The Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. This detail of the narrative might be easy to skim past, but we must pause here in this part of the story of Christ’s ministry in order to fully appreciate the symbolic punch which this image carries.
The first thing to note is that the means of transportation which a king or governor entered a city held significance; if he came to wage war he’d ride a mighty war-horse; whereas, if he came in peace, he would ride in on a donkey. Thus, Jesus’ mode of entry is an assertion of his kingship; but He was inaugurating a kingdom of peace. He came in meekness, as a servant King. But His next act, after entering Jerusalem, might feel out of place. This peaceful King goes to the temple and drives out the moneychangers (Mt. 21:12-16).
But this episode is not out of place, because there’s a second layer to Jesus riding in on a donkey. A more ancient cultural cue is happening; we are being hearkened back to the days of the Judges. Those judges would ride through Israel on a white donkey (Jdg. 5:10, 12:14).
Jesus employed cultural symbolism from Israel’s history to make a clear point. He was riding into Jerusalem like an Israelite judge of old. But remember, those judges were not solemn, black-robed judiciary bureaucrats; they fought Philistines with jaw-bones, they smuggled in knives to stab tyrant kings, they overthrew wicked regimes, destroyed favorite idols, and they delivered God’s people.
The triumphal entry is a vivid depiction of a King and Judge. A King coming into His peaceful kingdom, a Judge coming to bring judgement on evildoers. He comes to avenge and deliver God’s people. He comes to deliver us from the greedy moneychangers within us, in order that we might be houses of prayer, where the Prince of peace might reign in glory.