Now I thought it might be helpful for us through this Passion Week, which is today and often called Palm Sunday - and then Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday next week - to really use as the basis for our look at these wonderful events at the end of our Lord’s life to use the gospel of Matthew. So I want to start that this morning. Open your Bible to Matthew chapter 21, and we’re going to look here at what is called the triumphal entry of our Lord into the city of Jerusalem, which is normally identified as Palm Sunday. We have decided to call this “The Humble Coronation of King Jesus.” “The Humble Coronation of King Jesus.” Let me read the opening eleven verses of Matthew 21; follow the narrative.
“When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying 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. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,” and immediately he will send them.’ This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘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.”’
“The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The 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!’
“When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’”
To put it mildly, that is a very strange coronation. Now we don’t experience coronations here in America. We’ve never had a king. In fact, we were born in an anti-king revolution, so we’re not accustomed to coronations. We know very little about the majesty and the pomp and the ceremony that attends the establishment of a new monarch. It’s nothing like the inauguration of a president. The closest we get to it is television and sort of seeing the grandeur of events that take place in the royal family. And, of course, if the queen ever does die we may see a coronation. But generally speaking, we don’t experience coronations first hand.
Here is a coronation. Jesus said to Pilate, “I am a king. I am a king. My kingdom is not of this world.” Scripture’s clear that He’s not just a king, He is King of kings and Lord of lords. And this coronation, as humble as it is, as meek as it is, as unlikely a coronation as it is, does demonstrate that He is in fact God’s chosen King.
The kings of the world would have their own coronations be as grandiose as possible. There would be public ceremonies of honor. They would be raised on a shield historically, or raised on a sacred stone, or presented with a spear or a sword or a crown or a robe of distinction or a suit of armor, always in sight of all the people. There would be religious features along with historic features, military features. And borrowing from the Old Testament, most kings in the Western world throughout history have imagined themselves to have divine rights to rule as sovereigns.
Since we’re most familiar with England I was thinking back to, I think it was 1838, when Queen Victoria was inaugurated as the Queen of England. The crown that was given to her was quite amazing. It has rubies and sapphires and pearls, and the crown was capped with a 309-carat diamond. And then she was given a royal scepter, and at the top of the royal scepter was a 516-carat diamond called the Star of Africa, one of the most magnificent stones the world has ever seen. So coronations and events were full of grandiose splendor, and the expense was unlimited, so that the glory of the earthly king could be proclaimed.
In our text we have a very, very different kind of coronation. It is marked by an attitude of humility. It is totally the opposite of any coronation that would be held in the Western world through its history. Even though this is the King of all kings, this is the one true King who will reign forever and ever over all kings in the future. This is no ordinary king, but this is an extraordinary coronation.
Now I want us to look at this coronation. Most of the time when we look at the events in the life of our Lord we sort of want to know I guess the theological significance of them, so we look a little bit at the historic event as it’s laid out in the Gospels, and then we talk about the theology of all of that; and that’s important. That’s why the epistles were written, to give us the theology of the events of His life; and that’s particularly true at the cross and the resurrection. But I think for us this week we’re just going to look at the historical narratives in Matthew and we’re going to see the richness of revelation that is placed there. So we’re going to look at this passage through four words, four words: pilgrimage, prophecy, praise, and perplexity. Just those four words will unpack this for us.
So we come down to verse 1 as this chapter begins, and we look at the pilgrimage, the pilgrimage. “When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples.” Jesus is drawing near to Jerusalem for the last time. He’s been going there all His life and going to all the feasts and festivals that were prescribed in the Old Testament and that His family and the rest of His community dutifully observed. This is the last of those such pilgrimages, and this is the end of the pilgrimage of His life. It’s not the end in the sense that you think it’s just all over; it’s the end in the sense that it’s the culmination. It has reached its pinnacle; it has reached its goal. This time, at this Passover, He will die as the Passover Lamb, slain for the sins of His people.
Now He has left Galilee weeks before because He must walk from Galilee, way in the north, all the way down to the city of Jerusalem in Judea. And the typical route, they would come out of Galilee, they would go east of the Jordan River, cross the Jordan River or close to the very head waters of the Jordan River, get over on the east side, and they would come down through an area known as Perea, Perea. And as our Lord did on this occasion He came down through Perea, and along the way He ministered the truth of the kingdom, the gospel of the kingdom in the power of the kingdom, doing miracles as He came.
He wouldn’t come alone. He would come with all kinds of people from Galilee who’d be traveling with Him, and they would be collecting people as He went. As the crowds gathered around Him in Perea they would join the entourage and continue south. When He got down basically parallel to Jericho He would cross back over the Jordan – and that is still a route you can take today on the famous Allenby Bridge. You get down the east side of the Jordan River, you cross over and you’re at Jericho, or just near Jericho. So He would come back across the Jordan River and He would be in Jericho.
Now we know what happened in Jericho, the story is told to us. First He had an encounter with a tax collector who was very short and climbed up in a tree, and we all know his name because we learned it in Sunday school. His name was Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a Jewish trader who had bought a tax franchise from Rome, betrayed his people, and was extorting money out of them not only for Rome, but for himself. He was the most hated man in Jericho for certain. He wants to see Jesus. He climbs a tree. Jesus comes to his house, and Jesus leads him to salvation and redeems Zacchaeus. So Zacchaeus joins the entourage also coming through Jericho.
Jesus came across two blind men, and they were begging, and He not only gave them attention, He gave them sight. One of them had a name: Bartimaeus. So they would have joined this entourage of Galileans and Pereans and Jericho inhabitants and two blind men and one very short redeemed tax collector, and they all begin the trek from Jericho, which is below sea level down by the Dead Sea, up 3,000 feet, a vertical climb to the plateau just east of Jerusalem on which you can stand and look across the Kidron Valley in the Kidron Brook and see the east side of the city and the eastern gate of the temple. That road essentially ran from Jerusalem right to Jericho. It was a well-prepared road. It was actually a paved road – very, very rare in ancient times, except where the Romans went. The Romans were great pavers of roads, and they did that so they could move with alacrity and speed.
So this was a paved road, and they would walk from Jericho with a crowd, collecting more people as they went straight up the hill about 3,000 feet to the little village of Bethphage, which means “house of figs.” Now we don’t know where it was, but it’s most likely between Bethany, which is fifteen miles up the hill from Jericho, and Jerusalem, which is seventeen miles. So somewhere along that area, somewhere around Bethany before you get to Jerusalem, was this little place called “house of figs.”
Jesus is coming, and this huge collection of people are following Him to Passover. They are experiencing whatever He’s saying and whatever He’s doing as they go along; and there is an increase in their sense that this is someone very, very special. And of course, the disciples are along, and the disciples are affirming that He is the Christ, He is the Messiah, He is the Son of God. He arrives in the little town of Bethphage – back to verse 1: “When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives.”
The Mount of Olives is also on the east side, so Bethphage is right around that area. He comes not in triumphant regal splendor, He comes with a strange collection of odd people who are not in uniforms, by the way, and don’t have weapons. They don’t constitute an army; they aren’t formidable; they aren’t any kind of threat. There’s just a collection of the people from here and there and everywhere. He comes not in regal splendor at all, He comes not with a triumphant army, He comes not to conquer, but He comes in peace.
And as I said, He did not travel alone. He arrives in Bethphage, and right there is also the village of Bethany where His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are, and He has recently raised Lazarus from the dead. So He goes there to Bethany at night and He stays there. He would have arrived in Bethphage on Saturday, as we put the story together, and He would have stayed that Saturday night with that little family in Bethany.
John tells us this is six days before Passover, six days before Passover, so that puts it before sunset on Saturday. And that night at the house in Bethany there was a supper given in His honor, and it’s recorded in John 12. As He comes and meets with His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and their family; there’s a supper given. And in that supper they show love to Him and kindness to Him, and they actually pour out perfume on Him which, of course, immediately incensed, is one of the quote-unquote “disciples” by the name of Judas, who doesn’t like the idea that they’re wasting this substance, and he makes some kind of hypocritical comment about it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. That’s not the truth of what was in his heart because the Scripture says he said that not because he cared about the poor, but because he held the bag. He was the treasurer and he wanted more money in the bag because he had planned to get away with as much as he could. So it’s an ugly evening juxtaposed against a beautiful evening of expressing love to the Lord.
So there He comes on that Saturday to the area just east of Jerusalem. Six days before His crucifixion, six days until the Lamb of God becomes the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, six days before He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; six days before the nails, the thorns, the spit, the cursings, the spear, the hatred, the sin-bearing, the loneliness of being God forsaken; six days before He feels the full fury of divine wrath for the sins of His people. Even in the midst of that, there’s some sweet fellowship with the family and the disciples and all the rest of the folks who were with Him, but there is also the stinging reality of the presence of Judas to make that fellowship somewhat toxic.
So hearing and knowing of His arrival, John says many Jews came from Jerusalem to see Him, and they came to see Lazarus because they all knew that Lazarus had been raised from the dead. So when Jesus arrived there, what was, I suppose, maybe assumed to be a quiet time with His beloved friends was a very, very crowded experience of people coming out of the city of Jerusalem as well as this entourage following Him; all of them fascinated to see this man who had been raised from the dead. So that’s the pilgrimage. That is the end of the pilgrimage as far as we know it - a pilgrimage that lasted three years, or you could say a pilgrimage that lasted from the time He was born. His earthly pilgrimage as God incarnate was coming to its end, and this is the final journey. There will be no more travel after this. It all comes to an end in Jerusalem where He is crucified and from where He rises and ascends into glory.
Now at this very moment, in verse 21, upon arriving there, it says, “then Jesus sent two disciples.” This is Passover Week and Jesus says, “I want two of you disciples to do something for Me.” This is a trigger event. And these two disciples are very likely Peter and John, because in Luke 22:8 it was Peter and John who were chosen by the Lord to be sent on another mission; so perhaps that was a common thing, and it may well have been Peter and John.
And what Jesus asked them to do is begin to stage the coronation. Now it is a bit disappointing when you have to stage your own coronation, but that is exactly what happened. Certainly the leaders of Jerusalem weren’t going to stage a coronation for Him. Their reaction to the resurrection of Lazarus; Lazarus is raised – the record is in John 11. At the end of John 11, verses 47-57, it tells us that the leaders of Israel wanted to kill Jesus. They wanted to kill Him in the face of the resurrection of Lazarus.
So they’re not about to plan a coronation. The scribes and the Pharisees aren’t about to plan a coronation. The Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, none of the leaders are going to plan a coronation for Jesus. So if there’s going to be a coronation He’s going to have to plan it Himself; and that’s exactly what He does.
What He does is very important. He wants to create a massive demonstration; that’s exactly what He has in mind. He wants to create a massive demonstration. He wants to create a demonstration that makes it look like everybody is going after Jesus, everybody. He wants to create a demonstration that’s going to further anger the Jewish leaders.
Why does He want to anger them? So that on His timetable, by Friday, they will hand Him over to the Romans to be executed; so He will be executed on the very Passover day. He is orchestrating the timetable for His own death, and the trigger event is to send two of His disciples to begin this massive collection of people hailing Him as Messiah that will terrify the Jewish leaders who want Him dead. There must be a demonstration that will lead to His death, and He creates that demonstration. He controls all the events all the way to His cross, and He controls the timing of His cross, the timing of His death – He yielded up His Spirit – and the timing of His resurrection. It’s all in His hand. He is no victim of the Jews; He is no victim of the Romans; He is no victim of Satan - He is in control of everything.
So we see the end of the pilgrimage as our Lord enters Jerusalem to die and rise again in a few days. And again, the best chronology would put this event on Monday, even though we celebrate it on Sunday because that’s when we meet. It was most likely Monday when our Lord entered the city. And by the way, that would be the very day that the Jewish people would pick their lamb for sacrifice, and that is the very day that our Lord picked His Lamb for sacrifice. The Father picks the Son to be the Lamb of God, God’s Lamb on that same day. So that is the end of the pilgrimage.
The second word I want you to notice is “prophecy,” “prophecy,” verse 2. Here’s what He says to those two disciples: “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you’ll find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.”
“Go into the village opposite you”; that refers to Bethphage, which must have been just opposite Bethany where they were staying. This is an obscure village; we don’t know anything about it. It’s around the Mount of Olives and around the area of Bethany. It’s all very, very close, across the Kidron Valley on that ridge that overlooks the temple ground in Jerusalem. And He says to them, “You need to do this immediately. When you go, immediately, immediately you will find. Go to this village opposite you. Immediately when you get there.” That’s essentially “you’ll find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.”
This is supernatural knowledge. He’s not there; He can’t see there, but He knows what is there. He knows there are these two animals. Mark tells us exactly where the two animals were found in Mark chapter 11. The Lord knew where they were, sent the two disciples exactly to that place, said, “Untie them and bring them to Me.”
Now this sort of looks like stealing, but it’s obvious that this is a home that our Lord knew and these are people that He knew. Mark and Luke tell us further that the animal that He is going to ride – the colt, the foal of the beast of burden, the donkey – had never been ridden. And if there is anything in this entire coronation that could be seen in any sense as an honor, this is it. This is all there is, because back in Deuteronomy 21:3, and then in 1 Samuel 6:7, we are told that to ride an animal, young animal never before ridden, was a mark of special honor. So the only honor that you could say that’s a part of the pageant of this coronation, the only decidedly specific honor was that He rode on an animal that had never been ridden, which was somehow to declare His uniqueness. You didn’t give Him a horse or an animal that had been ridden by someone else, and that was a small indication of honor; but that was it. And by the way, it wasn’t a great white horse; it was just a donkey’s offspring.
Now Jesus had no intention of keeping these animals permanently; He was just borrowing them for the afternoon. So in verse 3, He says, “If anyone says anything to you like, ‘Hey, hey, where are you going with my animals?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them.’” Now that tells me that He knew those people knew Him, because all He had to say was, “The Lord has need of them,” and that was it. This is a believing home. These are believing people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Just say, “The Lord has need of them.” No further explanation than that.
And remember now, there were people who had confessed Him as Lord. “And immediately he will send them. Immediately he’s going to let you have them because he knows Me, and he would readily and happily submit to My command as his Lord.” Willing to let the Lord use his animals? Of course. Probably friends. Certainly followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now what is this about? Is it just a statement of humility? Is this just to make this a kind of counter-coronation, opposite any kind of normal coronation? Is this purely to demonstrate humility? Well, it does do that, but it’s a much higher purpose. Look at verse 4: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet.”
Ah, so now we have a prophecy being fulfilled, an Old Testament messianic prophecy being fulfilled. This is the first of a lot of prophecies that will be fulfilled during Passion Week, including prophecies about His death, prophecies fulfilled on the cross, and prophecies fulfilled in His burial, and prophecies fulfilled in His resurrection. But here is the beginning of these prophecies.
Again, Jesus triggers these events to fulfill prophecy. He is on a divine plan, a divine schedule, a divine timetable. Those critics who say that Jesus let the crowd get out of control. The crowd became so out of control that He overstepped sensible limits, and that angered the Jews, and the Jews killed Him. If He’d have been a little more measured in how He conducted Himself and carried on He might not have gotten killed. That is a common explanation of what happened to Jesus, that He was victimized by being over-zealous and getting a crowd that scared the Jews, and so they killed Him. Not hardly. Everything that happened happened under His total control to accomplish His purpose: to die and rise again. He controlled everything.
Now the prophecy in verse 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.’” Now that comes from Zechariah 9:9, that prophecy. The first line actually comes from Isaiah 62:11, “Say to the daughter of Zion.”
“The daughter of Zion” is a kind of a Hebraism, kind of a colloquialism that the Jews used to refer to the people of Jerusalem. Zion was the highest mountain in Jerusalem, higher than Mount Moriah. And so Zion was the symbol of Jerusalem, and the daughter of Zion would be the people of that area. That is just a colloquial Hebrew figure of speech.
So, “Say to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” is what it’s intended to say. “Say to them, ‘Behold your King is coming to you.’” That is quoted right out of Zechariah 9:9, “Look, your King is coming to you.”
So let’s go back and look at Zechariah 9:9, second to the last book in the Old Testament, right to the left of the Italian prophet Malachi. Chapter 9. (You didn’t know about him.)
Chapter 9, verse 9 of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!” There you have that very same expression, although the exact words that are recorded in Matthew are the exact words of Isaiah 62:11. You can see it was a common expression. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just” – or righteous – “and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Now the first section of this chapter, verses 1-7, chapter 9 of Zechariah, 1-7, have a prophecy about a conqueror. But it’s a different conqueror. There’s a human conqueror in the opening seven verses or so, and most commentators – and I would agree with that – see this is fulfilled by Alexander the Great.
It’s only about two hundred years after the prophecy of Zechariah that Alexander the Great came. And you remember his massive, incredible campaign through Syria, Phoenicia, Philistia, and even Israel. Although He was a protector of Israel, that’s about two hundred years later. So there is a human conqueror described in the opening verses of the chapter. And the Lord used Alexander the Great as a protector of Israel. But in verse 9 there is a completely different protector of Israel, and this is the Messiah, and He is described in the language of verse 9. And He actually is the subject all the way down through verse 17 of Zechariah 9.
So he introduces the divine Conqueror in the latter half of this chapter, by presenting His character, by presenting His character against the background of the invincible march of Alexander the Great comes one who’s very different than Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great inspires fear, Alexander the Great inspires dread. Alexander the great makes war. But this king in verse 9 and following does not inspire fear and dread, but praise. He doesn’t make war; He makes peace. He’s not a foreign tyrant; He is Israel’s own king. He’s not cruel and oppressive; He’s kind and righteous. He doesn’t slay; He saves. He’s not rich; He’s poor. He’s not proud; He’s meek. He’s not riding a white horse; He’s riding a colt of a beast of burden. Very stark contrast.
Four elements describe His character in verse 9 of Zechariah 9. First one, He is a king. “Behold, your king is coming,” not an alien king, not a foreign king, but Israel’s king. “Your king, your Messiah is coming to you.” And I might just say that that fact that he’s coming to you is kind of contrary to what mostly happens with kings: they don’t come to you, you go to them. They don’t come to you, you go to them. They draw everything they can out of you to enrich them.
But this king takes everything He has and gives it to you to enrich you. So He is a king. “He is your king, Israel’s king.” That is Messiah. He is righteous, just. That is to say, He is virtuous. He is holy. He is sinless. He is a savior. He is endowed with salvation. Literally that phrase is “He shows Himself a savior.” “He shows Himself a savior.”
And then, He is humble or meek, and His meekness is symbolized in the fact that He is mounted on a donkey. Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. So here comes Israel’s true king who is righteous, who is Himself a savior, and who is meek, and demonstrates that meekness by riding on this animal.
Now when Solomon instituted the wide use of horses, Solomon got into horses seriously, and the stables of Solomon are famous in ancient history. When Solomon kind of elevated the horse, you might say donkeys lost their identity. And that is stated in Jeremiah 17:25. But in this case, Jesus goes back to a donkey.
This is a very strange kind of coronation, but it is the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. He can’t come in on a white horse, because the Messiah will come on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden, and He will come gentle, or meek, or humble, mounted on a donkey. He is declaring then that He’s not a military messiah. There’s no entourage; there is no great white horse; there’s no armor; there’s no weapons. But He is nonetheless the true Messiah coming exactly the way the prophet said He would come. It’s a scene of great humility. This is an animal for a time of peace, not a time of war. This is an entourage for peace, certainly not for war
So the Lord says, “You’ve got to go do this and get these animals, and bring them in order to fulfill prophecy. So verse 6 says, “The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them, and He sat on the coats.”
Matthew indicates they put their coats on both animals, the disciples did. They didn’t know which one He was going to ride, and they put their coats on both animals, and He sat on the younger animal and the coat on the back of that younger animal. He took his seat, Luke 19:35 says, “with the help of the disciples.” And the mother would be leading the colt a certain distance, until the colt would have gone on its own.
So Jesus starts then for Jerusalem. Couple of miles away at the most, maybe less. He’s coming officially as the King of Israel, prophesied by Zechariah, to fulfill God’s plan. The prophecy is so precise; it’s not just an animal, it’s a beast of burden. It’s not just a beast of burden, but it’s the colt, the foal of a beast of burden. Prophecy is fulfilled explicitly.
Now that takes us to the third word. We looked at the pilgrimage and the prophecy. Look at the praise in verses 8-9: “Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.”
Again, this is a makeshift red carpet. Dirty robes. Smelly robes are throne down in the road. It’s a very great multitude, the language indicates that. Now it includes – remember, all the people who came with Jesus from Galilee all the way down; and they were accumulating people all the way like a snowball going down a hill. And then there were great crowds of people who came to Bethany when Jesus was there to see Lazarus and Jesus. So that was a massive entourage, and that’s coming into the city of Jerusalem; and then there are all those people already in the city of Jerusalem.
So there’s a converging of these two massive crowds at Passover. Literally hundreds of thousands of people is not an overstatement. Some have gone so far as to say it might even touch a million, though it’s had to imagine that. Two crowds surging together like two crashing breakers of the sea with our Lord in the middle. And they throw down their garments.
By the way, we find that in 2 Kings 9:13, that is indicated as a symbol of submission. When somebody wanted to demonstrate submission, they might kneel in front of someone else, but they also might throw their coat on the ground as an expression of submission. That’s what they do; they make a carpet.
And in addition to that, they were cutting down branches from the trees and spreading them in the way, and John 12 says, verses 12-13, they were palm branches, hence Psalm Sunday. They were cutting down palm branches and spreading them on the road. And by the way, in the book of Revelation we learn that branches were symbols of strength and beauty and joy and salvation - strength because they last so long. They survive in a barren land for so long. And beauty, because they produce those green leaves even in a barren place. They were symbols of the joy of salvation.
So the people are hailing Jesus as their conquering King. Now remember, why would they even do this? Perhaps the buzz began to say, “The great deliverance that we all remember from our history was the deliverance out of Egypt – Right? - when Moses our leader led us out of Egypt, through the wilderness to the promised land.”
Passover was a commemoration of that great deliverance. When Moses was their leader, and how God delivered them from Egypt. They all expected that when the Messiah came, He would also deliver them from bondage to any blasphemous, godless Gentile power. So the assumption is, if this is the Messiah, He’s going to come and He’s going to exercise power and authority, and drive the Romans out, the blasphemous Romans, and give us back our freedom. And remember, Jesus had said that He was greater than Moses, and He had shown that, how? Because he raised people from the dead. Moses never did that.
So the people are filled with hope. It’s Passover. If this is the Messiah, our deliverance is near. It is a very odd scene. It is a scene of dirty, old clothes and broken branches, thrown in front of a humble man riding on a donkey’s colt. Rome would never see that as a coronation. Frankly, Israel would never see that as a coronation. No one would see that as a coronation. And you would ask yourself, “How did the people get so worked up over this?” Because, believe it, there were people who did believe Jesus was the Messiah, and they had entrusted themselves to Him, their souls to Him.
Perhaps they began the conversation. And the fire, the flame went from person to person, to person, to person. Frankly, his retinue was not militarily frightening at all. It was a lot of previously smelly fishermen and a rabble of poor common people, and then the riffraff that He collected on the way. It’s a very odd pageant. But even at that, it’s amazing what happens.
Verse 9, “The 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!’” “Hosanna” means “save now,” “save now.” Well, Zechariah 9:9 said He is a savior. He is a king who is a savior.
“Save now. Grant salvation.” This is a cry for deliverance. And they identified Him as the Son of David. That is a royal, messianic title, all the way back to 2 Samuel 7, all the way back in 2 Samuel 7 when God promised to David a son greater than Solomon; and that son, that Son of David would have an everlasting kingdom. The messianic promise is that Messiah will be a son of David in the genealogies Matthew and Luke. We know that both His father and His mother were in the Davidic line. He is truly a son of David. If there were a king in Israel it would be Him. He was the one who had the right to rule.
So they hail Him as the Son of David. By the way, every boy when he was old enough to memorize, every Jewish boy, he would memorize Psalm 113 to Psalm 118; that’s the Great Hallel. Those were the psalms, the psalms of ascent, that the people memorized and recited as they ascended the temple to worship. And so this is drawn from Psalm 118, the last psalm of the Hallel. Son of David, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” That is part of the psalms of ascent. That comes from verse 26 of Psalm 118. So they’re literally praising the name of the Lord. They’re calling on the Son of David to save them, and they mean that in the physical, temporal sense from occupying Rome and all other enemies.
Psalm 118, by the way, was the conquerors psalm. And these were the very words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” from Psalm 118. Those are the very exact words that were sung and shouted in Jerusalem when they welcomed back Simon Maccabeus who had just had a great victory at Acra and freed the nation Israel from Syrian domination a hundred years before. So this was language familiar to them. It was a distinctively messianic psalm, because in that psalm is the statement, “The stone which the builders rejected will become the head of the corner,” which obviously refers to Christ.
So they hail their conquering King. They call on Him to deliver them from the Romans and all their enemies. They identify Him as the one coming in the name of the Lord, God’s messenger sent by God, and they even say, “Save now in the highest.” That is from the very abode of God. “Send down divine power to save us.”
They look for Rome to be crushed. They look for all the promises to Abraham and David in the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenant, all the new covenant promises to be poured out on them, because their Messiah had arrived. This is a pageant like no other king would ever have in history. And even though He was the greatest king, He had the most humble coronation.
The last word is the one that helps us understand the whole picture: perplexity. Verse 10, “When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred.” Now that verb is the verb for “shaken.” It’s used three times in the book of Matthew to describe an earthquake. They were rattled; they were shaken.
Listen to this. They said, “Who is this?” Does this tell you the insanity of a mob? They’re saying all this and they don’t know who they’re talking about. You may have been caught in a crowd, a buzzing, humming crowd, and you’re trying to figure out what it’s about because you can’t see where the action is.
The whole city is shaken by this outpouring, this massive demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people, and they don’t even know who it is. This is what happens in a crowd. And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” They’re putting on this massive demonstration and they don’t even know who He is.
Well, it’s even beyond that, because in John chapter 12, listen to what John says in verse 15. He’s looking at the same event and he says, “Jesus finds a young donkey; and as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’” He quotes that from Zechariah 9:9.
Then verse 16 of John 12, “These things His disciples did not understand at the first.” They didn’t understand why the Messiah would come in such a meek and humble manner. They knew who He was, but why this? But when Jesus was glorified, they understood. When Jesus was glorified - you mean after He ascended into heaven, after His crucifixion, after His resurrection, forty days later when He ascended, then they understood these things?
They understood that He had to have a humble coronation; they understood that He had to die; they understood that He had to rise, but they didn’t fully understand it until Jesus was glorified. Why? Answer: because until Jesus was glorified, He did not send the Holy Spirit. And Jesus told them in the upper room, “When the Spirit comes, He will lead you into all truth, and He will teach you everything concerning Me.”
So their messianic theology never really came together until the Holy Spirit arrived. At this point, the disciples are confused because they have the same messianic theology that everybody else has, that He’s going to come and He’s going to throw out the enemies and He’s going to bring the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel. But this doesn’t look like that. This just doesn’t look like that.
Luke says, “The whole crowd is praising God with a loud voice.” Mark says, “The Pharisees commented with these words: ‘The whole world has gone after him.’” They were caught up in melee, “Who is this? This is that prophet, Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” The people, they were fickle. They weren’t sure even who He was. They were caught up in the messianic euphoria.
The leaders, they were incensed. They were terrified because it looked like the whole world was going out to support Him. And how would they be able with that kind of commitment to Him from the people to have Him killed? If He was that popular, how could they get away with killing Him?
Well, as you know, the next day He did go to battle. But He didn’t go to battle against the Romans. He went right to the temple and attacked Judaism at its heart. He dismantled the temple operation, threw the buyers and sellers and money changers out and declared that they had turned the house of God into a den of thieves. Instead of attacking Rome, He attacks Jerusalem, and He attacks the religious system and the religious leaders who were the leaders of the nation. That assured that they were going to have to put an end to Him.
He was now massively popular, and He was attacking their system. That sets the table for them to drive Him eventually to the cross. Through a middle-of-the-night phony trial with false witnesses, every bit of it illegal, they pronounce a death sentence on Him, and they execute Him in the morning, on Friday, exactly at the hour that God had planned, so that He would die as the Passover Lamb for the sins of His people. It is a very strange coronation.
And I will say this, that there is always a place in the world for the Jesus that people want; there’s just not always a place for the Jesus who is. He didn’t come to fulfill your dreams. He didn’t come to bring you prosperity and happiness. He didn’t come to give you what you and your carnal desires want. He came to attack your false religion. He came to attack your sin. He came to expose your judgment, the judgment of God that will fall on every unconverted sinner. He came to warn you to flee from the wrath to come. And He came to offer you salvation to rescue you from death and hell.
If you thought He came like a genie out of a bottle to do what you want Him to do, you’ve got the wrong Jesus. He came to confront your sin and your need, and to offer you a gracious salvation through faith in His name. Thankfully, He was in control of everything. Thankfully, they didn’t make Him a king. They had tried a few other times to do that. Thankfully, it was just a few hours until He attacked the temple, turned all the leaders against Him. And then the leaders began to work on those few days to turn the people against Him.
And finally, the people were shouting something different. It wasn’t, “Your King has come.” It wasn’t, “Save now.” It was, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He cannot be anybody’s King unless He is, first of all, their Lamb, slain in their place for sin.
Father, we thank You for this wonderful picture, this incredible scene. True. Thank You for the glory of Christ that is manifest here. How He controlled every aspect of His life and Passion Week. And, Lord, I pray that You will show every heart, every mind, every soul here the true Christ, the real Christ, not the Christ of their imagination. He’s not the Jesus they think they want to make them healthy, wealthy, and prosperous; not the Jesus who they think is here to fulfill all their desires. But may they see the One who has come to confront their sin, confront their false religion, confront their hypocrisy, and then to die for those sins, to offer forgiveness through grace and eternal life. Reveal Christ to every heart here we pray, for your glory. Amen.
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