Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 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 21:1-11
THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
Palm Sunday was the beginning of the end. Not a moment was wasted as even the manner of Jesus’s arrival into Jerusalem was filled with meaning. On the first day of the week, Jesus not only asserted himself as the king, but also began to reveal what kind of king he is.
Matthew rightly recognizes the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy that Israel’s future king would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. If the significance of today’s event simply ended there, it would be enough that we have yet another example of God’s faithfulness to his promises, and his providential guiding of history to bring about the salvation of his people.
But Jesus’s arrival teaches us so much more. Reminiscent of Solomon’s entrance into Jerusalem after succeeding King David (1 Kings 1:32-40), Jesus entered the city as a peaceful king, a king with no opposition. He didn’t come on a warhorse in a show of power, as one coming to take the kingdom by force. Jesus came humbly on a donkey, to inaugurate a kingdom of peace between God and his enemies (Luke 19:38; Rom 5:10).
Greeted with shouts of Hosanna! (hoshiya na, meaning “save us”) by the growing crowd, Jesus was welcomed as their king; in the absence of his own royal pageantry, the people spread branches and their cloaks on the ground. As they celebrated, the expectations placed on him became clear—but neither Caesar nor the Pharisees would allow any threat to their power. Though Jesus came in peace, a claim to power had been made. A new King had arrived.