Monday, January 29, 2018

"Old Donkeys"

Matthew 21.4-7 NIV
“This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the Daughter of 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.”

The event known as “The Triumphal Entry” of Jesus in Jerusalem is described in all four Gospels.[1] There are key similarities and differences in each account. Note, for example, that all four Gospel writers quote portions of the same verse from the minor prophet Zechariah:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Zechariah 9.9 NASB

Interestingly, Matthew is the only Gospel writer who has Jesus with two, not one donkey. All four Gospels record Jesus with a “young donkey” or a “colt” (i.e., the young male offspring of a female donkey, also called a foal). However, in the Matthew passage alone, the disciples brought both “the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them.” Matthew wrote his gospel to convince Jews that Jesus was the Messiah in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. His account is heavily sprinkled with Hebrew scriptures pointing to Jesus Christ. Some critical scholars explain the ‘donkey’ distinction in this way:

Matthew introduced a second donkey in his recounting of the Triumphal Entry in order to make this story better coincide with the prophesy of Zechariah. He ignored the obvious use of Hebrew poetic parallelism[2] and invented the second donkey to offer even more support to his ‘Jesus is the Messiah’ position.

This opinion presumes that Matthew was ignorant of the use of poetic parallelism in the Hebrew scriptures which, of course, is unlikely for even a moderately educated, first century Jewish man. All four Gospel accounts of the Triumphal Entry can be easily reconciled in this way:

Zechariah used poetic parallelism in his description of the Messiah’s appearance. Jesus would come “mounted on a donkey,... [which is] a colt, [otherwise known as] the foal of a donkey.” There is just one donkey in Zechariah’s prophesy, not two. (Note: Every “colt, the foal of a donkey” is, in fact, a donkey. But not every donkey is a “colt” or a “foal.”) Jesus instructed the disciples to bring Him a “colt… on which on one yet has ever sat” (Mark 11.2; Luke 19.30). That’s exactly what the disciples did as all four Gospels record. Matthew provides the additional information implied by the other two Synoptic writers and John. The donkey was just barely old enough to carry a burden but still too young to be without its mother. For that reason Jesus told the disciples to bring both donkeys, as Matthew indicated. In choosing to mount a young donkey “on which no one yet has ever sat,” Jesus symbolically established Himself as the leader of a new thing God was doing in the culture of His day.

Here is my personal application of this verse: 

I am like an old mother donkey with a few colts to my name. I helped carry the Gospel message to a generation past. New younger Christian men and women will bring Christ to the next generation. These believers still need their older mentors in Christ. We are not forgotten. We may join in the celebration and walk along beside the foals. But old donkeys must pass the mantle of supernatural gifting to the backs of young colts who will bear the burden of Christ from this time forward. These are the ones who will make a new and triumphal entry into the culture of our day.

[1] “Triumphal Entry” Gospel parallels: Matthew 21.1-9 (and 21.14-16); Mark 11.1-10; Luke 19.28-40; John 12.12-19.

[2] Parallelism is an Old Testament writing style using repetition to reinforce a point. There are two common types of parallelism: 1) synonymous parallelism, “in which the second member repeats the content of the first in different words, e.g., ‘But his delight is in the law of Yahweh, / and in his law he meditates day and night’ (Psalm 1.2)” and 2) antithetical parallelism, “in which the second member illuminates the content of the first by means of a contrasting idea, e.g., ‘For Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, / but the way of the wicked will perish’ (Psalm 1.6)”. From Introduction to the Old Testament, Georg Forher, Abingdon Press, 1968, p. 46.


A Skin Bag for Jesus! said...

Amen. I love this post! For we are supposed to hand the baton to the next generation for them to carry God's word to the world.

I love you calling yourself a donkey. For I say all the time that Jesus just needs a vehicle (a donkey) to ride in on to wherever it is that He's wanting to go. Thus, my name a 'Skin-Bag for Jesus' in hopes that I'll submit enough for Him to do be able to use mine (my skin-bag, this vehicle, this vessel, this jar of clay, this donkey) and do just that.

I'm sure you've heard of what Corrie Ten Boom (the famous Christian who survived the Nazi concentration camps) once said when asked by a reporter in a press conference if it was difficult remaining humble while hearing so much acclaim? She replied immediately, “Young man, when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments in the road and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?” She continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in His glory, I give Him all the praise and all the honor.”

May I be willing to be a donkey He uses.

Thanks again for your post.

Dave Scriven said...

Hi Skin Bag. Yes, I too love Corrie Ten Boom. I saw her speak in person many years ago before her death. Check out this post: Thanks SB. Dave

A Skin Bag for Jesus! said...

Wow. Another great post (the one you referred me to)! I can't imagine either, baring actual "marks" that testify to my love and faithfulness of my Jesus. What a horrible thing that God restored and redeemed to be a witness for our Lord! I love how He does what He does! No matter the thing He's able to save it and use it as a display of His Splendor!

Can you imagine what Heaven must hold?

Thanks, dear brother, it's a blessing already to know you.

Dave Scriven said...

thank you skin bag for your very kind comments.