Don't you just love when you get to learn some new gem from Scripture that adds richness to your understanding? Today, Palm Sunday, we remember the triumphal entry of Jesus, the long-awaited messiah into Jerusalem just days before He would die for the sins of the world. The passages surrounding this period seem so familiar to many of us who have numerous Easters under our belt that it's a surprise when we gain new insight. However, I was pleasantly surprised, when I learned something new last year from Reverend John Tattersall, so I thought I'd share it with you in order that your Palm Sunday might also be richer in understanding.
Many hundreds of years before the messiah came two prophets spoke prophetically of donkeys. One was Zechariah during the time of King Darius, a Persian king. The prophet foretold of Palm Sunday when he said,
"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9).
Fast-forward many hundreds of years to the events depicted in the Gospel of Matthew 21:1-11. In this passage we're told of how Jesus instructs his disciples as they approach Jerusalem to go into a village where they would find a donkey tied up and with her colt beside her. They were to take the colt to Jesus, which the passage specifies had never once been ridden. Jesus who mounts the animal and proceeds to ride it into Jerusalem in the midst of crowds lining the street and cheering him with loud "Hosannas." When the crowds are asked who it is that they are cheering for, they answer that it is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth. A few days later the crowds would demand his death.
Now, I understand that the prophet Zechariah foretold that it would be an unridden foal of a donkey that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on, but I always thought it strange. Why an unbroken foal? I have understood why a donkey in general was the mode of transport for the messiah upon entering Jerusalem. It had to be so to fulfill Zechariah's prophecy, and, furthermore, a donkey symbolized both humility and kingship. Why on earth, though, did it need to be an unbroken foal?
The answer is found in the prophetic words of another of God's prophets--Isaiah. Isaiah 1 speaks condemnation to the rebellious nation of Israel, God's chosen people. Listen to what it says;
"Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: 'I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.'"
Now let me tie together the events of Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey with Isaiah's words. We've all seen enough horse movies to know the results of an individual trying to ride an unbroken animal. The animal determinedly attempts to eject the rider from its back with all manner of bucking, jumping, and side to side rearing. However, when Jesus alights the back of the foal of a donkey, what happens?--nothing but submission. Why? Answer--because just as Isaiah said, even a donkey knows its owner. Who created that foal that Jesus mounted on but Jesus himself.
The irony, of course, in Isaiah's words and in the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy was that the donkey recognized and knew its Master, but Israel did not. In spite of the numerous prophecies of old that portrayed the exact location of the messiah's birth and many other specific details surrounding that birth, Israel as a nation did not recognize their master when He came.
This week as we contemplate and celebrate the work that our Messiah did at the cross to bring peace between us and God, let us remember to give thanks that in His mercy God chose to reveal the true Savior to us individually. For, according to 2 Corinthians 4:3-4,without God removing the veil from our eyes, we too would have rejected the Savior of the world.