Did Jesus Mount a Donkey From This Stone?
Location – The Mount of Olives
Map Coordinates - 31.777265, 35.250879
Merged Gospels story - 215
Bethphage, meaning “House of figs” was the place where the disciples of Jesus acquired a donkey and her colt that carried Jesus to the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This event was a fulfillment of a prophecy written in the Old Testament book of Zechariah 9:9. The Franciscan church on this site has a dressed and illustrated block of granite that is allegedly the place where Jesus mounted the donkey.
The Biblical Story.
From The Merged Gospels, story 215 we read
Then Jesus sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you. And immediately as you enter it, you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt tied with her, on which no one yet has ever sat. Untie them, and bring them here to Me. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you untying it,’ thus you will say to him, ‘The Lord has need of them.’ And immediately he will send them back here.” Now all this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, as it is written, “Say ‘Fear not’, to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt of a donkey, the foal of a beast of burden.” (see Zech 9:9) His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. And the disciples who were sent went away, and they did just as Jesus had said, and found a young donkey tied at the door outside in the street, just as He had told them, and they untied it. And as they were untying the colt, its owners, among the bystanders, said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they said to them, “The Lord has need of it,” just as Jesus had told them. And they gave them permission. And they brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus, and they threw their garments on them, and they put Jesus on it, on which He sat.
Peter and John acquire a donkey and colt at Bethphage.
Where was Bethphage?
Undoubtedly, the village was situated near Bethany on the east side of the Mount of Olives. In the first century Bethphage was considered the outermost reach of the city of Jerusalem, the limit of a Sabbath-day’s journey (about 3/5 of a mile) from the city, and the furthest point at which bread could be baked for use in the Temple.
Especially interesting is the mention of Galileans on the lid of an ossuary found there. It would seem to shed light on the ease with which the two disciples acquired the donkey for Jesus. It appears that Bethphage may have been a settlement of people who, like Jesus and His disciples, were from Galilee. In Bethphage, it seems, they were among Galilean locals.
History of the Church.
Already in the 4th century AD a chapel was built there, followed by a Crusader church. The present Franciscan monastery and chapel were built in 1883, with the apse and bell tower added later.
The Annual Palm Sunday Procession.
The annual Palm Sunday march from Bethphage to Jerusalem.
This church has become the traditional starting point for the annual palm-waving Palm Sunday procession to Jerusalem down the Palm Sunday Road which follows beside the cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
The Palm Sunday Procession was a tradition that was observed as early as the late fourth century, as recounted by the lady pilgrim from Spain, Egeria, who claims that she participated in such a procession, that ultimately led to the Anastasis (meaning resurrection, referring to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher). However, Egeria only claims to have started the procession at the top of the Mount of Olives. Beginning in the 9th century this procession was then elongated to the location of the Church at Bethphage.
This procession ceased to exist by the end of the Crusader era. It was taken up again in the 16th to 17th century by the Franciscans, with a priest seated on the colt of a donkey, representing Christ. Today it is presided over by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The Mounting Stone.
On the front left side of the chapel is the Mounting Stone (or the Stone of Meeting), a cube-shaped block of limestone, from which the Crusaders believed Jesus mounted the donkey before his triumphal entry. On the sides of the rock are medieval paintings, restored in 1950. These depict the disciples collecting the donkey and colt, people holding palm branches, the resurrection of Lazarus at nearby Bethany, and the inscription “Bethphage”.