Mystery of the never-saddled colt

Published 8:00 am Saturday, March 30, 2024

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by R. A. Mathews
This past Sunday marked the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, when the crowds celebrated our Lord as their king, laying branches of palm trees before Him, creating a coronation carpet. 

On that day, as the Lord prepared to enter the city, He spoke to His disciples on the Mount of Olives. What did Jesus say?

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to Me.’” (Matthew 21:1-7)

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The Gospels of Mark and Luke tell us something more about that scene. Jesus said to the disciples, “You will find a colt tied on which no one has sat.” (Mark 11:2, Luke 19:30)

In other words, this was a very specific animal. It’s intriguing. Why did Jesus need a never-saddled colt? 

Let’s unravel the mystery.

Jesus’s triumphal entry wasn’t new. For centuries, the Jews had known it would happen. “Shout, O Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you … Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, a foul of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

To put this in perspective, the January “Economic Times” just carried Nostradamus’ 500-year-old predictions for 2024. Prophecy amazes us. Just so, Zechariah spoke those words roughly 500 years before Jesus’ triumphal entry.  

It gets even better.

Palm Sunday was known a thousand years before Zechariah, when Moses penned Genesis, relaying what only God could have told him. 

Moses wrote that from Abraham, his son Isaac, his son Jacob, and his son Judah would come the Messiah. None were first-borns, yet Moses accurately chose the right men, foretelling the line to Jesus.

Moses then wrote what Jacob had said to his son, Judah. “The scepter will not depart from Judah … until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his.” (Genesis 49:10)

Jacob predicted that the royal line (the scepter) would run from Judah to Jesus, the one who will bring about the obedience of the nations. 

Stay with me. This is beautiful.

Jacob went on to tell Judah: “He (the Christ) will tender his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch.” (Genesis 49:11)

That’s an extraordinarily important prophecy, hidden in Scripture for nearly 4,000 years. What did Jacob mean? “He will tender his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch.”

It’s no coincidence that there are only two places in Scripture where a donkey and a colt are mentioned together — Jacob’s prophecy and Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Those ancient words, “He will tender his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch,” are the reason Jesus brought both the donkey and the never-saddled colt to Jerusalem that day. What Jesus knew then, his disciples wouldn’t understand until after His resurrection. 

The donkey symbolizes the Old Testament, while the never-saddled colt represents the New Testament. The donkey, the old law, gave birth to the new law, the colt. On Palm Sunday, Jesus brought both to His people. 

And it’s here that the mystery of the never-saddled part is solved. Only Jesus can sit on that colt — Jesus is the New Covenant. Our Lord lifted His cup to the disciples at the Last Supper and said, “This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 20:22)

There will be those who will come, claiming to be the way to God. But, no. It is Christ alone who saves mankind, shedding His blood for us. This New Covenant is His covenant, and His alone. 

That’s why Jesus needed both the donkey and its colt, one that had never been sat upon. Look again at what Jacob said nearly 2,000 years before Christ: “He will tender his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch.” 

God tendered (tied) the law of the Old Testament to His vine, the Jews, God’s people of the Old Testament. But the New Covenant is tied to the choicest branch of that vine. It’s for those who believe in Christ. 

Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Jesus’ last days before His crucifixion, before His blood was spilled. In Jesus we see God’s plan revealed over thousands of years in the Old Testament.

Let the mystery of the donkey and its never-saddled colt remind you of the depth and richness that’s in Scripture. Know your Bible but also really enjoy it. 

The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of Emerald Coast: The Vendetta. Write to her at (Just one t in Mathews)

Copyright © 2019, 2024 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.