“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 21:10-11 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 just for Jesus’ followers. That Sunday exploded with emotion and fervor so much so that the city was seismic. Clearly, this was intentional and planned by Jesus. Why?
“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.” (D.A. Carson)
What do you think of when you see Air Force One? 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, you’ll know it’s him if you find him lying in a manger. 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, 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? They realized he was their prophet but not that he was their king. Just days later, very near to this same spot outside the city, many of these same people would see him crucified and die. The ultimate act of love and humility only hinted at by riding into Jerusalem on a baby donkey. The triumphal entry 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.
© 2020 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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