Title: The Fake Parade
Text: Matthew 21:1-11
FCF: We often struggle recognizing the imperative of God’s grace over and above what we know or have been taught.
Prop: Because we can have a form of godliness without its power, we must celebrate God’s grace to those who have been awoken.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 21. It is high time that we do some review, especially of this narrative. I feel like we have been in this context teaching infinite need for so long that we may have forgotten Matthew’s aims in the broader narrative. Remember way back at the beginning of Matthew 19, Jesus is confronted by Pharisees who want to trap Him on the issue of divorce. Jesus expertly shows them, that not only do they not understand the scriptures, but that He does AND that He is the final interpretive authority for the scriptures.
This episode actually sets the tone for the entire narrative. Essentially what follows is a series of events where the Israelites think they understand the word of God that they have had for centuries, only to find out that they have misunderstood what God intended them to see.
The second episode is set up by the story of children being an illustration of the attitude of kingdom citizens, but is solidified when the rich young man desires entry into the kingdom but misinterprets the obligations of the law, thinking himself blameless, when in fact he is probably far from it. Everything that follows from that point serves to reinforce the idea that Kingdom citizens are infinitely needy, specifically of Jesus. Both His ransom, and His mind and character. Kingdom citizens need Christ for everything.
So in what is the third episode in this narrative, rather than expecting infinite need to continue to be the dominant theme, we should instead interpret what follows in light of what we have already seen. That Israel did not understand the scriptures that they had, and that Jesus is the final interpretive authority of the scriptures.
The crazy thing is, that in this episode, we are going to see something that nobody saw coming. It is the ultimate bait and switch. The greatest Trojan Horse. The best fakeout in history… and it was all revealed in the Word of God, which has been in the hands of the Israelites for hundreds of years… but nobody… and I mean nobody saw it coming.
And it all started with… A Fake Parade.
I’m in Matthew 21 starting in verse 1. I’ll be reading from the NET this morning but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
[Slide 2 (blank for Video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGzvQT-HYP8 ] Mohammed Ali was one of the greatest boxers that has ever lived. One of the reasons for this, is that he was one of the fastest and most well-conditioned boxers of his time. He could use a tactic that he called “rope a dope” where he would allow his opponent to continue to try to hit him, while he continued to evade being hit. In this, his opponent would tire himself out, throwing many punches that would not connect. After this, Ali, would stop defending and go on the offensive often landing many successive strikes which would overwhelm his already tired foes.
Such a tactic has been used throughout history, to appear to be weak, hurt, or otherwise communicate that you are in a state that your opponent can use to their advantage, only to reveal that instead, you are only pretending.
And it just happened right before your eyes in this text. Did you see it? Did you see Jesus rope a dope here? No? Well, let me see if I can show you.
I.) Jesus came fulfilling prophesy of the Messiah, so we must celebrate God’s grace to us. (1-7)
a. [Slide 3-4] 1-3 - Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples 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. If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”
i. Although we are unsure where Bethphage is, we know exactly where the Mount of Olives is.
ii. The Mount of Olives is actually a ridge on the east side of Jerusalem that is about 100 to 150 feet above Jerusalem, which as we learned a couple weeks ago, is about 2500 feet above sea level. So this is not really a mountain per se, but an elevation in terrain. And as the name suggests, it was known for the unusual number of olive trees that grew on it.
iii. From now on, like the first few chapters of Matthew, these closing chapters put great emphasis on Old Testament Prophesy being fulfilled. But not every old testament reference is quoted by Matthew, nor does he say it is fulfillment of prophesy. But this Mount of Olives reference is no doubt alluding to Zechariah 14, where the Messiah comes, touches his toe on the Mount of Olives, and the mountain splits in two, giving Israel a chance to flee from their enemies.
iv. What is obvious to our eyes in hindsight, is that Jesus would not accomplish the prophesy in Zechariah 14 at this time. However, what is quite interesting is the fact that so much in this passage is referencing Old Testament prophesy that either points to the future physical kingdom of Israel on earth or was interpreted in the first century to point to a future physical kingdom of Israel on earth.
v. In other words, this morning we are going to encounter several Old Testament passages in this section that either talk about or were thought to have talked about what is still future to us here in the 21st century. Yet Jesus intentionally does these actions (according to Matthew) in order to fulfill prophesy.
vi. And in these first 3 verses here, we see an overt example. Jesus asks His disciples to go and get him a foal donkey, or a colt, or a young donkey and its mother. He then tells them that if someone asks, “why are you taking my donkey?” just tell them that the Lord has need of them.
1. Lord here, need not reference God, it simply would be a phrase saying… the master of the donkey has need of it. But, who is the master of every donkey?
2. Secondly, it was not common to ride on the back of a young donkey in first century Israel. The colt’s mother would often be ridden next to the colt to keep the young one calm, but to ride the colt while the mother is unridden, was not common at all. In other words, no one did this. Furthermore, Jesus is not doing this because he wanted to get to Jerusalem quickly, or even because it would have been easier to ride in rather than walk. He is only a couple miles away, and hasn’t ridden a donkey up to this point. WHY DOES JESUS DO THIS?
vii. Well Matthew tells us…
b. [Slide 5] 4-5 – This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “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.’”
i. So what is prophesied here? And where are all these prophesies coming from?
ii. [Slide 6] Genesis 49:10-12 is our first clue.
1. Here we see Jacob’s prophesy about the coming King from Judah that will rule forever, whom all the nations will obey.
2. Here also we see this scepter binding a foal and colt TO a vine. An image that is very unclear until we recognize Jesus calling himself the vine.
3. In the later stages of this prophesy what is clear is that first he will bring war (washing his garments in wine and in the blood of grapes being another unclear reference to war against the ungodly)
4. Then finally a reference to a time of great abundance where his eyes are red from drinking wine and teeth white with drinking milk. This is a symbolic way to say peace and prosperity.
5. So in Genesis, this depicts a warrior King bound to a colt, who destroys his enemies, and brings a time of perfect and prosperous peace.
iii. [Slide 7] Isaiah 62:11 – where Matthew pulls the first phrase of his quotation “Tell the people of Zion”
1. The context of this entire passage is that of Israel being restored from captivity of the Assyrians and Babylonians.
2. Then in verse 11 begins what is clearly a messianic context, indicating a specific individual who will come and deliver Israel.
3. The context however, does NOT say or indicate that the deliverer will wage war. In fact, his posture will be that of defense.
4. He will restore the Israelites and give them the titles “The Holy Ones Protected by the Lord” and “Sought After, City Not Abandoned”
5. In other words, the overt reference Matthew states, is about deliverance, but not from earthly enemies or nations, but of a spiritual oppression. That He would make them holy, protected, and comforted.
iv. [Slide 8] Zechariah 9:9 – Is the last half of the prophesy but some interesting things are omitted from Matthew’s quotation.
1. “Look, your King is coming to you, unassuming and seated on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” – Again this is in a context of the Salvation of Israel.
2. It speaks overtly about the coming of Zion’s or Jerusalem’s King.
3. However, this is not a context of warfare but of peace.
4. Verse 10 talks about the removing of chariots and bringing peace to the nations, and then in verse 14 the Lord appears and brings war against wicked nations. So the question is, who is this King that arrives in peace ahead of the Lord who brings war?
5. And why does Matthew omit the following verses and only quotes verse 9?
6. And why does Matthew omit the phrase about the King coming in righteousness and victory in verse 9.
v. These three contexts speak of a time that God will restore His people spiritually. Establishing peace with Him not with other nations. Matthew does not quote Zech 9:10 which speaks of the peace with the nations. It is clear that in prophesy sometimes things have double fulfillments. Victory but of another kind, peace, but of another kind. This gives us a big clue as to how God gave prophesy. He gave it, jumbled. Mixed. Often in one sentence something is fulfilled while the next is left unfulfilled. Why Would God do this?
vi. Jesus overtly gets a donkey’s colt to fulfill the prophesy, and very clearly reveal Himself as the King, and Deliverer of these passages. But is it to go to war, like in Genesis, or is it in peace like in Isaiah and Zechariah?
vii. The “secrecy” of the Jesus’ identity has been lifted. Where before he cautioned people not to tell others of His healing them, but now Jesus has made himself known and we are left to wonder… why? Why now? And why like this?
viii. Why now is He so clearly taking up this Messianic identity? Which one is He bringing, war or peace? Why did God shuffle prophesy together?
ix. We will answer all this before we leave today, but let’s finish Jesus’ dealings with His disciples.
c. [Slide 9] 6-7 – So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
i. So the disciples went and did as Jesus said. In the other gospel accounts we see that Jesus’ statement about the lord wanting the animals was not arbitrary since they did encounter people asking what they were doing taking the animals.
ii. These cloaks are the outer cloaks that they would wear.
iii. This would be a makeshift saddle, and also convey worship and subordination. Giving your cloak to someone to sit on or step on is a sign of submission. Like to a King.
iv. When this text says Jesus sat upon them… it is referencing the cloaks. NO Jesus was not riding in on both the colt and his mama, somehow standing upon them both like a Hollywood movie stuntman.
d. [Slide 10 (blank)] So in these first 7 verses, we have a lot of questions to answer. Why does God shuffle together prophesy about Jesus’ first coming and second coming? Why would Jesus wait until a week before He is killed to clearly identify Himself with these prophesies as the Messiah of God? And finally, a question that every Jew should have been asking, how can the Messiah be sent in peace and then war? If you are oppressed, wouldn’t it go war, then peace? Wouldn’t God make war against the oppressing nations and then bring peace – like it says in other Old Testament prophecies?
We are actually going to let these questions hang in the air. At least for a little while. I know, that is like the meanest thing I could do to you… but you won’t have to wait too much longer. What we really need to ask ourselves is, why were the Jews not confused by the prophesies of the coming Messiah? Why did they not also think, “Hey, I wonder how God’s Messiah is going to suffer, die, and yet live? I wonder why some passages of prophesy talk about the Messiah coming in war then peace, and other passages say He is coming in peace then war? Hey, what are these prophesies about the stone being rejected?” But as far as we can tell from History… The Jews’ eschatology was pretty simple. They had it all figured out. And the crowd’s response, although showing some variation of understanding, makes it clear what they assumed would be true of the Messiah’s coming. Let’s look.
II.) Most were convinced that Jesus came as a warrior King, so we must celebrate God’s grace to us. (8-11)
a. [Slide 11] 8 - A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
i. They make a path for his colt to walk upon, similar occurrences happen in the Old Testament when a King is anointed, as in the case of Jehu in II Kings 9 or of a great general returning home from victory as in I Maccabees 13:51 .
ii. It is clear what they thought of Jesus.
iii. This first group referenced is one who is convinced that Jesus is the King of Israel. He has come to deliver them from the clutches of their enemies. He is a Warrior King!
b. [Slide 12] 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!”
i. Hosanna – used to be an expression meaning “God save us” but by the 1st century it had lost that meaning and was simply an expression of praise.
ii. They are quoting from Psalm 118: 25-26 –In the psalm’s early stages it talks about God’s deliverance from the nations, even stating that the psalmist will not die but God will give Him victory… however, then he goes on to talk about how the Lord’s gates only permit the godly to enter. And how the psalmist will enter through those gates of the just King, who is his deliverer, a stone that has been rejected that will be a cornerstone. Then the quote here in Matthew, from verse 25 and 26 respectively indicates a future salvation that will be celebrated with joyous parades.
iii. The crowd’s statement here in Matthew is highly messianic (including a reference to the son of David). Revealing of course, that they think he is the deliverer from earlier on in the psalm.
iv. Such rhetoric has an immediate impact on the crowd in Jerusalem.
c. [Slide 13] 10 – As He entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar, saying, “Who is this?”
i. The same terms are used in Matthew when Jesus was born.
ii. All of Jerusalem is stirred up.
iii. The fever pitch reaches an all-time high. Panic and anticipation is filling the air.
iv. But mostly – it is fraught with uncertainty.
v. Hence the question… Who is this dude riding on a colt?
d. [Slide 14] 11 – And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
i. Given the strong statements made in their proclamation, you might expect the crowd to be extremely specific, identifying this man on a colt as the King of the Jews.
ii. But when those stirred up by the procession inquire as to what is going on, the crowds confess only that Jesus is a prophet from Galilee.
iii. Perhaps alluding to Deut 18:18 about the prophet like Moses… but even if this was the case, it is woefully unspecific given the clarity in this section, let alone the context of Matthew and all that has been revealed about Christ.
e. So the people of Israel are caught in various levels of confusion and understanding. The long and the short of it is, that their eschatology assumed that the Messiah of God would come to set them free and reign in an earthly kingdom forever. In other words, it had nothing to do with their spiritual selves and everything to do with their nation.
[Slide 15 (blank)] But I have a question for us to ponder. Given our hindsight. Given the fact that we know Jesus did not come first to set up an earthly kingdom, but instead to establish His Spiritual Kingdom over the hearts of men and women of all nations. We know this to be true. We see the prophesies from the Old Testament and recognized that some things in one sentence are fulfilled while the things in the next sentence are yet to be fulfilled. My question is, do you think Jesus, or God the Father, did not realize that the children of Israel had a messed up eschatology? What I mean is, Jesus chooses some awfully vague signs that He is the Messiah, which leads, quite predictably, for the people of Israel, and especially the religious elite of Israel, to assume that He was the eternal King, the Scepter of Judah, The Son of David, The coming Messiah...
Do you realize that Jesus does not overtly deny that that He is the Messiah that will bring with Him the Kingdom of God to earth? At least not until He is questioned privately by Pilate and says “My Kingdom is not of this world” Even still, Pilate exits and still calls him the king of the Jews. The Magi sought the king of the Jews. EVERYONE WAS LOOKING for a King to come as a military leader to free the Jews from Rome.
So why did Jesus not correct them? Why did God wait to send His Messiah in a point in history when the only thing they would want Him for, was a political and military leader?
We are left with so many questions from this passage.
Why did God mix prophesies together? Why did Jesus keep His identity secret and never correct them and say that He wasn’t coming to reign on earth? It is clear that the people of Israel, leadership to commoner, all thought that that was what the Messiah was supposed to do.
Which makes us wonder… why would Jesus act like He was coming to rule Israel… Why would He act like He was riding in, this triumphant entry into Jerusalem, knowing full well what most people would think?
Some would say that Jesus actually did come for this purpose but the Israelites rejected Him so He changed His mind. But we know that Jesus told His disciples that He had come to die. This was a missional revelation to them not simply a factual one. So Jesus wasn’t going to die as a backup plan if no one accepted Him, but as THE plan of God all along. Nevertheless everyone, including His disciples didn’t think that is why He came.
[Slide 16] Turn with me to I Corinthians 2:7-8. And I think this one passage will unlock all the answers we need.
Not only is it plain here, that the people who executed Jesus are not the sole inheritors of blame, but also the rulers of this age. This phrase is used of the dark entities and demonic forces that govern this world. And if they had known that Jesus’ plan all along was to free Mankind from sin and death through the cross of Christ, they would have stopped it from happening. Instead, they were used to accomplish their own demise. Satan and His minions knew God’s plan was to take back the world that He had allowed them to rule over. What they did not know, was how. How would God take it back? And it never entered their foggiest dreams, that God would kill His own Son, to permanently disarm them and free HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR OWN SIN.
What is given the title in your bible “the Triumphal Entry” should actually be labeled The Fake Parade. It was prophesied but misunderstood. And God knew it would be. Everybody, on earth and in the shadowy spiritual world, everyone thought it was the triumphal entry of the King, come to break the forces of darkness by some divine war or even just to break the power of Rome.
But as the week progressed, everyone turned on Him, as the forces of darkness poisoned everyone to do.
So this Fake Parade, is Jesus going through the motions, fulfilling aspects of prophesy… to ensure that Satan and his minions think, that God is throwing down the gauntlet. Which of course He is… but they would have never guessed that Christ’s Kingship, authority, and citizenry of His Kingdom, would be secured by His own death at their hands.
How heartbreaking for the King of Kings, to watch as God’s Chosen nation celebrates Him out of time. We know that one day, they will celebrate His coming again. And what a glorious day that will be. Let’s read about it.
[Slide 17-23] Look at Revelation 19:11-21
Does that sound more like a Great Warrior King, riding in to deliver His people?
[Slide 24 (blank)] So how do we apply these truths to our lives? How then shall we live?
If you are not of Christ friends… the first entry of this King was humble and peaceful as He suffered the wrath of God for you to bring peace between you and God. But one day He will come again, not on a colt but on a white horse, not humble but powerful, not peacefully but to war. And at that time, God’s wrath will fall on all who do not wear His name. There is still time to follow This Great King. It will cost you everything… but honestly, after reading His real triumphant entry, does that even matter?
If you are a follower of Christ today… friends… this should just overwhelm you with awe and thanksgiving for your God. That He went through all this, to bring glory to Himself by bringing many sons to glory.
Friends, the God of this universe has won the victory. He has roped the dopes of darkness. He has set us free.
I can’t think of any other application to this… that to simply Praise Him for His sacrifice.
To close out the service I’d like to have a few people pray. To specifically spend time thanking the Lord for sitting on that colt, knowing full well that in a week He’d bear the full wrath of God on a cross for you… and for me.
He should have rode in on a great horse – but he rode that colt for you. He bore that shame for me. He tasted that celebration knowing that it was premature and misplaced.
I’d like to spend time in prayer, marveling over the master plan of the Father who duped the enemy into defeating himself.
Who would like to pray to thank God for all He has done?