Reading Time: 6 Minutes
For the remainder of our study in the Gospel of Matthew, I am going to write from the perspective of an ordinary person in the crowd, who is able to listen in to what Jesus said and who saw what he did. We have just traveled 100 miles on foot from Caesarea Philippi and have arrived outside of Jerusalem in Bethphage, near the Mount of Olives.
The population of Jerusalem and the surrounding area has swelled from 30,000 to 180,000 with the arrival of pilgrims who have come for the Passover celebration.
Jesus sent two disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village ahead 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, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” (Matthew 21.1-4).
I assume the provision of the donkeys has been arranged in advance. All of us, including Jesus, have walked everywhere we have gone. He never took any special privileges for himself. I saw him heal the sick and set people free from oppressive demons. I never heard anyone in my life speak with such authority. He was the greatest among us, but at the same time he was the servant of all (Matthew 20.26-28).
People in our group spoke of the words of Zechariah, the prophet, when we saw the disciples leading a mother donkey and her colt. The colt was a little skittish, but the presence of his mother seemed to keep him settled down.
I realized that I was seeing the message of Zechariah lived out before my eyes.
“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Matthew 21.5).
I was overcome with joy and awe to realize that I was seeing the Messiah come to Jerusalem, just like King David returned to Jerusalem after his son Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 19-20). He was going to ride on a colt into the city as Messiah, but also in peace.
When the disciples brought the donkey and the colt, they put their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on the colt. The crowd was noisy and this was the first time anyone had ever ridden on the colt. The mother donkey walked alongside of it to keep it calm. I was part of a very large crowd and we spread their cloaks on the road. Some people ran and cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. (paraphrase of Matthew 21.6-8).
The colt walked right across the cloak that I wrap myself in at night. It was like I was part the crowd who were rolling out the red carpet for the greatest dignitary to ever enter Jerusalem. The cloak that I had used to provide a bit of distance between the ground and my body while sleeping, became my most treasured possession in that moment.
I joined the crowd shouting God’s praise. We said,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21.9).
I have often used “Hosanna” as a prayer. I know it means “save us now,” and I have needed God’s help many times in my life. But this day, my “Hosanna” was joined with a huge crowd of pilgrims from Galilee and we were simply praising God for his goodness.
We covered the mile from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem in great joy. We created quite a stir and we were greeted with turmoil instead of joy. I heard someone ask one of the disciples, “Who is this?”
Several in the crowd seemed to answer at once, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (paraphrase of Matthew 21.10-11).
I hope that today’s method of approaching this passage helps you visualize the events of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem at little better. Here are a couple of things that may help your understanding of this passage and of the next chapters in Matthew.
(1) Jesus was seen by the people of Jerusalem as a Galilean preacher. The words of Nathanael, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1.46) capture the general opinion of the country about the northern portions of the country.
(2) The Galileans who accompanied Jesus were the ones who celebrated his arrival in Jerusalem, as I have depicted above. The people of Jerusalem were unsettled by the arrival of a Messiah figure, because he was a threat to the religious institution and the Roman government.
It is quite likely that the people who cried out for Jesus crucifixion were the Jerusalem crowd and not the worshiping Galilean crowd. This is the view of the authors I have read to help inform my articles.
(3) The Temple complex was 33 acres in size. It accommodated pens for sacrificial animals, booths where people could change money into what was acceptable for Temple worship, along with places where women and Gentiles could worship. This was the area where Jesus conducted his teaching, during his last week of public ministry.
It is very possible that Jesus was one among many other speakers who clustered crowds to hear their message.
Many pictures and art depict Jesus near or within the Temple. Those pictures are probably inaccurate. Only the priests were allowed inside the Temple.
I think the best way to get the most from the remaining study of Matthew is to do as I have done with this article. I have often followed the following practice:
(1) First, get familiar with the Bible passage by reading it several times.
(2) Take a walk, ride in the car, or find place to be alone with God where you will not be distracted.
(3) Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire and direct the mediation on the Bible passage.
(4) Imagine you are within the actual events and speak out loud what you see.
(5) As you are speaking out loud the events of the Scripture, open the dialogue to include a conversation with Jesus. You might say, “Jesus, I am traveling with you today in this passage. I am telling you what I see.”
Please give this a try and see what God does for you in it.
Dear Jesus, as we begin reading about the your last week before the cross, we worship you for your amazing love and grace. We also desire to know you more and to live our lives with your love at the core of our being.