The Politics of the King’s Donkey

I’ve just posted over on Political Theology Today, discussing the Lukan narrative of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem:

Indeed, the signs of the establishment of the kingdom and of Saul as king given by Samuel correlate remarkably with the signs that Jesus gives to his disciples in Luke:

  1. Saul encounters two men who declare that Saul’s father’s donkeys have been found (1 Samuel 10:2). Two disciples obtain a donkey according to Jesus’ prediction and instructions (Luke 19:29-34).
  2. Saul meets three men going up to Bethel carrying goats, loaves of bread, and a skin of wine, who freely give Saul two loaves (1 Samuel 10:3-4). Peter and John meet a man bearing a water pitcher on the day when the Passover sacrifice (a lamb or a goat) was killed. He leads them up to a house, whose master freely provides them with an upper room for the sacrificial feast, where Jesus gives his disciples bread and wine (Luke 22:7-20). This sign seems to be intermixed with the earlier surprising events that befell Saul on his journey in 1 Samuel 9: meeting women bearing water (verse 11), being directed to the site of a sacrificial meal with the prophet in the high place who bestows a special meal portion prophetically set aside for the unannounced guest (verse 22-24), speaking with the prophet in the top of the house (verse 25), and having a kingdom bestowed upon him (1 Samuel 10:1; cf. Luke 22:24-30).
  3. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Saul and he becomes a new man and prophesies (1 Samuel 10:6). The disciples are instructed to tarry in Jerusalem, where the Spirit of God will come upon them, they will receive power for their mission, and prophesy (Luke 24:49).

In giving these signs and in travelling into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus enacts the establishment of a new kingdom. As in the case of Saul, this is a kingdom that comes through a series of bewildering surprises and remarkable private signs, puncturing illusions of human control and power with indications of divine grace and orchestration. The triumphal entry manifests the coming and the character of the kingdom of God. It reveals the fulfilment of the story of Israel’s kingdom and the realization of the old promises. It reveals a kingdom that does not arrive through human power or design, but as a quiet wonder and gift of divine ordering. It reveals a king who is quite unlike the warring kings of the nations. Against this divine kingdom, all human kingdoms can be seen for what they are, their penultimacy and injustices exposed by the light of this humble royal advent.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in #Luke2Acts, 1 Samuel, Bible, Guest Post, Lent, Luke, NT, NT Theology, OT, Politics, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Politics of the King’s Donkey

  1. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Alastair,
    It really did me good to read your excellent commentary on the ways in which the King’s Donkey, the ‘Fifth Business’, is so richly and finely woven into the wonderful tapestry of the whole Bible – I found it very informative and enlightening.
    When I taught 8-11 year-olds in Sunday School, I discovered that this was one of their favourite passages in the scriptures. They loved to dramatize it and several of them liked to play the part of the donkey – maybe they had more wisdom that I gave them credit for at the time🙂

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