Bible Insights

Borrow a Donkey for Jesus

The Teacher Makes a Big Ask

Today’s passage: Matthew 21:1–6, Mark 11:1–10, and Luke 19:28–34

Focus verse: “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.” (Matthew 21:2)

As Jesus and his followers approach Jerusalem, he sends two of his disciples on a mission. He sends them to borrow a donkey and its colt.

Though they don’t know the reason for this request, he plans to ride the colt into Jerusalem. This will fulfill the Old Testament prophecy that the king will come to them—righteous and victorious—riding the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus doesn’t tell the pair to seek the owner and ask permission first, which seems like the proper thing to do. Instead, he tells them what to say if questioned. This implies they will, in fact, be stopped and quizzed.

When we consider this request in a modern context, what he asks them to do is even more astounding. It would be like Jesus telling us to take someone’s bicycle or even a car.

Certainly, this would be a risky thing to do, as we could be arrested and prosecuted for stealing—for taking what isn’t ours. I’d certainly balk at Jesus’s instruction. I’m not sure I’d be willing to break the law for him.

As for his disciples, they don’t question him. They obey. They are, however, no doubt familiar with the Old Testament law that stipulates the punishment for taking someone’s donkey.

The penalty is to pay back double, to make a two-fold restitution for having a stolen donkey (Exodus 22:4) or being in the illegal possession of one (Exodus 22:9). They are to not even covet—that is, to want—it (Exodus 20:17).

Although Mark and Luke say that Jesus tells them to take the colt, Matthew notes that Jesus tells them to take both the donkey and her colt. This makes sense.

The donkey is trained and will go wherever they lead her, with the colt following along. But the colt alone may fight them for trying to separate it from its mother. So, in this case, they take two donkeys, which would require a restitution of four animals.

Yet, the disciples do as Jesus instructed. And they do so without question or hesitation.

Mark and Luke both mention that people nearby question what the disciples are doing. I suspect they know who owns the pair of animals—and it isn’t the disciples. But the disciples don’t explain.

They say what Jesus tells them to say. “The Lord needs them and will send them back shortly.”

The people accept this.


  • What does the Lord need us to do?
  • What is our response when God tells us to do something that makes no sense or is even illegal? (Would you borrow a donkey for Jesus?)

Prayer: Lord, may we hear you, listen, and obey—in all situations and at all times.

Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his passion to save us in Peter’s new book, The Passion of Jesus. It is part of the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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