Advent. Day 12: The Donkey

Advent. Day 12: The Donkey

Opening Prayer. God, open us to the ways in which you come into the world. May we be a people who follow you in the way of peace. Amen.

Scripture. Matthew 21:1-11.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


The Friendly Beasts.  from Rev. Marie Wonders

Jesus our brother, strong and good

Was humbly born in a stable rude

And the friendly beasts around him stood

Jesus our brother, strong and good.

“I, ” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,

“I carried his mother up hill and down;

I carried his mother to Bethlehem town.”

“I, ” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

…Thus every beast by some good spell

In the stable dark was glad to tell

Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,

The gift he gave Emmanuel.

If you were able to be at Colonial church on Palm Sunday 2018, you would have met Peaches the donkey. Peaches joined us for our palm parade and reminded us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey. We spent the Life App learning some things about donkeys and people who rode on them in Jesus’ day. Conquering kings rode two kinds of animals back then. They rode horses when they were going to fight a battle. They also rode donkeys when they paraded around the town as newly crowned royals.

But Donkeys were mostly used for labor by non-royals.

The purpose of the donkey was to show that a king would be a man of the people, a humble king ready to serve. Never-mind that this almost never happened! When we see Jesus ride a donkey into Jerusalem we see a truly humble king. Jesus takes the symbol of a servant king and rides into town not as a king of power and violence, but a king who will submit to violence, giving his life to begin a kingdom of true justice, redemption and lasting peace.

Peaches (as you can imagine) was a sweetie. Pregnant herself, peaches would not likely have been the one to carry Mary to Bethlehem. But a donkey was likely involved in the journey. Unlike Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where a donkey was purposely chosen and spoken about as a mode of transport and a fulfillment of prophecy, no donkeys are actually mentioned in the nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke. Since donkeys were commonly used for hard work, kind of like a tractor, it’s likely that a donkey was the only available animal for a poorer family who had a long journey. So, we won’t get too persnickety about whether or not Mary rode a donkey. (Actually, I HOPE the dear woman rode a donkey, she might have walked a goodly amount as well!)

In any case, I like to have a donkey in my nativity scene (I’m working on getting a new one from Fontanini, as I lost my old one.) because it reminds me of the donkey that Jesus rides into Jerusalem. In our Life App with Peaches, we discovered that donkeys have distinctive markings. Their fur is coarse and it forms ridges on their backs. The fur is also darker at the ridges. The shape of the fur forms a cross on the donkey’s back (we checked this out with Peaches!). This is fittingly called a “donkey’s cross.” We have a humble king, twice riding a donkey. Once, toward his birth, traveling in utero with Mary, and then again toward his death. Both rides are the penultimate piece of the story before all humanity experiences Emmanuel, God with us. God with us as a human, stepping into our life, and God with us in our mortality, stepping into our death.

I’ve never owned a pet bigger than a cat. My Oma has kept horses and cows. But, be the animals big or small, there is something reassuring about caring for an animal and having them care for you. When we met Peaches, we enjoyed seeing her solid dependability, her calm demeanor and her cute little face. I imagine that the donkey Mary rode on and sat with in the stable, gave her a sense of calm, an elemental grounding of practical help. I wonder if Jesus felt the same way, riding a donkey into Jerusalem that day. Knowing that the “Hosannas” would turn to “Crucify!” Did the solid little animal bolster and calm him as he walked toward so much pain?


Questions for Consideration.

  • Consider the symbolism of Jesus’ arrival on a donkey both at the time of his birth and as he came into Jerusalem. What does this open you to learn about God and the ways of Christ in the world?
  • How might the donkey serve as a place of reminder of the “elemental grounding of practical help”? What are those places in your own life?

Closing Prayer. Oh God of all, be the God of me. Open my heart and soul and mind to your ways and to your great love. Amen.