God’s Word for You
Luke 19:35-36 spreading their cloaks on the road
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 24, 2019
35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
“They” refers to the two disciples who brought the colt (and its mother) to Jesus. A “colt” (Greek polos) is a young male donkey (or horse), but not necessarily small. It also means unbroken, unridden, or inexperienced. This colt may have been as tall as his mother. In the spring, donkeys along with many other animals shed their winter coats, and the outer cloaks of the disciples would have kept the Lord from becoming instantly filthy. It is a kind of spiritual inversion of Christ’s role in our lives, since his robe of righteousness keeps us from being stained eternally by the filth of our sins (Isaiah 61:10).
36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
The people realized at once what was happening. When King David had named Solomon to be his heir, he said to the men of his court, “Take your lord’s servants with you and set Solomon my son on my own mule and take him down to (the Spring of) Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’” (1 Kings 1:32-33). Much later, in one of the last books of the Old Testament to be written, there was a prophecy: “Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey; on a colt, the foal of donkeys.” (Zechariah 9:9, author’s translation). The people realized that Jesus was the fulfillment of this prophecy; the Messiah was coming to the city at last!
Many people also see a hint in the Messianic prophecy of Genesis 49:10-11, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robe in the blood of grapes.” The final words are a reference to the prosperity and settled life of the tribe of Judah, but who can fail to wonder at the mention of the king riding on his donkey?
Luke’s Greek text tells us that the people “kept spreading their cloaks” on the path; the road was paved with their garments all the way, for hundreds of yards, from the Mount of Olives to the gate of Jerusalem. A detail omitted in this Gospel is the palm branches (John 12:13). Perhaps Luke did not want to take time to explain the branches to Theophilus, who might have mistaken them for laurel leaves, which were used as trophies for the victors of military battles and athletic or literary contests in Greece and Rome (1 Corinthians 9:25, 2 Timothy 2:5).
In ancient times, the Romans mocked Christians by calling them (in rough-and-ready Latin) asinarii, “ass drivers,” on account of this event. There is even at least one case of ancient graffiti in which a man is mocked because of the God he worships, and there is a picture of a man with a donkey’s head being crucified. The world cannot make up its mind. Should Christians be criticized when some of them seem to be too wealthy, or should they be mocked because of the poverty of Jesus? The false testimony of Jesus’ trial (Mark 14:57-59) continues even today. The quasi-prophetic words of my high school chorus teacher have always remained with me: “The audience will think that the one who sings the loudest is right.” This is sadly true today in politics, in political criticism, in false religions, and in critics of the church. Jesus showed his humility in riding a donkey, but even in this humble moment, the church rose up—the disciples and his other followers—and gave him glory and praise. This should be our goal every day: To give Jesus glory with everything we say and everything we do. We should also learn to make it our goal to glorify God even with our thoughts. Let your thoughts become sublime, to take the words and actions of others in the kindest way, understanding them to have the best possible meaning. While this might shame some people for having meant something far worse, it might also “encourage the timid and help the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) as you strive to be patient with everyone. Find every way you can to give glory to your Savior King.
Pastor Timothy Smith