Jesus Enters | Matthew 21:1-11
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 21:1–21:11
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series covering Chapters 21-25 has been titled the Rejection of the King. During the first 20 chapters of Matthew we have seen the miraculous nature of Jesus birth and the numerous miracles, signs, and wonder performed by Jesus for the purpose of revealing his identity as the Son of God and the promised Messiah of God’s people. Much of Jesus ministry was carried out in poor rural Galilee. As our last series closed Jesus, his disciples, and growing crowds were on the path to Jerusalem and for Jesus ultimately to the cross. He never stops teaching and training his disciples while on mission. But our text today signifies a transition where the first 20 chapters of Matthew covered 33 years of Jesus life and detailed 3 years of ministry, the last 8 chapters will cover Jesus final week in Jerusalem, his death, burial, and his resurrection. This is what the church for centuries has called Holy Week, celebrating Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday on Easter.
Matthew 21:1-11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 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. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “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.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 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!”10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
1-3 | Road to Jerusalem
Jesus has been moving towards Jerusalem from Galilee. We know crowds of his followers were coming around him. Enthusiasm about Jesus was growing among people who have seen the miracles, been feed, been healed, been delivered from demons, are now ready for the final victory!! However, we have also seen some seeking Jesus have fallen away (Rich young ruler) when they hear the cost of following; while opposition from religious leaders has grown more consistent and intense. The crowds are on a path to Jerusalem, along with people from all over Israel, to come into this holy city to celebrate Passover, where the Jews remember God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt and sparing their sons from death by passing over the homes with the blood of a lamb on their door post. We know from other gospel accounts Jesus has been to Jerusalem on a few occasions before including previous feasts and Passovers. However, this trip into the city is going to be unique and distinct. Here we see Jesus and his entourage are a little over mile out of Jerusalem on the east. The Road to Jerusalem is coming to an end.
As Jesus and his crew come to Bethpage outlying village just over a mile from the city he gave specific instructions to his disciples to get him a mama donkey and her young colt, for him to ride from the village to the city on. This doesn’t make much sense to us, and it likely did not make much sense to the disciples. We know they didn’t quite understand the significance of what Jesus asked until after Jesus was “glorified” For the disciples these instructions would have seemed questionable and pretty awkward at best . Jesus tells them to find the colt, and untie it and IF anyone asks tells them “The Lord needs them.” Don’t ask for permission, don’t try to buy or rent the animals, just find them parked in the road, untie them and bring them to me. Trying going to Everett, find a guy’s motorcycle parked outside, start hotwiring it and when he come to confront you tell him God needs to ride it into Marysville to kick off Strawberry Festival parade. It would not go well. Maybe Jesus had made arrangements with someone the last time he was in town or he knew the heart of the donkeys’ owner. Regardless of the planning involved we have to recognize this request and scene is a little odd, unless we have an understanding of what Jesus intentional purpose is.
Verse 4-8 | Prophesy Fulfilled
Matthew doesn’t want us to look at this episode as a standalone event, as I think we often do, but wants us to clearly understand the deep meaning involved in the intentionality of the details of Jesus entrance to into the city of Jerusalem in the beginning of this week. This isn’t Jesus getting caught up in the excitement of the moment and doing something spontaneous. He is making his identity clear by his actions. It was not c unheard of for a king to ride in on a donkey. On ahandful occasions in the OT kings mounted “beast of burden” including David’s son, Solomon riding one to establish his claim to David’s throne. By coming in on a young donkey Jesus is telling God’s people he is the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy about the arrival of the promised King. He is making his claim to the throne of David clear. But there is more to this prophesy than Jesus simply showing the humility of his mission as King of the Jews, there is something greater.
Zechariah 9:10-11 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Here is Jesus fulfilling a prophecy given to God’s people that doesn’t have a military component to it and has implications far beyond Israel. Officials would ride horses into a battle or after a big victory. Mules or donkeys were used only during civil or peaceful proceeding. “All is well, the prince of peace is here.” There will not be a battle today, no chariots, no war horses, no bows. Jesus will speak, teach, and act and it will lead to the peace of nations and a kingdom that goes beyond the ends of the earth. He is not entering the city preparing to slay his enemies. He is coming to be slain by his enemies, for his enemies. He will ride and unridden “beast of burden”. Jesus is coming in unstained with sin, carrying the weight of the burden of our sin, our rebellion and rejection of God, in to this holy city of God. There is blood that will be shed for a new covenant with God and his people. This shed blood will set prisoners free from a waterless pit of sin. Sitting on a colt on the humble garments of his disciples, Jesus is ready for his “grand” entrance.
Verse 8-9 | Entrance
With crowds of his followers and supporters before him and more behind him we have this impressively exuberant scene on the east side of Jerusalem. They are excited and they are singing, chanting and calling out to Jesus about Jesus. Just as we have songs that remind us of certain seasons (christmas, easter) Israel had songs that were sung in preparation of Passover. It was customary for them to sing The Hallel, Psalm 113-118 during this time. So as the great crowds cry out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” they are singing out the closing of Psalm 118:26. They are welcoming Jesus as the true King, and messiah-savior of God’s people into the heart of this holy city. Many are honoring Jesus as a king, both those coming into the city and those already there. But with this honor the crowds have expectations of Jesus and what he will accomplish on their behalf. They have one main target; the restoration of their national identity and prominence. We hear them cry out “Hosanna!” It’s one of those churchy words we hear but don’t really know. It means “SAVE NOW!” It is an urgent crying out for deliverance from Rome. Jesus is here, he is the “Son of David” the king when we as a people were the most prominent and prosperous as a nation. The crowds behind him are poor from the country and they want prosperity, the crowds in front of him daily feel the oppression of Roman occupation in their city and they want power.
There is quite a different procession happening at the same time on the west side of the city. Pontus Pilate, the governor of Judea/Samaria was coming from the posh coastal city of Caesarea Maritima as a representative of Rome, in the name of the Caesar as lord, to reaffirm Rome’s power and claim on this city. As Pilate enters Jerusalem he is leading a column of solders and mighty powerful horses, Roman flags and standards are held high. “You Jews are filling this city celebrating the Passover where your God delivered you from the hands of the most powerful nation on the world at the time (Egypt). While you celebrate this week don’t forget you are under the rule of the Roman Empire.” Horse hooves are clacking and boots are stomping as soldiers in full armor enter. People likely stood in silent awe of the display of raw military power. Jesus comes on a small colt, walking on soft garments or gently squishing palm branches. The poor people can’t help but cry out in celebration. The contrasting scenes couldn’t be more distinct. If this is two guys coming in to a boxing ring there is little doubt which side victory is coming from. You want to pledge your allegiance to Jesus, place your bet on him, and join a motley crew of fisherman, tax collectors, and peasants? What hope do they truly have in lasting victory in opposition to the mighty Roman Empire? If it is a military victory needed things don’t look good, so there has to be some greater purpose to this entrance.
The crowds believed the biggest threat to long lasting Joy for themselves, their children, and their nation is the oppressive occupation of the Roman Empire in the middle of their holy city. In fact the biggest obstacle to their unending joy, the joy of their children, and all people is the oppressive occupation of sin in their unclean hearts. What Jesus is about to overcome is not Rome, but something much greater; sin and death. Jesus the rightful King of Israel bursts into Jerusalem on a great mission of deliverance. The cry of the Christian is one of Joy (SAVE NOW!) as Jesus bursts into our hearts where he vanquishes the oppression of sin and begins ruling as the rightful king of our very lives! Don’t settle for a Jesus that will only overthrow oppression from external forces you don’t like when he is coming to complete overthrow your entire life.
What expectations do you have for Jesus? Are they grounded in the promises of God found in scripture?
The crowds are rolling out a practical red carpet for Jesus as he comes into town, but they’ve missed the significance of his entrance and what his true mission is. With expectations not met, after a week of hard teaching the same crowds that are crying out “Save Now!” Will be crying out “Crucify Him, Crucify him!”
Verse 10-11 | Earthquake Identity and Reentrance
Even as Jesus enters not everyone in Jerusalem knew of Jesus, recognized who he is, or responded to him with acclaim and worship. We know Pharisees confront Jesus and tell him to rebuke his people for affirming his identity as the messiah, Jesus responds telling them even if all these crowds were silent the rocks would cry out! Jesus isn’t just King of the Jews he is the King of the Universe and His very creation will be the witness of His true greatness. This event is significant in framing the most important week in history. There were thousands of Passovers celebrated before and there have been two thousand since. When it says the city was stirred up it’s the same word as earthquake, it’s where we get the word seismic from. Jerusalem has never seen or experienced a week that did more to upset or unsettle the foundation of the world. Everyone was talking about this entrance of Jesus in to the city, but there will be another entry of Jesus into history. A final one that will be even greater then what is told here. Just as we need to see Jesus entrance into Jerusalem in light of the teaching of Old Testament and in contrast to Rome, we need to know that is not how things end. First we see the picture of the crowd around Jesus when the mission is completed.
Revelations 7:9-10 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
There will be a great crowd, with people far beyond the borders of Israel, that will be around Jesus celebrating the triumph of billions of “Palm Sunday’s” who are no longer hoping for deliverance but are actively experiencing it in all its glory! This message of salvation and kingship of Jesus goes out to all people. Eventually these kingdoms will pass away as His perfect forever kingdom begins. Jesus will return and when he does his re-entrance in this world will look nothing like the fragility of the Christmas incarnation or the meekness of the “triumphal entry” of Palm Sunday. Jesus speaks God’s word but is more than a mere prophet. While he grew up, lived, and ministered to some of the poorest people on the planet to show God’s love to those the world marginalizes, His origin is significantly greater and more glorious.
Revelations 19:11-16 11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
When Jesus comes back there won’t be any mistaking who he is. No one will be able to question his identity. He won’t be known as a prophet from poor Nazareth in Galilee but the very Word of God. That word is victory. There will be no question what his purpose is. He will make final war and bring righteous judgement. No force of man or scheme of hell will be able to stand in opposition to his final complete victory. Jesus already experienced defeat on the cross and took the wrath his people deserved; because of the resurrection, He has a triumphal exit from the tomb. When he returns only one kingdom will remain. His. Pledge allegiance and Trust Jesus!
More in Rejection of the King | Matthew Part IV
June 14, 2015The Woes from the King Part 3: Forsaken City | Empty Temple - Matthew 23:37 - 24:2
June 7, 2015The Woes from the King Part 2: Seven Charges - One Verdict | Matthew 23:13-36
May 31, 2015The Woes from the King Part 1: Unbearable Preachers | Matthew 23:1-12