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Matthew 21:1-21:11
Key Verse: 21:5

In the previous passage Jesus heard the shouting and all the louder shouting of two blind men and gave them what they wanted, their sight and also the spiritual sight enough to follow Jesus. This was the mercy of the Messiah Jesus the Lord. It was the last event before Jesus’ approaching Jerusalem to have the Passion Week (final week). Today’s passage is about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. This event is written in all four gospels and we are going to study this event in Matthew’s gospel. It exceptionally reveals who Jesus is. Let’s study this passage with the title, “See, your king comes to you.”

Look at verse 1. “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples.” Jesus came from Jericho. The road to Jericho to Jerusalem was about 27 km, ascending about 1000m through dry desert. It took six to eight hours of uphill walking. The road was infamous for highway robberies. So Jesus and his disciples must have hurried to make it to their destination before nightfall. As the road neared Jerusalem it approached the back (east) side of the Mount of Olives, passing through Bethany, the place where Jesus stayed during his final week (Mt 21:17, Jn 12:1). (Bethany was about 3 km southeast of Jerusalem (Jn 11:18). The road continued over the Mount of Olives, down through the Kidron Valley, and into Jerusalem. Jesus came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Bethphage means “house of the early fig.”

What did Jesus do at Bethpage? Look at verse 2. “saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.’” What a surprising command! What an odd command! What a difficult command! God said in the Ten Commandments, “You shall not steal.” But it seemed that Jesus commanded his two disciples to steal both a donkey and her colt, which no one had ever ridden, saying, “Untie them and bring them to me.” It is like stealing a car, a brand new car. How could Jesus command his disciples to do the act of theft and robbery? Jesus said to them further, “If anyone asks you anything, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” Here what Jesus says is more surprising. No one in the world would say, “I need it,” and expect someone to give it him. It will never work. But “the Lord needs them” would work. It is because he is truly the Lord.

But in this event of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the key message is not merely to reveal that Jesus is the Lord over everything, though that is surprising. Then what is the key message? In Mark and Luke, after Jesus’ command how the disciples obeyed the instruction of Jesus is written right away. But in Matthew something else had to be written first. That is the prophecy of the Old Testament concerning this. Look at verses 4 and 5. “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’” To the eyes of Matthew even before the disciples’ obedience to this command the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah was fulfilled. He was more than sure that the instruction given by Jesus would be carried out and surely be fulfilled since the Lord Jesus spoke. To him Jesus’ speaking was the same as its fulfillment. So he wrote it right away, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet.” The prophecy concerning the king’s coming, which was spoken more than 500 years before was fulfilled. This prophecy has even a longer history as an allusion to Genesis 49:11, where Jacob prophesies of the kingly descendant of Judah: “He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch.” Fulfillment shows something or someone is true. So the fulfillment had to be delivered urgently and hurriedly. We can say that the history of the world is the history of fighting between what is true and what is false. At the fall of men there was Satan’s deception. Since then the battle between truth and falsity began in every aspect of life in the world. Matthew deals with it seriously. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest news mortal men have ever heard. But right after Jesus’ resurrection religious leaders made a story that Jesus’ disciples stole his body at night and let the lying be spread (Mt 28:13-15). There have been many false prophets in the Bible. How can one tell false prophets from true prophets? Deuteronomy 18:22 says, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.”

The word “fulfill” or “fulfilled”, or “fulfillment” is one of the most important words in the Bible, particularly in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew wrote the fulfillment of God’s prophecies 10 times. 1:22,23 says, “All this took place to fulfill what the LORD had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means ‘God with us.’” 2:15 says, “where (in Egypt) he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” 2:17,18 says, “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard at Ramah, weeping and great mourning…” 2:23 says, “…So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” 4:13,14, “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah.” 8:17 says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’” 12:17,18 says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: Here is my servant whom I have chosen…” 13:35 says, “So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables…” Then here in 21:4,5. And then 26:9 says, “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: They took the thirty silver coins…” This fulfillment shows that God is true and the king Jesus is true, the very one whom God sent. Can you imagine what you believed is turned out to be false after 10 years or 20 years, or at the end of your lives? That’s why to believe in what was fulfilled, in something that is true and authentic, is so critical. In this world nobody can be sure of the fulfillment of something, because no one knows what will happen tomorrow. But there is fulfillment in God. The Bible is full of prophecies and their fulfillments. The life of Jesus is full of fulfillments, which means the truthfulness and authenticity of his life, and he is our true king. The king Jesus who entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey will appear on the earth again as the true king, the king of all nations (Mt 25:32). At that time he will come riding on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Mt 24:30). We thank and praise God that our king Jesus is true.

Then what is the message of the prophecy which was fulfilled and which the author Matthew urgently and hurriedly wanted to share? Look verse 5 again. “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” These are the words from Zechariah 9:9, which says, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” In the words of Zechariah we see the prophet’s joy as he prophesied the king’s coming with having salvation and riding on a donkey. He wanted to share this great joy with all the people of Jerusalem anticipating the coming Messianic King. But Matthew omitted this part, “Rejoice greatly…Shout…” Rather he put his own words, “Say to the Daughter of Zion…” The emotion of rejoicing greatly is important. However, it is easy to be carried away by emotion only, not knowing the reason to rejoice greatly. Matthew did not want his readers just to be carried away by their emotional feelings. Before that he wanted them to know the message of the prophecy that was fulfilled as soon as Jesus commanded his disciples. He did not even have the full quotation of the message. Rather he has one clear point: here is your king, who is so gentle. It says, “See, you king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This is an amazing message, truly good news for all people of all nations.

“See, your king comes to you.” It is common sense that people should come to the king to serve him. But here it says, “See, your king comes to you.” He is your king, your personal king; he comes to you personally. And he does not come to you with his powerful kingship showing authority. He comes to you gently. He is a gentle king. To our understanding “gentle” cannot be a proper adjective to describe a king. But here is your king, who is truly gentle, riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The author seemed to put triple emphasis on what the king rode on. His entry into Jerusalem was so humble and gentle. Why is the coming of gentle king so significant? It was because until now a cruel king ruled the people of the world. The people were harassed and helpless before the cruel king Satan.

The passage concerning Jesus’ entering into Jerusalem in Matthew’s gospel well reveals how gentle he is. In Mark and Luke Jesus commanded his two disciples to bring a colt, which no one has ever ridden (Mk 11:2; Lk 19:30). But, in Matthew Jesus commanded his disciples to bring a colt with the mother donkey. How mindful and gentle Jesus was even to the colt! Yesterday we were happy to see Esther and her baby Grace, and Hannah and Daniela. Being together with their mothers the babies were not anxious. The colt would feel insecure and cry without the mother donkey. The colt would be reluctant to come alone. Also, they say that an unbroken young colt is best controlled by having its mother alongside to calm it in the midst of the tumult. We don’t know whether Jesus rode the mother donkey and then her colt alternatively or rode the colt having the mother donkey beside. Anyway the colt would be secured and peaceful and well-controlled with her mother staying together. Jesus is the gentle King. Also, in preparing the donkey and the colt, Jesus’ humbleness was well revealed. In his kingship, he could have commanded, “Let the donkey and the colt be brought to me right away.” But he told his disciples to humbly ask the owner, “The Lord needs them.” That Jesus is the humble and gentle king is a very important message in Matthew’s gospel. According to Matthew 2, he is the shepherd king born in a little town Bethlehem (Mt 2:6). He is different from cruel king Herod, who killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove (Mt 3:16). He said in 11:28,29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burned, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” He does not harass his people. In his gentleness and humbleness he understands and embraces. He rules them with love and peace. He will not break a bruised reed and snuff out a smoldering wick till he leads justice to victory (12:20). What a wonderful king he is!

Let’s think more that he is the gentle King. It means he does not coerce us. He is so gentle that he does not come into our hearts and rule us forcefully. If we do not want him to sit on the throne of our hearts, he comes down from the throne. He is so sensitive to our response to him. If we are not attentive to him and become negligent of his indwelling, he will be uncomfortable to reside in us. When we become proud and stubborn in our own way, he cannot sit on the throne of our hearts. He will not quarrel or cry out (Mt 12:19). Because of his gentleness it is easy for us to despise and reject him.

Last week I thought of how M. Sarah and I should help our children in the right way and of other missionary coworkers’ family matters. I was trouled as I thought of the problems more and more. I was anxious and negative. But when I repented of this and newly looked at Jesus, I could have peace and joy and hope anew, sensing the gentle Jesus to rule my heart. In life I am important. But what is really important is who my king is, that is, who rules my heart despite myself and amid problems. Proverbs 4:23, “Above all guard your hearts.” So it is very important to examine our hearts to know who sits on the throne of our hearts and rule us.

Then how can we let him come and sit on the throne of our heart and rule us? Look at verse 6. “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.” Jesus’ command was not easy to obey, because it was totally unreasonable to human mind. But the disciples obeyed. Also, they paid their homage to him by placing their cloaks on the donkey and the clot, honouring him as King. Then Jesus could sit on them to enter Jerusalem revealing himself as the King promised to come. Jesus can sit on a humble heart that obeys his command. We can obey him when we recognize that we know in part but he knows in fullness. As we have been studying, Matthew’s gospel emphasizes the importance of obedience. Jesus said in the last verse of Matthew’s gospel after his resurrection, “…go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” In fact the whole Bible teaches obedience. At the end of Romans Apostle Paul prayed that all nations might believe and obey him (Ro 16:26). When Adam disobeyed God’s command doubting God’s love, God could not dwell in him. A humble and an obedient heart go together, and Jesus can sit on that throne of that heart. This is the reason we should carefully listen to his words and keep them in our hearts and obey them.

Look at verse 8. “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” In this way the large crowd also paid their homage to the King Jesus. Afterward what did they do? Look at verse 9. “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’” Hosanna means “O save!” The crowds shouted to the right one. At that time no one could save them from all the troubles in life, but the Son of David, the Promised Davidic King. Likewise, when we sincerely shout to him to save us from any life problem, he will save us and rule us with his peace and truth sitting on the throne of our hearts.

Look at verses 10,11. “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.” Jesus entered Jerusalem, but the people of Jerusalem did not know the gentle, Saviour King. The whole city was just stirred up and did not know the amazing blessing of God that came to them. To them Jesus was nothing but the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee, the despised town. Jesus cannot enter such just stirred and troublesome and proud hearts of the crowds.

Thank and praise God for our King Jesus who is true and gentle. May we let him come and sit at the throne of our humble and obedient hearts.

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