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Matthew 21:1-11: Four Events of Passion Week: His Entry into Jerusalem Print E-mail
Easter Season
Sunday, 03 April 2011

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Each gospel builds to the final week of Jesus’ life on the earth.  When they get to that point, they all slow down.  Matthew spends eight chapters on that week.  Mark spends over a third of his Gospel on Jesus’ final week.  Luke and John also give us more details about this week than they do other parts of Jesus’ life.  And understandably so.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die in Jerusalem.  He taught and healed and ministered throughout His life so that we would better know who was dying on that tree.  His life was a revelation of who He was and what He came to do.  This does not mean that the truth He taught was inconsequential.  No, it simply points us to the reality that He was not just a teacher or just a healer.  He was born to be the Savior.  All of His life reveals this truth.  Thus, when the Gospel writers get to the final week, they slow down.  They want us to pay attention.  They want us to understand that what takes place during this week will forever change the history of humanity.  Nothing will ever be the same.  The whole Bible, the whole history of our Redemption, leads us to this final week.

Over the next few weeks, I want us to slow down.  I invite you to spend this month celebrating the work of Christ through meditating on four critical events that take place during Passion Week.  Today we will be meditating on the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Next week we will look at Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane.  On Palm Sunday we will focus on Christ’s death on the cross.  And on Easter Sunday we will rejoice in His glorious resurrection from the dead.  We will be looking primarily at Matthew’s account of these events.  Again, my challenge to us all is to meditate each week on these four events so that we might gather together on Sundays to celebrate the work of our Savior.  May we delight in all that He has done for us!

The Passion Week begins with Christ coming to Jerusalem.  He had been ministering in Jericho and has now made His way to Jerusalem knowing what awaits Him there, having predicted His death at least three times at this point.  The conflict that He will face from the religious leaders will steadily increase during this week, ultimately leading to their demand for His execution.  Their quarrel with Him is nothing new.  As He has revealed Himself to them through His teaching and healing ministry, their hatred of Him has grown.  But now, as He reveals Himself even more in Jerusalem, they will demand His blood.  Yet, before the final battle begins, we read of Jesus making His way to the city.  Since it is Passover Week in Jerusalem, He is joined by many who are making their way to Jerusalem to worship.  This is the backdrop for His entry into the city.  As we consider it this morning, I want to answer three questions.

First, what does the triumphal entry reveal about Jesus?

Jesus deliberately chooses to reveal more about who He is in His coming to Jerusalem.  Thus, we read of Him giving instructions for two disciples to go and find a colt and its mother for Him to ride into the city.  What does this teach us about Christ?

First, it teaches us that Jesus is indeed the promised King.  Matthew emphasizes throughout his Gospel that Jesus is the promised Messiah.  He does this by quoting Old Testament passages about the Messiah and demonstrating how Jesus fulfills those passages.  He does that here by quoting from Zechariah 9.  Look at verses 4-5.  The passage in Zechariah (see also Isaiah 62:11) was understood to be speaking of the promised King of Israel.  Thus, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden, Matthew points out that He is fulfilling the prophecy that was written about the coming Messiah.  And since Jesus arranged the event, it is obvious that He is revealing that He truly is the King.  Carson calls it “a deliberate act of symbolic self-disclosure.” 1  Another detail that points to this revelation about Jesus is the acquiring of the two animals.  Jesus lays claim to the colt and its mother by having the disciples tell anyone who asks: The Lord needs them.  His authority over the animals also points to His Kingship.  With the triumphal entry, Jesus is demonstrating that He is the Messiah, the promised King of Israel.

Second, not only does Jesus reveal Himself to be the King, He also reveals what kind of King He will be, namely a humble servant.  The crowds expected the Messiah to be a political king who would conquer the enemies of Israel and reign on the throne of David.  Yet, the mission of the Messiah, the mission of Jesus, was not to reign as an earthly king.  No, His mission was to conquer over sin, Satan, and death.  His reign would be heavenly and eternal.  In order to accomplish this mission, however, Jesus would not need an army and He would not ride into Jerusalem on the back of war-horse.  No, He would come humble, and mounted on a donkey.  We need to note the irony in this. 

Jesus, God in the flesh, had come to earth to conquer over the greatest enemies man has ever known.  And He came to the battle humble, and mounted on a donkey.  He knew that the only way to win was to first lose.  His exaltation would begin with humiliation.  Yes, the people praise Him as the Son of David, but just a few days would show that they would not recognize Him as the true King.  So then, even as Jesus makes His way into the city, we are already being prepared for the death to come.  He is indeed the promised King, but His reign will begin as a common criminal.  Piper notes the contrast: “He came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday like a king on the way to a throne, and he went out of Jerusalem on Good Friday like a lamb on the way to the slaughter.” 2  The Man on the back of that donkey is none other than King Jesus, the humble, suffering, Savior.

Second, what responses do we see from the people?

First, we see the obedience of the two disciples (and the one who gave the donkey and its mother).  Look at verses 6-7.  The disciples did just as Jesus had directed them.  They went to the village, found the animals, and brought them to Jesus.  Mark and Luke note that they were confronted on the way and they answered as Jesus had instructed them, at which point the animals were freely given.  The disciples trusted that what Jesus said would happen would actually happen.  And it did, just as He said.  Of course, the disciples are not always so ready to obey.  We see their failures and their struggle to believe throughout the Gospels.  They did not always get it right.  But we should note that in this instance they trusted Jesus’ words and were not disappointed.  He is revealing Himself as the promised King and they are beginning to understand what that means and how they should respond.  They still have much to learn and all they believe will be put to the test at the cross, but here, they obeyed.

Second, we see the worship of the crowds.  They begin their worship by humbling themselves before the Lord and spreading out their clothes and branches for Him to walk on.  Look at verse 8.  To some degree they recognize His Kingship and honor Him as such.  Next they worship Him by shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!  These are words of praise, words to honor a king.  Not only that, but Matthew adds that when people in the city began to ask about what was going on and why they were honoring Jesus in this way, they answered: This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.  The crowds knew enough to be humbled before Him.  They knew enough to honor Him as some sort of King.  And they knew enough to call Him a prophet.  But they did not know enough to recognize Him for who He really is, which makes all the difference in the world.  Simply knowing certain ideas about Jesus is not enough.  We cannot rest on what others know or what others say.  We must know Jesus ourselves.  Piper notes: “There is no more important issue in life than seeing Jesus for who he really is and savoring what we see above all else.” 3

Third, what implications can we draw for our lives?

In light of what Jesus reveals about Himself and His mission, and in light of the responses that we see from those around Him, what implications for our own lives can we draw?

First, we should believe and obey Jesus as our humble King.  We need to recognize that Jesus truly was the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Son of God sent to same men from their sins.  We must turn from our rebellion, turn from trusting ourselves, turn from our sins and trust in Jesus our Savior.  We must repent and we must believe.  Such repentance and such faith begin with humility.  We must turn from our pride and humble ourselves before King Jesus.  Of course, Jesus Himself is our greatest example of such humility.  This is the argument that Paul is making in Philippians 2 when he tells us to humble ourselves just as Christ did.  Likewise, Paul goes on to note that all will be humbled before King Jesus.  Some will do it now and others will do it later, but every knee will bow to the King and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).  So I encourage you, do not wait.  Do not cling to this world, do not cling to sin, do not cling to your pride.  No, repent and believe and obey Jesus, our humble King.

Second, we should declare His praises.  The crowds met Jesus coming into Jerusalem with praise.  They sang and shout and told those who asked why they did it.  Yet, their praise would be short-lived.  After a few days, their shouts of praise would turn into shouts of condemnation.  Their worship was fickle, on fire one minute and cold as ice the next.  May that not be true of us.  May our worship of King Jesus be real and true.  May we know who He truly is and why He truly came.  May we sing His praises continually.  Whatever our circumstances may be, may we be a people who are always shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!  But this will only be true of us if we know the real Jesus.  Superficial knowledge of Him will not do.  Knowing certain stories here and there will not be enough.  Resting on the faith of our parents or grandparents will never suffice.  No, we must know King Jesus.  We must set at His feet as we pour over His Word and His Word pours over us.  When He entered into Jerusalem on that Sunday, so many years ago, He was revealing who He was and what He had come to do.  May we know Him, believe Him, and live our lives to declare His praise.  Amen.

D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1984), p. 437.
2 John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), p. 36.
3 Ibid., p. 17.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 January 2012 )

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