Read This Week: Matthew 21
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 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. This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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 heaven!” 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.” – Matthew 21:1-11 NIV
In Matthew 16:21, Jesus begins his journey towards Jerusalem. Now, finally, in Matthew 21 Jesus arrives and enters the city. This whole scene and situation is the fulfillment of Scriptural promises about Him found in Zechariah chapter 9 verse 9 where it says:
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.
Matthew quotes Zechariah to prove the identity of Jesus. He establishes again that Christ has the authority, credibility, and power to be called the Messiah King. But he is also careful to present Jesus as the humble, unexpected, and non-military Messiah King. He does so by emphasizing only part of the passage in Zechariah.
Matthew even omits the words of the prophet that speak of the approaching king as triumphant and victorious. Instead of arriving on a war horse or in a golden chariot, the gospel writer presents the humility, meekness, and servanthood of this Messiah arriving on a lowly donkey. The nature of his transport into the city is not one of conquest by force but one of salvation through divinity and grace.
Mentioning these prophetic details also allows Matthew to stress that Jesus fulfilled every possible nuance of the Scriptural prophecy including the accolades that the crowd shouted from Psalm 118:26, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. But the first cry he records is the exuberant chant of Hosanna to the Son of David. These two names indicate two things: save us now, and Messiah King, save us forever. The first name, Hosanna, reveals the desire for salvation, and the second identifies who is worthy of doing the saving:
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 heaven!”
Hosanna means a special honor to the one who saves. It is a shout of joy to the one who can save us now and for all time. This passage also includes one of Matthew’s favorite messianic titles for Jesus, Son of David. Throughout this gospel, we see that Son of David applies in situations where Jesus is involved in healing and saving (9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30). It shows Jesus as the healer, the one who cares for and serves the needs of others both physically and spiritually. Son of David spotlights Jesus as a humble servant figure, offering healing and wholeness, not the strong warrior king others may have been looking for as their Messiah.
Essentially, the people in Jerusalem that day shouted, “Save us now and forever, divine Messiah, our Healer!” This cry to God has not changed throughout the ages. Seasons and times have changed; societies have grown and advanced; technology has increased our awareness. Philosophy has heightened our skepticism, and religious pluralism has diluted the true gospel. But the cry of the human heart in the 21st century is the same as the one in the 1st. We want healing and salvation even when we are unaware of what it all means.
God, in His goodness, mercy, love, and grace, gives us Jesus as the answer. He was the promised Messiah that the people praised that day, and He remains the One we need now. May we look to Him alone for salvation and proclaim Him to others so that they may be saved and follow Him.