Summary: Jesus exposes real emotions as he comes to Jerusalem for the last time. It tells a lot about his attitude towards the lost, and towards our hearts as well.
Jesus has just given a long story about a man who goes to become a king and what his servants do while he is gone. It has a lot of spiritual application, but it is very interesting considering what happens next. In the parable Jesus talks about a king that goes to receive his kingdom but the people don’t want him to be their king. Right after that Jesus approaches Jerusalem on the exact day when Daniel the prophet said the Messiah should come to the city-and though it seems at first as if the people accept Him they will soon totally reject Him and put Him to death. So at the end of the parable we read:
Luke 19:27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’" ESV
Prophetic? Yes. What we’ll see in the latter half of this chapter is that while feigning support, the crowds will join the religious rulers who will reject their King who will come riding in on a donkey. Jesus did not fit their expectations so He was rejected. And in just a few short years after these events, Jerusalem will be overthrown and a great slaughter will take place. We see Jesus prophecy that in verses 41-44.
When Jesus comes into your life does He meet your expectations? We need to make sure we fit His, not the other way around. This chapter also gives us an interesting glimpse into Jesus’ state of mind.
It certainly wasn’t your typical arrival of a new king that day as Jesus approached Jerusalem. When a new president takes office in the U.S. there are big parties planned, parades scheduled, security is tight, there are speeches and ceremonies and transitions of power in the West Wing.
But look at the ways this was an atypical inaugural:
The Vehicle - verses 28-34
Bethphage and Bethany are about a mile apart, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, which sits next to Jerusalem. Bethany, of course, the home to Mary, Martha and Lazarus. So Jesus sends two of His disciples to get the limo ready. Normally a head of state has a pretty substantial advance team to make arrangements. Jesus has just two guys. But it’s enough. They are sent, essentially, to take a young donkey. Not buy one, but untie it. This was extremely unusual and would have been like carjacking. The Lord told them what to say, and we don’t know if it was a prior arrangement, or some miraculous thing that happens but they say "Oh, in that case, go ahead."
So here is Jesus, the King of Kings, riding in on a donkey. Why is that significant? For one thing, the donkey had never been ridden before. The Law said you couldn’t use an "ordinary" animal for sacred purposes-and this certainly was that kind of purpose. Also it spoke of the way Jesus approached His city.
Coming on a donkey was a sign of peace. If Jesus had ridden in on a horse, it would have signified a conquering king coming to take over. Jesus was coming in not to take but to give his life in order to make peace between men and God.
Matthew (21:5) quotes from Zechariah 14:4: "Say to the daughter of Zion, ’Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’" ESV
The Welcome - verses 35 - 40
The throwing of cloaks ahead of a king can be found in 2 Kings 9. Here it is just before the beginning of a huge Passover celebration. You have people from all over the Roman Empire. The buzz was about. People were curious; people were wondering what He was going to do. Was He the Messiah? And what did that really mean?
They had no concept of a suffering Messiah, only a ruling King Messiah. So as He makes His way down the mountain the crowd is getting more excited. Maybe this is the time when He’ll declare Himself king and rescue national Israel from the oppression of Rome.
So they sing from Psalm 118. In essence they were singing "long live the king!" But they didn’t understand why He was really coming and would soon turn against Him.
So on the one hand you have the raucous crowd singing uninformed praises, and on the other hand you have the authorities who should have recognized Jesus as Messiah are coming against Him.
Jesus says that if the people are silent the stones will cry out. This has a double meaning. The Prophet Habakkuk (2:11) said judgment would come from God just before the fall of Jerusalem and that the stones of the city wall would cry out the sins of the people.