As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Up until this point, Jesus refused the title “King.” Now He allows Himself to be declared King. The reason was, He is near the end of His mission. It was time.
Many have made much of the taking of the colt. Had Jesus made arrangements ahead of time? Did the owner know Jesus? How did Jesus know there was going to be a colt tied up as they entered the village? Why didn’t the onlookers stop the disciples from stealing the colt? These questions are a result of not understanding the culture at the time.
First, this was first century Palestine. Colts were common. They were used for riding and for carrying things. While not everyone had one they were common. To assume there will be a colt in a town was not a stretch. It would be like me saying, “As you turn into the neighborhood, there will be a car in a driveway.”
Well, why weren’t the disciples stopped? They were taking a donkey that did not belong to them. There was a custom called angaria. It allowed the taking of animals for service to a significant figure. Jesus was a significant figure. His fame had spread and the talking of the colt would not have been seen as an unjust act or unusual.
The imagery of the procession was ridiculous if it were not for the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. Place yourself there as an outsider. You are someone standing off in the distance, watching as this unfolds.
Here is this guy trying to act like a king. He is riding into the capital on a donkey. Kings rode chariots. Kings rode horses. The fact is, Jesus, rode an ass. He rode what common people rode. There can be no missing this fact. Jesus rode the animal of common people. He did not ride in royal splendor. And this is not even his donkey. He borrowed it. He had to return it.
There was a makeshift saddle. It was clothes thrown over the donkey. They tried to make them look like royal robes. The clothes are not His either. These were the clothes people have been working in. They were filthy.
Of course, a king would have a large entourage of advisers and aids. Trumpeters would herald his coming. Messengers would run ahead to let people know the King is coming.
This guy had an entourage. His entourage was the poor. They had no idea how to manage a kingdom. Not only were they poor, but they were also the poorest of the poor. They were an undisciplined mass of humanity.
Oh and don’t forget they needed trumpeters. But they did not have any trumpets. So instead, they made a lot of noise. Yeah, that works.
For messengers, some ran a little bit ahead. You might call this a royal procession on a budget. This looked like children playing a game. This made Jesus look like a wannabee.
Judas may have looked at this circus and thought, “Yeah, I made the right decision. This clown is going nowhere.”
Had not God testified beforehand in Zechariah It would have been laughable. God promised that a king like this would come to restore the salvation of his people.
Like this mob, our worship is comical. Our worship is inadequate. Christ our Lord is worthy of so much more. We look like children playing a game. Some get caught up in the excitement. Events sweep some along.
We come unworthily to the King. Our gifts are filthy rags. But our Lord accepts our inadequate worship. He accepts it, not because it is adequate, not because it is proper. He accepts it because of His love for us.
The people were shouting a prayer from Psalm 118:25. This was not a rash statement. They were deliberate in bestowing on Christ the title Messiah. This was not a King. This was the King.
An onlooker may have thought this a ridiculous scene. But this was the King of Kings.
They shouted Hosanna. A Greek transliteration the Aramaic words for “Save us O Lord.” Those who went before and those who followed shouted: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” God sent Him.
Mark used words familiar to every Jew. Mark indicates every messianic expectation is now at the point of realization. It is clear from the words of the psalm the crowd shouted, they proclaimed Jesus the messianic king.
The next event in Matthew is Jesus cleansing the temple then cursing the fig tree. Mark has Jesus cursing the fig tree and cleansing the temple the next day. Matthew treats this topically rather than chronologically. There is no specific reference to time in Matthew.
Jesus came into Jerusalem with much fanfare. A great crowd surrounded Him. Yet in a few days, a crowd would be crying for His crucifixion. Mobs are fickle because people are fickle.
We want only what we want. When God does not give us what we demand when we demand it we turn from Him.