Devotional: The Donkey – 4th Monday in Advent

4th Monday in Advent

The Donkey

DonkeyIn those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census
should be taken of the entire Roman world.… And everyone
went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up
from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem
the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of
David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged
to be married to him and was expecting a child. Luke 2:1-5

A couple of animals are placed on our Chrismon tree simply because they were an
important means of transportation for characters in the Christmas story. The first
one that appears is the donkey. We can’t say he actually appears, since he is never
mentioned. But it is proper to assume that, with Mary being about to deliver a
baby, Joseph would have secured a donkey for her to ride on the 3-5 day journey
from Nazareth to Bethlehem. So the donkey shows up on a lot of our Christmas
cards, either carrying Mary on her journey to Bethlehem or actually at the stable
when Jesus is born. Since the donkey was a rather humble means of transportation,
it is also another reminder of the humbleness of Jesus’ birth.

But the donkey also has an important role in a prophecy about the coming Messiah
and its fulfillment in Jesus’ life. In Zechariah 9:9-13, God promises that Israel’s
coming king will bring about an end to Israel’s warfare against the nations. That
much was expected of Messiah by Jesus’ day. But what they missed was how this
coming king would do so. The common view was that Messiah would be a warrior
king who would destroy the nations with the sword. Such a king would often be
depicted as riding to the rescue on a white stallion. But notice how God says his
Messiah-King will appear in Zechariah 9:9:

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.

Coming into Jerusalem on a donkey depicted Messiah as a king of peace, not warfare!
In fact, the prophecy goes on, “He will proclaim peace to the nations” (9:10).
Jesus consciously and intentionally fulfills this prophecy at his triumphal entry,
riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, a bold statement proclaiming himself both Messiah
and Prince of Peace.

Prayer: Jesus, we thank you for humbling yourself to live among us and we praise
you that you are our Prince of Peace. Amen.