Flashback Episode — Coming as a King: Matthew 21:1-11

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In our journey through Matthew’s gospel, we have come all the way through Jesus’ life and up to the event that marks the start of Jesus’ crucifixion week. At the beginning of this week, Jesus arrives near Jerusalem, and we discover He has a special plan for entering Jerusalem.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 21, and we will read it from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

As Jesus and his followers were coming closer to Jerusalem, they stopped at Bethphage at the hill called the Mount of Olives. From there Jesus sent two of his followers and said to them, “Go to the town you can see there. When you enter it, you will quickly find a donkey tied there with its colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, say that the Master needs them, and he will send them at once.”

This was to bring about what the prophet had said:

“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
    ‘Your king is coming to you.
He is gentle and riding on a donkey,
    on the colt of a donkey.’”

The followers went and did what Jesus told them to do. They brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus and laid their coats on them, and Jesus sat on them.

Many people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people were walking ahead of Jesus and behind him, shouting,

“Praise to the Son of David!
God bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Praise to God in heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was filled with excitement. The people asked, “Who is this man?”

11 The crowd said, “This man is Jesus, the prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee.”

We’ll stop reading here, because I want to draw our attention onto an interesting parallel that not many people might have noticed. In this passage, we see a potential fulfillment of one of Jesus’ earlier prophecies. While I don’t know if this is the exactly intended understanding for this earlier verse, one understanding of this verse does fit with what we just finished reading.

Earlier this year, a few months ago, we focused on a passage that ended with Matthew 16:28. For that episode, we read the passage from the Good News Translation, and this verse said: “I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.

In the passage we finished reading, Matthew draws out the point that Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was prophesied in Isaiah as the way He would enter the city as a king. While most translations frame Matthew 16:28 as Jesus saying, “Son of Man coming in his kingdom”, I wonder if this entrance into Jerusalem partially fulfills this.

There are two big challenges I see to this understanding. The first is whether Jerusalem would be considered as Jesus’ kingdom. For the majority of the Old Testament, Jerusalem is used as a metaphor for God’s city and for God’s people. While I don’t know if this event signifies a symbolic blend of these two ways of understanding the city, it is significant to note that Jesus is rejected by the people in Jerusalem most significantly after He enters it as a king. On the Sunday before the Passover, Jesus enters the city as a king, and the following Friday, He is hoisted up on a cross to die.

Jerusalem as Jesus’ symbolic kingdom is a fascinating idea, but Jesus was to become king of more than just one city or one people.

The other big challenge I see in this understanding is when Jesus says that some of the disciples wouldn’t face death before seeing this. I see no reason to doubt that all 12 disciples were present for this event. Even if Judas Iscariot was plotting a way to go see the religious leaders to plan for a betrayal during this entrance into the city, Judas would still need to enter the city. This would mean that all 12 disciples were present for this grand entrance into Jerusalem, and the way Jesus’ earlier prediction is framed, only some of the disciples would witness it.

When we look at the context of Jesus’ prediction, we find that just one verse earlier, Jesus describes returning from heaven with God’s glory and a host of angels with the purpose of repaying everyone for what they have done. The simplest understanding of Jesus’ prediction in the next verse is that Jesus is still referring to His second coming.

However, if it refers to the second coming, all the disciples have died, and they have been dead for close to 2,000 years. This makes the simple understanding of Jesus’ prediction challenging as well.

As we talk about this, I wonder if Jesus coming as a King, or coming into His kingdom is a multiple step process. As I connect the dots in my mind, I see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words beginning the moment He rode into Jerusalem as a king. The next dot that is connected is Jesus hanging on the cross. Jesus came as a king and was rejected by the people. Jesus died a death He didn’t deserve. The next dot is Jesus’ resurrection, where He returns to life which marks another step Jesus takes in the progression into His kingdom. After the resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven with the remaining disciples watching, and this was a visible sign for all present that Jesus was leaving to return to God. The final dot is marked by Jesus’ return that is promised throughout the gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

Jesus’ entrance into His kingdom is bigger than one event can hold. All 12 disciples were there witnessing the beginning step of this process, only some of them were there to witness the next few steps, but all God’s people will be present or resurrected for the last great finale when Jesus returns as King!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, seek God first in your life. Be sure to place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus so that when Jesus returns, you will be excited and happy to meet Him rather than fearful and afraid. God wants you in heaven, and Jesus came to make the way possible for you to be forgiven!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself. If you disagree with anything that I shared in this or any other episode, that doesn’t bother me. Instead, my challenge for you is to use the Bible to put together and develop your own beliefs. I would rather see you pick your own beliefs based on what you read and study personally from the Bible than to take anyone’s interpretation at face value!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 37: When Jesus entered Jerusalem, this event fulfilled at least two Old Testament prophecies. But did this also begin the fulfillment of one of Jesus’ earlier prophecies about His coming as a King? Discover how this event might be more significant than we first realize, and how this event foreshadows Jesus’ return!

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