The Triumph of Christ

To introduce Holy Week, Matthew made sure we saw Jesus’s loving compassion. Just like he saw and condescended to to two blind beggars (cf. 20:29-34), he condescended to all humanity in order to give Himself as a ransom for many (cf. 20:28). It turns out that Jesus’s interaction with the blind men was a picture of His interaction with the whole world.

Holy Week at a Glance
Sunday (21:1-17)Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem
Cleansing of the Temple
Jesus and His disciples spend the night in  Bethany.
Start in 28:1 (Sunday) and trace the days of the week back.
28:17
Monday (21:18-23:39)Jesus curses a fig tree.
Jesus’s authority is questioned.
Jesus tells parables and answers accusations.
Jesus exposes the religious leaders in Jerusalem and laments Jerusalem.
Jesus and His disciples leave Jerusalem and spend the night on the Mount of Olives.
21:18, indicates a new day.
21:23 indicates the continuation of that day.
Tuesday (24:1-26:5)Jesus spends the morning teaching His disciples about the end of the age and the coming of His kingdom.
The chief priests and elders plot to kill Jesus.
In the evening, Jesus is anointed and Judas bargains with the chief priests under cover of night.
26:2 indicates that these things happened two days prior to Jesus being betrayed by Judas (Thursday).
26:6—Jesus returns to Bethany for the night.
Wednesday (26:6-35)Jesus observes the last supper with His disciples.
After supper, they go to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus will teach, and then to Gethsemane, where Jesus will pray until dawn.
26:20 indicates that another evening and Judas was with the disciples. This meal was also close to when Jesus would be betrayed (Thursday; cf. 26:2; 27:1; 28:1). 
Thursday (26:36-75)Jesus prays.
Judas hands Jesus over to the chief priests.
Jesus stands before Caiaphas.
Peter denies Jesus thrice.
On the next day, Jesus will be crucified, so these events must take place on Thursday (cf. 27:1).
Friday (27:1-66)Judas commits suicide—dying for his own sins rather than trusting Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Jesus stands before Pilate and is mocked by the Romans.
Jesus is crucified and buried.
27:1 indicates a new day.
SaturdayJesus rests on the Sabbath.28:1
Sunday (28:1-20; Sunday and following)Jesus is risen!28:1
*My Holy Week timeline might look different than some because there is guesswork involved.

Matthew 21:1-11

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold your King is coming to you,

Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,

Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David;

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;

Hosanna in the highest!”

When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Prophetic fulfillment (v. 1-5)

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

Do you ever find it interesting that Jesus sends His disciples to take a donkey and her colt from a seemingly random house opposite of the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, most likely Bethany (cf. v. 17)? The owner of the two donkeys will be willing to let them go because “The Lord has need of them.” During Holy Week, Jesus spends most of His evenings at the Mount of Olives and in Bethany. Someone in Bethany shows great hospitality.

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

Jesus’s instruction to His disciples took place in order to fulfill what was prophesied concerning the Messiah in Zechariah 9:

The burden of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach, with Damascus as its resting place (for the eyes of men, especially of all the tribes of Israel, are toward the Lord), And Hamath also, which borders on it; Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise. For Tyre built herself a fortress And piled up silver like dust, And gold like the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will dispossess her And cast her wealth into the sea; And she will be consumed with fire. Ashkelon will see it and be afraid. Gaza too will writhe in great pain; Also Ekron, for her expectation has been confounded. Moreover, the king will perish from Gaza, And Ashkelon will not be inhabited. And a mongrel race will dwell in Ashdod, And I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. And I will remove their blood from their mouth And their detestable things from between their teeth. Then they also will be a remnant for our God, And be like a clan in Judah, And Ekron like a Jebusite. But I will camp around My house because of an army, Because of him who passes by and returns; And no oppressor will pass over them anymore, For now I have seen with My eyes. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:1-10).

Remember, Matthew is writing to Jews in order to prove that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Zechariah foretold that the Messiah would come into Jerusalem on a donkey, even a colt the foal of a donkey. Notice a couple other particulars about Zechariah’s prophecy:

  1. The nations of the world would be cut off.
  2. What would be left of the nations would be a remnant for God and would be like the Jews and Jebusites (national Israel).
  3. Through the Messiah, at the time of His riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, God would end the oppression against His people.
  4. The Messiah would break the bow of war and demolish war chariots against Israel by way of meekness or humility—which would be represented by the donkey and her colt.
  5. The Messiah’s dominion would be from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth from the moment of his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Matthew claims that Jesus is fulfilling this particular prophecy by His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. You can imagine the confusion of Matthew’s Jewish audience because many Christians today have the same confusion—we haven’t taken the time to understand the work Jesus has been doing. If the Messiah was coming on a donkey in order to deliver Israel from all her oppressors, graft the nations into Israel, and break war-bows and chariots, why is there still war and oppression after Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey? Why does the week end with Christ’s death? 

Matthew is offering an apologetic in response to such concerns. He does not respond by saying, “Well, only part of Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled.” Instead, he claims that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. He spends the remainder of His Gospel explaining how.

The coronation (v. 6-9)

The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

The disciples do what Jesus asked. The crowds following Jesus, presumably from Jericho (cf. 20:29), follow Zechariah’s instructions by rejoicing greatly, shouting in triumph, and beholding their king. They lay their coats down for Jesus, a coronation ritual we see in 2 Kings 9:13. The palm branches (cf. John 12:13) represented the peace that was promised to accompany the Messiah in the Old Testament prophets. There is no mistaking the prophetic symbolism used here. Matthew agreed with His fellow Jews about what the Messiah would accomplish. He would bring peace and justice to the earth. Matthew was so bold as to claim that the prophets were fulfilled in Christ.

The crowd following Jesus rejoices, singing Psalm 118:26 with reference to Jesus as the rightful heir to David’s throne. Hosanna, salvation we pray, to the son of David. Blessed in King Jesus. Salvation, we pray, in the highest! The crowds following Jesus sing out, proclaiming their belief that Jesus is here to deliver them and bring salvation, according to the prophets, to God’s chosen people. Matthew affirms their praise. Jesus is entering Jerusalem like He is in order to fulfill what was written by the Zechariah.

Jerusalem’s response (v. 10-11)

When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Those who lived in Jerusalem are attracted to the commotion. They ask the crowds already following Jesus who rides into Jerusalem in such a prophetic manner. The crowds answer, identifying Jesus as the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.

In this pericope, we see the reason Jesus came according to Matthew. He came in order to:

  1. cut off the nations of the world
  2. save a remnant from the nations for God who would be like Israel to God,
  3. end the oppression against His people,
  4. break the means of war and restore justice and peace through meekness or humility, and
  5. establish His authority over all things and all people.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to show that He is saving and renewing the world. In six days, His work will be accomplished—which parallel the six days of creation in Genesis 1. In Genesis 1, the world was generated. During Holy Week, the world is regenerated.

Let’s consider some implications of Zechariah’s prophecy, things we should be looking for as we traverse the verses to come.

  1. The Messiah would cut off the nations of the world.
    1. The Messiah specifically came to tear down worldly nations. Jesus’s triumphal entry indicated that He planned to du exactly that. He came to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy. 
  2. The Messiah would save a remnant from the nations for God who would be like Israel to God.
    1. The Messiah would use the rise and fall of nations to save an elect people from among them. The rise and fall of nations is, then, about the building up of God’s people. When nations fall, the Messiah is the one bringing them down according to the prophets and Matthew.
  3. The Messiah would end the oppression against His people.
    1. He would end oppression by converting His remnant among the nations. As a result, there are no oppressors left because there is only one kingdom remaining—the Messiah’s.
  4. The Messiah would break the means of war and restore justice and peace through meekness or humility.
    1. The Messiah would not establish peace and justice like Rome did—at the edge of a sword on horseback. He would do so by changing (converting) His remnant among the nations. The Messiah would conquer the world meekly according to the prophets.
  5. The Messiah would establish His authority over all things and all people.
    1. The very last thing Matthew tells us in His Gospel is how the Messiah establishes His holistic authority (cf. 28:16-20).

These considerations prepare us to reflect upon the work Jesus will accomplish in Jerusalem on Holy Week.

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