As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
Up to this point, Jesus had hidden His kingship. Whenever anyone recognized Him as the messiah He told them not to tell anyone. But, in this passage, Jesus is open and bold with it.
Jesus and His disciples are on the outskirts of Jerusalem in a town called Bethphage. It is on the Mount of Olives. Jesus told two of His disciples to go into a town. There they would find a donkey. This was not a great prophecy. The reality is donkeys were common. It would be like saying, “Go into that subdivision and you will find a car in the driveway.”
Jesus told the disciples that if anyone asked what they are doing, they are to say the Lord has need of it. The disciples did as Jesus directed them to do. Jesus was well known. But He was not known well enough that His name alone could secure the donkey from strangers. The owner could have accused the disciples of theft. But they went forward without hesitation. It shows their dedication to Jesus.
Fatigue was not the reason Jesus He had the disciples bring the donkey. He was declaring Himself King. If it were not for Zechariah 9:9, this whole event would have appeared ridiculous. Kings came in grandeur. They came in chariots. As a side note: David had Solomon ride into the city on a donkey to proclaim him as successor king. (1Kings 1:33,38,44).
Jesus did not come in as a great conqueror. Rather, He came gentle, meek, and lowly. This king did not have riches. He even needed to borrow the donkey he rode. The people who made up the crowd had no power. They were the poor and rejected.
An outside observer would conclude it was all ridiculous. A king riding a donkey rather than a chariot. A King coming into the city gentle rather than as a conqueror. It would all look like children playing make-believe. But Christ accomplished two things at the same time. First He claimed His kingship. Second, He showed His kingdom did not resemble earthly kingdoms.
A large crowd gathered and proclaimed Jesus King. This might seem ridiculous. A group of people with no authority cut down trees and threw their garments on the road for the donkey to walk on. While they had no authority, they were sincere in their proclamation. This was a result of the working of the Holy Spirit. He caused this spontaneous outburst of praise.
The Lord turned the eyes of the people on Himself. He accepted the adoration and praise of the people. He was a willing king. He was not forced into it. This is important to understand because this led to the cross.
Matthew quotes Zechariah. The translation is, “Say to the daughters of Zion.” This is an accurate translation. But, it is an idiom for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This idiom is not understood well today. So it is best to read this as “Tell the residents of Jerusalem.” Matthew quotes Zechariah to show this was another fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus came to Jerusalem not as a conqueror but as a redeemer.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was symbolic. By their exclamation “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and the spreading of cloaks on the ground crowd recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
Hosanna is a Hebrew expression that means, “Save, now.” This exclamation comes from Psalms 118:25. These were not rash words. They understood what they were saying.
All this occurred in the open. It was not a secret. It was not undercover. It was not a clandestine activity. Matthew emphasized this by telling us the whole city was stirred up. Everyone knew about it. They all knew, the people, the priests, the scribes, and the Romans. And that is what worried the Jewish leadership. The Romans knew. They needed to act to make sure the Romans did not.
The Jewish leadership feared the Romans more than they feared God. But are we any different? We are more concerned about being canceled than we are about serving the one true God. We fear Facebook jail more than we fear damnation in hell.