As far back as Genesis, in the prophecy of Jacob over his sons, we hear the association of the Messiah with a donkey:
Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:8-12)
There are additional prophecies:
Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’
This word, taken from Zechariah, seems to fit the occasion in a manner that reveals Christ as He has been made known: “King coming to you lowly…” Christ is the lowly king.
Where we fail to draw the proper conclusion is that God is a lowly king. Many prefer the God of the philosophers, or the God of a religion ultimately foreign to Christ (“you know not what Spirit you are of”). In my postings here, many have rushed to defend the angry God, the God who destroys cities, as if by my suggestion that such interpretations are not consonant with the words of the Fathers, I was somehow making God to be less than He is. We cannot make of Him less than He made of Himself. For the great mystery that will be set forth before us in the words and actions of Holy Week and Pascha are the weakness of God which is the very manifestation of His power.
The tragedy of this lies not just in the false telling of the story of our salvation – but the false images to which we are willing to ally ourselves. To admit that it is God’s humility and emptiness, His meekness and lowliness to which we are to be conformed threatens us many times over – for it strikes at the very arrogance of our heart. “God resists the proud.”
We arrogantly refuse to fast. We arrogantly refuse to forgive. We judge in arrogance and in arrogance we raise our voices from the depths of hell. We hear not so much as an echo for there are no walls in hell. Even what passed for gates were long ago destroyed. Only our desire for delusion holds us there.
Our King, on the other hand, comes to us in lowliness. In my observation, there is no way to arrogantly ride a donkey. Donkeys are beasts of burden, but they are also beasts of buffoonery.
I heard a story once of a man who sat in a restaurant contemplating his own suicide. He was an actor and his career was failing. As he sat, lost in his private hell, he heard tapping at the window. The tapping continued until he looked up. Even after he looked up the tapping continued until every head was raised and turned towards the annoyance. Then a sign was held up to the window:
“I’m a fool for Jesus,” it read. “Whose fool are you?”
That day a fool turned aside from his suicide. If we are willing to become foolish and follow the path of a donkey, we may become wise like God, Who for our sake became weak and lowly.