“And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matt. 21:1-11)
The final days in the life of Christ were present. He knew that His death was imminent. He had spoken often about His great ordeal. Jesus knew from a child that He must be about His Father’s business. He knew as an adult that He had a date with destiny.
The disciples did not know this, for they did not fully understand the Lord’s teaching. So it was that the disciples could not comprehend, that in just seven short days their Lord and Master would be dead. It would have been hard for anyone to believe that a violent death was at hand. The very mood, and atmosphere of the year, dispelled any dark clouds forming on the horizon. The Passover was drawing near.
The Passover was one of the Great Religious Jewish days of celebration. From all over the Roman Empire the children of Abraham were coming together in Jerusalem to worship. They were coming to celebrate the Divine deliverance of their forefathers from the Land of Egypt during the days of Moses.
Families, who had been separated, were meeting in Jerusalem. Friends and loved ones were meeting in the City Of Peace. The air radiated with excitement. The disciples of Christ would soon be caught up with the mood of the moment.
Jesus and His disciples were approaching Jerusalem now as they came to Bethphage, a suburb of the Holy City. Bethphage was located near Bethany. Bethany was on the E side of the Mount of Olives. It was the home of Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus stayed often in Bethany.
It was His home away from home, for the Lord loved the family of His friends. Early in the morning, of this particular day, Jesus left Bethany. The date was April 10th.
April 10th was the appointed time the Law gave for the paschal lamb to be selected (Ex. 12:3). On the tenth day of the month Nisan, an Israelite would examine the lambs in his sheepfold until he found one that was without spot or blemish. He took it into the house, and kept it for three days.
Then he examined it again; and on the next day, the fourteenth of Nisan, he killed it in an act of final preparation. Jesus, always obedient to the Law, began to prepare for the last meal. He was the paschal lamb, selected before the foundation of the world to be slain. It was now, just five days before His death.
Jesus was deliberately moving towards His final confrontation with the political and religious rulers of Palestine. He was prepared, as He paused on the outskirts of the city, near the Mount of Olives. His face was set to accomplish what His heart wanted to do.
Inside the city were many for whom Christ came to die. Inside the city were so many more that knew Him not. The best they could ask, when the excitement of the Lord’s entrance began, was “Who is this?”
It is a simple question. It is a good question, and there is a divine answer. The divine answer is that Jesus is the One who fulfills all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. It was He, of whom the prophet Zechariah wrote saying: “Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass.” Concerning the words of the prophet Zechariah, notice that the prophet tells of two things. He reveals how Christ would come, and he reveals the character of Christ when He did come.
The prophet says first, that the coming of Christ would be with great anticipation. “Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh.” The daughter of Zion refers to the bride of Christ, the church. The Bridegroom has come then for His bride. “Tell the daughter of Zion, the Bridegroom is here.”
The hour of anticipation has arrived! Let the celebration begin! Normally, in a formal wedding ceremony the focus of anticipation is upon seeing the bride. Everyone wants to see the bride, and people whisper one to another. “What does she look like?” “What is she wearing?” “What is she doing?”
Everyone wants to see the bride–except the bride. All she wants to see is the face of her beloved. The bride does not care how she looks, as long as she is pleasing to Him whom her heart adores. So hurry now.
“Tell the daughter of Zion, the King is coming.”
The King is coming, and the daughter of Zion feels not only happiness, but also great security.
Soon she will have Someone to look after her interests.
Soon she will have Someone to make her feel safe and secure.
Soon she will have someone to rule over her.
She does not mind.
She wants this with all her heart.
Now the daughter of Zion sees her Sovereign. He is coming for her.
He is coming to redeem her.
He is coming to rescue her from the rule and reign of Sin.
He is coming to die for her.
The King is coming for her, and her in particular, for the word is to go and tell the daughter of Zion. This is her glorious day too, in as far as she will share it with the King. Suddenly, the daughter of Zion sees her King. She is not disappointed. He is all that she has hoped for. He is meek and gentle. He is humble, evidenced by the fact that He rides upon a donkey. He who once rode upon the heavens (Psa. 18:10), now rides upon as ass. The King rides upon an ass to indicate He is a servant, as well as a Sovereign. The Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve.
As He rides upon the donkey, the King is not dressed for battle, but for carrying burdens. He will carry many burdens in just a little while. He will carry the burden of being rejected,
of being arrested,
of being betrayed,
of being despised,
of being falsely accused,
of being spit upon, and mocked,
of having to endure an unjust beating,
of a heavy cross,
of public shame.
In His royal personage, the King shall bear His burden well. He does not mind His state of humility, because He is looking beyond the Cross, to the glory that will follow. So He comes riding upon a donkey.
The King does not come on a prancing horse, because that would cause people to be fearful of drawing near. Nor does He ride upon a high spirited race horse that would run so fast the people could not keep up with Him. The King’s arrival is quiet, and non-threatening, so that the poorest, and weakest, and the youngest might approach Him. No wonder the people asked each other,
“Who is this?”
There is more, for we read in our text, that this One of whom the people talked, is the One that possesses all the knowledge of the universe. No detail escapes His knowledge. From a distance, the Lord is able to tell His disciples, that when they go into the village of Bethphage they will find an ass. The animal will be tied up. The animal will not be alone, for it shall be with a colt. There is also the fact that someone will question the taking of the donkey. The Lord tells His disciples just what to say when that situation arises.
This is a small manifestation of Divine omniscience, but it is comforting. If a bird cannot fall to the ground without God the Father’s knowledge, and if a donkey cannot be tied up without the Son being aware of it, then surely the Lord knows about your need and mine. We are not alone. God will take care of you.
The question comes again, “Who is this?”
And the answer, “It is He, who has the right to command.”
When Jesus called His two disciples that day, He was not seeking their counsel as to how He should enter into Jerusalem. The Lord was not interested in a variety of opinions as to what should be done next. As the Sovereign, in control of the situation, the Lord said simply, “Go into that village and do this.”
The disciples obeyed. To their eternal credit they obeyed. Again, it is a small detail. There was no reason for them not to obey. Still, it is good that they did. Obedience in little things will produce obedience in the more important situations in life.
We teach our children this principle. When they are small, we teach them to come when we call. We teach them to stop, when we say stop, and to not touch, when we command not to touch. We instruct our children in order to protect them. We teach obedience in the small things, in order to instill discipline in life, when obedience could mean life or death, health or sickness, honor or shame.
By obeying in little things, much glory comes. We would not have the majestic scene of Jesus riding in triumph into Jerusalem, if the disciples had disobeyed. The story could not be told, apart from the getting of the donkey. Prophecy would not have been fulfilled, apart from the Lord’s right to command.
Beyond outward obedience, Jesus is also the One who is worthy of honor. For one brief shining moment, Jesus was honored by a large multitude in the streets of Jerusalem. The Bible tells us how people spread their garments. Some of them placed the garments on the ground so that the donkey could walk on the clothing. Some of the people draped their garments over roof tops, and hung them outside windows. There was a pageantry of colors for the King.
Still others cut down branches from the trees, and threw them in the road. It all symbolized great joy and happiness! The people understood. The Man in the middle of the multitude was worthy of honor.
Jesus was worthy of honor because He is the One in whom all hopes are correctly placed. The Bible says that the multitudes that went before the Lord, and those that followed, cried out,
“Hosanna, to the Son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
The word “Hosanna,” can be translated, “Save us now!” When the people shouted this, they were thinking in political, as well as religious terms. For centuries the Jews had wanted to be freed of foreign domination. They had been subject to the Assyrians, then the Babylonians. Next came the Medes, and the Persians, followed by the Greeks, and the Romans. But the Jews never gave up hoping for a Messiah to lead them back to political freedom. The dream never died, the hope was never lost that one day God would send a Son of David to deliver His people.
Now, before their eyes, the people of Palestine believed they had found a political leader. He can save us, the people thought, and so they cried, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!”
The multitude was putting their supreme confidence in Christ as political Savior, realizing that He would also be their religious Savior. He would be a religious Savior, in the sense that He would help to preserve the ancient customs, and forms of worship. The Romans were putting a lot of pressure upon the Jews to accept the many gods they honored. But the Jews were stubborn in this matter. They had the Law of Moses. They had many customs, and traditions, that they wanted to keep. Now here was the One who would help them keep their religious way of life. Jesus was the One who was blessed of God.
The people knew this, because many in the multitude that day were familiar with the ministry of Christ. They had either seen, or heard about His great miracles. Some had been healed by the Lord personally. Stories were quickly told in summary, so that the excitement spread. The Man on the donkey was blessed of God! He has unusual powers.
“Hosanna in the highest!”
Unfortunately, the people did not understand. Jesus was not a political Savior. He had come to save His people from their sins. Jesus did not come to continue the Law of Moses. He came to fulfill its righteous demands, in order to liberate His people from the bondage it imposed. In just five short days, all this would become apparent.
No wonder the people felt betrayed, and were willing to cry out for His crucifixion. They did not understand. But we do. We understand why Jesus came. We can shout the ancient cry, but with spiritual understanding. And we do shout, “Hosanna in the highest!”
Today, when people ask us, “Who is this?”, let us answer:
“Jesus is the One who is the fulfillment of all prophecy.
Jesus is the One that possesses all the knowledge of the universe.
Jesus is the One who has the right to command.
Jesus is the One who is Worthy of obedience.
Jesus is the One who is worthy of honor.
Jesus is the One whom all hope is correctly placed.
Jesus is the One who is blessed of God.
Jesus is the One whom the entire world talks about.”
But let us add, He is the Savior of my soul. Look at the Man in the Middle of the Multitude, and love Him.