A meditation on Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem Matthew 21:1-17


Give thanks to the┬áLord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – Psalm 118:1 and 28

Throughout the gospels, when Jesus was travelling about Judea and Galilee, when he was healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching in parables, gathering and preparing his apostles, it would sometimes become known that he was the Messiah. When this happened Jesus would say “tell this to noone” until his time had come (ex. Mark 1:43-44, Mark 7:36, Matthew 9:30, Matthew 16:20). But now the time was ripe, now he wished to publicly reveal who he was. He instructed the apostles asking for the donkey and the colt to say that the Lord, the King, needed them.

Zechariah 9 contains two prophetic utterances, poems, about the coming of a King of Israel. Matthew tells us that God moved the people of Israel to wonder about this Jesus who entered Israel riding upon a colt and a donkey. Matthew tells us God caused them to ask “who is this?”. Matthew also points us to Zechariah 9 and to these prophetic utterances.

The first begins that the King shall come into Jerusalem riding upon a donkey and a colt. This King is both victorious and makes himself low. This King will break the power of worldly kings and oppressors. His Kingdom will extend beyond the traditional borders of Israel to cover the whole cosmos. God will fulfill his promises to Israel by this King and overturn the Greeks.

The second oracle says that when this King shall come his appearance will shock and astonish Jerusalem like lightening and thunder. It says that by this King the Lord will take in and defend his people from the evils of this world. This King will be like a Good Shepherd. This King will feed new generations with bread and wine that will give them vitality and strength, that will make their souls to thrive.

Jesus appears to an asking people in the form of this answer, and so reveals to those in Jerusalem who he is, their King, their Messiah, their Christ.

Where now has Jesus come? Long ago the patriarch of Israel, Jacob, after stealing Esau’s inheritance from him, the blessing and promise of God, fled into the wilderness. Exasperated his head found rest upon a rock and he dreamt of a ladder with angels ascending and descending from heaven. It is near this rock that the city of Jerusalem was built, where God would establish David and Solomon as Kings and Shepherds of his people. Upon that rock Solomon built a temple for God’s worship. After God’s people rebelled and were sent into exile they returned. They rebuilt the walls of this city, they rebuilt the Temple for God’s worship. They were waiting, or at least they said they were waiting, for God’s blessing to return to them. They were waiting for the presence of God to descend again upon the temple as it did when Solomon built it. They were waiting for God to establish again a King of David’s line to reign here in this city. To these waiting people Jesus came as they ought to have been expecting such a king to come.

How then does he enter? Upon a donkey and a colt. This points to the proclamation and expectation of Zechariah. Spurgeon makes a big deal about how he enters with mother and child, the she-ass and her colt. He is Lord not only of men but fulfills man’s just rule over all creation, not separating these two in this labour. A lowly king is here revealed, for he rides not a chariot, he does not even have a saddle. This beggar king, this same child born in a manger rides upon borrowed cloaks sitting astride a borrowed beast. Contrast this with the anticipation of Psalm 24. Lift up your heads O gates, lift them high O everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is He, this King of Glory, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle (Ps 24:7-8). Jesus here riding into Jerusalem is the great God of angel armies, taking on our flesh, coming to us as a beggar and as our rightful King.

How then does he enter? With a great retinue. Crowds are moved to surround him. Here they can not help but praising, as we did in this service out of Psalm 118. They recognize and receive this king at first. Blessed is he who Comes in the Name of the Lord (118:26). They lay down their cloaks before him, they wave palm branches and cypress branches and lay these down before him. These people are in an occupied city, under Roman martial law, these people are beggars receiving their beggar king. Many of the same will call for his blood to avoid the wrath of the Romans. Many of these will reject the King who has come to claim and deliver them. More about that on Good Friday. Jesus proceeds as the Psalm foretells up to the temple, he who is the presence of God awaited arrives and enters the temple there to purify it. This is what they had supposedly been awaiting but they could not withstand his interruption of their corruption (Ps 118:27; Matthew 21:12-13).

How then does he enter? At the feast of the Passover. Passover celebrates the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and how the angel of death passed over the sons of Israel and afflicted only the sons of Egypt. It is at this time that Jesus comes, to deliver his people from the power of sin and of death, that by his blood the wrath of God may pass over us. It is at this time that as Moses led God’s people through the flood of the Red Sea Jesus came that we may be led safely into the kingdom of heaven. Follow then this King to the Upper Room and to the Passover meal, to the Cross, and to the fresh grass before the tomb early in the morning. Receive then this salvation.

Behold now our King has come. May he make us know who he is. May he purify our hearts and make us temples where his presence dwells. May he deliver us from the wrath we deserve. May he lead us through each of our days in this world and through to his eternal promise. Good Lord deliver us, give us new hearts that can trust in you.

Give thanks to the┬áLord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – Psalm 118:1 and 28