos and references. The pattern pictured by the nature of the donkey should then become clearer.
Donkeys, The Only Unclean Animal That Could Be Redeemed!
In Exodus 13:11-15, "The Law Of The Firstborn" is dictated to Israel. Here we discover that the donkey is the only unclean animal that God commands Israel to "redeem"!
But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. -Ex. 13:13
In this strange passage, God commands that when Israel enters the promised land, the firstborn of Israel's sons and donkeys be redeemed by slaying a lamb! This ritual sacrifice is an amazing picture of a future day when the Lamb of God (Jesus) would be slain to redeem both Jews (the sons of israel) and Gentiles (synbolized by donkeys in this ritual) from sin. Note that strange passages like this often reveal God's hidden secrets to the diligent!
The Fruitful Grain Of Wheat (John 12:20-26 NKJV)
This passage reveals how Jesus responded to a request by a group of Greeks (Gentiles), to have an audience with Him..
"Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much [fruit]. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor."
At first glance, Jesus' response seems to have nothing to do with the Greeks or donkeys for that matter. However, if you have been following the Parable Power blog, you have learned that within this parable there is hidden treasure!
The Greeks Do Not Get To See Jesus, Yet
It is interesting to note that Jesus did not give the Greeks an audience. The scripture begins with a, "But He answered". Jesus is saying that it is not the time for communion with the Greeks, something else MUST take place first.
“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified...". Jesus is focused on presenting Himself to Israel as her King. The Greeks, "who follow me", will get their audience after the "grain of wheat dies" and is resurrected!
I AmSent To The Lost House Of Israel
The request of the Greeks is similar to the story of the Gentile woman in Matthew 15:21-28 (read it carefully). The point is that the "time of the Gentiles" (when they will be blessed with Israel) had not yet arrived. However, after the grain of wheat (Jesus) dies, that time will come. The death of Jesus provided redemption for both Jews and Gentiles. Romans 11:24 says that Gentiles were cut out of a "wild" tree and grafted into a "cultivated" tree.
Jesus' death opened the door for Gentiles to become heirs to the promises of Abraham (Galatians 3:27-29). In the parable of the Grain of Wheat, Jesus is sharing that His focus is on the Passion Week mission which will result in His death and glorification. His death will enable both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) to have eternal communion with Him. In other words, His death will bring forth much fruit. Notice the usage of the word "anyone" in the parable. From the beginning, God's plan was to redeem all nations.
In your [Abraham] seed [Jesus] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed -Genesis 22:18
Jesus Rides On A Donkey
The donkeys in the Triumphal Entry remind us that although Jesus' ministry was to the Jew first, God had the nations in mind on Palm Sunday. The Greeks, who failed in their quest to see Jesus just before 'Palm Sunday', were not forgotten during the Triumphal Entry. Jesus ensures that donkeys were"loosed", brought to Him and included in the ride to Jerusalem. This inclusion was a sign that the Gentile nations were very much a part of God's plan of redemption!
I love this commentary from the article, "Donkeys In The Bible" (see below). This gives us another perspective of the donkeys in the Triumphal Entry.
"Donkeys in the Bible and today—as an animal, they have served us well. May we be like Christ's donkey, willing and set aside, patiently waiting for our Master's touch that we may fulfill the tasks the Lord has ordained for us to accomplish."
Be sure to check out the Articles and Videos in the More Links section. You may comment or ask questions in the Comments section.
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Larry Shepard committed his life to Jesus Christ over 40 years ago. During those years, he worked in evangelistic radio and publishing ministries. He has served as an Education Director, Special Ministries Director, Associate Pastor and as a Senior Pastor. Larry has studied and taught at Cornerstone Theological Seminary. He also developed and taught classes at The Texas Institute of Biblical Studies. Larry worked in Corporate America as an IT professional and developed software for numerous small businesses. He lives in Houston, Texas, and is married and has two children and two grandchildren.
Other posts by Larry Shepard
Larry is the founder and visionary of the Parable Power Network. His mission is to ignite a passion for God's word and to see the Power in the Parable elevate people to exemplary living.. Larry has served in various Christian ministries for over 40 years; including teaching in Bible Schools and as a Senior Pastor.