ORDO SALUTIS & The Messianic Entrance Upon a DONKEY--Just what is this?

How is Someone Saved?  A Brief Lecture on the Order of Salvation

For years I heard it explained that Christ came riding on a donkey into Jerusalem to demonstrate his humility. This is certainly true, but I always wondered if there was something more to this?  I never felt like I was getting a good explanation of why he chose to ride on a donkey.  Was it just humility?  Did it demonstrate kingship?  Was it merely a signal of a new day dawning when he would speak peace to nations?  Was it merely done to provide a contrast between the first and second comings?  Zechariah 9 certainly becomes a crucial text in this connection, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey."  

But just what does this mean that he is "just" and having salvation...riding on a donkey"? I believe there is something much more happening here than what has traditionally been assumed. If we compare carefully Genesis 22, we find that Abraham took “two men”, saddled up his donkey, and rode with his son Isaac to Mount Moriah–the very place where the temple would later be built. The donkey and the two men are then left behind as Isaac is taken to the Mount and placed on the altar.  Abraham's firstborn son Isaac is mercifully spared due to the substitution of the sacrificial ram. Something similar occurs again when Moses rode into Egypt setting his sons on a donkey and riding to the place of the execution of the firstborn while Israel is spared by the blood of the Passover lamb. Both accounts foreshadowed Christ's substitutionary atonement for us, and the donkey was the means of transport.

Now all of this comports with Exodus 13 in the law of the firstborn in the close identification of donkeys and firstborn male sons. The firstborn clean animals could not be redeemed, but a specific unclean animal is mentioned that could be redeemed, namely, a donkey. In the very next breath, the Lord says that along with the donkey, their firstborn sons could also be redeemed. With what? A lamb without spot. This was designed to teach Israel that their righteousness was like that of an unclean donkey (unclean garments), and that they needed redemption. 

In Mark 11, Jesus sends "two disciples" to unleash this donkey. The donkey is said to be unbacked and young, as John records, most likely indicating that it was a redeemed donkey according to the law of the firstborn. The disciples then cast their garments “upon” the donkey to illustrate exactly what Exodus 13 taught in the law of the firstborn, namely, that they as sinners identify with the uncleanness of the donkey, and are in need of redemption by a lamb with out spot. Christ is then “set” on this donkey (see Matthew and Luke), a graphic presentation of the true Lamb of God presented who takes away the sin of the world. Christ then rides as the pure Lamb, the only begotten son of God, with the goal of ascending the temple mount (keep in mind as he enters Jerusalem, Josephus records there were 256, 500 lambs brought in for the Passover celebration).  

The crowds before and behind him sing Psalm 118, the Egyptian Hallel, celebrating God's deliverance of the Jews from Egypt with the blood of the lamb.  Here Christ is being presented before God as the worthy Lamb who with clean hands and a pure heart is able to ascend Zion's Holy Hill for sinners (Ps 24).  Christ then enters the temple “alone” and looks around; soon he will be sacrificed and fulfill everything that temple represented. Through the blood of the Lamb, those who look to him for new garments, renouncing their own garments as pictured in Mark 11, these will be given access to the Most Holy Place through the pure Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Therefore, what we call the triumphal entry is really a grand sort of parable of the salvation of Christ meriting for sinners all that they need to have access into the Holy Place.

These are just some Monday thoughts after preaching Mark 11. I always felt something crucial was missing in the traditional explanation of the donkey, it never went far enough in explaining just what it means that Christ is riding on a donkey having salvation.   CJG


  1. I just preached on Matthew's account of the Triumphal Entry... I wish I had read this last week! lol.

  2. Ah, the Biblical-theological way, nothing quite like it. You can preach Mark next year! Glad to see you're off and running.

  3. Thanks for illustrating the rich biblical typology of the donkey which bears the sacrifice at such a time as this. Keep up the excellent work - I may just go and download your sermon on this passage.

  4. Hi Theodore, thanks for encouragement! The typology here is really powerful. Chris

  5. Great work Chris, the typology is is further strengthened if we accept the idea that a donkey was commonly used in the ancient near east for the purpose of cutting a covenant (Meredith Kline). This certainly enhances the idea that Jesus came riding upon a donkey, because he was ascending the mountain of God for the purpose of establish a new covenant in his blood. A covenant, where sinners, will be declared righteous on the basis of having their sins pardoned and receiving the imputed righteousness of Christ, by faith, alone, in Christ, alone.
    This idea is supported by Genesis 49:11, in this passage, Jacob is blessing, his sons, in verse 11, he is blessing Judah and his descendants. “He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes” (Genesis 49:11). The donkey represents the tribe of Judah and those who are unclean, the vine is Christ and the wine is his blood. As Judah is tied to the best vine, Jesus Christ, he will wash his garments in the blood of Christ so that he might be made righteous before God. This is why Jesus rode upon a donkey, because the unclean donkey symbolizes those who are going to be redeemed by the blood of a lamb without spot.

    This fits very well with the thesis put forth by Meredith Kline that donkey’s were commonly used in the Ancient Near East for the purpose of cutting covenants, and Jesus Christ ascended the Mountain of God for the purpose of establishing a new covenant in his blood.

    In addition to this, is it possible that Jesus rode upon a donkey, because it was common for kings and members of the royal family to ride upon donkeys, in the ancient near east, and Jesus entered Jerusalem as our King. The fact that it was common for kings and princes to ride upon donkeys is supported by the Old Testament Scriptures. Consider Judges 5:9-10, My heart is with Israel's princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD! 10 "You who ride on white donkeys, sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider.” In 2 Samuel 16:2 we read, “The king asked Ziba, "Why have you brought these?" Ziba answered, "The donkeys are for the king's household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the desert."

  6. Good stuff, Mark. Love the Genesis 49 connection--how did I miss that? Can't wait to preach this again!

  7. I was looking for a donkey image and landed here. I decided to read your post. Very good. I'm going to share it with my pastor.