Yes, you read correctly; we’re talking about donkeys today. No, I have not gone crazy; I promise that I have a point.
I was talking to a friend recently who alerted me to the legend of the donkey and the cross that is visible on the back of some breeds. The miniature donkey, either Sicilian or Sardinian, has a cross on its back, visible from a patch of hair that stripes down the back and then crosses over the shoulders. I had never heard of this fact before, and in our conversation, my friend and I marveled at how this just couldn’t be a coincidence.
In Matthew 21:1-11, we read this account of Jesus enteringJerusalem, riding on a donkey:
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus enteredJerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet fromNazareth inGalilee.”
Upon reading this, my writer’s mind could not help but find the symbolism. Donkeys, by their very nature, are animals that serve. In Biblical times, these animals were used to carry people and goods from place to place. The miniature donkey, in particular, is said to be a very gentle and docile creature, and I immediately thought of Christ’s humble nature and servant heart. He had come to earth to serve the people, and yet the same people who honored Him on Palm Sunday later shouted “Crucify Him!” The Sicilian or Sardinian donkey with the cross on its back is a constant reminder of the sacrifice of our humble and gentle Savior who carried the burden of our sin to the cross.
So this Easter, think about the symbol of the donkey and how it can remind us of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.