Jesus had arrived at Jerusalem, and the time had finally come for His climactic confrontation with the Jewish authorities. He would now reveal Himself openly to be the Messiah, and thereby set off the chain of events that would ultimately lead to the crucifixion.
The way Jesus enters the city is most striking. The people were expecting the Messiah, a conquering hero. Normally such a figure would be expected to come riding on a white horse at the head of a great army. Jesus, on the other hand, was mounted on the colt of a donkey. By riding upon a donkey, Jesus was calling attention to the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: He is "Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey" (NKJV). The Hebrew word translated "'lowly" (ani) often carried the connotation of affliction and distress, and its use here may very well point to the cross. Thus Jesus was announcing the true nature of His mission: the Messiah will obtain the victory through a supreme act of self-sacrifice.
But His manner of entry also tells us something about the character of the Messiah. He does not come riding upon a horse, in a great display of majesty and power, but humbly, on a young beast of burden. This indicates that the Messiah will not exercise power the way a typical worldly potentate does, in an arrogant, domineering manner, controlling, manipulating, and exploiting his subjects. Rather, the Messiah "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). In this way He serves as a role model for us, in the manner in which we ar to practice leadership within the community of believers. ". . . whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave . . . "(vv. 26,27).
The manner in which He acquired the foal is significant as well. He does not have to go looking for the foal: He already knows where it is. And the disciples are not told to beg, borrow, buy or rent the animals: they were simply to say, "The Lord has need of them," as if Jesus were their rightful owner. All of this points to it having been a foreordained event, and a fulfillment of a prophecy. The donkey and its foal were already there, waiting for their appointed destiny, and the hour of fulfillment has now come.
As Jesus approached the city, the excitement was palpable. Some began spreading their garments in the way before Him; others cut off branches from the trees (John tells us specifically that they were date palm trees). They cried out "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!", echoing the words of Psalm 118:25, 26). ("Hosanna is from the Hebrew phrase that means "Save, now . . ."). They may have meant it as a spontaneous outpouring of joy, but it had prophetic significance as well. The psalm, a part of the "Great Hillel" sung at Passover time, eerily foretells the sacrificial work of the Messiah (v. 27), His rejection by men (v. 27), as well as His triumphant resurrection (vv. 17,18).
The stage, therefore, was now set for the climactic final confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. He was recognized by the masses as a great prophet, if not the actual Messiah Himself, and thus His entrance into the city was a direct challenge to His opponents. The final collision was now unavoidable!