“They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:7-11 ESV)
The whole city was stirred. The Greek word for stirred is the root of our word seismic. The city was shaking. Rocking and rolling. This didn’t happen quietly or for just his followers. That Sunday exploded with emotion and fervor so much that the city was seismic. Clearly this was intentional and planned by Jesus. For what?
“But the ride on a colt, because it was planned, could only be an acted parable, a deliberate act of symbolic self-disclosure for those with eyes to see or, after the Resurrection, with memories by which to remember and integrate the events of the preceding weeks and years. Secrecy was being lifted.”
What do you think when you see Air Force One? You think of the president of the United States. The ride tells you who it is. 500 years prior, a prophet gave a sign. Here is how you will know that the great King has arrived. He will come to you riding on a donkey. It was a sign. Just like the angels said, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) Nobody puts babies in a manger and great kings don’t ride donkeys.
Did the people get it? Not really. Yes there was excitement, but listen to their answer when someone asks, who is this? “And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:11) What’s the problem with that answer? Was his name Jesus? Yes. Was he from Nazareth? Yes. Was he a prophet? Yes. All true. What’s missing? What they missed that day is the same thing many people in hell someday will testify to, I knew Jesus was great but I didn’t realize he was that great.
Jesus a prophet? Yes, but no. He is so much more than a prophet. A great teacher? Yes, but so much more than a great teacher. A miracle worker? Yes, but so much more than a miracle worker. He is the King of all kings.
He didn’t ride the donkey to announce he was a prophet; he rode the donkey to announce he was the King AND to show the nature of his kingdom as he comes to his people in humility. A servant. A messiah. A savior.
For all their excitement, the crowds missed it. Why? As great as he was as a prophet they missed him as their king. Just days later very near to this same spot outside the city, they would see him crucified and die. It was the ultimate act of love and humility only hinted at by riding into Jerusalem on a baby donkey. The triumphal entry of Jesus was Jesus’ final and very public statement to the whole nation right there in the capital on the biggest stage possible, I am the King.
Did he know those people singing and shouting still wouldn’t get it? Of course. Then why did he do it? I believe Jesus did it for the millions who weren’t there that day. For the people who would investigate his life and claims to be Messiah and Savior. Looking back, even his disciples would connect the dots and realize that he was a descendant of David. Born in Bethlehem. Rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus puts into his story a hard-to-miss, prophetically fulfilling clue to his real identity.
Palm Sunday. Is it about the donkey? Is it about palm branches? Is it about the shouting and singing? The size of the crowds? No. It is about Him. Jesus intentionally fulfills the prophecy to say unmistakably to Israel and to us, This is who I am. I am the King whose reign shall stretch from shore to shore forever.
What do you believe about Jesus? Who is he in your estimation? A great man? Great teacher? Even maybe a prophet of God? The crowd believed all that.
They didn’t realize he was more than a Galilean. More than a Nazarene. More than a prophet. More than a miracle worker. He was and is and forever will be The King of kings and the Lord of lords. Is he your king?
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 D.A. Carson, Matthew, Vol. 2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 437.
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