Matthew 21:1-11 (NIV) 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, tell him 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 the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, 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, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 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!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus was always careful to follow the Father’s instructions in every particular. This even extended as far as to how He was to enter the city of Jerusalem. More than four centuries before, God had shown this scene to the prophet Zechariah (9:9), who was enabled to watch as the Messiah entered the city of Jerusalem, not on a horse, which would have been the sign of a conquering warrior, but on a donkey colt, the lowly steed of the common man.
Some criticize Jesus for “manipulating” the circumstances to intentionally fulfill the prophecy. But they have it backward. Jesus was simply following God’s direction, including where to find the exact donkey colt that He had selected for Him to ride on that day. Zechariah had simply reported what God had determined in advance would happen.
The “password” that Jesus gave to His disciples, “The Lord needs them,” was not a reference to Jesus – few people referred to Him by that term. Instead, He was referring to the Father, the Lord, the God whom the Jews worshipped. Basically the disciples were to tell anyone who asked that the animals were not being stolen, but were needed for God’s plan. And, to these God-fearing Jews, that made all the difference.
As Jesus rode down the hill into the city, many along the way intuited what was happening, and began to praise Jesus as the conquering Messiah. When they laid their cloaks on the road ahead of Him, that was a sign of their commitment to Him and His cause (cf. 2 Kings 9:12-13). If this was the moment when Jesus was going to declare Himself to be the king of Israel, they were committed to following Him wholeheartedly.
As the crowd marched into the city, some began to chant and act out some of the coronation passages from Psalm 118:25, waving branches in the festal procession, and shouting out “Hosanna!” (Save!) and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” straight from the Psalm.
As the celebrating crowd approached the city gates, there were many in the city who saw the parade and heard the shouting, but had no idea what was going on. They asked those waving branches who this person was who was exciting such a demonstration. Their answer, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee,” stopped short of an outright proclamation of Him as the Messiah, but many of the questioners caught the drift of what was going on. They had heard of Jesus. Some of them had seen and heard Him during previous visits to the city, and they knew something of who He was and what He was capable of doing. So it wouldn’t surprise them a bit if He really did turn out to be the Messiah!
Father, this welcome of Jesus as the King would have been something to see. The people were ready to follow Jesus’ lead, to claim Him unreservedly as their lord and king, and to commit themselves wholeheartedly to His agenda. Even though the ardor of many of these people cooled when He failed to fulfill their own expectations, their excitement, their initial level of commitment, and their passion, is a good model of what our own hearts should contain as we follow our Lord and King. Help us, Father, to surrender to Jesus’ lordship every moment, and to keep our passion red-hot every day. Amen.