The Jerusalem Donkey

Last summer we took our 13-year-old grandson, Heston, on a trip to Kentucky. We stayed on a horse farm, in an old train depot turned VRBO. Each time we drove up and parked our car, there was a fenced area right beside us where two donkeys lived.

Every day when we went outside, they greeted us and we enjoyed giving them carrots and leftovers! One day, I pulled out my art supplies, which I always have handy, sat at the kitchen table with Heston, and we both sketched our versions of the donkey. 

 I love his vision and his sketch in black watercolor. I did a color version. 

And oh, by the way, it was a great trip!!


As we are celebrating Palm Sunday, those donkey sketches came to my mind. As I think about that special Donkey that Jesus rode, I did a little research about them. 

The donkey is a sign of meekness. Stubbornness, loyalty, and both stupidity and intelligence are common words to describe them. Donkeys were portrayed in Biblical works as symbols of service, suffering, peace, and humility. Jesus led his followers into the city of Jerusalem riding on the back of a small, common donkey on Palm Sunday.

The “Jerusalem Donkey” term comes from a legend. After he brought Jesus into Jerusalem, the donkey was troubled because he knew what Jesus was about to go through with his trial, suffering, and death on the cross. 

He so loved his gentle master that he later followed him to Calvary. Grief-stricken by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but couldn’t leave. God saw this and caused the shadow of the cross to fall across the little donkey’s back and he has carried the sign of the cross ever since as a symbol of God’s love. 

All kinds of donkeys, regardless of the breed, have a cross marking on their backs. Although it may be obscure, shave a donkey down and you’ll definitely see it.

The Legend of the Donkey's Cross - Courageous Christian Father

The triumphal entry – Jesus’ famous ride on this lowly animal reveals much about Christ’s character and purpose.  A king would have ridden a horse when he was bent on war and ridden a donkey to symbolize his arrival in peace. Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem would have thus symbolized his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king. It fulfilled a prophecy spoken 500 years before referred to by Matthew as he recalled Zechariah 9:9. “Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, Humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The cross on a donkey can serve as a reminder of both Jesus’ sacrifice and the caring role the animal played in the events leading up to his death.

Here is a FREE coloring sheet for your kiddos as you talk with them about the donkey that carried our Lord and savior into town all those years ago.