Summary: Jesus fulfills prophecy and rides into Jerusalem proclaimed as the King of Israel.
John wants us to know about Jesus and to believe on His name so that we can have eternal life. This is the purpose of his gospel and it’s why he told us about the Word who became flesh, and why he told us about when Jesus turned the water into wine and cleared out the temple and performed the miraculous healings. It’s why he told us about Lazarus and his sisters. And there are a great many who believe, aren’t there? There are fishermen and tax collectors and Pharisees and harlots and thieves and rebels and Jews and Gentiles and people from every walk of life. But there are just as many, if not more, who don’t believe. They don’t care if a man rose from the dead; if this little rebellion gains any traction the Romans will come and take away their place as leaders and they won’t let the Jews govern themselves any more. Well, this is their fear, and as it turns out, it’s not totally unfounded:
On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. 14And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 15Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. 16These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. 17The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. 18For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. 19The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
So, basically it was just what the leaders had feared. Everyone had gone off to join this man because of Lazarus and Rome was sure to notice. Now, what they’re saying is significant because it fulfills prophecy, but before we turn to the Old Testament verses I want to read this same story from the other three gospels to get as much information as we can. Each offers a few more details to help us get a clearer picture of what’s happening:
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2Saying 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. 3And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5Tell 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. 6And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9And 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. 10And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee (Mt. 21:1-11).
What we learn from Matthew is that the donkey wasn’t found by accident. He didn’t just grab one that happened to be sitting nearby. No; Jesus knew what He was doing and sent the disciples out to get a specific donkey from specific people to use for His entry into Jerusalem as the promised King! It’s kind of like the spikenard Mary had been saving. “For this purpose.”
We also see that it wasn’t just palm branches going into the street. Rather, it says that a very great multitude spread their cloaks! Now, why is that important? Well, over in 2 Kings 19:3 the same thing happened with a man named Jehu. When the people realized the Lord had made him king over Israel they put their cloaks under him and shouted, “Jehu is king!” Now Jesus comes and they knew what they’re saying: “Jesus is King!”