Behold your King is Coming
Setting and Context:
Matthew 21:1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives,
Bethpage, where this whole scene begins was a small town located on the Mount of Olives which lies just outside of Jerusalem to the east.
John’s gospel informs us that Jesus had just previously raised Lazarus from the dead in the city of Bethany which lies another 2 miles to the east.
Jesus being followed by a group of disciples was now traveling on the Roman built road that goes from Jericho where His trip began to Jerusalem and if you turn over to Matthew 20:17-19 we are given a clear indication by the Lord as to what His intentions are for heading to Jerusalem.
Matthew 20:17–19 As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem for the purpose of laying down His life on the cross and in so doing would fulfill the Daniel 7 prophesy that spoke of the Son of Man who would be presented before the Ancient of Days and would be given dominion over a kingdom of peoples that would never pass away.
So this trip of Jesus was a planned occasion. Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem the week before the great Passover celebration. The annual Festival of the Jews whereby they remember the great salvation that God provided them through the shedding of the blood of the Passover Lambs in which there was coverage and protection from the angel of death. This trip to Jerusalem made by Jesus wasn’t just any normal planned occasion, but one that was orchestrated before the foundation of the world that Jesus would become the ultimate Passover sacrifice.
So as Jesus has just previously revealed to His disciples what He was going to do by way of becoming a sacrifice, Jesus was about to indiscriminately let the world know that He was in fact the King of Zion.
How Jesus discloses His Kingship
Matthew 21:1b then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3“If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
If you didn’t already know the purpose behind this selection of Jesus to pick a donkey as His mode of transportation for His grand entrance into Jerusalem you might think it a little odd. Do not most kings make their entries into their cities in full battle array and armor? Do not most kings arrive in chariots of splendor being pulled by strong stallions of war? But we have here the Lord of glory selecting a donkey. Very interesting.
It was also interesting to note that of the 4 gospels, Matthew is the only one to mention the disciples being sent for more than one donkey. The other gospels mention only the colt of which Jesus would actually sit and of course you have those who attempt to claim a contradiction in the Bible but it doesn’t follow that just because one gospel author includes additional information that another gospel author doesn’t decide to include mean that the accounts are contradictory. The point of the gospel author’s writing’s was not to count donkeys but to present the Lord’s mode for His triumphal entry. Why would there be 4 gospels anyway if they were all intended to say the exact same things. Wouldn’t God have just given us one gospel account?
It’s also very interesting to note the fact that Jesus apparently somehow knew that there was going to be these donkeys immediately available in the next village over. And yet the taking of the donkeys by the disciples certainly didn’t seem planned as Jesus tells the disciples in verse 3 what to do if the owner of the donkeys questions what in the world they think they are doing with his donkeys;
3“If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
How did Jesus know about these donkeys in the next village over? Let’s just say that Jesus knew things.
Remember Jesus’ calling of Nathanael in John 1:47–49 where He says that He had mysteriously already seen Nathanael
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
In John 4 Jesus knew they whole sinful life of the Samaritan women at the well telling her of her 6 illegitimate marriages
Probably the most frightening example of Jesus’ omniscience is the example given in John 2:23–25 23Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
Jesus is able to see right through these people’s false faith.
It was no big deal for Jesus to know about a couple of donkeys.
And what about this interesting response that Jesus gives the disciples to reply back to the donkey’s owner who is questioning them in verse 3?
3“If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
The Lord has need of them. Jesus does not have them reply, “Our lord needs them” but “The Lord has need of them” Our Lord, who happens to be your Lord, who happens to be everyone’s Lord, needs them.
3b “Say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
No questions asked, upon pronouncement that the Lord has need of them, whoever this guys is will immediately comply. The Lord Jesus has sovereign authority by His command. I couldn’t help but think back to the type, where King David commanded Zimri, Saul’s ex servant to do this and that for Mephibosheth and he immediately complied but this command seems to be more closely related to the time that Jesus said “I am” in John 18:6 and the soldiers fell to the ground. If King Jesus speaks sovereignly in any circumstance His subjects comply with a newfound agreeable will.
So this is how Jesus decides to disclose and reveal His Kingship over Jerusalem, by riding in on a baby donkey. Now let’s look into just why He has chosen this means by which to reveal Himself.
Why Jesus discloses His Kingship in the way He did
In short, Jesus was knowingly and intentionally fulfilling the Scriptural prophesies about the Messianic King who was to come.
4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5“SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’ ”
In find this very interesting indeed. One aspect of Scriptural prophesy that I have always found so amazing is how normally God Himself has to be the one who orchestrates the fulfillment of them. Considering the other prophesies which Jesus fulfilled for instance; His birth in Bethlehem, His being born in the lineage of David, His being crucified during Passover itself, or His being raised from the dead. These are so obviously Divinely orchestrated because no mere human being could determine his place of birth, or his ancestry, or his being raised from the dead and hence the fact that because these were all part of the life of Jesus of Nazareth confirms that He is the Promised One. But the fulfillments of this prophesy to arrive in Jerusalem on a donkey seems to have a very naturalistic fulfillment. Jesus knew the prophesy, so He carries it out. In that sense it seems very similar to the Luke 4 account where Jesus reads the Messianic quote from the scroll of Isaiah and tells all of the Jews there in the synagogue that the text He had just read to them was being fulfilled that very day in their hearing.
But even though there seems to be a less than miraculous type of fulfillment of the prophesy the fact that it is being fulfilled is very significant indeed because this event is leading to the crescendo of Jesus’ life and the complete unfolding of His purpose in coming.
Let’s look then at this prophesy and see what Jesus was in fact revealing about Himself as He fulfills it.
4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet (singular). Its interesting that Matthew is actually quoting 2 different prophets in verse 5 but mainly 1 hence the prophet singular.
The first part of the quotation 5“SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION,
Is a quote from Isaiah 62:11. It’s no wonder that Matthew would have been led to implement this saying from Isaiah because when you read the rest of the text from Isaiah 62:11 you see it to be explicitly Messianic.
Isaiah 62:11 Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”
The daughter of Zion here refers to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The first mention in the Bible of Jerusalem being called Zion is in 2 Samuel 5. King David takes this city then called Zion by its Jebusite inhabitants and makes it the center of his kingdom. It laid perfectly on the border between Israel and Judea the two kingdoms that King David was going to rule as one. Zion or Jerusalem under King David became the center of for Yahwism. King David would bring the ark of the covenant there in 2 Samuel 6 and his son Solomon would later build the temple in Jerusalem. As early as 1 Kings 11:36 we find God saying that “Jerusalem is city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name”.
As we are all aware Jerusalem up until this time had played a very special role in God’s redemptive history. It was the place where God was, the place He had reserved for His King. A place that was obviously serving a typological function for the heavenly Jerusalem as Hebrews 12:22 reveals to us as
22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
But as Jesus comes here to Jerusalem at the fullness of the times, He is fulfilling as well the rest of the text from Matthew 21:5. A quote from Zechariah 9:9
‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’ ”
Zechariah being one of the more fascinating of the Minor Prophets is filled with Messianic reference and prophesy. The quote from chapter 9 is part of a 3 chapter section in Zechariah consisting of chapters 9, 10, 11, all of which depict a very humble and gentle shepherding of the coming Savior as where the next three chapters of Zechariah 12, 13, and 14 depict a coming Savior in battle against the nations.
The ESV Study Bible alone gives a very interesting reference to Genesis 49:8–12 A possible early reference from which Zechariah could have been drawing from.
8“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. 9“Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? 10“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11“He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes. 12“His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk..
But here Jesus enacts this prophesy of the humble Messiah of Zechariah to a tee. Verses 6&7 tell us that the disciples carried out their task for Jesus without a hitch,
6The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats.
For those who knew their Bibles there could be no misunderstanding about what Jesus was communicating to the city. “BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU”!
This would be in one sense the last open call given to Jerusalem to accept the Messiah. As we will see some submitted to Him as Messiah and King and some still refused. But again here was the King. Not entering from a worldly perspective as most kings would enter but Jesus Christ is coming to His people mounted on a colt, a little donkey just as the Scriptures had foretold.
The People’s reaction to this Messiah
8Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” 10When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The crowd is going wild over Jesus’ entry. Several commentators pointed out the fact that the translation given in verse 10 where it says “10When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred” is a much too weak of a translation. The word translated into English as ‘stirred’ is ἐσείσθη. It’s the same word used later in Matthew 27:51
51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.
These crowds are fully committed to Jesus being their Messiah King. Noticing Jesus was sitting upon His disciple’s coats they also spread out their coats upon the road as well as layed out tree branches to pave the road for their coming King. What a great honor these people were paying to Jesus as they allowed His donkey to trample their coats and garments.
Who made up this crowd? There were three distinct people groups present. Those obviously who lived in Jerusalem were there who certainly would not have been ignorant of who Jesus was. Also remember this is the Sunday before Passover, what we now refer to Palm Sunday, people from all over Galilee would have been present to partake of the Passover lamb in the great city of Jerusalem most of whom would also have known of Jesus. Then the Gospel of John tells us that there was a crowd of folks who had followed Jesus from the city of Bethany where He had just raised Lazarus from the dead. These from Bethany along with the Jesus’ disciples would have certainly been leading and inciting the crowd to this praise.
The crowds here have obviously made the connection that Jesus was making by His way of entry into the city and they were crying out in v. 9 “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”
Jesus had previously always been very selective and careful about to whom He revealed Himself to and although He here seemingly for the first time is fully letting the cat out of the bag, the people of Israel had already been on to Him.
For example: Matthew 20:29–34 29As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. 30And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
“Hosanna to the Son of David they are crying out. Hosanna originally meaning a plea to “Save or Deliver” but by the 1st century became a cry of praise and adoration to the God who saves and delivers.
But why all of these references to Jesus by the people as the Son of David? Again, they were on to Him. They recognized Jesus as being the promised seed from their Scriptures who was going to be the Mighty King that descends from King David. A King whose Kingdom will never end as 2 Samuel 7:12-13 promised them.
The rest of the shout from the crowd, “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” is a quote from Psalm 118. Psalm 118, along with the previous five Psalms, make up what are known as the Hallel Psalms. These are the Psalms that are quoted by the Jews verbatim as prayers at Passover time as part of the celebration.
Ironically enough, the verse the crowds are quoting comes just four verses after Psalm 118:22
22The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.
And this really ends up being the issue. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. Yes the crowds are now crying Hosanna to the Son of David, but where are all these crowds five days from now when the others are shouting crucify Him. Where will all of these devoted followers be then? Jesus wasn’t taken by surprise by the crowds soon change of heart.
Luke 19:41–44 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
As Jesus knew, He does not end up being the King they were expecting. And this is the great irony. We of course have the great blessing of being alive this side Christ’s coming and have all of the New Testament Scriptures to explain all of Jesus’ work, but the Jews were working simply off of the Old Testament prophesies and shadows and apart from the enlightening grace of the Holy Spirit we would have misinterpreted Jesus’ significance as well. I think it helps to at least acknowledge why the Jews were expecting Jesus to be the kind of King that would free them from their Roman oppressors. For instance, 2 Samuel 9. Did not King David paint the picture of a King of Israel who would powerful rule and protect God’s people from their enemies. Is it really too far of a stretch for the people to think that the greater David wouldn’t do the same? Does not the very book of Zechariah from which Jesus based His entry into Jerusalem on also include this picture of what God would do in the Messiah’s coming Zechariah 12:7–9
7“The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. 8“In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9“And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Was it so wrong to assume that through the Son of David, the Romans would be destroyed?
These things weren’t just missed by the unbelieving crowds either.
John 12:16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.
This sad reality is what led S. Lewis Johnson to entitle this section of Scripture, “The Untriumphal Entry”.
The crowds were looking for a Triumphant King, not a humble and suffering King.
Their error was just as Jesus described it to those men on the way to Emmaus.
Luke 24:25–26 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26“Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
You see the people’s error was that they had failed to believe all that the prophets had spoken. It is a very common error amongst many professing Jesus worshipers today. There are many who only want the Jesus of certain verses of the Bible, but it is foolish and a sign of being slow of heart to not believe all that the Scripture reveal about Christ and worship Him still.
Yes Jesus will come one day triumphantly and will literally and physically destroy His enemies. But the Scriptures also teach that Jesus was coming to deal with another enemy namely sin. This was the purpose of His first coming.
Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
And speaking of having a full orbed view of who Jesus is, notice the last point Matthew makes before moving on in verses 10-11.
10When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
I’m not sure the crowds here fully grasped the significance of this description of Jesus Christ either as being a prophet. Yes, He was a prophet, but as His Father attested of Him at the transfiguration, He was the prophet, His very Son who was to be listened to.
What we are getting to see here then in this section on Triumphal Entry is the full range of the incarnate Son of God’s work that He is doing for His people.
Prophet- He is the prophet that was promised in Deut 18 who would be like Moses and would not just speak the word of God, but Who is the Word of God.
Priest - We have seen how Jesus Christ is the Priest for God’s people in that He comes to Jerusalem to make a sacrifice for His people. A perfect sacrifice of infinite value
King- We also see that Jesus is the King of God’s chosen and redeemed people, a merciful King like King David, who has mercy on even His very enemies.
The Scriptures are clear. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Promised One of the Old Testament Scriptures. There is no getting around it. You cannot hide away from King Jesus like Mephibosheth. He will call you out. You are to submit yourself to His Lordship because He is the King. He is a King you need because He is The King who is also The Prophet of God. He is who God reveals Himself through. Supressing the truth of God has never helped anyone. Come into the light and look into the very face of God as you look at Jesus Christ in the Scriptures. You need Him also because He is The High Priest. God’s chosen mediator between Himself and sinful man. God’s King and Prophet was coming into Jerusalem to make a sacrifice. The sacrifice He was offering was Himself. His sacrifice is one that you need because unlike you Jesus was holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and then exalted about the heavens. You are none of these things and are in desperate need for Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice and righteousness that can be yours through repentance and faith. Not a false repentance or a false faith, the King of Matthew 21 sees and knows all, but through a genuine faith in the sacrificed and then risen King you will spend an eternity with Him at His table as one of His Sons. There is no greater King than King Jesus. There is no greater God than the Triune God of the Bible.