September 8, 2019
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
This is the Word of God for the people of God.
Prayer for Illumination:
Eternal God, whose Word silences the shouts of the mighty: Quiet within us every voice but your own. Speak to us through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, that by the power of your Holy Spirit we may receive grace to show Christ’s love in lives given to your service. Amen.
There’s an iconic photograph from the end of World War II. A young sailor, his arms wrapped around a nurse, is seen kissing her while the city of New York celebrates the end of the war. The war was finally over. People were celebrating, honoring those who had fought and served for our country. Soldiers would come home and towns would line the streets and throw confetti as the soldiers walked down the streets. These men were entering their cities triumphant.
The passage we’re looking at today, we see Jesus entering Jerusalem. As we examine this passage, we’ll notice that Jesus is carefully arranging events, he has planned it all out. He’s carefully arranging things because they are deeply symbolic. They’re symbolic in that they reveal more than him entering to fanfare; they reveal who he is and what he has come to do. Jesus enters the holy city as the triumphant king. As we examine this passage, we’ll see two things. We’ll see that all of this has been planned and that Jesus comes to save.
The Entry is Planned
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’ ”
Jesus has finally reached Jerusalem. He has finally reached his destination. And it has taken him roughly nine months to reach his destination. Jesus began his journey toward Jerusalem all the way back in chapter 9. After Jesus came down the Mount of Transfiguration, he began his journey toward Jerusalem. He has taken his time coming south from the region of Tyre and Sidon, stopping at the villages where he would teach the people.
When he crossed over the Jordan and came to Jericho, he healed blind Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was coming and cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He is the first person to call Jesus by the title Son of David. That is significant.
And coming up to Jerusalem, Jesus has spent some time in Bethany. Bethany is a town about 2 miles east of Jerusalem on the slope of the Mt. of Olives. It is suburban Jerusalem. And not long after entering Bethany, Jesus did something amazing. He raised Lazarus from the dead. You can find that in John chapter 11. And everyone knew about that. This was the talk of the town. The raising of Lazarus infuriated the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They plotted to kill Lazarus and Jesus as a result. But this was all according to the plan.
Now that Passover was six days away, Jesus’ plan was that he would enter Jerusalem by riding a colt that had never been ridden before. Jesus tells the disciples exactly where to find. Maybe you’re wondering why he chose a donkey colt. He chose to ride a colt for two reasons. The first is that it shows his humility. Most ancient kings would enter in a chariot pulled by two or three stallions to show off their power and strength. Even today when political leaders enter a town, they tend to ride in powerful cars to show their strength. But Jesus comes riding the colt of a donkey. He comes in humility.
The second reason is that had been the plan. In Zechariah 9, the prophet prophecies this:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
13 For I have bent Judah as my bow;
I have made Ephraim its arrow.
I will stir up your sons, O Zion,
against your sons, O Greece,
and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
Zechariah lived shortly after the Persians allowed the Jews to go back to Israel. God gave him this vision 500 years before the birth of Christ. God told Zechariah the plan that one day the true king, the Christ, would enter Jerusalem riding upon a colt. So Jesus, the true king, the Christ, enters Jerusalem riding a donkey’s colt because that was the plan all along.
This teaches us that God is sovereign and all things happen according to his plan. When you read the Bible, especially the prophets, this is evident. God gives the prophets visions of what he is going to do and everything happens according to God’s plan. When you read Isaiah, you’ll see that God gave Isaiah a vision of what was going to happen and then things happened according to that plan. When you read Jeremiah, you’ll see that God told Jeremiah the plan and things happened according to that plan.
Currently, I’m reading Ezekiel in my morning devotional time. I’m amazed that throughout it, God tells Ezekiel the plan and things happen according to the plan. God tells Ezekiel, “Babylon will conquer Egypt” and Babylon conquers Egypt. As you read Scripture, you’ll see that over and over things happen according to God’s plan.
And the same thing is happening here. Jesus has been slowly making his way south so that he would enter Jerusalem the Sunday before the Passover. Because the plan from all eternity was that God would ransom his people from their slavery to sin and death by being their substitute. That was the plan and everything is going according to God’s plan.
This should be a great comfort for us. Knowing God’s sovereignty and that all things happen according to his plan should be a great comfort for us. This should comfort us especially in times of distress and suffering. Often in times of distress and suffering our first thought is to question whether or not God is sovereign. In moments of distress and suffering we often wonder whether or not things are going according to God’s plan. Take comfort. God is sovereign and all things work according to his glorious and wonderful plan.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Because God is sovereign and all things happen according to his purpose, it will be for the good of those who believe. In those moments of distress and suffering, it is happening according to God’s plan and it is meant to refine us so that we look for like Jesus.
The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it like this, “God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.”
Maybe at this moment you’re in physical suffering. You have a chronic sickness and pain. Know that this is all part of God’s plan. This is part of the way that he wants to refine you and make you look more like his Son and our lord Jesus. Maybe at this moment you’re in distress over your marriage and you’re wondering whether or not this is part of God’s plan. It is. He wants you to lean on him in this, to put into practice forgiveness and repentance. And his plan is to use this so that your marriage will look more like the marriage between Christ and his Church in Revelation 20. Maybe at this moment you’re suffering financial difficulties; your money is tight and you can’t afford some luxury items. Know that God is sovereign and this is part of his plan. He wants you to know biblical principles of finance and to know that he is enough. It is part of his plan so that you find contentment in him and in his salvation.
Jesus Comes to Save
Just as Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem showed that it had been planned from all eternity, it also shows that he has come to save.
And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
As he enters, people gather along the side of the street. They place their cloaks on the ground so that the colt Jesus is riding doesn’t walk on the dirty streets. That’s a sign that they view him as someone exceedingly important.
So as Jesus enters the city, they do something the people did a thousand years earlier. In 2 Kings 9, God has Elisha anoint Jehu as king over the northern kingdom of Israel. And after Elisha anointed Jehu, all of the people put garments and branches under his feet as they declared that he was king.
The people don’t just say that Jesus is important. The people cry out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” The people sing Psalm 118. Psalm 118 is one of the hallel psalms. The hallel psalms are Psalms 113-118. They were sung as the people came up to Jerusalem for Passover. The people continued to sing them throughout the week as they celebrated the Passover.
They cry out “Hosanna!” Hosanna doesn’t mean “hooray”. Hosanna means “save us”. The people are crying out for Jesus to save them. But they don’t know what it is they’re crying out for. They’re crying out for salvation but they understand what they really need salvation from.
The people think that Jesus is coming into the city to save them from Roman occupation. Rome had conquered Israel 90 years earlier. And the Jews had come to believe that the Christ would come to save them from Rome and liberate them. That is the salvation they thought they needed.
They thought that Jesus was another Judah Maccabee. Judah Maccabee was a Jewish revolutionary about 200 years before Jesus’ death. He fought against the Greeks. The Greeks had conquered the Persians and ruled over Israel. One of the Greek kings, Antiochus IV, tried to make the Jews like the Greeks. He wanted to take all of the distinctiveness about Jewish culture and religion and erase them. He wanted them to look like Greeks, to speak like Greeks, and worship like Greeks. He outlawed biblical worship and had a pig sacrificed in the temple. So Maccabee led a revolt against Antiochus.
The people were hoping that Jesus would do what Maccabee failed to do. They thought that was the salvation they so desperately needed. They thought the salvation they needed was political.
We’re not all that different from the Jews. We cry out for salvation but we don’t always understand what we need salvation from. Sometimes we think that we need salvation from political or economic slavery. In the 60s, some Latin American theologians developed liberation theology. What these theologians were saying was that the salvation Jesus provides is primarily a political and economic salvation. They misunderstood the salvation that Jesus provides.
That is not the misunderstanding we normally face. Sometimes we think that we need salvation from our poverty. That’s what prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, and others say. As we hear these competing definitions we don’t always understand what we need salvation from.
The salvation that Jesus provides is not political or economic; it’s not a salvation from material poverty. The salvation that Jesus provides is so much more universal. It is the salvation from slavery of sin and death. In a few days, Jesus will be save his people from their slavery to sin and death by being their substitute dying in their place on the cross. The very streets that Jesus is riding down now, he will be led down. But instead of being led down those streets to Bethany where he would eat and drink with friends, he’ll be led to Golgotha where he will drink the cup of wrath for God’s judgment. It is there on the cross that Jesus saves his people. The salvation that Jesus provides is salvation from our sin and death.
The salvation that Jesus provides is complete. For those whom Jesus has accomplished salvation, there is nothing that you need to do. Sometimes I hear people say, “God helps those who help themselves”. What they are saying is that the salvation Jesus provides is not complete. What they are saying is that the salvation God provides through Jesus needs something else. That is wrong. Jesus does not help those who help themselves; his salvation does not complete the work that you begin.
Jesus saves his people and the salvation that he provides is complete. There is not a thing you can add to the salvation that Jesus provides and there is not a thing you can do to detract from that salvation. It is complete. His death and resurrection completely atone for all of the sins that his people have committed. For those who believe, Jesus has saved them from their sin and death and that salvation is complete.
The Lord our God is sovereign. All things happen according to his plan. And for those who believe it is for our benefit; it is for our good. His plans are that we will look more like Jesus Christ. Let us take comfort in that. And since he is the sovereign king, he along can save. And he has saved his Church from their slavery to sin and death by dying in their place.
 Westminster Confession of Faith, 5.1