Why did Jesus Christ ride a donkey on Palm Sunday?


Prior to entering Jerusalem, Christ instructed his disciples to acquire for him a donkey (in Matthew’s Gospel a donkey and a colt).

Why did Jesus ride an ass? There are four reasons.

First, the prophet Zechariah wrote: “Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zech 9:9)

The messianic sign was at once perceived by the crowds who hailed Jesus as their king shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt 21:9) Catholics still shout this Davidic salutation every time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. It is an acknowledgment that Jesus is the true Davidic Messiah and king.

Secondly, an ass is integral to the story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, a type of the oblation of the First Born Son as a sign of obedience.

The third reason is that King Solomon Solomon rode to his messianic coronation on a mule that had once belonged to David (1 Kgs 1:33-44).

Fourth, King Jehu rode into Samaria (a kind of false Jerusalem) over the garments of his adherents in order to destroy the temple of the false god Baal (2 Kgs 9:11-10:28). One of the first things Christ does upon entering Jerusalem is bring judgment to the Temple which has become a den of thieves. The typology in this account is rather startling as 2 Kgs chapter nine contains strong messianic language. Like King Jehu, Christ the King comes as a judge over ceremonial regulations.

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  • Becka

    A mule is the cross between a donkey and a horse, so I don’t think it has much significance to this story. I believe the answer is much simpler. The judges of Israel and their sons all rode on white donkey colts: Judges 5:10, Judges 10:4, Judges 12:14. It is my opinion Christ rode the donkey colt as the last righteous Judge of God – seen in the Temple judgement – for those who have ears to hear.

  • Ivo

    Even though this article is very scholarly like, I think it misses the main point. Jesus rode a donkey as an example of humility and lowering. That’s why also he was born in a manger and bore the cross. The gospel that is the life of Jesus is the cross and resurrection. Through lowering himself he was exalted, through emptying he was filled, and that’s the life of love we are to live and follow – the cross is the only antidote to the original sin of arrogance that moves deeply inside of us