Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey?

Did you know…


…that there are two different callbacks to Hebrew Scripture in this week's gospel story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem? The first is from Zechariah 9, which refers to a king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey:


Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.


The second is similar but comes from Psalm 118:


Psalm 118:26

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.


In this moment when Jesus is entering Jerusalem with triumphant celebration, the author of Luke's gospel is reminding us of the promises made in Hebrew Scripture, both in how Jesus is entering (on a donkey) and how he will be received by the people when he enters. Both of these Hebrew Scripture reading, from Zechariah 9 and Psalm 118, are about the expectant waiting for a coming king and the victory that awaits after that king's arrival. In this scene, the celebration is not just about a beloved teacher arriving in Jerusalem, but the long awaited king coming to take back Jerusalem from the occupying empire, and claim victory for God.


Within the context of this joyful expectation, what does it mean that within a week Jesus will be dead at the hands of that very occupying empire? What does this mean for how we understand the expectation of a victorious king? How does it reframe our ideas of power?

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