The Ass and the Colt

Matthew 21 vs.1-7

1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. (King James Version)

Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd traveled down the road from Jericho. They arrived at the Mount of Olives. Jesus halts the entire procession. He calls two of the disciples to him. He gives them a task to perform. Go into the village next to us that is called Bethphage which is next to the Mount of Olives. When they enter, they will find "an ass tied, and a colt." What were they to do? "Loose them, and bring them unto me."

In Matthew's gospel we see a slightly different story unfolding than what is commonly told. It is the details that are different. These details open up a perspective that is usually missed by most people. The disciples in Matthew's gospel are sent to retrieve two animals, the ass and its colt. The disciples untie both animals.

Matthew quotes scripture to inform us that this act was by the fulfillment of prophecy. The scripture is this, Zech 9.9 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Here we see that the prophet speaks of someone riding upon two animals, the ass and the colt. This is in agreement with what Matthew wrote. Though it is not a word for word translation, the intent is clear. The Messiah, the Christ, must ride upon an ass and its colt.

As they are untying the two animals they are challenged but some men who witness what they are doing. The disciples following Jesus' instruction they tell them, "The Lord hath need of them." I don't know what relationship the men, who challenged the disciples, had with the owner of the animals. They did however understand the authority for the disciples to take the two animals on behalf of the Lord.

When the disciples show up with the two animals the disciples throw their clothes onto the ass and the colt and Jesus sits upon them both. This is a different picture than what is shown in Sunday school pictures. The other gospels do not say that Jesus sat upon both of them. They write that Jesus sat on the colt. Are we to infer that Jesus sat upon one of the beasts only? And that had to be the colt? Perhaps, but Matthew's gospel is clear and portrays Jesus sitting on both. The passage from Zech 9.9 also says clearly that the Messiah, the Christ, will arrive in Jerusalem riding on both. It doesn't leave much to argue about.

Why Both?

Prophecy has a strange way of unfolding itself. Things are written that sometimes don't make sense until after the Lord reveals its true meaning. The virgin birth prophecy is another of these strange utterances. But aside from that, why both? I went to the earliest reference I could find that talked about both an ass and its colt. It is found here Gen 49. "10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. 11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine." Shiloh (the Messiah, the Christ) has come and all the people were to be gathered to him. And the picture that the next verse draws, I take it as prophetic and illustrative, is that Shiloh comes with two beasts of burden representing two covenant peoples and the covenants each are to bear. The ass are the people under the old covenant and the colt are the people under the new covenant. Shiloh ties the ass to a vine and the colt to a choice vine. Jesus is the vine. What the Word of God revealed to Moses the people (the ass) needed to be bound to. What the Word of God revealed to the disciples the people (the colt) needed to be bound to. The latter being more choice than the former. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus over the next ten days is the transition point between the two covenants.

This I also see when Jesus rides the two animals, that his weight is carried primarily by the mature ass as his feet rest on the colt. This is to portray the difference that will take place. That the burden of the written law will be eased by the "Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus."

So, Jesus sits upon the two beasts of burden and the disciples and the crowd enters Jerusalem. Did Jesus physically tie the ass to a vine and the colt to a choice vine? I think not. I believe that it is an illustration of the meaning of both covenants as I describe above. This is how I view both prophetic references, Genesis and Zechariah, about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem riding upon those two animals.

If this page has confused you, I hope that God can give you understanding.

If this page has blessed you, then I am happy.

God bless you.

Author: Joseph A Raymond
1 February 2011

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Webite administrator: Joseph A Raymond
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada