Summary: Just a few days before Passover, our Lord rode into Jerusalem riding a donkey. The people with Him knew exactly what was going on but some of the people in Jerusalem asked, "Who is this?"
Introduction: This event, the “triumphal entry”, is recorded in all four of the Gospels. Each author has similar but not identical information; among other things this proves they didn’t get together to create some “talking points” or too-close-to-be-a-coincidence narrative. Matthew and John were disciples: doubtless, they were there each time Jesus entered Jerusalem before He was crucified (there were three times, see Mark 11). Please take time to read and compare each of the four accounts to get the most complete picture.
The people of that time may or may not have known they were seeing prophecy being fulfilled right before their very eyes. How long or how well they remembered this, we may never know. But the saddest thing of all is that they, as a nation, rejected the very King Who was coming to offer the Kingdom of Heaven. Behold, the King came; behold, they rejected Him. Who can comprehend all this?
1 The preparation, outside Jerusalem
Text, Matthew 21:1-7, KJV: 1 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.
Shortly before this, Jesus and the disciples had seen any number of things. One of the most striking was the conversation (interview?) Jesus had with the “rich young ruler” in Matthew 19, (also recorded in Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30). Peter then asked Jesus what would happen to them—the disciples—because Jesus had asked them to “Follow Me”; they had done so, but certainly weren’t rich by anyone’s definition. Jesus then gave the parable of the servants in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16, unique to Matthew’s gospel).
Then the Lord Jesus Christ spoke directly and privately to the disciples, telling them exactly what was going to happen (Matthew 20:17-28). Needless to say, the disciples didn’t get the message: the mother of James and John, along with these two, asked for a special position for her sons in the kingdom to come! The other Ten clearly didn’t like this and Jesus had to put a stop to it, reminding all of them that there is a much different definition of greatness in God’s kingdom as compared to any other kingdom on this earth.
Now they’re close to Jerusalem. They’re in Bethphage (location uncertain but may be near Bethany) and were close to the Mount of Olives.
And they didn’t know it, but they would be making history that day. They also didn’t know that they would be fulfilling a prophecy made nearly 500 years before!
This last step in the preparation phase involved a borrowed donkey (“ass”, KJV; the animal will be referred to as a donkey for the rest of this message) and a colt. Jesus sent two (unnamed in this passage) of His disciples to borrow the donkey and her colt (verse 2) and bring the animals to Him. I’ve only seen donkeys and related animals from a distance, and didn’t know this, but a radio preacher and Bible teacher made an observation about this passage. He said that a donkey’s colt that had never been ridden or “broken,” like this one (see Mark 11:2) was a killer! If nothing else, for the Lord to ride a donkey which had never felt a human on its back would prove He was Lord of nature, too.
Eventually the two disciples brought the two animals to Jesus. All of them put some of their clothing on the donkey’s back and then did a very commendable thing—they set Jesus on the donkey. Now the preparation was finished, and the Lord was ready for His journey to Jerusalem.
2 The presentation, heading to Jerusalem
Text, Matthew 21:8-9, KJV: 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.
By now the disciples had placed their clothing on the donkey’s back and in a caring way, placed the Lord Himself on the donkey to prepare for His journey to Jerusalem. Before He got there, word reached ‘a very great multitude” and these folks joined the disciples. They also, like the disciples, took off some of their clothing and placed their clothing on the ground! They did even more than this by cutting down branches from some of the trees, placing them on the ground just like some of the clothing.