The Donkey and the Colt

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on April 04, 2009

For those of you who are commemorating Palm Sunday (in Western Christianity, April 5, and in Eastern Christianity, April 12), this is the day where Christians remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before his arrest and crucifixion.

The Gospel of Matthew (Matthew chapter 21) depicts Jesus as riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. But Matthew’s account also mentions the presence of a second animal: a colt. The colt (foal) was probably the child of the donkey. As best as we can tell, Jesus was probably riding on the donkey with the colt walking along side of both of them.

Matthew’s story tells us that the disciples of Jesus placed garments on both animals. Yet Jesus, like most of us, would find it difficult if not impossible to ride two different animals at the same time. One possibility is that Jesus switched from riding the donkey to riding the colt at some point in his procession into Jerusalem. Another possibility presents how the young colt was prepared with garments, as was its mother; yet the younger animal was probably not ridden by Jesus or by anyone else on that first Palm Sunday. I would tend to agree with this second interpretation of the story. And with this interpretation comes a possible symbolism.

The two animals, the donkey and her colt, I would contend, are symbols of two generations. The donkey that Jesus was riding on represents what God is doing now. Yet the work of what God is doing now usually find its true fulfillment in the next generation. This is where God works “trans-generationally”: From spiritual fathers to spiritual sons, who in turn become spiritual fathers for a new generation of spiritual children.

What God is doing now (the donkey) will be completed in the next generation (the colt). Something to think about on this Palm Sunday.

Story of the Good Samaritan: A Fresh Perspective

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on August 09, 2008

You’ve probably already heard of the Story of the Good Samaritan. It was Jesus’ answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?”.

What you may *not* have heard is the symbolic interpretation of this story. Amazingly enough, looking at this story as being symbolic (allegorical) produces a sweeping picture of the entire story of humankind from beginning to end.

The story begins with a traveller going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. This is a steep downhill journey. This is symbolic of Adam being placed into the earth with the purpose of ruling over it after having been designed and thought of in the eternal, heavenly mind of God. [Note: The very beginning of the story in the original language (ancient Greek) even says “a certain man …” (the traveller), which is translated as “Adam”.] Yet before Adam can realize his true potential of ruling over all of the earth, he and his wife, Eve, make a tragic decision. Without fully realizing what they are doing, they surrender their privileges as a son and a daughter of God.

The thieves who attacked the traveller are symbols of the devil and demons. The robbery of the clothes of the traveller represents a loss of authority and identity, which is what happened to Adam and Eve (and to all of humanity, their descendants) when, after being tricked into doing so by the serpent, they disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree. This was then marked by their expulsion from Eden and their loss of a regular, face-to-face relationship with God in that garden. As happened to the victim in the story, they became “half-dead”. All of humanity is created in the likeness of God, and yet this stain of separation from God remains.

The unhelpful passers-by, the priest and the levite, represent religious law and religion systems. Neither is able or willing to help. [As it is written: By the works of the law, no one will be justified (helped).] Symbolically in the story, the law comes by first and then the religious ceremonies, formalities and systems that surround that law. [The Levites assisted the priests in ancient Judea.]

The Good Samaritan represents Jesus. The Samaritan pours oil and wine upon the victim’s wounds. Oil often represents the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) in the Bible, whereas wine often represents the blood of Christ, shed for all of humanity on the cross. Samaritans were part Jewish and part gentile (non-Jewish). This is symbolic of Jesus being God and man. The victim is then carried by the Samaritan to Jericho. This symbolizes Jesus Christ doing what humankind carelessly gave up the ability to do on its own: going “down” to its divine (heavenly) destiny of ruling (the story of Genesis says subduing/possessing/having dominion over) the earth. The inn where the traveller is housed in safety is a symbol of the church, the body of Christ. Finally, the promise of the Samaritan to return represents the second coming of Jesus back to the earth.

Another facet of this symbolic interpretation is offered by Sam Soleyn in his new MP3 series entitled “The Culture of the Kingdom”. See:

In program 139 of this series, Mr. Soleyn sees the two coins as symbolizing 2,000 years. This is because the type of coin in the story refers to one day’s wage for the average worker at that time, and also because, in the Bible, references to one day were often symbolic of 1,000 years. If this is correct, Jesus is saying that he would return for his church after about 2,000 years.

By the way, seeing this story as a series of symbols is not a new invention. Rather, it has ancient roots. The respected 3rd-century theologian Origen wrote down this interpretation and said that other followers of Christ had passed it down to him. See:

Do you also find this symbolic interpretation interesting or do you consider it to be just a distraction from the more direct meaning of the story?