'Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'" The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee." 'Matthew 21:1-11, ESV
As the disciples approached Jerusalem, along with Jesus, things were tense among Jesus’ inner circle.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, went to Jesus, along with their mother and made an audacious request. Their mother kneeled in front of Jesus and said, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” (Matthew 20:21 NLT) Of course, when the other 10 heard about this they were seriously perturbed.
Naturally, James and John made their request just after Jesus predicted His death for the third time. Jesus told His disciples:
“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” ()
Jesus’ words troubled His disciples. Jesus comforted them with more words, and so we have sayings like “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” () But, the disciples were not confident. They had trouble trusting. Their hearts were still troubled. As an example of where their hearts were, we have the words of Thomas. When Jesus was going to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead, just a short time before this, Thomas said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." () Before this, Peter had rebuked Jesus for saying He was to be crucified saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." ()
The disciples had seriously mixed feelings. They could not accept Jesus’ words that He had to die. They could not understand what He meant about being raised from the dead. And at the same time, they were competing with each other for the places of honor in the Kingdom they expected the Messiah to establish.
They knew something was about to happen. Jesus warned them that when they got to Jerusalem He would be handed over to the Gentiles. Jesus had recently fled Jerusalem because the Jews tried to kill Him with rocks. At the present time, He had His face set resolutely on going to Jerusalem.
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Jericho. Matthew tells us that a great crowd followed Jesus as He left Jericho. (Matthew 20:29) Just as He left the city, two blind men yelled for His attention. Jesus healed them. The blind men joined the crowd following Jesus.
John 12 tells us that 6 days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the town where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. Jesus and His inner circle stopped and had dinner there. Martha served; of course, Martha served. And Mary poured very expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair.
Judas was pushed a little closer to the moment of betrayal as he expressed outrage over such a waste of costly perfume.
The next day, as a large crowd gathered and Jesus set out for Jerusalem, fear, dread, anticipation and excitement were all mixed together in the hearts of Jesus’ inner circle. They had two miles to go to be in Jerusalem, and Jesus turned to two of His disciples and said, “Go into the village in front of you...” (Matthew 21:1 ESV)
Jesus had a plan. He received the plan from His Father. He said:
Jesus had told His disciples the outline of His plan. He was to be crucified and rise the third day, but He did not tell them the specifics. At this time, His command involved only the next steps. One senses the immediacy of the command in that He told them “Go to the village that is in front of you.”
In one sense, this would have been an intimate moment with Jesus, as much as one could have in a crowd. Jesus singled out two disciples. He pulled them aside. He motioned to them. None of the accounts tell us how He signaled to get their attention. However, these two were chosen for this task. In the midst of all the excitement of what was happening, these two had a task to complete, a job to do and a role to fill.
We have been singled out. Jesus says that no one comes to Him unless the Father draws him. (John 6:44) Jesus has called us aside and given us a job to do. In the New Testament, the word that we translate “Church” is “ἐκκλησίαν” (ekklesian). This word is a compound word made up of the word “ek” which means “out of,” “from” or “to,” and the word “kaleo” which means “to call.” The English word “Church” comes from the Greek word “kyriakos” meaning “belonging to the Lord.” From our beginning, the Church has been identified as those who are called out by the Lord to be separated from the world. Just as He singled out the two disciples and gave them a job to do, He has singled us out and given us a job to do. To them He said, “Go.” To us He says, “Go.”
He also gave them a basic outline of His plan. He told them more than once that He was going to Jerusalem, that He would be crucified, and that He would rise from the dead after three days. He has given us a basic outline of His plan as well. He has told us that He will come again. He has told us that there will be a 7 year period known as the great tribulation, and after that He will imprison the devil and his angels and will set up His kingdom on earth and reign for a thousand years. At the end of the thousand years, the devil will be released and lead a great rebellion. Then the end will come, and God will make a new heaven and a new earth.
We do not know the specifics of the plan.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the crowd singing praises and shouting “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” many thought that was the time He would set up His kingdom. In our day, when the stars line up or the political landscape changes, we wonder if this could be the time of His promised return. Those that thought Jesus was the Messiah were right, and those that thought His entry into Jerusalem was significant were right. However, those that thought He would set up His kingdom were wrong. They were only half right. Matthew tells us:
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'" ()
The believers recognized the King, but they did not understand the death and resurrection part. They did not understand the bringing salvation to the nations part. The unbelievers saw a huge problem that was getting out of hand and needed to be reined in and brought under control. Everybody had their own agenda. Peter had his agenda. He was going to fight and die next to his Lord. James and John had their agenda. They were going to find a way to sit in the places of honor in the coming kingdom. Judas had his agenda. He was going to be rich, rich, rich when the kingdom was set up. The Jews had their agenda. They were going to keep the place and their country.
God’s plan was accomplished. When the disciples went to get the donkey and her colt, they found them just as Jesus said they would be. When someone asked them why they were untying the donkey and her colt, things happened just as Jesus said they would. All the two disciples had to do was go to where Jesus said to go and do what He said to do. The hymn writer got it right, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”
When we come to the Lord, we accept Him as Lord. This means we give up our agenda and accept His agenda. That is what Lord means.
We do not know what is coming next. Today’s crowd waving palm branches may be tomorrow’s crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!”
Jesus told the two disciples to “Go into the village in front of you.” He told us to “Go into all the world and make disciples.”
The disciples had a rough outline of what was going to happen, but they did not know quite what. But, that was okay because Jesus knew. They did know and expect that great things were happening. We have a rough outline of what is going to happen, but we do not know the details. But, that is okay because Jesus knows. We do know and expect that great things are happening. The important thing is for us to trust and obey.
He has said, “Go!”
Are we going?
Perhaps the village in front of you involves giving more for the advancement of kingdom work. Or, perhaps the village in front of you means inviting your neighbor to Easter Sunrise and breakfast. Or, perhaps the village in front of you involves accepting from the hand of a loving Heavenly Father the suffering that He has allowed in your life.
Obedience is not bringing my agenda to God and expecting Him to bless it. That day, Jerusalem sang the praises of the King and paved the way before Him with cloaks and palm branches, but they failed to bow before the King. It is not enough to sing Hosanna. We must also bow before the King. We must go when He says go and do what He says.
We are privileged to sing Hosanna. It is a great blessing to sing Hosanna. It is an even greater blessing to do His will and be given a job and a place in what He is doing. He has called us aside. He has singled us out. He has told us, “Go into the village in front of you.”