Why is there a donkey in the Palm Sunday story?

The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. It is when Christians remember when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, at the start of the week which was to end in his death. It is called Palm Sunday because people cut palm branches and waved them. Some threw them on the ground in front of the donkey. I have written previously about the elements of Risk Management in this story.

Is there a lesson for Risk Management in the Easter story?

But what has the donkey got to do with it?

You may wonder why so much emphasis on the donkey. Why did it matter how he entered the city?

People often say it was about identifying with the poor. Well, I agree that it is likely that donkeys were cheaper than horses in those days. But why not walk, to identify with people who could not afford either? Some rich people rode donkeys anyway, as not everyone was a good horseman and many would have found donkeys easier to ride. It is worth noting that donkeys are often bigger in the Middle East than the ones you see on Blackpool beach, so a man can ride one fairly comfortably.

Some ponies are smaller than donkeys. Here is a small friend of mine. Bea, a miniature Shetland pony.

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Are donkeys just ‘poor’ horses?

Think of all the things you can use either a horse or a donkey for, even if the one is usually better than the other.

  • Getting from A to B.
  • Carrying a pack.
  • Pulling a cart.
  • Ploughing.

Is there anything horses are used for but not donkeys? I can think of only one thing.

War.

I have never heard of any cavalry regiment riding donkeys.

In Jesus’ day, if you saw a man riding a donkey, even if he was in armour, you could be pretty sure he was just riding around, not about to go into battle. He was not an immediate threat.

Jesus was not entering that city as a conqueror. Not in the military sense. He said his kingdom was not of this world. Yet he was to be more influential in the long run than any earthly king. The donkey was a sign.

  • A disappointment to some.
  • Relief to others.
  • Probably confusion to still others.

He was challenging our ideas of power, of victory and of defeat.  What’s yours?

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