Practical and Symbolic Reasons for Laying Cloaks for Jesus

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the disciples and crowd responded with their cloaks in 2 ways.

First, in laying them on the donkey for Jesus to ride.

Secondly, they spread their cloaks on the road in front of him.

Deliberate actions that were both practical and symbolic. Leaving us wondering why.

Why did they lay their cloaks on the donkey?

There are some who try to find a deeper meaning to the cloaks on the donkey.

The Disciples Laid their Cloaks on the Donkey for Jesus

One idea is that the people, the disciples, show their humility and service.

They were willing to humble serve Jesus by giving of what they had, their cloaks, in service of his mission.

Some suggest the cloak symbolizes Jesus’ royalty. Like a king sitting on the donkey with their cloaks draped over the donkey.

Jeremiah Pame also suggests that the cloaks were symbolic. Symbolizing how God’s grace covers our sins as the cloaks covered the donkey. Then, just as the donkey’s sweat is absorbed by the cloak, so are our sins by the grace of God.

The best reason for the disciples to give their cloaks for Jesus to sit on is given by Monty Morgan.

“They put their coats on the back of the donkey because donkeys SWEAT. If there wasn’t something on its back, Jesus’ robe and tunic would become WET with it.”

Let’s not overthink things.

Monty Morgan

It’s very practical but hits the nail on the head.

In their devotion to their teacher, the disciples anticipated the discomfort of riding a donkey in th middle of the day. Swiftly, made a makeshift saddle from their cloaks, ensuring Jesus’ comfort and ease.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Now the spreading of cloaks in front of the donkey was probably less practical in purpose.

Why did the crowd lay their cloaks on the road before Jesus?

With thousands of pilgrims arriving it is only Jesus that they give this greater symbolic act.

The laying of cloaks on the ground served no practical reason so we must turn to interpreting the symbolism of it.

Cloaks laid in front of Jesus

Symbolism of Laying Cloaks In Front of Someone

In Jesus’s time, as it is now, garments were symbols of identity and status.

Not only was a cloak practical in protecting one from the weather. Keeping one dry and warm.

By then, as now, the cloaks represented who you were.

What is the significance of laying down cloaks?

There are many thoughts on the symbolism of laying your cloak in front of someone, but most centre on the idea of royalty.

The crowd was showing with their cloaks that the king was arriving.

“The act of throwing one’s cloak down on the ground was a sign of homage and submission…of laying one’s self down, in hopes that the coming King would be able to bring deliverance.”

Adam Walker Cleaveland

Similar to the idea of rolling out the red carpet.

Welcoming Red Carpet

They used what they had, their cloaks to show their welcome to their coming king.

Aon with the laying of palm branches and shouts of praise to the coming king.

This is not without precedent in Jewish history.

  “Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, ‘Jehu is king.’” 

2 Kings 9:13

This is one example that with the proclamation of a new king, the people quickly responded by placing their garments or cloaks on the ground for him to walk on.

Cloaks and Garments of Jesus’ Day

The terms “cloaks” or “garments” can have a broad meaning, encompassing various types of clothing such as apparel or specifically outerwear like cloaks and robes.

During Jesus’ times, a cloak was a distinctive outer garment made by sewing together two pieces of thick woollen material, with slits instead of sleeves for the arms. Protecting one from the elements during the day.

Doubling as a covering for individuals who slept on the floor, providing warmth and comfort. Especially for travellers, shepherds, and those with less wealth.

This is why in Levictial Law, a person’s cloak was not to be held as collateral for a loan.

I have also read that these cloaks or garments are “tallit” or “prayer shawls. ” They are seamless garments with four corners, each adorned with a tassel. Their purpose was to remind the Jewish people of all God’s commands.

The collar has the Hebrew letters spelling “Lord of lords and King of kings” as a reminder of the promised coming Messiah. By laying their “tallits” down, the people acknowledged Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. They declared that Jesus was worthy to be called the “Lord of lords and King of kings.”

The symbolism is powerful, but I think it gives it greater meaning than what the crowd had in mind.

Yes, the people were looking for a messiah.

And they did welcome Jesus with shouts and songs of kingship.

But I doubt they were thinking of a singular Messiah figure that would save them. The “Lord of lords and King of kings.”

Rather, as Matthew puts it.

“This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.

Matthew 21:11

They were simply honouring a prophet as he entered their holy city of Jerusalem.

Resources

Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

Recent Posts