Jesus is approaching Jerusalem and has arrived in Mount Olives. He is now preparing to enter Jerusalem and wants to ride in on a young donkey - a colt. So he dispatches two disciples to get the colt for him - predicting the precise location and existence of a certain colt.
“Travel the path ahead into the village and as soon as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, upon which no one has been seated. Unbind him and bring him – and if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him that the Master needs it and will return it soon." (Mark 11:2-3)
And sure enough, his disciples find the colt just where Jesus described it.
Is this the same in Matthew?
In the Book of Matthew, Jesus gives his two disciples a slightly different instruction:
“Go into the village ahead and you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. And if anyone says anything to you, you tell them the Master needs them, and immediately he will provide them." (Matthew 21:2-3)But in Matthew, these two verses follow:
This was all done so that it would accomplish what was spoken by the Prophet, who said: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your king is coming to you, lowly and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Matt. 21:4-5)Where does this statement come from? It comes from the Book of Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 NIV)So why does Matthew describe them getting two - a donkey and a colt?
We find something else from Matthew:
The disciples left and did as Jesus instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt and put their cloaks on them and they sat him on them. (Matt. 21:6-7)It says clearly that the disciples sat Jesus upon "them" - both the donkey and the colt.
Why are they different?
First, many historians have concluded that the Book of Mark was written prior to the Book of Matthew. They also believe that the Book of Matthew utilized the Book of Mark as a source.
Furthermore, many Biblical scholars have seen evidence that the Gospel of Thomas may have provided the basis for the teachings found in Mark, Luke, and Matthew. This is often referred to as the Q Gospel or the Q Sayings Gospel thesis.
According to this belief, as parts of it were utilized, Matthew may have been further embellished upon by those early scribes who recorded the Book of Matthew.
We can see this directly in these verses. The Book of Mark makes no mention of the quote from the Book of Zechariah. So where did it come from? Certainly, it is not part of the narration of the event regarding Jesus. It is not as if someone at the time of the event said this.
Rather, the Zechariah text was added to the narration later - as the Book of Matthew was being written. It utilized the narrative text from the Book of Mark and added the verse from Zechariah.
However, when the scribes did this, they ran into a problem. They wanted the narrated text to be consistent with the verse in Zechariah, so they added a donkey to the equation.
The problem with this, however, is that now Jesus would have to ride two donkeys - a donkey and its foil - the colt. Matthew definitely says "sat him on them."
Could Jesus sit on a donkey and a colt at once?
Sure, he could. If he were part of a circus act - riding on both a donkey and a colt at the same time.
Rather, this odd narration is the obvious result of scribes tampering with the Scriptures.
Why would they do that? Because they were trying to make the case - rather, force the case - that somehow Zechariah had predicted Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
But this is not the case here. When one reads Zechariah 9 in its entirety, one can clearly see that Zech. 9:9 is being taken out of context. Zechariah 9 is clearly describing battles between the tribes of Israel and other warring tribes, which took place centuries before Jesus arrived on the planet. Here is the whole text from Zechariah 9, with 9:9 in bold:
A prophecy: The word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrak and will come to rest on Damascus— for the eyes of all people and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD — and on Hamath too, which borders on it, and on Tyre and Sidon, though they are very skillful. Tyre has built herself a stronghold; she has heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the dirt of the streets. But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire. Ashkelon will see it and fear; Gaza will writhe in agony, and Ekron too, for her hope will wither. Gaza will lose her king and Ashkelon will be deserted. A mongrel people will occupy Ashdod, and I will put an end to the pride of the Philistines. I will take the blood from their mouths, the forbidden food from between their teeth. Those who are left will belong to our God and become a clan in Judah, and Ekron will be like the Jebusites. But I will encamp at my temple to guard it against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch. Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece, and make you like a warrior's sword. Then the LORD will appear over them; His arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign LORD will sound the trumpet; He will march in the storms of the south, and the LORD Almighty will shield them. They will destroy and overcome with slingstones. They will drink and roar as with wine; they will be full like a bowl used for sprinkling the corners of the altar. The LORD their God will save His people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in His land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be! Grain will make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women. (Zechariah 9 NIV)
Was Zechariah foretelling Jesus' donkey ride?
We can see, as we broaden the view of Zechariah 9, that the events being foretold didn't have anything to do with Jesus. Jesus didn't become the king from sea to sea as it states above. Jesus was crucified by the Romans as instigated by the temple priests. Zechariah is describing forthcoming battles that would take place between the Philistines, Ephraim, Greece and those who were devoted to the Supreme Being - "Daughter Zion."
The phrase, "Daughter Zion" comes from the Hebrew phrase בַּת (bath) צִיּוֹן (Tsiyown). The word צִיּוֹן (Tsiyown) refers to "sunny place" - also ascribed to Jerusalem. The word בַּת (bath) can refer to a woman or maiden, but also, as "disciple" or "worshipper" according to Thayer's lexicon. It can also refer to "whatever depends upon it."
This relates to one who is taking refuge in God. One who becomes dependent upon the Supreme Being. In other words, "Daughter Zion" is referring to those who have taken refuge in the Supreme Being.
We can see this more clearly from Zechariah 10. We see how these events unfold on the battlefield and how "Daughter Zion" conquers her enemies due to God's protection:
Together they will be like warriors in battle trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets. They will fight because the LORD is with them, and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame. "I will strengthen Judah and save the tribes of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. The Ephraimites will become like warriors, and their hearts will be glad as with wine. Their children will see it and be joyful; their hearts will rejoice in the LORD. I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before. Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive, and they will return. I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria. I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon, and there will not be room enough for them. They will pass through the sea of trouble; the surging sea will be subdued and all the depths of the Nile will dry up. Assyria's pride will be brought down and Egypt's scepter will pass away. I will strengthen them in the LORD and in His Name they will live securely," declares the LORD." (Zech. 10:5-12)These are historical events that depict specific battles. Zechariah is not predicting Jesus' riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The reference to the king riding in on a donkey was following a tough battle where all the warhorses were killed along with the enemy, and the triumphant king comes home from the battlefield.
What is the message of the donkey ride?
What we see is that Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a colt, likely to illustrate to the citizens of Jerusalem that he was bringing the teachings of the Prophets that preceded Jesus. He was trying to remind them of the teachings of the great Prophets. Why?
Because these are the same teachings that Jesus taught.
Essentially, the central message of Zechariah's message and the other Prophets was to instruct the people to take shelter in God. To come to know and love the Supreme Being, and praise God's Holy Name ("rejoice greatly"). Bearing witness to the previous triumphs of Israel over her enemies is to bear witness to the need to become dependent upon God.
Did they steal the narrative?
Some have interpreted Jesus' message as inferring that Zechariah had predicted him. This misses the real import of Jesus' statement.
As if Jesus and his teachings were not important enough in themselves. Instead of understanding how Jesus' teachings were consistent with the teachings of the Prophets - as intended by this statement - they have conjured interpretations to make it seem that the only purpose of all the Prophets was to predict Jesus' arrival.
This is an obvious attempt to downplay the importance of the Mosaic Prophets.
Essentially, the purpose of their campaign to discredit the Mosaic Prophets is completely nullified by the fact that Jesus' most important teachings quoted the Prophets' teachings. For example, the most important instruction according to Jesus was the central teaching of Moses:
“The most important of all the instructions is, ‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction. And the second is like it – ‘You shall love others as yourself.’ There is no other instruction greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)These instructions were directly quoted from Moses' teachings, as evidenced in Deuteronomy 6:5 (to love God) and Leviticus 19:18 (love others).
Does false authority ignore the glory of Jesus?
Deception has been the goal of those who have tried to proclaim that Jesus is God in order to bolster their own authority and the authority of their institutions. This is false authority. To try to make Jesus out to be God Himself is to deny the loving relationship between Jesus and God, and the very existence of the Person that Jesus prayed to when he said:
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36)This is the real glory of Jesus. His love for God. We can see Jesus' dedication to God in many other statements he made, including:
"For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one He sent." (John 5:36-38)
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)These statements and so many others - the true teachings of Jesus - illustrate that Jesus was sent by the Supreme Being. He was God's representative. As such, his mission was to pass on the message that God wanted him to give to us. What is this core message?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)