The triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with palm branches waving and tunics being throne under the donkey as a way of honouring the king and lining his path, speaks of honour and celebration and joy.
Matthew’s version of this account ends with a potent ‘question-and-answer’ in verses 10 and 11:
“When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Who is this coming into Jerusalem in this remarkable and disruptive way?
- The king who fulfils prophecy and foreknows the future (Matt 21v 1-5)
In these few verses at the beginning of this chapter we see Jesus asking two of his disciples (Matthew doesn’t name them), to go to the next village and bring the donkey and colt to him. He also gave them the words they should say in case anyone (i.e. the owners) should question this. In Mark’s version, this is exactly what happens, showing that on the one hand Jesus knew the future before it happened, and on the other, the past – it is a clear fulfilment of the Zech 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11 which Matthew references here.
- The king who comes humbly and in peace (Matt 21v 5)
Part of this prophecy reveals Jesus as the humble, peaceful king who comes on a donkey – ’the beast of burden’ not a war horse – this also echoes the message that the angels gave to the shepherds in Luke 2:14, and in Matthew – the King that the Magi found in the modest house and not the palace (Matthew 2: 11)
- The King who comes to save his people in the name of the Lord (Matt 21 v 9)
The response of the crowd who were accompanying Jesus were shouting out ‘Hosanna to the son of David’; ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ – these sound quite familiar but its important to recognise what is being said and implied here: Hosanna is a Hebrew word that means ‘please save’ or ’save us’. Of course, to our ears that sounds probably spiritual but to 1st century ears this may have sounded like ’save us from the Romans’; ’save us from God’s judgement on us’. The atmosphere was electric with expectation of deliverance. For many people in the 1st Century, they were living in a period of oppression under Roman occupation and they longed for a return to Israel being a united, strong country. But this one who was coming to save us – whom they were shouting about, was coming on a donkey, humbly and in peace. As Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city of peace ‘in peace’ on a donkey: he was showing that his ‘kingdom’ was not a political or military threat to the Pax Romana but a spiritual one – whose ‘rescue’ or salvation would be about our very humanity and standing before God – not the shifting sands of political rule.
- This king is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee (Matt 21 v11)
And the city, receiving this ‘king’ asked the question – who is this? What’s all the fuss about? The crowd around him declared that the ‘fuss’ was about Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth who is the Messianic, prophesied, promised king (son of David)
Since the exile they were longing for God to return to His temple and here is Jesus, the ‘one who comes in the name of the Lord’. Notice where he is goes first after entering Jerusalem – the Temple. Jesus is making a deliberate statement about who he is and what he has come to do. At the beginning of John’s gospel, a passage that has become loved at Christmas explains: ‘He came to his own, but his own did not receive him, but to those who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:11-12)
We don’t know anything much about who was in the crowd around Jesus apart from the disciples – but they were likely to be those who had been healed, impressed or transformed by Jesus in some way (Matt 20: 34). They sought to honour him as he entered Jerusalem – this is a huge contrast to the attitude of the ’scribes and pharisees’
As we begin this familiar ‘Holy Week pilgrimage’ again this year, the question we must all answer before him is ‘Who is this’? – what do we make of Jesus? Is he king of our lives.
Graham Kendrick’s beautiful song ‘Come and see’ is a helpful meditation as we reflect again on this King who came to die – as you ‘come and see’ this Holy Week, will you worship him as King, Saviour and God?
Come and see, come and see
Come and see the King of love
See the purple robe and crown of thorns he wears
Soldiers mock, rulers sneer
As he lifts the cruel cross
Lone and friendless now he climbs towards the hill
We worship at your feet
Where wrath and mercy meet
And a guilty world is washed
By love’s pure stream
For us he was made sin
Oh, help me take it in
Deep wounds of love cry out ‘Father, forgive’
I worship, I worship
The Lamb who was slain.
Come and weep, come and mourn
For your sin that pierced him there
So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail
All our pride, all our greed
All our fallenness and shame
And the Lord has laid the punishment on him
Man of heaven, born to earth
To restore us to your heaven
Here we bow in awe beneath
Your searching eyes
From your tears comes our joy
From your death our life shall spring
By your resurrection power we shall rise
Copyright © 1989 Make Way Music,
With faith and love and in union with Christ, let us offer our prayer before the throne of grace.
Have mercy on your people, for whom your Son laid down his life: I will give thanks to you, for you have become my Salvation (Ps 118:21)
Bring healing and wholeness to people and nations, and have pity on those torn apart by division: I will give thanks to you, for you have become my Salvation (Ps 118:21)
Strengthen all who are persecuted for your name’s sake, and deliver them from evil: I will give thanks to you, for you have become my Salvation (Ps 118:21)
Look in mercy upon all who suffer, and hear those who cry out in pain and desolation: I will give thanks to you, for you have become my Salvation (Ps 118:21)
Bring comfort to the dying, and gladden their hearts with the vision of your glory: I will give thanks to you, for you have become my Salvation (Ps 118:21)
Give rest to the departed and bring them, with your saints, to glory everlasting: I will give thanks to you, for you have become my Salvation (Ps 118:21)
Let us commend the world, for which Christ died, to the mercy and protection of God.
Collect: True and humble king,hailed by the crowd as Messiah:grant us the faith to know you and love you,that we may be found beside youon the way of the cross,which is the path of glory.