Skip to Main Content

Matthew 21:1-11 BLB-HFBC

Matthew Chapter 20 Summary:  Parable: vineyard owner pays workers a denarius for a day's work. Other workers are employed at different times of the day. All receive the same amount, despite the protestations of those who have worked all day. Many are called, but few are chosen. Jesus again predicts his death and Resurrection. The mother of James and John asks Jesus for her sons to sit either side of Him in His kingdom. Jesus says that the place is not His to give. True greatness lies in service. Jesus heals two blind men, who call to Him as the son of David.

Study Guide for Matthew 21 - The Beginning of Jesus' Last Week

A. The triumphal entry.

1. (Mat 21:1-6) Jesus instructs His disciples regarding preparation for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

[1] 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.

a. When they drew near Jerusalem: Jesus knew that the religious leaders were going to arrest Him and condemn Him and mock Him and scourge Him and deliver Him to the Romans for crucifixion (Matthew 20:19). Yet He had the courage to not only enter Jerusalem, but to enter in as public way as possible. This contrasts to His previous pattern of suppressing publicity.

i. If Jesus had not deliberately suppressed the popular enthusiasm over Him and His credentials as Messiah - if Jesus had wanted it, this would have happened long ago and many times.

ii. "Jesus could not have chosen a more dramatic moment; it was into a city surging with people keyed up with religious expectations that he came." (Barclay)

iii. "The applause and the crowds were not manipulated; they would have occurred in any case. But the ride on a colt, because it was planned, could only be an acted parable, a deliberate act of self-disclosure ... Secrecy was being lifted." (Carson)

b. You will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her: Jesus would ride upon the younger of these animals, the colt. He told the disciples how they would find these animals, and instructed them to bring both animals.

i. "Either the owner was himself a secret disciples, or some awe of the Lord Jesus was on his mind; but he would right joyfully consent to lend the ass and its foal for the purpose for which they were required." (Spurgeon)

ii. The Hebrew text of Zechariah 9 mentions one animal, not two. "If we assume that Matthew understood Hebrew, the full quotation affirms that Jesus rode on the 'colt,' not its mother. Mark and Luke say the animal was so young that it had never been ridden. In the midst, then, of this excited crowd, an unbroken animal remains calm under the hands of the Messiah who controls nature." (Carson)

iii. "Mark tells us that the colt had never before been ridden (Mark 11:2), so that it would be only prudent to bring its mother as well to reassure it among the noisy crowd." (France)

iv. "Hath need of them: not for any weariness: he who had travelled on foot from Galilee to Bethany, could have gone the other two miles; but that he might enter into Jerusalem as was prophesied of him, Zechariah 9:9." (Poole)

v. "What a singular conjunction of words is here, 'the Lord' and 'hath need!' Jesus, without laying aside his sovereignty, had taken a nature full of needs; yet, being in heed, he was still the Lord and could command his subjects and requisition their property." (Spurgeon)

c. All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: Here, Jesus deliberately worked to fulfill prophecy, especially the prophecy of Daniel's Seventy Weeks, which many feel Jesus fulfilled to the exact day on His triumphal entry (Daniel 9:24-27).

i. "It is possible that Matthew presents these verses as having been spoken by Jesus." (Carson)

d. Your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey: Jesus came to Jerusalem in humility, yet with appropriate dignity. Instead of coming on a horse as a conquering general, He came on a colt, as was customary for royalty. He came to Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace.

i. "Asses were of old beasts that great persons used to ride on, Judges 10:4; 12:14. But after Solomon's time the Jews got a breed of horses; so as only poor people rode upon asses, mostly reserved for burdens." (Poole)

ii. "Therefore for those with eyes to see, Jesus was not only proclaiming his messiahship and his fulfillment of Scripture but showing the kind of peace-loving approach he was now making to the city." (Carson)

iii. "This entry into Jerusalem has been termed the triumph of Christ. It was indeed the triumph of humility over pride and worldly grandeur; of poverty over affluence; and of meekness and gentleness over rage and malice." (Clarke)

2. (Mat 21:7-11) Jesus receives and encourages adoration as the Messiah.

[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."

a. Laid their clothes on them ... spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road: All this was done to honor Jesus as a great, triumphant person coming into Jerusalem in the season of Passover.

i. Wiseman says of the spreading out of garments for Jehu in 2 Kings 9:13: "The act of spreading out the garment was one of recognition, loyalty and promise of support." (Wiseman)

ii. "Carrying palm and other branches was emblematical of victory and success. See 1 Maccabees 13:51; 2 Maccabees 10:7; and Revelation 7:9." (Clarke)

              On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the year one hundred and seventy-one, the Jews entered the citadel with shouts of jubilation, waving of palm branches, the music of harps and cymbals and lyres, and the singing of hymns and canticles, because a great enemy of Israel had been destroyed. (1 Maccabees 13:51)

iii. In one way, this crowd was glorious. "It is a mark of Christ's presence when the church becomes enthusiastic. We sometimes hear complaints about revivals being too exciting, perhaps the censure is deserved, but I would like to see a little of the fault. This age does not generally sin in the direction of being too excited concerning divine things. We have erred so long on the other side that, perhaps, a little excess in the direction of fervor might not be the worst of all calamities; at any rate, I would not fear to try it." (Spurgeon)

iv. In another way, this crowd was ridiculous - in worldly eyes. "Is this thine host? Are these thy battalions? Oh strange kingdom, without an army! Most strange King, who wears no sword, but rides along in this midst of his people conquering and to conquer a strange kingdom, in which there is the palm without the sword, the victory without the battle. No blood, no tears, no devastation, no burned cities, no mangled bodies! King of peace, King of peace, this is thy dominion!" (Spurgeon)

v. "Why, if Pilate himself had heard about it he would have said - 'Ah! There is nothing much to fear from that. There is no fear that that man will ever upset Caesar; there is no fear that he will ever overturn an army. Where are their swords? There is not a sword among them! They have no cries that sound like rebellion; their songs are only some religious verses taken out of the Psalms.' 'Oh!' says he, 'the whole thing is contemptible and ridiculous.'" (Spurgeon)

b. Hosanna to the Son of David! This was open Messianic adoration of Jesus. They look to Jesus for salvation (Hosanna means "save now!" and was addressed to kings, as in 2 Samuel 14:4 and 2 Kings 6:26). They openly give Jesus the titles appropriate for the Messiah (Son of David ... He who comes in the name of the LORD).

i. Jesus received and indeed encouraged this worship. Again, this was because this is the day that the LORD has made (Psalm 118:24), the day when the Messiah came as Savior to Jerusalem in fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy.

ii. " 'Hosanna' transliterates the Hebrew expression that originally was a cry for help: 'Save!' ... In time it became an invocation of blessing and even an acclimation ... The people praise God in the highest heavens for sending the Messiah and, if 'Hosanna' retains some of its original force, also cry to him for deliverance." (Carson)

iii. "Essentially it is a people's cry for deliverance and for help in the day of their trouble; it is an oppressed people's cry to their saviour and their king." (Barclay)

iv. "'Vox populi, vox Dei' they used to say; but the saying is false: the voice of the people may seem to be the voice of God when they shout 'Hosanna in the highest'; but whose voice is it when they yell out, Crucify him, crucify him'?" (Spurgeon)

c. When He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved: Jesus also shows that He wasn't afraid of chief priests and Pharisees. He knew they were plotting to kill Him, yet He came openly to the city as Messiah.

i. "When the Magi came looking for the King of Jews, 'all Jerusalem' was troubled (Matthew 2:3). Now when the king arrives all the city is stirred." (France)

ii. "How strange is it that these same people ... should, about five days after, change their hosannas for, Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him! How fickle is the multitude! Even when they get right, there is but little hope that they will continue so long." (Clarke)

iii. It was here, before He entered the city, that He looked over the city and wept, knew the judgment that would come upon Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).

iv. "Our Lord loves his people to be glad. His tears he kept to himself, as he wept over Jerusalem; but the gladness he scattered all around, so that even the boys and girls in the streets of Jerusalem made the temple courts to ring with their merry feet and gladsome songs." (Spurgeon)

d. This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee: This continues the earlier identification of Jesus with Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). It would sound strange to many - especially to the religious establishment - that a prophet would come from the obscure and unnoted city of Nazareth.

i. "When our Lord grants revivals to his church, the congregations and the multitude outside begin to ask, 'Wherefore this stir? What meaneth all this? Who is this Christ, and what is his salvation?' This spirit of inquiry is eminently desirable. It is just now a matter to be sought for by importunate prayer." (Spurgeon)

ii. "They had not profited so much, or made so far progress in the mystery of Christ, as to know him to have been born a Bethlehemite." (Trapp)


Lesson: Matthew 21:1-11

Motivation: In answer to the question "Who is Jesus?" people unfamiliar with Scripture often reply "He was agood man, a wise teacher or even a prophet." (Mt 16:14). But, as CS Lewis (and later Josh McDowell) often said and wrote, Jesus can't be dismissed as only a prophet because He claimed to be God. He was either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord (mad, bad, or God). In this passage, we see Him portrayed as the triumphal King and ruling Lord.

I.     The King's Prerogative

        "When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, 2 telling them, 'Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.' 4 This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: 5 Tell Daughter Zion, "Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden." (1-5)

A.    Background:  Historians note that as many as 2.5 million worshippers may have been present in Jerusalem to offer a quarter of a million sacrificial lambs on this Passover (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, p. 238).  What better time for the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" to make His triumphal appearance? (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7). 

B.    Bethphage: This was a small village near Bethany on the Jericho side of the Mt. of Olives. In Zechariah's prophecy of the Messiah's triumph (chapter 14), the Mt. of Olives plays a prominent role.

C.    Beast: A donkey was the mount of peace for a King in contrast to a warhorse (Rev. 19:11-16). HCSB: p. 1653: 21:2-3 "Jesus may have made previous arrangements to use the animals mentioned here, but since Matthew often refers to Jesus' supernatural knowledge (17:27; 20:17-19), it is also possible that Jesus used supernatural knowledge here, in which case He has commandeered the animals in a show of messianic authority."

D.    Belief: The Gospel of Matthew is often referenced as the 'royal gospel' because of its emphasis on Jesus kingship, from the gifts of the Magi (2:11) to His worldwide commission (28:18-20). In this quotation from Zechariah 9:9, Matthew is careful to note that the prophecy specifies Israel's King will be riding on a donkey colt. HCSB: p. 1581: 21:4-5 "The formula that Matthew used to introduce the OT quotation affirms that God spoke through the OT prophets.  The quotation is a combination of one line from Is 62:11 and excerpts from Zch 9:9.  The first text refers to the coming of the Lord while the second refers to the approach of the divine King.  Both texts imply Jesus' deity and messiahship."

II.    The King's Celebration

        "The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. 9 Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting: 'Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One! Hosanna in the highest heaven!'" (6-9)

A.    Pursuit (6) Although Jesus' instructions were somewhat unorthodox, the disciples trusted His words and obeyed his commands.

B.    Perspective (7) HCSB: p. 1653: 21:7 "The mother donkey was led alongside her untamed colt in order to calm it.  The robes of bystanders were draped across the backs of both animals, serving as makeshift decorative saddles.  The words He sat on them refer to Jesus sitting atop the robes, not to His riding both animals simultaneously."

C.    Passage (8) HCSB: p. 1653: 21:8 "The scattering of robes and branches in Jesus' path recalls the way in which kings entered their royal cities (2 Kg 9:13).

D.    Praise (9) HCSB: p. 1653: 21:9 "These words of celebration echo Ps 118:25-26.  The people pleaded for salvation from God and blessed God for sending a deliverer who came in the name of the Lord.

III.   The People's Confusion

        "When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, 'Who is this?' 11 And the crowds kept saying, 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee!'" (10-11). Matthew shares at least three ironies about the crowd:

A.    'the whole city was shaken'- Later Jerusalem would be shaken physically (27:51), but this verse refers to an emotional upheaval over the entering King. The last time Matthew records Jerusalem in such a state was when the Magi were searching for a new King (2:2-3).

B.    'Who is this?' When Paul addressed Felix and Agrippa in Acts 26:26, he said "For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly.  For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner." By the time of Paul's appearance in court, Christianity was much bigger and more well-known. Yet, Jesus' works prior to His triumphal entry were not exactly 'done in a corner'. While Matthew records only this appearance in Jerusalem, Luke records two others (2:22, 2:41-42) as does John (2:13, 7:10, 14). In addition, Jesus attracted massive crowds in Galilee (Mt. 14:13-21, Mk. 8). Unfortunately, people often don't know about Jesus because they don't want to know Jesus and lose control of their lives.

C.    'This is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee!' Sometimes heresy is an outright lie, but often it is veiled in a half truth. In fact, Jesus was a prophet; Revelation 19:10 records "the testimony about Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Yet, to say that Jesus is only a prophet is to hide the fact that He is God. To say He was from Nazareth obscures His Messianic birth in Bethlehem. Scripture is consistent in equating Jesus with God. (John 10:30; Col. 1:15; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 1:1).

IV. Temple Cleansing (21:12-17) Jesus was not the one to hide from a challenge.  After three years of training the twelve in Galilee, He now boldly confronts sin (13) and comforts the sick (14).

A.    Corruption HCSB: p. 1654: 21:12 "Since Roman currency had idolatrous images stamped on it, the temple accepted only idol-free Tyrian currency.  Money changers exchanged pagan coins for acceptable currency for a fee.  Merchants sold sacrificial animals to those who had traveled long distances.  Doves were sacrificed by poor pilgrims who could not afford lambs (Lv 5:7).  Although the merchants and money changers normally performed their services outside the temple precincts, they occasionally set up shop in the court of the Gentiles."

B.    Cleansing HCSB: p.1654: 21:13 "Jesus' quote is from Is 56:7 and Jr 7:11.  The commotion in the Court made the temple unsuitable as a house of prayer.  Zechariah 6:12-13 foretold that Messiah would purify the temple.  See also Zch 14:21."

C.    Community HCSB: p.1654: 21:14 "Evidence suggests that first-century Jews extended the demands of Lv 21:16-20 to exclude handicapped persons from entering the temple (2 Sm 5:8).  By healing the blind and lame, Jesus identified Himself as Messiah (Is 35:5-6). By doing so in the temple complex, He demonstrated that the handicapped were welcomed by a gracious God."

D.    Children HCSB: p.1654: 21:15-16 "Both the wonders performed by Jesus and the words spoken by the children identified Jesus as the Son of David and Messiah.  Jesus argued from Ps 8:2 that the children's celebration was appropriate and divinely inspired.  After all, God had prepared praise from the mouths of children."


1.    Jesus is more than a prophet, He is God.

2.    Because He is Lord, He commands our obedience.

3.    Prayer isn't about trying to conform God to our will but rather to be conformed to His.