1.) Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,
2.) saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to me.
3.) And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them’ and immediately he will send them.”
4.) All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5.) “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you. Lowly and sitting on a donkey. A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6.) So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.
7.) They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them and set Him on them.
8.) And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from trees and spread them on the road.
9.) Then, the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
10.) And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11.) So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
THE MISUNDERSTOOD ENTRY
It is Palm Sunday. Like most of you, I am disappointed that we cannot be in our houses of worship this morning. But even though we are unable to meet together in one place this morning, we can be joined together in one Spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I titled this message The Misunderstood Entry because it is. This passage is often represented as a triumph, but it wasn’t. For a long time, I could not understand how Jesus went from triumph one Sunday to the lowest point in His earthly life the following Friday, to the ultimate triumph the next Sunday. Jesus had come to the top of the Mount of Olives. The other Gospels tell us that He had been in Bethany at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus a few days before. He had come the way the pilgrims from Galilee would normally travel. He had healed the blind at Jericho and had been camping out on the Mount of Olives for a day or two. The pilgrims from Galilee had been gathering there as well. Some maybe had places to stay in Jerusalem, but most stayed around Bethphage, Bethany, or on the Mount of Olives. It was a time of great excitement – the Passover, one of Israel’s three major feasts. And as the pilgrims from Galilee could see with their own eyes, there was Jesus the prophet from their own region, the one who had performed so many signs and miracles, the one whom many were wondering (and some proclaiming) could be the Messiah. In their minds was that question: Could this be the time? The place was perfect, it was Jerusalem. What more perfect time could there be than the Passover? The week where they would celebrate their deliverance from Egypt. What better time to be delivered from the Romans and other enemies?
Jesus came to the top of the Mount. The people saw Him. and instead of going on to the city, they waited in anticipation to see what He would do. He told two of His disciples to go into the village and procure a donkey and her colt. I am sure it had been prearranged. Jesus was not unfamiliar with this area, and the people of this area were not unfamiliar to Him. What makes this story important is not that there was a donkey and a colt waiting for Him, but what that donkey and colt represented. What stands out to me are two words Jesus gave in His command to the two disciples, “You will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her.” The Greek word for with is meta, pronounced met-ah. When you delve into the Greek you will find prepositions that may have 2 pages of definitions of ways that they are used. Meta is one of them. Here it means together, to share the same experience. The second word is loosed. The Greek word translated here for loose is luo, pronounced loo’-o, and it means to unbind. These two words stand out because the two donkeys were about to share an experience with their creator. But to share that experience, they first had to be unbound…. God created us to share Himself with us. From the very beginning in the book of Genesis, to the Tabernacle in Exodus, to Solomon’s Temple, to Pentecost Sunday – God’s goal has always been for us to be in relationship with Him. But before that can happen, we like the two donkeys have to first be unbound…
Verse 4 tells us that this was done (donkeys found and unbound) so that the prophesy might be fulfilled. The Greek for was done is ginomal, pronounced ghin’-om-ahee. It means that this act was done for a specific purpose. The word fulfilled is pieroo, pronounced play-ro’o. Here it means to finalize, bring to a complete conclusion. And what was that conclusion? God’s plan of salvation for His creation!
Verse 5 brings us the Old Testament prophesy from Zechariah 9:9, “Tell the daughter of Zion, behold your King is coming to you, lowly and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Matthew doesn’t quote the whole passage, stopping at verse 9 and not including verse 10. He also leaves out the portion regarding the King coming with righteousness and salvation. To understand this, we have to first understand what Zachariah was saying. In chapter 8, Zachariah was talking about the conquests of Alexander the Great. As he came from Syria to conquer Palestine, he went ahead of his army, adorned in splendor and riding a magnificent steed. The deliverer of Israel will not do so. He will not come in His own power, but in the power of God’s righteousness. He will be meek and humble, submitting Himself to the will and word of God. He will not do His own work but the work of God. He will not come at the head of a mighty army on a beautiful charger but on a donkey. And not just any donkey but a colt, a donkey foal. And the other Gospels tell us it was one that had never been ridden before.
So, the disciples bring the donkeys to where Jesus was, a spot somewhere from 100 to 300 feet higher than the Temple mount; and from this location, He can see the entire city of Jerusalem. He already knows that in a few days His work on earth will be done. Is there a chance that Jerusalem will receive their King? We could look at the scene on top of the Mount of Olives and think there was hope. The disciples began to put their clothing onto the donkey. Matthew wanted so badly to fulfill the prophesy that he had Jesus riding both animals at the same time. Sorry church, Jesus was not a circus act. It would be impossible to ride both animals at the same time and accomplish what Jesus was trying to do here. His riding into Jerusalem with one foot placed on the back of each donkey would not project the humble and meek spirit intended. In Zachariah the Hebrew translated that He rode only one. So Matthew, while being literal in this point, missed the true translation. Matthew tells us that there was a huge crowd. Seeing what the disciples did, and Jesus then riding the colt, the people began to place their clothing on the road. Others started cutting branches from trees and placing them on the road. Then all began the descent from the Mount of Olives through the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem. All the people were praising God and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”- part of which comes from Psalm 118:26. What doesn’t come from Psalm 118 is “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Hosanna in the highest.” They were proclaiming their hope that this prophet would be the Messiah. The word blessed translates as the blessing of God toward a particular person and the Greek translation of LORD going back to the Hebrew is Yahweh. The covenant keeping God, the God of absolute power and authority.
The celebration continued the whole trek of three quarters of a mile to the eastern gate of Jerusalem. The people within the city heard it, and our scripture says they were “moved”. The English word moved does not tell the whole story. Moved in the English could mean a lot of things: moved to joy, anticipation, excitement, wonder, sympathy – well, you get the line of thought. The Greek word used here is seio, pronounced si’-o. It literally means to agitate, to rock, to cause to tremor. These people in the city were not celebrating, they were severely shaken and agitated. They asked the question, “Who is this?”, and the multitudes answered, “Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” Notice they did not answer, “Jesus of Nazareth” or Jesus of Galilee” but “Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee!”
Now, the majority of people inside the walls of Jerusalem were from Judea or Jerusalem. To them Galilee was not much more than their hillbilly cousins whom they looked down upon. And as we have heard before, the lowest point in the Galilean cesspool was the town of Nazareth! Dr. James Fleming has written and spoken on the fact that at the feasts like Passover, there were two types of people: those inside the walls of Jerusalem and those outside the walls. Outside the walls were the pilgrims from Galilee and other places. Inside the walls were the locals for the most part. Outside the walls, Jesus was relatively safe. Inside, He was in enemy territory. Inside the walls were the religious strongholds of the pharisees and the priests. Those inside the walls were not excited by His entry. They were shaken.
Jesus came into that stronghold riding on the colt of a donkey. He was fulfilling prophecy. Matthew tells us that He came that way for a specific purpose, to finalize and bring to completion God’s plan for salvation. Yet both sides misunderstood. The multitudes were hoping for the military overthrow of the Romans and maybe then a spiritual renewal of the Temple and the Temple cult. The religious leaders were afraid of a political uprising that could upset their apple cart and threaten their power. Neither group understood that Jesus could care less about political or religious power. He came to bring salvation to the world through the righteousness of the Father. He came to restore the opportunity for us to once again walk and live in the presence of the living God. He came to break the yoke of sin, the oppression of condemnation. He came to bring God’s grace and mercy to a world shackled by religious rules and regulations. He came to take upon Himself our sins so that we could take upon ourselves His righteousness. He came to take the curse so that we could be free from the curse. He came to show us in His life and His death the unconditional love of the Father – and with His resurrection, the unconditional faithfulness of the Father. He came that we, like the donkey He rode into Jerusalem, could be unbound.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday. It is the first day of Holy Week. As we move through the week, let us not overlook and skip forward to Easter. Let us meditate on the entire week: Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Let us remember that today begins Jesus’ walk toward Calvary and the end of our separation from our loving Heavenly Father. That shortly after today, we, like the donkeys, will be unbound….. AMEN
Remember Deuteronomy 31:8, “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.”
Remember to read Psalm 91 each day and claim it for yourself. Read it in first person. Watch out, though – it changes from a statement of faith to a promise in verse 14. You can still claim it in first person, just be sure you claim your blessing not God’s pronouncement.
Blessing for Your Week:
Now may the God who promises He will never leave you nor forsake you, the God who promises He will work all things for your good because you love Him and are called according to his purpose, the God who is your Rock, your Strength, your Shelter, your Horn, and your Salvation: keep you, protect you, and give you His peace. AMEN