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Matthew 21:1-11-Will You Be Ready When Messiah Comes?

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When we leave this earth we are all departing to one of two destinations. Will you be ready when Messiah comes? Many missed His first coming and failed to understand that there would be a second coming. Make sure that you are ready for Messiah’s return. When our Lord entered Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey, He came at the exact appointed time and the exact place.

Note that the last six days of our Lord’s earthly life began at the triumphal entry at the Mount of Olives. This was meant to be since Yeshua was orchestrating these events according to His specific purposes. Since it was Passover, there were probably around two million people in and around Jerusalem.[i] Unlike other occasions this was an especially intended public declaration where Jesus presented Himself as King Messiah.

Bethpage lay slightly west of Bethany on the southwest slope of the Mount of Olives.[ii]It no longer exists and the exact location cannot be pinpointed, though there are clear messianic associations. Nonetheless, it is neither accident nor coincidence that Jesus entered Jerusalem via the Mount of Olives. Remember that after the Last Supper, Jesus and His disciples, sung a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. In Acts 1:6-11, the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives and He will return there also (Zechariah 14:4-11). So will you be ready when He returns?

Loose the colt, the foal of a donkey

In verses 2-3 when two disciples are sent to bring the colt and donkey to Jesus, there is more than meets the eye and sometimes these verses are not expounded with all that is in view. Whilst some commentators see little of the miraculous, others recognise Divine foresight and compare that with the Lord instructing Peter to catch a fish which would have a coin in its mouth to pay their taxes (Matthew 17:27). I came to the latter conclusion, but nevertheless, here is a contemporary comparison. How would you feel if your pastor or rabbi sent you to the nearest village instructing you to untie the first two mountain bikes you see with the additional advice that if anyone asks you what you are doing, to tell them that the one who sent you has need of it! Incidentally, I often do outreach in a particular location where a bike is locked directly behind me and if anyone other than the owner untied it, I would be asking them why they were untying it.

But now let us turn to a parallel account in Mark 11 and we note that they were asked, “what are you doing untying the colt (Mark 11:5-6)?” If it was preplanned, why did they ask Jesus’ disciples why they were untying the colt? In addition, Luke’s account in Luke 19:33-34 informs us that the owners asked, “why are you untying the colt?” Interestingly, there are four accounts of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, yet only Matthew’s account mentions the donkey and a colt.

That it might be fulfilled

Some may make the connection between the King riding on a colt the foal of a donkey, from Matthew 21:5 and Zechariah 9:9. But note that the first line of verse five states, “Say to the daughter of Zion” before it continues, “Behold your King”. This combines Isaiah 62:11 with Zechariah 9:9 so these scriptures fit together perfectly, hence we see specific fulfilment of prophecy.

Matthew tells us in verse four that this took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet. Frequently Matthew states ‘this happened to fulfil’ (cf. Matthew 1:21-22; 2:14-15; 16-18; 23), showing us exactly how Yeshua fulfilled prophecy. Matthew is directing us to Jesus as King and Messiah. Matthew is demonstrating that the Lord’s arrangements are sovereign, stage-managed and fulfilled precisely as foretold. This also indicates that the Lord is sovereign over all matters and the believer can therefore rest in Him and trust in Him entirely. Spurgeon helpfully stated that the Lord’s sovereignty is His most comforting attribute.

How did the crowd then and how do people now, make sense of Zechariah 9:9 and Matthew 21:1-11? In the Jewish Study Bible edited by the Jewish Publication Society, it states, “This image of the ideal future King (Messiah) has been very influential in Jewish tradition, and has influenced the depiction of Jesus in the Gospels.”[iii] “Many ancient readers found in Zechariah numerous references to messianic times. As expected, some early readers understood them in Christological terms…Rabbinic Judaism interpreted many of these texts in relation to a messianic time still to come.”[iv]

Rashi stated concerning the same, “It is impossible to interpret this except as referring to the King Messiah. We do not find that Israel has such a ruler during the days of the Second Temple..”[v] David Stern was a Messianic Jew, a believer in Yeshua the Messiah, who wrote a commentary on the Brit Hadasha (New Testament). What did he see in Zechariah 9:9? He saw salvation and salvation in Messiah Yeshua. The word for ‘salvation’ here is ‘Yesha,’ identical with the name of Messiah.”[vi]

Concerning Matthew 21:5, there is considerable discussion about both donkeys and horses. Rashi states, “The Messiah will be a humble man riding on a donkey rather than an ostentatious horse.”[vii]However McGee notes, “This little animal was ridden by kings. In our day it would be like riding into town in a Rolls Royce.”[viii] Can this apparent discrepancy be reconciled? Walvoord & Zuck observe, “This was not the normal manner in which kings arrived. A colt was a symbol of peace.”[ix] Heading helpfully adds, “Such were ridden by kings and judges in times of peace, whilst horses were used in warfare.”[x]Now consider carefully that Jesus entered Jerusalem in peace on a colt the foal of a donkey, though when He returns He shall ride a white horse and rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:11-16). Jesus the Messiah is our peace (Isaiah 9:5-7; cf. Ephesians 2:14), but He is also the Judge. Most importantly, will you be ready when He returns?

I think Wiersbe makes an important point that many interpreters fail to see. “The fact that Jesus rode this beast and kept it under control is another evidence of His kingship.”[xi]In Mark 11:2 we discover that no one had ever sat on that colt, thus it has never been ridden. Try that sometime! Alexander the Great famously tamed what would become his horse Bucephalus, who belonged to his father as a young boy. He noticed that the horse was scared of his shadow and approached it from the other side and rode off with it.

Was Alexander the Great the GOAT? How much greater is the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the King of the Universe? Plutarch wrote of Philip’s admiration for his son. “O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself for Macedonia is too little for thee.”[xii]At the age of twenty-eight, Alexander would go on to conquer nine-tenths of the known world. But again how much greater is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the King of the Jews, the Messiah and the King of the Universe?

Josephus tells us that Alexander upon entering Jerusalem did not conquer it and name it, “Alexandria” but rather he was warmly greeted by Jaddua the High Priest and then continued on his way.[xiii]In 1917, General Allenby entered Jerusalem via the Jaffa Gate. On horseback or on a donkey? Well actually neither since Allenby dismounted his horse out of respect and entered Jerusalem on foot with his officers. Our Lord left the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and will return to the Mount of Olives. He entered on a colt the foal of a donkey in peace and will return to judge the world. Will you be ready when the Lord returns? Do you know Him as your Saviour now?

The disciples did what Messiah commanded them

In verse six, the disciples went and did as Jesus directed them. But will you follow Him and be His disciple? Would you be a disciple of the Lord and go where He sends you and willingly do what He says? Verse 10 tells us that all of Jerusalem was moved which was hardly surprising. Music can be moving, so can a novel experience, or even a film. You may like the Messiah, feel endeared to Him, or be impressed by Him. But will you obey Him? Those who love Him will obey His commandments. You might love the stories, or the parables, His teachings, virtues and example, but are you trusting in Him? Is the King ruling in your life? Will you bow the knee to the King of the Universe? Or will you bow the knee when it is too late? Standing in the middle of the road is a dangerous place to be. Kiss the Son lest he be angry and you perish in the way (Psalm 2:12).

As children, we hear of chivalrous tales of men placing their cloaks on the street covering a puddle for the queen to walk over. When the crowd put their cloaks on the donkey and colt it was reminiscent of 2 Kings 9:11-13 where similar actions were replicated recognising Jehu as being appointed King of Israel. Would you take off your cloak and put it on the colt for the King to sit on? Remember the King of Kings gave you life and grants you your next breath. Will you serve Him with it?

Today some will queue happily for hours bearing considerable discomfort to be in the presence of royalty. Consider for a moment, the greatest rulers, emperors, Caesars, dictators and empires. One day Pharoah will bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The same applies to Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, Julius Caesar, King Alfred, Genghis Khan and the rest of them.

What is the significance of the palm branches? In the temple, all the walls were covered with palm branches (1 Kings 6:29).[xiv]Also Psalm 92:12 tells us that “the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.” Palms are used in the Feast of Tabernacles and again remind us of the Lord’s return. No doubt the crowd on Palm Sunday also had the Feast of Tabernacles in mind so again, but will you be ready when the Lord returns?

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Remember there was a huge number present, probably around two million in and around Jerusalem for Passover. Notice what they were saying and the full significance of what they were proclaiming. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The phrase ‘Hosanna’ is used by Jewish people at the Feast of Tabernacles and the waving of palms reminds us also of that feast,[xv]meaning ‘save us now.’ What about David? The Messiah had to be the Son of David and they expected the Messiah to rule on the throne of David (Isaiah 9:5-7).

Psalms 113-118 were often quoted at the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn. Note that they are quoting from Psalm 118:25-26. What were their expectations? They immediately wanted Jesus to rule in Jerusalem, remove the Romans and reign on David’s throne. Maybe some of them shouted, “Hosanna” and their intention might have been for Him to save them from the Romans. Yet few understood that Jesus was the Messiah at that point. Within less than a week many cried, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” John 19:15 also reminds us that some said, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Those who would be saved must know who and what they are saved from and saved into. Some were not aware of Yeshua’s first coming or that there would be a second coming. We are privileged to have the Scriptures and the benefit of hindsight. The Lord of glory is coming to judge the earth. Are you ready for His return? What really matters in this life is that you are saved from your sin, judgement and hell and that you are trusting in Him, following Him and are ready for His second coming.

Verse 10 states, “And when He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up saying, “Who is this?” The answer is found in the following verse. This is the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth from Galilee. Moses foretold the Prophet who would be like him (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). Jesus was recognised as the Prophet in John 1:45; 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22-23; 7:37. He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness had seen a great light. Have you come to Jesus the light of the world? Have you left the darkness? Are you walking in the light?

We began by considering the two destinations and where we are heading. Are you on the pleasure boat cruising along and drifting, without clear direction? There is a way that seems right to man but its end is the way of death. Or are you on the lifeboat in the Ark of God’s protection? Broad is the way that leads to destruction and narrow is the way that leads to life and there are few that find it. I ask you one more time, will you be ready when Messiah returns?

[i] Warren W. Wiersbe The Wiersbe Bible Commentary The Complete New Testament in One Volume (David C. Cook, 2007; Colorado Springs) p62

[ii] Dr Constable’s Expository Notes on Matthew 21

[iii] Jewish Study Bible Jewish Publication Society (Oxford University Press, 2004; Oxford), p1259

[iv] Ibid, p1250

[v] Rashi on Zechariah 9:9 Sefaria

[vi] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Jewish New Testament Publications Inc, 1992; Clarksville), p61

[vii] Rashi on Zechariah 9:9, cited in Stone Edition Tanakh Edited by Rabbi Nosson Scherman (Mesorah Publications, 2000; Brooklyn), p1148

[viii] Vernon McGee Matthew Volume II (Thru The Bible Books, 1985; Pasadena) ,p86

[ix] John F. Walvoord and Roy. B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by the Dallas Seminary Faculty (Victor, 1989; USA),  p67

[x] J. Heading & H. Paisley Matthew Mark What the Bible Teaches (John Ritchie, 1984; Kilmarnock),  p276

[xi] Wiersbe, p62

[xii] Plutarch on Alexander and Bucephalus

[xiii] The New Complete Works of Josephus Translated by William Whiston Commentary by Paul Maier (Kregel Publications, 1999; Grand Rapids), Jewish Antiquities, 11: 8, 4-5, pages 384-386

[xiv] Heading, p278

[xv] Arno Clemens Gaebelein on Matthew 21