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. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 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!”
Did you ever have something that you had to do, but you knew it wouldn’t be pleasant, and so you put it off as long as you could? Jesus knew that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him, but he proceeded directly into Jerusalem anyway. And he did it in a way that guaranteed they wouldn’t miss him! They would know he was there.
In fact, Jesus designed his entry to proclaim himself as Messiah. First, he tells his disciples to say that “the Lord” needs the animals; not simply Jesus, but the Lord. Second, Matthew notes that this fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah, a prophecy of the coming of the Davidic king. And finally, see how the people greet Jesus: as the son of David, thus acknowledging him as the promised Messiah.
The Messiah that they have longed and prayed and waited and hoped for is now riding into Jerusalem. What a joyous day! And yet . . . The words that they shout are from Psalm 118. The very next verse of that psalm reads: “The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118:27) Yes, Jesus has indeed come in the name of the Lord, to place himself on the altar of God and to offer himself as the sacrifice for the sin of his people. O blessed Savior! O glorious King! O marvelous Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, your triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin. (Henry H. Milman)