1 As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives. There Jesus sent two of the disciples on ahead 2 with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied up with her colt beside her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 And if anyone says anything, tell him, ‘The Master needs them’; and then he will let them go at once.” 4 This happened in order to make what the prophet had said come true: 5 “Tell the city of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you! He is humble and rides on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 So the disciples went and did what Jesus had told them to do: 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, threw their cloaks over them, and Jesus got on. 8 A large crowd of people spread their cloaks on the road while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds walking in front of Jesus and those walking behind began to shout, “Praise to David’s Son! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was thrown into an uproar. “Who is he?” the people asked. 11 “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee,” the crowds answered.
Other readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:7-8, 16-19, 22-23; Philippians 2:6-11
We begin Holy Week with Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. What an occasion it must have been, loaded with symbolic images and meaning.
Jesus’s starting point, the Mount of Olives, is significant as it is associated in Scripture with the coming of the Lord (Zechariah 14:4).
Matthew begins by describing the remarkable provision of a donkey and colt for Jesus to ride on. The disciples follow Jesus’s instructions and return with the animals that he had told them they would find. Matthew (verse 4) interprets this as the fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 9:9-10) proclaiming a king who comes as saviour on a lowly colt, not with powerful horses and chariots. Jesus is fully in control and aware of what his last few days on earth will bring.
People spread their cloaks on the road before Jesus, a customary greeting for a victorious king or important person (2 Kings 9:13). They shout: “God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord” (verse 9), echoing the words of Psalm 118:25-26.
Jesus’s dramatic entrance couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Pharisees. Jerusalem was packed with pilgrims who had come to celebrate the Passover (Luke 22:7). Matthew tells us: “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was thrown into uproar. ‘Who is he?’ the people asked” (verse 10).
The Pharisees didn’t accept Jesus or his teaching and wanted to prevent others from following him. Nothing could be worse than this noisy and public hero’s welcome. They may have feared, with good reason, the brutal intervention of the Roman soldiers to restore public order.
His followers believed Jesus to be the Messiah; the religious leaders didn’t believe him and many were undecided. And people’s responses to Jesus still vary today. Who is Jesus − a prophet, a healer, a good teacher, or is he the Messiah, the Son of God?
“Who is he?” This was the crucial question when Jesus entered Jerusalem and it continues to be the crucial question for every single person ever since. What do you believe and why?
What can we learn from the actions of the disciples in this passage? What does the way Jesus entered Jerusalem reveal to us about him and his mission?
Use Philippians 2:6-11 to give thanks to God for his willingness to send his Son to leave heaven, become a man and die on the Cross for our sins. Bow before him in worship and extol the “name that is greater than any other name”.
Jesus died to save you so that you can spend all eternity rejoicing in his presence. Have you invited him to be Lord of your life? Are there elements of Jesus’s teaching you still resist and are unwilling to accept?
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