All His glory and splendor was set aside, he came in humility, lowliness, taking our shame and our guilt; how perfect for someone so lowly to ride a humble donkey
In aviation the phrase “final approach” refers to a plane lining up with the runway so that it can make a landing. Jesus is now making His final approach. His ministry has been in flight for 3 years, but now the end is drawing near and He is lining up with Jerusalem where His landing will take place. Luke 9:51 says, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
In the weeks leading up to His Triumphal Entry several things happened to precipitate this grand moment. First, he raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, which is just east of the Mount of Olives, which itself is just east outside of Jerusalem. Then, he retreated north from Bethany to a town named Ephraim. Then he went back into Bethany the home of Lazarus, which he shared with his two sisters Mary and Martha. There a dinner was held in Jesus’ honor, and, this is where Mary poured out an expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus and worshipped Him (something that happened more than once to Jesus, see Luke 7:36-50). During the dinner, many were making their way to see Jesus after hearing he was there. It was the week of the Passover, and, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so, Jerusalem was packed with Jews from all over. And they were all hoping to see Jesus. And they all heard that He raised Lazarus. So, to see Jesus, and to see Lazarus, they were all on their way to turn a quiet dinner party into a massive block party. Jesus gets up, and with his disciples heads west to Jerusalem, about 2 miles away. The path went through Bethphage, where the famous colt was retrieved, then up the Mount of Olives, down the other side, and into Jerusalem.
We also need to point out that the timing is significant of Jesus’ arrival. It occurred on the 10th of Nisan. Why is that important? Because during the Passover week on the 10th the Passovet lamb was chosen. Each household had a lamb on the 10th and held it until the 14th when they would sacrifice it. Theyve been doing this annually since they were led out of Egypt 1500 years earlier.
(The Passover commemorates the night when the angel of the LORD went throughout Egypt and slaughtered the firstborn male of every household that did not have the blood of a lamb on the doorposts. It was the 10th and final plague God brought on Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Israel was immediately released and they followed God into the wilderness).
The Passover was to remind the Jews they had been freed from slavery by God. This final Passover was to provide freedom from a different kind of slavery: slavery to sin. The firstborn male that was going to die this Passover was going to be God’s own Son, His only begotten Son. His death would bring release. Now, every home was to get a lamb on the 10th of Nisan and keep it until the 14th, inspecting it to ensure it was spotless and without any blemish. Coincidence that Jesus is coming to Jerusalem on this day? No way. The Lamb of God arrived on the 10th of Nisan, and, over the next 4 days He was going to be tested and inspected and shown to be perfect before He Himself would be sacificed (Heb 9)
THREE Headings: The Consecrated Colt, the Chorus of the Crowd and Closing the Day
The Consecrated Colt (1-7)
So Jesus is approaching Jerusalem, honored the night before at a dinner party, fragrant from Mary’s perfume. He has come to Jerusalem many times in His life and over the last 3 years of His ministry. But this time is different. He knows He’s going there this time to die, for “his hour had come” (Jn. 12:23). So in what manner does He want to enter this city that is going to kill Him? On a young donkey, a colt.
So the plan for the Son of God, the King of the Jews, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is to enter the Holy City on a donkey? Yes. And it was planned before the foundation of the world, and, it was prophesied by Zechariah. But it is fitting, isn’t it? That a beast of burden should carry the One who would carry the burden of our sins?
He dispatches two disciples to go ahead of Him into the next village to retrieve a colt that had never been ridden before. This event is recorded in all 4 Gospels, which tells us its significant.
First, it fulfilled prophecy. One of the many OT prophecies fulfilled by Jesus was the one from Zechariah 9:9 declared 600 years before Jesus: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion [Jerusalem]! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The Savior comes with salvation in a humble and gentle manner. A young donkey is a picture of that humble, gentle approach.
This is fulfilled prophecy. This is God telling people the future and then it happens just as He says. The Bible has over 1,000 prophecies and over 500 of them have come true already. When Jesus came the first time He fulfilled more than 100 of those prophecies. Prophecy makes the Bible unique from all other sacred texts in history because no other book has so much prophecy (as much as 35%). It also is how we can know this book is from God, because no man could tell us all the things that this book has told us about the future and been right every time. You might be thinking, “Well, anyone could have grabbed a donkey and ridden towards Jerusalem and claimed to be the Messiah.” Yes, true. But could anyone choose to be born in Bethlehem, to a virgin, exactly 483 years after the decree to rebuild the Jewish temple? These are only several of the dozens and dozens of prophecies Jesus fulfilled – many of which are out of anyone’s control to make happen on their own.
Application: The Reliability of God’s Word. The future will be just like God says it will. So trust Him. Trust Him by trusting His words in the Bible. Do not regard the Bible as merely a man-made book and . If you haven’t received Jesus then realize He will judge you for your sins, so turn to Him today. If you’re a believer then be sure you are living by faith and not fear, that the words of God mean more to you than political talking heads.
Second, it showed He came to bring peace. It is said that in ancient times a king who rode into a town on a horse intended to conquer it. But one who came on a donkey came in peace. If true, that would certainly fit the motif of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem that Passion week. He was coming to make peace between God and man through His death on the cross (Rom. 5:1-9)
If it isn’t true about kings riding into towns, there’s still the picture of humility with Jesus riding a donkey. Proverbs 30 says, “There are 3 things that are stately in theri stride, 4 things that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king with his army around him.” Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem like a king, on a giant warhorse, surrounded by His army. That is at His 2nd Coming (Rev. 19:14). Instead, He came on a donkey, which just doesn’t seem to have the same glory and majesty as a big powerful charger – like the one Jesus will ride from heaven at His 2nd coming (Rev. 19:11). It would be like our President riding around in a VW Bug. A VW Bug, like a donkey, just doesn’t really fit with a man of power. There’s nothing wrong with a Bug, but, you just don’t go stamp out terrorists riding in one. And that’s just it, Jesus didn’t come to stamp out anyone in that moment. He didn’t come that first time like He will the 2nd time: on a white charger horse from heaven. He came to be stamped out. All His glory and splendor was set aside, he came in humility, lowliness, taking our shame and our guilt, and how perfect for someone so lowly to ride a humble donkey.
Third, His divine authority. In a subtle way overlooked often: the colt was unbroken and would have bucked as soon as someone tried to ride him. But the colt submits to his Creator, and is under perfect control. Our wild, unbroken ways are subdued too when we submit to Jesus. He brings a peace, and order, and a quietness into our lives when He is put in the driver’s seat. Then, like the colt, we are useful to Him. But it starts with submission to His authority over us.
Application: Jesus came to us humbly. The only way to come to Him is humbly. Have you humbled yourself before Him?
Notice He knew this colt beforehand. It was prepared for Him. Our Savior is all-seeing and all-knowing. Circumstances are arranged as God wants to get His purposes accomplished.
Notice there’s a picture of the holiness of Jesus too. He rode a colt never ridden before, he was born to a woman who never knew a man, and he was buried in a grave never before used (Wuest, 216).
THE CHORUS OF THE CROWD (8-10)
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. Now, the crowds are preparing the way for Jesus. What a sight to see: palm branches and cloaks paving the road from the Mt of Olives to Jerusalem. This is how you treated a king. In 2 Kings 9 Jehu is anointed king over Israel and it says in verse 9 that the people “hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted “Jehu is king!”
Here Jesus is hailed as the Messiah-King. “Blessed is the King of Israel” they shout in John 12:13.
Why do they do this though? Submission as His subjects for one thing. Laying their cloaks down before Jesus was like saying, “We lay ourselves at your feet”, showing their respect and submission to Him. Have you come to Jesus in this way? Have you acknowledged Him as King? As the coming King? Have you laid down your cloak?
Can you imagine the throngs of people as far as the eye can see shouting praises to Jesus? It was a foretaste of what Philippians 2 says, “Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Combining all four Gospels we find all the specific praises they were lifting:
(Mk. 11:9; Jn. 12:13)
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
(Mt 21:9; Mk. 11:9; Lk. 19:38; Jn. 12:13)
Blessed is the King of Israel!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna to the Son of David!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!
Hosanna in the Highest!
(Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:10)
Hosanna means “Save!” Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord is lifted right from Psalm 118:26, it was a song sung by worshippers during the festival as they made their procession to the Temple. Turn to Psalm 118 (verses 1, 14, 19-29). How fitting to worship the Messiah with such verses that Israel has been singing for centuries in anticipation of Him, now seeing Him!
All these things are the blessings that come with the coming of the Messiah: Israel’s glory, peace in heaven and on earth, salvation, the kingdom of David, the rule of the righteous one, a new era in history – the climax of history even.
And the Pharisees hated it. They told Jesus to rebuke the people for saying such things because it was blasphemy – that is, if Jesus really wan’t the Messiah. Which they did not believe He was. But, Jesus, lumbering down the path on the back of a donkey looked at them, smiling I imagine, and said if the people were silent the rocks would cry out! Are you with the Pharisees, hating Him, or, are you with the people praising Him and believing in Him?
CLOSING THE DAY (v11)
Jesus enters Jerusalem, and the temple. But He doesn’t preach or do any miracles. The whole city is astir because He is there, but, Jesus was not going to do anything that night because it was already late. It’s kind of like not continuing into the next sermon point because there’s just not enough time left in the service. So He turns around and heads back to Bethany, back to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ house to spend the night.
jesus wept because jerusalem didnt recognize him or receive him. what about you? He comes humbly to you John 1:11. Is it time for your final approach? Is it time for you to line up with Jesus and finally make your landing before the cross?
Jesus took the shame for His testimony and not just the glory. Hailed as king entering Jerusalem, but, then crucified for claiming to be the king. Do we want to have the glory of standing with Jesus but not the shame?