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After healing the two blind men, Jesus left Jericho and travelled to Jerusalem with the disciples. As they came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives (just outside Jerusalem), Jesus sent two disciples ahead saying to them,

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey - Artist Unknown

“Go to the village ahead. You will find a donkey there with her colt near her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell them the Lord needs them.”

This fulfilled the prophecy,

“Say to Daughter Zion, see, your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey and a colt.”

As instructed, the disciples retrieved the donkey and colt and placed their coats on their backs 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 Jesus shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, in the highest heaven!”

Jesus Christ Entry Into Jerusalem - Plockhorst (1914)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

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What the story means to us today

Jesus begins to reveal his true identity despite the risk of death

The events that take place in this story probably occurred only a few days before Jesus’ death. We are now nearing the time of the crucifixion and each new event in Jesus’ life creates a profound impact on Jesus and Christianity in general.

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey - Bible Card (1900)

Jesus’ arrival shows that he was well-known and well-respected by all – with the exception of the Jewish chief priests who were fearful of the power Jesus had obtained. Regardless, our story shows that Jesus purposely arrived in Jerusalem in the manner prophecy foretold. He surely knows his death is near, and regardless of the safety that secrecy would provide, is beginning to initiate the events that will change humanity forever. Even the reference to himself as “Lord” shows he is starting to acknowledge his true identity, despite knowing that the revelation will bring about his own death.

Additional thoughts and considerations

“Hosanna to the Son of David”

Whether Matthew or Jesus says the following is unclear:

“Say to the daughters of Zion, see, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The intro comes from Isaiah 62:11 and the last from Zechariah 9:9. The phrase “Hosanna” means literally, “Lord, save us” but in Jesus’ day, had come to mean something akin to “hail to the messiah”. By this time, tens of thousands of people had witnessed Jesus’ miracles and heard his teachings. The words “Hosanna” would have been familiar to any ancient Jew and the crowds’ chants make clear that they recognized Jesus as the messianic king.

Did Jesus arrive in Jerusalem on a donkey or a colt?

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey - Artist Unknown

Zechariah 9:9 tells us the king will arrive “lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. Matthew phrases this slightly differently and in a manner known as poetic parallelism which to modern readers, sounds like two animals were being ridden at the same time (“on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey”).

Although the mother and her colt may have been retrieved together, Jesus arrived on a single donkey – a young donkey (colt) – an animal we would expect to be unruly by nature. Instead, the animal remains completely calm and allows Jesus to ride him into the city.

Jerusalem during Jesus’ arrival

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem shortly before Passover. The city was filling with pilgrims from Galilee who made their way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The city was likely bustling with activity at the time, with a celebratory-like atmosphere.

The science and history behind the story

Bethphage

Jesus and the disciples arrived in Bethphage (“house of figs”) as they approached Jerusalem. The location of Bethphage is not yet known. It is generally believed to be on the southeast side of the Mount of Olives, about 1 ½ miles east of Jerusalem.

Notes on Biblical translation

Daughter(s) of Zion

Some translations write, “Say to the Daughter of Zion”. Other translations write, “Say to the people of Zion”. The “Daughter of Zion” is an idiom for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. It was well-known in the early days of Christianity. Today the phrase is foreign to modern readers so some translations instead use “people of Zion” for clarity.

Bible Text

NIV

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey - Artist Unknown

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 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. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

      5 “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.’ ”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 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!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 21:2 telling them, “Go to the village ahead of you. Right away you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 21:3 If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 21:4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:

    21:5 “Tell the people of Zion,

    ‘Look, your king is coming to you,

    unassuming and seated on a donkey,

    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

21:6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 21:7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 21:10 As he entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar, saying, “Who is this?” 21:11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey - Artist Unknown

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

    5      “Tell the daughter of Zion,

    ‘Behold, your King is coming to you,

    Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,

    A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

    “Hosanna to the Son of David!

    ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’

    Hosanna in the highest!”

10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

      When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

      4–5 This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

           Tell Zion’s daughter,

           “Look, your king’s on his way,

             poised and ready, mounted

           On a donkey, on a colt,

             foal of a pack animal.”

    6–9 The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

      10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

      11 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 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. 10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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