The city was awash with rumours and theories about the unconventional rabbi from Nazareth. Some were saying that he was sent by God; others believed he was inspired by the devil. The more energetically the first group dreamed of making Jesus their king, the more carefully the latter group planned his execution. Jesus needed to make a statement that would direct people’s minds away from their pre-set fears and fantasies, and focus their attention on the priorities of God.
Jesus had spent a few years trying to tell people, and show them, what God is like, but they had consistently failed to shift from their deeply ingrained assumptions. It was time for a different approach. Rather than talk to people, he decided to show them the kind of Messiah that God had raised up. To achieve this, he chose to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
I highly recommend doing an internet image search for “man riding donkey” (there is a small sample in the attached picture). Apart from the occasional paying tourist or comedy stunt, there is a certain consistency of style among the donkey riders of the world. Again and again you see low status, hard working people going about the dull routines of their lives. This was Jesus’ style statement. This is the kind of man he was, and that he intended to be. If Jesus was indeed God’s Messiah, God’s anointed one, then this is the kind of God Jesus represented.
A second internet image search for “religious leaders” brings a very different set of images, featuring a remarkable array of long robes and strange hats, with the occasional tailored suit. It would have been much the same in Jesus’ day, and Jesus deliberately chose a strongly contrasting image.
He decided to make a style statement - a message without words. He was the one appointed and anointed by God to reveal to the world what God is really like. He chose to do that by riding a donkey.