Matthew 21:1-11 Part 1

From the Gospel of John we learn that the things in our text occurred on the first day of the week (which we call Sunday) before Jesus’ crucifixion on Friday – the sixth day.

Nothing is said about the twenty miles or so from Jericho to Jerusalem – we simply find Jesus approaching the city!  But from the delta of the River, this road was steadily upward – and winding.  And when it came to the city it didn’t go straight up and into the wall.

Once it approached the city above from the southeast, it curved to the northeast under the walls and under Solomon’s Porch.  And it proceeded through the vicinity of two villages there to the northeast of Jerusalem – both of which were situated on a hill called Mount Olivet.

Those two villages were called Beit-ania and Beit-phage’ – transliterated Bethany and Bethphage in English.  Bethany means the house of dates; and Bethphage means the house of figs.  At this point in the history of Israel, the area still grew many trees and plants naturally; and there was also much cultivation.  But after the destruction of Jerusalem the entire countryside became a wilderness in which nothing much grew – except scrub brush!  And that’s kind of the way it is today, except in those areas where modern scientific farming is being done.

But fig trees, date palms, olive trees and many other non-food plants were common then; it wasn’t (as it is pictured today) an open, desert-like wasteland where all you see is scrub, sand and rocks!

Now, our Matthew text says that Jesus came into Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, and He sent two disciples over to the next village (“the one before you,” the text says).  That would have been Bethany.

Now, if you were to read the other accounts you would find that at this point Lazarus has died; and Jesus raises him from the dead.  Matthew doesn’t include that in his text!  And that makes me think that, even though he doesn’t name himself, Matthew was one of the two disciples that Jesus sent over to Bethany; so having gone to Bethany, he wasn’t there as an eye-witness to Lazarus’ resurrection – and therefore didn’t include it.  (This occurred on the first day of the week – Resurrection day!)  That was Matthew’s pattern – being an eyewitness – along with the fact that, once chosen by Jesus to be a disciple, he never mentions himself again in the Gospel.

But, nevertheless, we have to remember that Matthew’s purpose is to write the Gospel; and his peculiar focus is the Kingship of Christ!  So his narrative goes straight to the entry of the King into Jerusalem.  That’s the primary event of his Gospel text at this point – with all of its prophecy-fulfilling significance.  His interest is the King and His Kingdom!  If he had been writing a sequential history, instead of the Gospel, his record would have been volumes – with all the dates and names and places.  And in that case we wouldn’t have this wonderful concentration on the prophecy-fulfilling “significance” of the events of the Gospel.  We would have “facts”, but not Gospel!

Which brings us right back to the text – because it is absolutely full of indications of the design of God for the salvation of His people and the world!  So full that it is sometimes difficult to get it all in – in some sort of understandable order!

But the first thing we notice, here in verse one, is Matthew’s choice of words.  Instead of describing what Jesus does and says, here, in any one of a number of ways, he says “then Jesus sent two disciples forth….”  In preparation of the great event which is about to take place, two disciples were “sent forth”.  Now, it is no accident that Matthew uses the word apostellw, (to send forth) because that’s the word, in its noun form, which is translated apostle!  An apostle is one who is “sent forth” from the Messiah-King!  And let me remind you of what the apostle was to do!  (What was the Biblical function of the apostle?)

You remember the words of Jesus, as He spoke to Peter (as the representative of the twelve): 


“…and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be in a state of having already been loosed in Heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be in a state of having already been bound in Heaven.”


That event was the founding of the office of the Apostolate!  Although it was to be some time before the actual apostolate was instituted, it was instituted on this statement.  So we might call this “binding and loosing” statement as a “premonstration” (a demonstration of prophetic reality) of the Church’s apostolic foundation.  The whole concept of binding and loosing is extremely important in Scripture.  And it was the primary foundation of the apostolate.

Then, after that, we remember that Jesus spoke the parable of the Master “loosing” his servant of his incredible debt – spoken in the context of seventy-times-seven-forgiveness of sin and offense!

And then in the parable of the workers in the vineyard, the exposition revealed those who were “bound” to their nature in the first Adam, and those who were “loosed’ in order to be made firsts in the second Adam!

And directly after that, and in response to Salome’s request for power and authority for her two sons, Jesus manifests the “servant and slave” nature of His future apostles (a Revelation of the nature of the God-Man, especially since He came to give His life a ransom for many).  And do you remember the primary meaning of the word ransom?  It means “to loose” from alien captivity!

And it was in that same context that Matthew records the remarkable event of the two blind beggars calling upon David’s Great Son and David’s Lord (the God-Man), in order that they might be “loosed” from their captivity to blindness!

All of this… and the other many occasions before, in which we’ve witnessed the reversal – i.e. the “loosing” of the remnant of Israel – from the ravages of the alien wolves which have taken over God’s covenant nation.

And all of those events in which the Gentile nations are revealed to be “bound” in uncleanness and demon possession, such as:  the city of Gadara, bound in demonic possession; the Canaanite woman whose child was bound by demons; the city of Nineveh, to which Jonah was sent to preach the Gospel; the healing of the demoniac child in the city of Paneus at the foot of the high mountain….  All of these, and more, which are bearing the promise of being “loosed’ from their alien captivity by the coming Messiah!

And here in our text, as the Messiah-King prepares to enter Jerusalem as the ransom for many, He sends His disciples forth – “apostellw”!  The Apostolate of the Messiah!  Sent forth to do His Will – with explicit instructions!  And whatsoever they shall bind on earth shall have been bound in Heaven; and whatsoever they shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in Heaven!

Now, verse one:


“Then Jesus sent His disciples forth saying to them, ‘Go into the village before you (opposite you), and immediately you will find an ass having been bound and a colt with her; having loosed, lead away to Me.”  (The Apostolate sent forth to do that which they were instituted to do.)


Now, many attempts have been made to force some “speculative” significance to the ass and the foal, such as the ass being the nation of Israel and the foal being the Gentiles; and there are others (we won’t take the time for them), but they are all fanciful and unBiblical.  There is nothing in the Scriptures that would give evidence to any of them.

So, rather than the sentimental, poetic and fanciful analogies of men, if we would only remain steadfast in the analogy of Scripture!  Scripture interprets Scripture!  Then we can see the grand design of God for the salvation of His people and His creation!  Then we can see the Glory of God and the future of Christ’s Kingdom!  Then we hear the Gospel!

That which has been bound in the heavens is bound by the Word of God.  And that which has been loosed in the heavens is loosed by the Word of God!  And the apostolate of the Messiah, the very foundation stones of the Church, were to follow the explicit instructions of the Messiah/King, thereby binding and loosing, on earth, the Word of God which had already been established in the Heavens!

They were to “loose” the ass (with its colt), which had been previously “bound” to the vine there according to the blessing of Jacob on Judah in Genesis chapter forty-nine!  The apostles were “sent forth” to “loose” the Word of God which had already been spoken by Jacob and then again by Zechariah the prophet!  And no longer would the Kingdom be bound to the Covenant vine of Israel and Judah; but the apostles of the Messiah “loosed” it from its constraints.  (having been bound)

Listen to the Word of God in Zechariah chapter nine, at verse nine:


“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee:  He is just, and bringing salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, upon a colt the foal of an ass….” 


(Matthew quotes that in verse five, which we’ll get to in a minute.)  But Zechariah commands the rejoicing of the “Daughter of Jerusalem” because the prophecy of Jacob concerning Judah was going to be fulfilled by Israel’s King!

But this is the binding and loosing Word of God in the heavens – spoken through the prophets of old; and now “loosed” by the disciples of Christ who were “sent forth” to do so! 


“Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall have already been bound in the heavens; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall have already been loosed in heaven!”


And the instructions were so explicit (verse three), that if anyone should say anything to them about their “loosing” the ass, as commanded, then they were to say to him, “The Lord has need of them.”  And he would immediately send them.  Matthew doesn’t include what actually happened; but the other Gospel writers do.  The disciples were confronted about their “loosing” the ass; and they said exactly what Jesus had told them to say.  And the ass and the colt were loosed from the vine and immediately sent.

Then Matthew says, in verse four, that


“this came about that the Word through the prophet might be fulfilled….”


And then he goes on to quote the prophet Zechariah (as we’ve already read), verse five.

So, the disciples were sent forth, with very specific instructions, to loose and lead away, in order that the Word – through the prophet – might be fulfilled (verse four); in order to loose the Word of God, established in the heavens, to its completion – or its fulfillment!  It is the “Rhema” – the Word of God which the prophet Zechariah spoke, four hundred eighty-seven years before the great Son of David was born unto Mary the virgin, and which Jacob the patriarch spoke to his son twelve hundred years before that!

The disciples were sent forth to loose, and lead away, the ass and the colt upon which “the King, coming unto Jerusalem” would ride!  It was a sign to Jerusalem that Messiah was here, because the ass that Judah had bound to the vine had been loosed!

They were “apostellw” – sent forth – to loose the ass and the colt upon which the King would ride, when the “daughter of Zion” would rejoice at His coming!  They were sent forth to loose the ass and the colt upon which the King would ride when He, the Righteous One, brought salvation to the daughter of Jerusalem.  The daughter of Jerusalem would not be bound to the vine of Judah!

Now, Zechariah goes on in his prophecy to say that this great Kingdom would not be a political or military Kingdom; in other words, not a kingdom of an earthy ruler who needed politics or a military.  But Jesus is the fifth great King, Who would speak peace to the nations, Zechariah says, and His dominion would be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth – not bound to the covenant vine of Israel!  Jacob saw Him seventeen hundred years in the future!  Zechariah saw Him almost five hundred years in the future.

We now live under the full realization of what they saw only in part.  We know Jesus Who was crucified, resurrected, and Who is now exalted at the Right Hand of God!  Jacob was blind and almost dead, but he thrilled at the coming of the One Who would loose that ass from the vine and ride into Jerusalem as the King of Peace for the whole world!  And he blessed his son with it!  It makes me wonder about us, who are not blind – who live in the fulfillment of all the older Testament prophecy.  Why can’t we focus on the King and His Kingdom even as much as Jacob did?

Now, Why the foal of an ass?  Other than fulfilling the Word of God through the prophet, why did God’s Speech (bound in the heavens) establish that Messiah/King would ride the foal of an ass into Jerusalem, for the rejoicing of the Daughter of Zion!  Why did the Righteous One bring salvation to the Daughter of Jerusalem, riding on the foal of an ass?

As the last half of verse five says,


“…Lo, your King comes to you meek, and mounted on an ass, a colt, an offspring of a beast of burden.”


Again, the illustrations and sentimental allegories of men get in the way of Scripture.  And they all seem to focus on some comparison between the disposition of this beast and the meek nature of Jesus!  It’s amazing how much time is spent trying to prove that a male colt of an ass, which is still at the stage of following its mother around, has a disposition which can be the basis of understanding the meekness of Christ!

But from what I’ve been able to determine, asses are vicious animals – much more so than horses.  The only thing they’re good for is carrying stuff, or pulling things!  What we know as the horse was bred during Solomon’s reign – for that very reason!  The ass was the lowliest of all domestic beasts – not because it was meek, but because it was no good!  In fact, its name is now a term of derision to be applied to those who act in a contemptible manner!

And on the other side of this ridiculous comparison between the disposition of an ass and Jesus Christ is the “meekness” of Jesus.  (As Matthew quotes from Zechariah, “meek, and mounted on an ass….”)  And not only do the sentimental allegorists and illustrators grossly overestimate the laudable merits of the disposition of asses, but they also demonstrate their inability, where Jesus Christ is concerned, to deal with the Greek language in an honorable fashion!

The Greek word, meek, in translation of the Hebrew word from Zechariah, has to do with the Messiah acknowledging – not His Own will, but – the will of His Father!  “The meek shall inherit the earth,” (Matthew five, verse five), means for God’s people to take on the nature of Christ Jesus, Who submitted to the will of God the Father.  And it includes the suffering servant Whose life was given a ransom in place of many!

Isaiah fifty-three gives us a clear idea of the suffering servant of God, Who did not aspire to political Messianism, but Who bore the suffering which came from the hand of God!


“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.  Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed….  He was oppressed, and afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opens not His mouth….”


You see, the “meekness” of Christ has to do with His submission, in obedience, to the heavy, judgment stroke of God the Father for the ransoming (loosing) of His people.  For the people of God to be “loosed” from captivity from this alien, depraved race, Jesus Christ had to be afflicted with pain and humiliation and death and burial and descent into hades!  The One for the many!

So the beast of burden was lowly and despised; and Jesus Christ was the lowly, suffering Servant.  And the Suffering Servant of God sat up on the lowly beast and rode into Jerusalem to pay the ransom.  Meekness means submission to God’s Will!

There’s not enough time left to do justice to “the daughter of Zion” here in the verse five quote from Zechariah, so we’ll save that for next Lord’s Day.  But “behold, daughter of Zion, thy King cometh….”  ‘O Erxomenos – The Coming One. 


“Just.  And Endowed with salvation is He; lowly and riding upon an ass, and that upon a foal, the she-ass’s son.  And I cut off the chariots out of Ephraim, and the horses out of Jerusalem, and the war-bow will be cut off; and peace will He speak to the nations; and His dominion goes from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.”  Zechariah chapter nine, verses nine and ten.


No political Messianism here.  But a Kingdom; and a New Heavens and a New Earth – where there are apostles; and then elders and preachers and evangelists and teachers and men and women and children who are meek and submissive to the will of God; and who therefore proceed to do all that God has sent us forth to do.

It is not earthy lordship over men that is our aspiration; “it will not be that way among you,” Jesus said.  But it is the Word – the Rhema (speech) of God established in the heavens.  And when we speak His Word, whatsoever is in a state of having been bound and loosed in the heavens shall be bound and loosed on earth – just as the Word through the prophet Zechariah was fulfilled when the disciples were “sent forth” to “loose” that beast of burden.  And, now, the Kingdoms of the earth are the Kingdom of our Lord.  Now – rejoice o daughter of Zion!