When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying 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. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately. ’This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
‘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.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. (Matthew 21.1-7)
The night had gone quickly. After the business on the road they made their way to a place where they could lodge. It was on the other side of the Mount of Olives. Those who had been before knew what a tremendous sight awaited them as they came across the mount and saw the city and the Temple for the first time. It was a breathtaking sight.
They had walked a long way and after some food Jesus surprises them all by asking two of them to go off and get him a donkey. What was all that about? He never rode – he walked, they all walked! But he was insistent and seemed to know exactly where they would find one with its colt.
So they went and arrived back not much later with the donkey and the colt. Their cloaks went onto the donkey’s back to make it easier to ride and Jesus mounted and off they went.
The pilgrims will be there now, on the Mount of Olives, waiting to walk the path that Jesus rode along. In churches around the world, palms and branches will have been gathered for the services today so that people can wave them and carry them. It’s a triumphal beginning of the day and of the week. And of course that was the point of the donkey for Jesus and Matthew quotes from the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9.9) in order that we get the reason. A humble king would ride on a donkey, a warrior would ride on a horse. Jesus is our humble king and this is his entry into the holy city where is crown and throne await him.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die!
O Christ! Thy triumph now begins
O’er captive death and conquered sin.