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 21:1-9 ESV)
Yesterday we saw Jesus begin His final trip into Jerusalem where He would be crucified about a week later. As this was the Passover season many pilgrims would have been likewise making their way towards Jerusalem and therefore there was a crowd before Him and after Him as He rode a donkey into the city.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem many of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road. This was an ancient custom symbolizing the people’s recognition of a monarch and their submission to his authority [2 Kings 9:13]. Others cut branches from palm trees and spread them on the road. Palm branches are symbols of salvation [Leviticus 23:40; John 12:13]. One day in heaven people will offer similar tribute to Jesus [Revelation 7:9].
All around Him the people were shouting words of praise and recognition. The Greek word translated “Hosanna” translates a Hebrew word meaning “Save, please!”. It was essentially a prayer for deliverance and help. It is a cry from an oppressed people to their savior.
By praying to Jesus to save them the crowd was recognizing Jesus as the Messiah as well as recognizing His ability to save them from their oppressor, which they perceived to be Rome who was brutally occupying Israel at this time.
By calling Jesus “Son of David” the crowd was also recognizing Him as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament who God foretold would be a descendant of King David.
If Jesus was going to overthrow Rome He was going to have to do it supernaturally as He had no weapons or soldiers. Instead He came in the full power and authority of God which is what it means to come in the name of the Lord. Doing something in someone else’s name is to do it with their full blessing. The people realized Jesus was from God.
What the people didn’t realize, however, was that Rome was not their oppressor. Sin was their oppressor. Rome was their earthly enemy but sin was their spiritual – and therefore more important – enemy. Jesus’ was going to establish a kingdom, but not an earthly one [John 18:36].
When Jesus doesn’t free the Jews from the Romans they will turn against Him, thinking He is a fraud. These very same people who are praising Him in today’s passage will soon be calling for His crucifixion.
Just like today people are fine with a god who does what they want. But they don’t want a god who points out sin. They want a god who grants them a life of ease and wealth. They don’t want their lifestyle to be challenged. Throughout Matthew’s gospel we’ve seen that the vast majority of people were only attracted to Jesus because of how He could improve their earthly lives.
But God knows more about what we need than we do. More than we need the temporary things of this earth we need our sins to be forgiven. Anything of this earth is temporary. Forgiveness is eternal.
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