Matthew 21:1-11 :: King Jesus
Matthew 21:1-11 - As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”
4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
5 “Tell the people of Jerusalem,
‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.
8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Story Setting & Culture
- This story takes place in roughly 33 AD in Israel about 2 miles from Jerusalem in the town of Bethphage.
- Rome rules over the region and is the most powerful empire in the world.
- Jesus is leaving Bethphage, along with many other people, and heading to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover Festival.
- This will be Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem before his brutal death at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders and Pontius Pilot the Governor of Judea.
- The Mount of Olives overlooks the city of Jerusalem from a high hill and has Old Testament significance. There may be relation to the time when King David is returning to Jerusalem after having to leave when his son Absalom betrayed him and briefly took over the city (2 Samuel 16-19)
- Thousands of Passover lambs are being brought into the city for slaughter in the celebration of Passover.
- To better understand Passover we need to go to an earlier part of God’s story. Over 1,000 years before God called a people, Israel (Jews) out of slavery and oppression in Egypt. A leader named Moses was the instrument of God’s power and love as he obediently brought the Israelites through very difficult circumstances.
- Specifically Passover refers to a time when God’s 10th and final plague on Egypt was about to take the life of every firstborn child and animal as God passed through the land. Exodus 11
- However, God made a way for his people, the Israelites, to be spared from this terrible plague. Each household was to take a lamb, slaughter it, and to smear the blood over and on the sides of the doorway. Exodus 12:1-13
- The Passover Festival/Celebration is a specific command from God so that the Israelites would never forget how God delivered them out of slavery by His strength alone. Exodus 12:14-28
- God honors his promise. The Egyptians lose all their first born children, including Pharaoh’s son, but God passes over the Israelites. Exodus 12:29-32
- The Passover story in Exodus certainly points to Jesus as a foreshadowing of His mission as the Passover Lamb.
The Story of Matthew 21:1-11
- Jesus sends two of his disciples ahead with specific instructions to bring him a donkey with its colt. Has Jesus already set something up with the owners of this donkey and its colt or is Jesus displaying his omniscience (all knowing)?
- Scholars and Bible commentators are divided on this matter. Certainly Jesus could have set up something beforehand as he spent a lot of time in nearby Bethany. However, I believe Jesus is most likely exercising his divine knowledge of all things and sends his two disciples into the town without already having something pre-arranged.
- Why does Jesus need or want to ride a donkey into Jerusalem? This is the only place in all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) where Jesus is ever recorded riding an animal. Jesus and his disciples always travel on foot or by boat and Jesus has already walked 13 miles from Jericho… he certainly did need the donkey for the last two miles because he was tired.
- Matthew inserts his own clear commentary into the story by saying, “This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said…” As the author of the gospel writing after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead Matthew recognizes that Jesus’ request for the donkey and its colt was intentional for the purpose of fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.
- Prophecy is something spoken from an Old Testament prophet, a messenger or servant called by God to speak on His behalf, about a future event that will occur according to God’s Word and will.
- Matthew cites Isaiah 62:11, which is a prophetic prayer about the salvation of God’s people.
- Matthew combines Isaiah’s prayer with the words of the prophet Zechariah from Zechariah 9:9, which is very specific prophecy about the coming King of Israel.
- Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and he is intentionally riding a donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus knows exactly who he is, the Son of God and Messiah, and he is obediently accomplishing the mission He has been given by His Heavenly Father.
The Story of Matthew 21:1-11
- Jesus’ disciples do as commanded and they bring the donkey and colt to Jesus. Both would have been needed to fulfill the prophecy, but practically they were both needed because the colt, which had never been ridden, would be guided by its mother to keep it calm.
- Without a saddle Jesus sits on the garments or coats of his disciples. The humble nature of Jesus is evident throughout this Triumphal Entry. Jesus comes into the city not on a war horse as a conquering hero or Messianic warrior, but as a humble King that apparently poses little to no threat to the Romans. This would have not been what the Jews were expecting in the Messiah.
- As Jesus begins on the steep road down from the Mount of Olives and across the Kidron Valley into the city of Jerusalem there is a great crowd (thousands of people) with him. Remember, due to the Passover Festival there not only would have been throngs of people but also thousands of Passover lambs meant for sacrifice being brought into Jerusalem. The noise and sight of all this activity would have been quite the overwhelming scene.
- Amidst all the activity people begin to lay their coats down and palm branches, a common tree in this area of Israel, on the road before Jesus as he rides on the colt. Coats were very important to people in ancient times and most people only owned one coat. Therefore, this is a sign of great respect and honor as people recognize Jesus as an important figure coming into Jerusalem.
- Did people think Jesus was only a prophet or the Messiah Israel had been waiting for?
- The crowd is shouting three very important things:
- “Hosanna” in Hebrew means Save Now and it is certainly a cry of salvation has come in this man riding on the colt. Remember, we as modern day Christians think about salvation in spiritual terms, but the Jews thought about salvation is a literal conquering of Rome and restoring Israel to its glory days of David and Solomon.
- “Son of David” is a Messianic term and is never used of anyone except Jesus. The Jews knew the Messiah would come from the line of David, and Jesus’ father Joseph is from that kingly line.
- Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord” is a quote from Psalm 118:25-26, which is considered a Messianic Psalm… a Psalm pointing to the future Savior of God’s people. The final part of the crowds cheers and chanting comes from Psalm 148:1.
Deuteronomy 17 & King Jesus
- During the time of Moses God gives Israel his Law (think 10 commandments and other laws for Israel to live by) for the purpose of Israel experiencing the blessing of the Lord and to be a light unto the rest of the world’s nations. Interestingly, God tells Moses that someday the Israelite people will ask for a human king, which is fulfilled in 1 Samuel 8, and there are strict requirements for a King over God’s people.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 - “You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ 15 If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.
16 “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ 17 The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.
18 “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. 20 This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.
- Every single King of Israel and Judah fail in at least one area, but almost always multiple categories, to fulfill God’s requirements for a king. Jesus is the only person fit to be the true King of Israel.
- Must be an Israelite – Jesus is a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents
- Must not have many horses – Jesus is humble and poor and does not have an army full of horses and chariots boasting the strength of man through military power.
- Must not “return to Egypt” meaning to make slaves of others for the sake of building an empire – Jesus does not make slaves and came to serve others.
- Must not have many wives – Jesus has no wife because his bride is the Church.
- Must not have too much silver and gold – Jesus is not a man of wealth, but of God’s Word and wisdom.
- Must carry God’s Word (The Torah-Law) with him at all times – Jesus is the living Word!
- Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures and the true King of Israel.
Luke 19:41-44 :: Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem
Luke 19:41-44 - But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. 43 Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. 44 They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”
- Although there were most likely other times, Scripture only records Jesus crying twice. Jesus weeps when his good friend Lazarus dies, and Jesus weeps as he comes into the city of Jerusalem during his triumphal entry. Why?
- Jesus loved a city so much he cried over it. Jerusalem was an Old Testament representative of God’s blessing and reign in the world, and the city was filled with people from the chosen nation of Israel.
- Jesus knows the future destruction of this city and it hurts his heart that the people would not receive the offering of peace, which is Jesus himself, and he knows the pain and judgment coming for those who reject him.
- Do we love our city so much that we weep over it?
The Big Question
- As Jesus enters Jerusalem the city is in an uproar or was stirred at the confusion of Jesus’ proclaimed identity. People see the procession and here the Messianic chants and naturally want to know, “Who is this Jesus?”
- Who is this Jesus in your life? Who is this Jesus to the Church?
- Our response to this question is a matter of life and death. If Jesus is simply a good teacher or a good example he is not our Savior. If He is our King and we submit ourselves to him by giving him our lives we are saved.
- The crowds response isn’t necessarily a short coming by way of calling Jesus the Messiah. The Jews expectation of the Messiah fails to recognize who Jesus is as the Savior of the world from sin and death, not the powers of Rome oppressing the Jewish people during that period of time.