A remarkable aspect of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was that He entered Jerusalem on a colt (a young donkey). Have you ever wondered why Jesus did not walk into Jerusalem as He had always done before? With the exception of traveling by boat, this is the only instance recorded in Scripture of Jesus not walking somewhere. When we get to verse 3 we read that Jesus instructed His disciples to tell the owner of the colt, “The Lord has need of it”. Why did the Lord need to ride a colt to enter Jerusalem at this time? Jesus needed the colt in order to demonstrate to the people of Jerusalem that He is the Messiah.
About 500 years before Jesus was born, “the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah” (Zch 1:1). Zechariah’s primary message was a call to repentance: “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts” (Zch 1:4). Zechariah called the people to repentance and also prophesied of a future time when the Messiah (coming king) will appear. Zechariah 9:9 says:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O Daughter of Jerusalem behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jesus demonstrated to the people that Zechariah’s prophecy was about Him. Jesus, by riding on a colt instead of walking, demonstrated to the Jews, especially those who know the Scriptures, that He is their King.
There is great significance in Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt. Zechariah had prophesied that this coming king shall “speak peace to the nations” (Zch 9:10). The Lord of hosts says He Himself will “set your prisoners free” (Zch 9:11), “protect them” (Zch 9:15), and “save them” (Zch 9:16).
The people began to “spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields” (v. 8). Mark writes, “And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (9-10). The people understood that Jesus was claiming to be the coming king, the Messiah. When they spread their cloaks and leafy branches on the road before Him they were acknowledging His kingdom and submitting themselves to His rule. When they shouted “Hosanna” they were literally saying, “Save us please!”. Their blessing was recognition of who He was and what He is doing.
I wish I were able to tell you that they all lived happily ever after; but I can’t. A few days after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a colt is His horrific exit from Jerusalem with a cross. The question we must ask ourselves is: “What happened?” How did the crowd go from shouting “Hosanna!” (Matt 21:9) to “Crucify Him!” (Matt 27:23) in just a few days? The crowd was shouting “Hosanna!” because they recently saw and heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The crowd gathered to see Jesus and Lazarus. When they heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took branches of palm trees and shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” But just a few chapters later we learn that the angry crowd called for the release of a criminal and shouted that Jesus be crucified.
What did the Crowd think was Happening?
The crowd wanted Jesus to become King (John 6:15). They wanted Him to fulfill Isaiah 61:1-2 (see Luke 4:14-19) their way. Specifically, they wanted Him to:
- Proclaim good news to the poor (those who lack money)
- Proclaim liberty (to those who were held captive in Roman prisons)
- Proclaim recovery of (physical) sight to those who are blind
- Proclaim liberty to those who are oppressed (by Rome)
- They wanted the year of the Lord’s favor to be Jesus sitting in Jerusalem on David’s throne having defeated Rome.
What was Really Happening?
Jesus was not going into Jerusalem to sit on a throne, but to the cross to make an atoning sacrifice for sins. Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 61:1-2 but not as the Jews thought. Jesus:
- Proclaimed good news to the poor (in Spirit)
- Proclaimed liberty (to those who were held captive to sin)
- Proclaimed recovery of (spiritual) sight to those who are blind (cannot see their sin)
- Proclaimed liberty to those who are (spiritually) oppressed (by Satan)
- Proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor in the forgiveness of sins and receiving of mercy and grace.
Make time this week to read the Gospel accounts of what happened regarding Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. You will find them in Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, and John 18-21. As you read these passages, reflect on the great love of God manifested in Jesus as He died to remove our sin guilt and to restore us into a right relationship with the Father. Praise His name!