In the synoptic gospels, all of the accounts depict Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of the colt of a donkey. They make a note that the disciples placed their coats on the donkey (and Matthew's account even says they laid their coats on the mother and the colt). John's account does not mention this specific detail about the donkey(s) but it does include the shared detail with the synoptics that the branches were taken from the trees and laid on the ground.
When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. - Matthew 21:1-3, 6-8 NASB
As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He 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 colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.” They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. - Mark 11:1-8
When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. - Luke 19:29-36
On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” - John 12:12-13
I understand this event was prophecied in Zechariah 9 also
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. - Zechariah 9:9
which is described in Matthew 21:4-5.
I have several questions.
- Why did the disciples place their coats on the donkey(s) and the crowd put theirs on the ground instead of keeping them on?
- Is there any reason why some laid their coats on the colt, and others on the ground? (This was partially answered satisfactorily by Mac below)
- What was the purpose, in general, for laying coats and palm branches on the ground while Jesus rode into town?
- Is there any reason why Matthew says both donkeys were brought to Jesus and had the coats on them?
I find it interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention this detail while John does not. I think this could be due to the different audiences they were writing too. This seems odd to me, being a 21st century American, but I'm sure there was some significance to the Jews, both the ones who were visiting Jerusalem for Passover and the ones who lived in the area.