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 ESV)
After healing the two blind men yesterday Jesus continues His way toward Jerusalem where His life would end in about a week. In today’s scene Jesus is in Bethphage near the Mount of Olives one-half mile east of Jerusalem. It is the location from which Jesus ascended into heaven and the location to which He will return [Zechariah 14:4].
The purpose of Matthew’s gospel is to prove to his Jewish audience that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies written hundreds of years earlier. One of those prophecies was that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey [Zechariah 9:9]. By riding the donkey Jesus again declared that He was the Messiah – the one who would release people from their oppression, although the people were unaware of such significance.
Some Bible critics will claim that Jesus intentionally manipulated events in order to convince people that He was the Messiah. This prophecy of riding a donkey into Jerusalem would certainly be an easy one to fulfill if that were the case. And if it were the only prophecy about the Messiah one could certainly make the claim that Jesus was an imposter.
But Jesus could not have controlled many other events in His life that were prophesied including where He would be born, the manner of His birth, His family’s exile into Egypt, and His resurrection.
Jesus also demonstrates His omniscience – and thereby again proving His deity – by knowing exactly where these animals were, how many there would be, that one would be a mother with her colt and that the disciples would be questioned as they untied them [Luke 19:33-34].
Notice that there were two animals, a foal and its mother. Not wanting to cause emotional distress for either by separating them Jesus commands that both be brought to Him. Yesterday we saw that even though He was on His way to die Jesus took the time to meet the needs of two blind men. Here we see Him also care for animals.
Notice also that Jesus rode the younger animal which was unbroken [Luke 19:30]. Unbroken animals can’t normally be ridden. I wonder if these animals knew what was going on and knew who Jesus was and were therefore submissive to Him.
Riding a donkey was a humble act. King’s rode a stallion when they wanted to declare their greatness or when they came to conquer. But when a king rode a donkey he was sending a message of peace. Jesus is our king who brought peace between God and humanity by bearing the burden of the world’s sins on the cross. How appropriate that He would therefore ride a beast of burden.
As He comes to Jerusalem in today’s passage Jesus didn’t come to conquer. He came to be crucified. But when Jesus next comes to Jerusalem He will ride a stallion and He will make war on His enemies [Revelation 19:11-16].
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