The story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem can be read in the 21st chapter of Matthew and it tells us how he sent two of his disciples to a village to get a donkey with a colt beside it. He told them to bring the donkey and the colt to him so he can ride the donkey on his way to Jerusalem. But why did Jesus choose the lowly donkey instead of getting a magnificent horse to ride on?
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Jesus rode a donkey for three reasons. The first one is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, making his triumphant entry while riding a lowly animal a symbol of peace. When horses are mentioned in the Bible they are almost always in relation to kings and war, while donkeys are mentioned in relation to common people. The donkey’s purpose was in agriculture as well as trade.
Smaller than horses and gifted with cautiousness, that can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness, donkeys were not usually used during times of war. Zechariah 9:9 prophesied the coming of a king “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 21:1-11 when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem and it was triumphant because he had done so without bloodshed on the side of the people.
Second, in the ancient Biblical world, a leader rode on a horse if he was coming in war and a donkey to signify peace.
Third, Jesus used the donkey to connect with the common people. Life was also not easy for a Jew living under Roman rule in the 1st century—more so for the poor. But Jesus embraced the poor and sick people during his time here on earth. His choice of a donkey instead of a horse was God’s way of saying that he came as a king who will serve and save the oppressed.