Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front 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, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
(Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)
Weary from the journey from Jericho to Bethphage, two disciples of Jesus had one more task ahead of them. From their vantage point on the Mount of Olives, they could see the brilliance of the temple stones and the busy roads leading into and out of the city.
That’s where they were headed.
A half-mile walk into the city and who knows how long to find a donkey and its colt, as the Teacher had asked.
But they did it.
And, in the hours ahead, the greatest, clearest announcement of the coming of the Messiah played out before them.
First, there was a declaration so simple that you could almost miss it. Jesus asked the disciples to go into the city, find the donkey and the colt and bring them to him. If anyone were to ask, the disciples were to tell the questioning soul that “the Lord needs them.” (v. 3)
The Lord. In those two words, Jesus presented himself to the two disciples as the divine orchestrator of the events about to unfold.
They brought the animals back to Jesus and used their cloaks as a blanket on which the Lord could sit as he rode into town on an animal symbolizing humility and peace. How different from the Roman rulers who rode into the city on the backs of proud horses!
This, too, was a declaration that Jesus was the expected Messiah. Matthew explained that the action fulfilled the prophecy found spoken by the prophet Zechariah. (Zechariah 9:9)
What did the crowds do in response to the declaration?
They spread their cloaks on the ground in an act of submission and cut branches from nearby trees – symbols of nationalism and victory – to “pave the way.”
And they shouted.
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” Or, to express the phrase differently, “Save us, Messiah!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the first day of the final week of his earthly life, the crowd knew who he was. They called out that he was the Messiah and spread their cloaks out in front of him in an act of submission.
As we enter the first of the 40 days of Lent, how do you recognize Jesus as the Messiah – the one who saved and is saving you?
How will you submit to him throughout the season of Lent and beyond?