In the previous chapters Jesus has taught and warned his disciples as to what is about to happen, and now we have the start of those events. They start with a step of faith by two disciples going to fetch a donkey, trusting Jesus’ words the find the donkey, respond in the way that Jesus has told them and return to Jesus with it.
We then have what is often called the ‘Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem’ but how triumphal was this. Jesus was not riding a white charger, had no massed armies behind him and no war trophies to present. Instead he rides a donkey and is followed by a motley crew of friends and onlookers and they all chant religions quotes! So what was going on?
The meaning and symbolism of what happened would not be lost on any good Jew, they knew their scriptures and knew what was happening. Jesus had moved out of the shadows and was now courting public recognition. The act of riding a donkey, especially on a donkey who had never before been ridden, was a clear reflection of Old Testament prophecy. See for instance Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This act was a clear claim that he was the Messiah who had come to free Israel from their captivity.
The local choir welcomed Jesus with one of the Hallel or Thanksgiving Psalms (Psalm 118:25-26) and in their words they too knew what Jesus was doing – this is the coming of the Kingdom of David.
So Jesus knew exactly what he was doing, the disciples knew what he was doing, the crowd knew what he was doing – and the religious leaders, where are they? Well I think they were conspicuous by their absence. Jesus’ actions were a direct claim, and a threat to their position. This was not the Messiah they anticipated, or wanted. Jesus was far more radical than they could cope with.
Remember the crowd who were singing Halleluiah – what were the same people shouting less than a week later? Which crowd would I have been in and what would I have been shouting?