The Triumphal Entry


Matthew 21:1–11 (NLT)
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”
4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
5 “Tell the people of Jerusalem,*
‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.’ ”*
6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.*
8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God* for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”*
10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus’ triumphal entry is the turning point in the Gospel of Matthew.  From now on, Matthew chronicles the last week of Jesus’ ministry, his suffering, death and resurrection.  Matt. 21:1-11 focuses the attention on Jesus’ identity.  vv. 12-27 focuses on Jesus’ prophetic authority.  In vv. 33-46, Jesus’ presents two parables that speak about the rejection of Jesus by the leaders of the Jews.
The triumphal entry is integral to the ministry of Jesus and is presented in all 4 Gospel accounts.  Historically, it marked the high point of Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus has been prophesying that he would go to Jerusalem and suffer and be crucified at the hands of the Jewish leaders.  He has purposefully turned toward Jerusalem and resolutely pursued that course.  Theologically the entry into the city enables Matthew to proclaim the truth about who Jesus is in a way that cannot be demonstrated in any other way.
Matthew focuses attention on the question of Jesus’ identity.  In v. 10, the crowd asks, “Who is this?”  The answer is “Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Is Jesus a prophet?  Yes, certainly, but much more than a prophet.
The triumphal entry points to Jesus identity as the Messiah, “the Son of David…the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (v. 9)
Though some scholars have argued that Jesus must have made prior arrangements for the donkey, the narrative implies divine foreknowledge.  (21:2)  Matthew is the only Gospel to mention both the donkey and the colt.  He may have mentioned this as it may be implied in Zech. 9:9 “Look, your King is coming to you,
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey –
riding on a donkey’s colt.” (v. 5)
vv. 21:4, 5 has the familiar Matthean pattern of introducing a fulfillment of Scripture:  “This took place to fulfill…”  This pattern is common in Matthew, but it has not been used since ch. 13.
Jesus instructs the disciples to say, “The Lord needs them.”  “The Lord” meaning, Lord, or Master was a common way of speaking respectfully to someone of a higher social rank.  But it was also the title for the Lord God in the Greek OT (LXX).  In the LXX, the title “Lord” substituted for the Hebrew words “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” and “Adonai.”  Most English Bibles follow the Hebrew example, by writing “LORD” (in all caps) for “Yahweh” and “Lord” for Adonai.  The English word “God” translates the Hebrew “Elohim.”  These are the three key words for God in the OT.
The coming of a King on a donkey first appears in the OT, when David places his son Solomon on his own royal donkey, as he proclaims Solomon king in his place (2 Sam. 18:9).  The coming of a King on a donkey symbolized the King coming in humility and peace.  Rather than coming as a conquering king on a war horse, the Messiah comes as the King of peace.  The King of peace enters the city of peace (Salem, means peace, as Jerusalem was known in Abraham’s time).
In Jesus’ day, the pilgrims coming up for the festivals in Jerusalem would walk approaching the city from east if they were coming from Galilee, as Jesus and his disciples did.  As they came, they would walk as a sign of humility.  That Jesus was riding a donkey demonstrates his intentionality in fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.
The shouts of the crowd were interwoven with verses from Psalm 118:25-26.  This was one of the Psalms frequently spoken of during the great festivals.  The Great Hallel (Ps. 113-118)was recited in responsive reading.
“Hosanna!” meaning “Save now!” transliterates the Hebrew word used in Psalm 118:25.  It became a word of praise.  The palm branches that were cut off of the trees were also called hosannas, as they recited the Great Hallel, they would wave palm branches.
The praise is directed at Jesus as the “Son of David,” that is, the Messianic descendant of David who would reinstate the Kingdom of David forever.
The whole city was stirred by Jesus’ entry.  Yet, their question, “Who is this?” demonstrates that they really do not comprehend Jesus’ true identity.  So they respond, “This Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The prophecy spoke of Israel’s king coming to the people.  Matthew claims the title King in Zech. 9:9 as part of Jesus’ identity.  Jesus is called variously Lord, King, and Prophet in this passage.  He is all these and more.  Even though Peter had called Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Still even the disciples did not understand who Jesus is until after his resurrection.
Lord, open our eyes to see Jesus as he truly is:  Prophet, priest, and King, yes, but most importantly Lord.  Help us to make him Lord over our lives.  Help us to cry out with the crowds, “Hosanna!”  “Save us now!”  That this same Jesus, whose very name means “The Lord saves,” is both our God and Lord.  In the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

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