Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Lent is a season where we prepare our hearts to reflect on the passion of Jesus on the cross and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. This season is marked by two key elements: repentance and renewal. Lent was created so that we wouldn’t get swept away in the busyness of life here and could root ourselves in a type of remembrance that should change how you interact with the world around you.
Today’s text records Jesus the King’s advent into David’s royal city – Jerusalem. There is a strong connection between Jesus’ advent into the world to fulfill the kingly prophecies of the Christ child and His advent into Jerusalem.
This part of Matthew’s gospel focuses on what appears to be the last week of Jesus’ life. Each of the gospel writers understood that these events, that happened in a short time between Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem and His ascension into heaven, were a fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption.
This “Passion Week” will be a busy week culminating in His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection. Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem is traditionally called the “Triumphal Entry” and the Christian calendar calls it Palm Sunday. It is a declaration of His kingship. This moment is a point of no return for Jesus. The Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20) will now be slain on earth in space and time. The atonement for sin, ordained in eternity past, now becomes historical for all to behold.
Jerusalem was abuzz with activity during the Passover as people made their way to the city and tripled its population. This Passover would be like no other had been or ever would be. As Paul would write in 1 Corinthians 5:7,
“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
A Colt only for the King
As Jesus approached Jerusalem, He gives instructions to two disciples that may sound strange to us (verses 2-3). To us it may seem like Jesus is telling His disciples to go and steal a donkey for Him. This is not what was going on. Prophecies in the Old Testament clearly indicated that the Messiah would enter the city riding on a donkey (Genesis 49; Zechariah 9:9).
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
This was a deep-rooted hope in the consciousness of the Jews. Most kings on the ancient world rode magnificent horses, but not the King of the Jews. During that time in history a king had a prerogative to commandeer a beast of burden whenever he needed it. Another detail Jesus gave them was that it was to be a colt that had never been ridden. Like horses, usually they had to be broken in to become functional beasts of burden. In Jewish culture no one was allowed to ride on the king’s horse or the king’s donkey. It was the colt prepared for the king.
In verse 3 the disciples are instructed by Jesus to answer anyone questioning them by saying, “The Lord needs them...” This title “Lord” in our text is rarely used and signified “the supreme ruler and sovereign”. Jesus used this word for Himself.
Notice that from the moment Jesus enters Jerusalem that His deity, majesty, and authority begin to shine through. Jesus is “Lord” and Master over every detail of His divine destiny.
Verses 7-9 are powerfully symbolic and significant fulfillment of prophecies. The crowd’s cry, “Hosanna” ironically means, “Lord, save us”. They cheered for Jesus, the miracle-working rabbi from Nazareth, because they wanted him to overthrow their oppressors. They expected Jesus to lead an uprising of military and political liberation, not lay down His life as a spiritual sacrifice for Romans as well as Jews. Their words could not have been truer, but they could not have been more understood by those shouting them. Only Jesus knew the full significance of what they were saying.
The return of God’s glory
Mark, in his gospel account tells us that Jesus entered the temple at the conclusion of this grand entrance. Jesus does not come to the temple as a tourist or gawking pilgrim caught up in the fanfare and enamored by the spectacular beauty of the Temple (Mark 11:11). Mark’s conclusion of this episode seems anticlimactic at first. It looks as though Jesus went into the temple looked around and went back to Bethany as if nothing significant happened. This is not true.
Earlier, Jesus had been resolute to go to Jerusalem knowing that He would suffer and die there. However, the Temple was His ultimate destination. He went to the place where historically the sacrifices were offered. He went to the temple that replaced the tabernacle, which was a living prophecy of the Messiah who was to come.
John 1:14 tells us; “The Word became flesh and dwelled (tabernacle) among us”.
Jesus fulfilled everything that the tabernacle pointed to. He is the sanctuary. When Jesus said,
(I will) “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), He was speaking of Himself.
Additionally, in 586 BC, Ezekiel saw the glory of God leave the temple in Jerusalem and ascend to Bethany on the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:23) as Jerusalem was destroyed and God’s people were forced into exile into Babylon. At the triumphal entry, the One whom the Scriptures define as the brightness of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3) descended from Bethany and the Mount of Olives and went to the temple.
In 586 BC the glory of God left the temple, but when Jesus came, the glory of God came back. Yet no one understood that the King of Glory was in their midst, about to meet the destiny to which He was called and for which He was born.
Jesus reigns with unmatched glory and power!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?