The triumphal entry. 21:1-11
In this passage Matthew records Jesus' Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem. Actually it is John who tells us that it took place on the Sunday before Jesus' crucifixion, cf. Jn.12:1. Matthew records that after deliberate and careful preparation, Jesus rides into Jerusalem and in so doing fulfills prophecy, revealing the full extent of his Messianic character.
v1. The Romans had upgraded the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. It was just over 30 kilometers long, passing by Bethany and Bethphage, over the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley and into Jerusalem.
v2-3. Jesus has obviously arranged for his ride into Jerusalem, a ride that serves as an acted-out parable for those with eyes to see. It is interesting how the disciples use the title "Lord" when picking the animals up. Jesus doesn't use this title of himself. Some have suggested that the word here could mean "owner", in the sense of "owner for a day", ie. Jesus has rented the animal for a day.
v4-5. This quotation is most likely Matthew's comment, rather than Jesus' words. The first part is from Isaiah 62:11 and the rest from Zechariah 9:9, omitting the words "righteous and having salvation" (understood). The donkey, literally "beast of burden", was ridden by rulers in time of peace and serves to image Jesus as both the messiah and the one who fulfills scripture, but particularly as the king of peace. Only Matthew mentions two donkeys. Mark, along with Luke, tells us that "no one has ever ridden" the animal. The prophecy tells us that it was a colt, a young animal. Matthew gives us the full details. Jesus rides the young colt with its mother tagging alone. The Lord who stills the storm, stills the unbroken animal.
v6-8. The disciples place saddle garments on the animals, and Jesus "sat on them." He obviously didn't sit on both animals, but rather sat on the garments. The spreading of cloaks on the road by the crowd acknowledges Jesus' kingship. The cutting of branches and spreading them before Jesus is a gesture similar to that offered to Simon Maccabaeus when he entered Jerusalem, 1Macc.13:51, 2Macc.10:7. Both acts are a gesture of respect.
v9. Jesus' stay in Bethany most likely allowed the news of his approach to spread throughout Jerusalem. Along with bands of pilgrims, Jesus moves toward the city. The crowd starts singing a pilgrims' chant. The chant comes primarily from Psalm 118:25-26. "Hosanna" is an acclamation of praise. "Son of David", and "He who comes in the name of the Lord", are both messianic titles. "Hosanna in the highest" is equivalent to "Glory to God in the highest." The disciples may understand the significance of these words, but it is unlikely the crowd does.
v10-11. Mark has Jesus weeping over the city while Matthew focuses on the entry. Jesus probably enters the city near the north entrance to the outer court of the temple. By this time many in the city are caught up in the event, but of course question what it all means. They are not actually asking "Who is this?", but are rather questioning "Who is this Jesus?" For many in the crowd Jesus is just a local prophet, certainly not the messiah.
The King of Peace
The symbolism of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem portrays him as the Son of David, Prince of Peace. More particularly, this acted-out parable portrays Jesus as the King of Peace. Jesus does not come to Jerusalem as if he were a glorious king seeking the adulation of the populous, nor does he come as a conquering king seeking vengeance. Jesus comes in peace; he comes to bring peace between mankind and God; he comes to break down the barriers that exist between the Creator and His creation; he comes that we may find a peace that passes all understanding.
Anyone who is in the professions and has to deal with the public, quickly grows weary of welcoming people into their home or office. Of course, all of us have experienced such a "welcome", the welcome of a person who sits behind their desk and takes a lifetime to notice us. They are "peopled out", and of course, we will try not to disturb them next time we want to be served! We will just go to a different shop. When such people retire they are inclined to become hermits. They may well put up a sign warning people off. One such sign I noticed recently outside a country home proclaimed, TELLEMBUGGEROFF. Obviously, this person was once in the professions. So much for the welcome mat.
The welcome given to Jesus by the disciples and the pilgrims on the Jericho road that "Palm" Sunday all those years ago, is an example to avoid and to follow. Jesus is not just a prophet, for to welcome a prophet it to receive a prophet's reward. Jesus comes before us as the King of peace. When we welcome Jesus into our lives as the peacemaker between ourselves and God, peace is our reward.
1. Why did Jesus ride the colt rather than its mother?
2. What is so strange about saying "the Lord needs them"?
3. What is significant in laying clothing on the road in front of Jesus?
4. How is this incident a symbol of the coming King of Peace and what response should we make to it?
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