This passage is commonly known as the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem. This took place on the Sunday before Christ's resurrection. There is a lot that transpired during this week. This is where the Lord Jesus Christ presented Himself one last time to the nation of Israel as their promised King. Tragically however, the Jews rejected their Messiah and crucified Him. Between these two Sundays is the account of the awful agony and suffering of Christ for the sins of the world. Oliver B. Greene said:
We are now approaching the closing scenes of the greatest tragedy of both sacred and secular world history. I speak of the wondrous pathos and indescribable grandeur of the march of the Son of God to Golgotha—the King of kings and Lord of lords marching to die the most shameful, degrading death known to man. This is an event unequalled in all of history and literature. There is nothing on record that will touch the hem of the garment in comparison!
Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem begins the final days of His earthly life. His death, burial and resurrection are less than a week away. Finite man cannot even begin to fully understand the depth of the degradation and suffering of the Son of God. What a solemn time in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, (Matthew 21:1a) Jesus and His followers having travelled about twenty miles from Jericho now come to a little place called Bethphage. We are told that they came unto the mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is on the east of Jerusalem and from the top of the Mount you can look down upon the city.
… then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. (Matthew 21:1b-2) Jesus instructed two of His disciples to go into the village on a unique errand. When they entered, they would find an ass tied, and a colt with her which they were to bring to Jesus. Jesus' omniscience is clearly seen here. He is God and this is Divine foreknowledge. He knew exactly where the donkey and colt were tied. His instructions were loose them, and bring them unto me.
Riding on an ass was a symbol of peace, whereas riding on a horse was suggestive of war. In ancient times kings and princes rode on donkeys in times of peace. Jair, one of the great judges of Israel is said to have had …
… thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts … (Judges 10:4)
Abdon, another of the judges …
… had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: (Judges 12:14)
To ride on a white donkey denoted majesty and authority and made quite a statement.
Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way. (Judges 5:10)
Again, the significance of the donkey is seen when Solomon was inaugurated king. He rode on his father David's donkey.
The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon: (1 Kings 1:33)
Therefore, riding on a donkey was the appropriate way for the King of the Jews to enter into Jerusalem. Bear in mind that when Jesus enters Jerusalem the next time, He will not be a man of peace riding on a donkey. Rather, He will be a man of war riding on a fiery white charger making war against the wicked kingdoms of this world (Revelation 19).
And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. (Matthew 21:3) Just in case they were questioned Jesus gave them the explanation. If anyone asks why you are untying someone else's animals and walking away with them, tell them The Lord hath need of them. Once again, Jesus' omniscience is seen in His knowing how the owner would respond.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. (Matthew 21:4-5) Here is another Old Testament prophecy fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)
Notice that Jesus Christ did not come as a worldly king riding upon a white stallion in royal garb. He came upon a donkey, a beast of burden and servitude. This was significant as He was coming to bear the burden of man's sin.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9)
And. being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:8)
This was no ordinary death; this was the death of the cross. Christ died by the cruelest and most painful form of punishment known to man at that time. He died as a criminal upon a cross. His humility was plainly to be seen as He came into town, not on a stallion, not in a chariot, but upon a poor man's beast of burden.
The process of the Triumphal Entry is seen in verses 6-8. There are three thoughts here.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, (Matthew 21:6) There are two thoughts that stand out in this verse. First of all, we are told that the disciples went. First, there was no hesitation. No discussion. There were simply obedient. Second, they did as Jesus commanded them. They didn't change, tweak or rethink their mission. They simply followed the instructions Jesus gave them.
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. (Matthew 21:6-7)
They brought the donkey and colt to Jesus and having no saddle or blankets, they lined the donkey's backs with their own outer clothes.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. (Matthew 21:8) As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, a great crowd gathered and covered the way with their coats and outer garments. Others cut palm branches (John 12:13) and strawed them in the way. There was great excitement in the air. They were celebrating the arrival of the King.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. (Matthew 21:9) Hosanna is an acclamation of praise and adoration that means “save now.” The problem was that they didn't want Jesus to save their souls, they wanted Him to save them but from Rome. They were willing to accept Him as King as long as there was something in it for them right now. Though He was their promised King, he was not the king according to their preconceived ideas.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. (Matthew 21:10-11) Excitement filled the city. The people were receptive of Jesus for what He could do for them. These people who lined the road with their coats and shouted Hosanna as Jesus entered the city, just a few days later were crying.
… We will not have this man to reign over us. (Luke 19:14)
… Crucify him, crucify him. (Luke 23:21)
In less than a week the city turned its back on the Son of God and called for His death.