Summary: Why is the number 173,880 important? It involves Jesus coming to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, fulfilling a prophecy given hundreds of years before. Was He really the Messiah? Find out!
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Jesus does three things in this chapter - He arrives to take His kingdom - showing the true character of the Creator - humble, coming in peace. But at the same time He blasts the two basic components of the existing religious scene - the legalistic religion of Judaism and the carnal religion of the world.
Mark, as I’ve mentioned, is sort of the Readers Digest version of the gospels - Peter, speaking through (most likely) Jon-Mark - hits the high points. And this certainly is one of those. For a long time we’ve seen Jesus tell people over and over again not to say anything about what He was doing - but now its time for Him to declare openly that He is indeed the Messiah, the coming King.
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ’Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ’The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’"
Bethphage and Bethany
These two villages were about one mile apart, one and two miles respectively from the eastern wall of Jerusalem, and sat on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Bethany was the home of Jesus’ dear friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
The Mount of Olives is a ridge about two and a half miles long on the other side of the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem. (photo of Mt of Olives)
The group was probably in Bethphage when Jesus said this - sending two of His disciples on into Bethany where they were to look for a colt - Matthew says there was a donkey and a colt - but Mark focuses only on the colt because here Jesus is fulfilling a very important prophecy found in:
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The Jews would have known this prophecy - that it related to the Messiah. It was also important that no one had ever ridden the colt. In Numbers (19:2), Deuteronomy 21:3 and 1 Samuel 6:7 it talks about animals who have never been yoked being used for sacred purposes.
Stealing an animal would been like carjacking today - and the disciples must simply act on Jesus’ words in total faith.
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
Couple of things here - notice Jesus didn’t just snap His fingers and have a colt appear - or, like Noah, a colt didn’t just show up. Jesus sent the boys to fetch one that belonged to someone else. When the Lord wants something done He doesn’t just do it (though He could) but He tells some of His servants to do something and they are the agents of God’s will.
Secondly - the person who owned the colt let it go willingly when they were told that "the Lord" had need of it. How quick are you to let go of things that Jesus says He needs? Your time? Your talents? Your money? Would we be like the owner of that colt and just say "oh sure, here you go" when the Lord calls on us to help Him accomplish His mission.
By the way, the Lord was the real owner of the colt as He is the supreme master of everything. Psalm 24:1 "The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it."
7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
10 "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"
So the colt had no saddle - and had never been ridden. No breaking was required, the animal completely submits to Jesus’ riding its back. The throwing of the cloaks on the back and on the road is a sign of royalty.
In 2 Kings 9:13 when Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat was proclaimed king they threw garments on the steps in front of him.