The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”John 12:12-13 RSV
The triumphal entry is in all four Gospels declaring that although the accounts differ, they do not conflict in any way.
The two sources of the great throng of people were:
(1) The crowd following from Bethany.
(2) The great crowd who, hearing that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, went forth from the Holy City to meet him.
“Branches of palm trees” This was a customary greeting of popular heroes; and the prevalence of many palm trees facilitated this type of demonstration.
It had not, at that time, developed into a mere “hurrah!” but had overtones of deep religious feeling. The Old Testament has this:
Save now, we beseech thee, O Jehovah: O Jehovah, we beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah (Psalms 118:25,26).
This Psalm was written as the dedication Psalm for the second temple, making the quotation both appropriate and significant.
“The King of Israel” The popular recognition of Jesus, even in this outpouring of demonstration, fell far short of any true appreciation of Jesus’ actual mission and purpose.
The Pharisees, having already decided not to kill Jesus during the Passover (Matthew 26:1-5), would be overruled in their strategy of delay; and such a thing as this triumphal entry was exactly calculated to spur them into a change of strategy.
And 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 opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. Most of the crowd spread their garments 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 shouted, “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, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”Matthew 21:1-11 RSV
The tremendous events of the final days of our Lord’s earthly ministry were then to begin.
In Matthew 20:18 are recorded Jesus’ words, “Behold we go up to Jerusalem.” Evidently speaking with deep emotion, Christ coupled those words with the third announcement of the Passion; and, at this point in time, Jesus would begin to do those wonderful and awesome things of which he had so often spoken to the Twelve.
Many of the prophecies concerning Christ were fulfilled by his enemies; some were fulfilled by his friends; and still others, like the one here, were fulfilled by the direct intervention of Christ himself to bring it to pass.
But even in such cases where the Lord himself was the instrument of fulfilling the prophecies, he always accomplished the fulfillment in such a manner that no mere man could have done it.
Jesus’ pre-knowledge of exactly what the disciples would find in the village is an example.
The prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 was generally understood as a reference to the Messiah; and Jesus deliberately and conspicuously fulfilled it by the events recorded here.
By identifying himself in such a manner, Christ definitely laid claim to the office of Messiah, setting the stage for his public proclamation as the true King.
The reason for the use of two animals is not clear, unless it was Jesus’ strict attention to the prophecy which mentioned both the ass and the foal.
He gave the proud Pharisees no excuse for not recognizing the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy.
Often in Matthew is added the second element in the Master’s deeds. Thus, he mentions two blind men instead of only one (Matthew 20:30), and two demoniacs (Matthew 8:28ff).
David was welcomed by singing and dancing women, out of all the cities of Israel, as he came back from the slaughter of the Philistines.
Herodotus records that when Xerxes passed over the bridge of the Hellespont, the way before him was strewed with branches of myrtle, while burning perfumes filled the air.
Quintius Curtius tells of the scattering of flowers in the way before Alexander the Great when he entered Babylon.
Monier saw the way of a Persian ruler strewn with roses for three miles, while glass vessels filled with sugar were broken under his horses’ feet.
The truly wonderful thing about Jesus’ triumph is that it is still going on.
The multitude recognized the true King of Israel and greeted him accordingly. Mention of the “Son of David” in the Hosannas made the ascription definite. They knew him for the Messiah.
The question, “Who is this?” is of the utmost importance, and the eternal destiny of every man born on earth shall finally be determined by his personal response to that question.
How strange it is that Jerusalem welcomed him with Hosannas on Sunday but reversed themselves and crucified him before the week ended.
One can only marvel at the ways of God.
The multitude hailed Jesus as a prophet from Nazareth but apparently did not fully comprehend that Jesus could be none other than the world’s only Saviour.
The evil influence of the Pharisees may be detected in the stress which the people laid on Christ’s connection with Nazareth.
Christ was from Bethlehem, having been born there, but it suited the evil purpose of the religious leaders to stress Jesus’ residence in Nazareth.
The popular emphasis upon Nazareth in this place shows how successfully the Pharisees had done their work.
Even those who called him “Son of David” were not well grounded in their conviction.