The Triumphal Entry was an episode in the ministry of the Lord that had a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning was when the disciples came back to the Lord with the donkey and colt, placed their garments on them, and seated the Lord there (Matt. 21:6). The middle of this event was when Jesus entered the city, and Matthew says that the whole city was moved (v. 10). So this middle was the procession itself. The culmination of this Entry, the climax of the day, the crowning event of what happened, was the cleansing of the Temple (v. 12).
“And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there” (Matthew 21:8–17).
Summary of the Text
As I have reminded you often, this great multitude was not the same crowd that was calling for the Lord’s crucifixion a short time later. They spread garments and palm branches in the road (v. 8). Now the crowd ahead of Jesus, and coming up behind, were all crying out for the Son of David to save them, which is what Hosanna means (v. 9). They were also saying, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Ps. 118:26), and “Hosanna in the highest.” When He entered the city, the whole place was shaken. Who is this (v. 10)? The crowd answered that it was “Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (v. 11). And then we come to the climax of the Entry. Jesus went into the Temple, expelled all the buyers and sellers, flipped the currency exchange tables, and the chairs of those who sold doves (v. 12). He said they had transformed the house of prayer for all nations into a thieves’ den (v. 13). Then some blind and lame people came, and He healed them (v. 14). When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things He did, and the children who were still calling out “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were really displeased (v. 15). They sought to rebuke Jesus with the words of the children (v. 16), and Jesus answered them with the psalmist (Ps. 8:2). From there, Jesus returned to Bethany a few miles away (v. 17).
The Nature of the Event
Moderns are often misled by the fact that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. This seems to us the sort of mount that a pacifist would use. But throughout the Old Testament, it was a mount of nobility or royalty. Deborah spoke of it (Judg. 5:10), Jair, a judge in Israel, had 30 sons who rode on 30 donkeys (Judg. 4), and Abdon was similar, with his sons and grandsons riding them (Judg. 12:14), and the princes of Israel, David’s sons, fled from Absalom on mules (2 Sam. 13:29).
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; Lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).
Given this symbolism, and the prophecies concerning it, and what the people were shouting, Jesus was making an audacious claim to the be the King of Israel, the Messiah of God.
But these were not just words—it moved on to an authoritative action, one that challenged the economic center of Jerusalem.
An Authoritative Evaluation
The gospel of John tells us that Jesus had cleansed the Temple once before, at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-17). This was an event that declared that the House of God was diseased. Here in Matthew, the priest has now come a second time to inspect the House, and this time the house is to be dismantled (Lev. 14:44), not one stone left upon another.
Lord and Christ
If we are with the crowds of Palm Sunday, we are crying out, “Hosanna,” which means that we are calling for God to save us. That is our plea—Lord, save us.
But although this is used as a term of praise, it is not like Hallelujah, which simply means God be praised. Hosanna contains a petition, and the petition is for salvation, forgiveness, and deliverance. “Oh, Lord, hosanna, save us.” But from what?
Ultimately, this request is always for God to rescue us from ourselves. We are the ones with the problem, but it is also the case that we are the problem. We are the problem that all of us have.
But here is the difficulty. It is not possible to greet Him at the gates of the city with your palm branch, and then somehow to prevent Him from going up to the Temple and flipping over all of your tables. He is the Savior who interferes. He is the Lord Christ, and cannot be received in one of His offices and not in another.
He is the Son of David. Receive Him as such.