Presenting the Messiah
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 NASB).
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The last week in our Lord’s ministry is a most important week because salvation for us and mankind depended on the successful completion of this week. Our Lord knew this. He made every minute and incident count as he prepared his followers with important details that would benefit them and all of his followers throughout the Gospel Age.
This article examines two details rich in meaning when our Lord rode into Jerusalem on a colt. It is quite an episode involving many things like shouts from the people and the eviction of the money changers in the Temple. The account is important with both typical and antitypical lessons.
All the Gospel writers mention this account, although their accounts differ slightly. We need to look at all of the accounts to get a complete and true picture because while the various accounts complement each other, there appear to be some discrepancies. God allows this so that by our prayerful studies we will appreciate the truth and the word of God more.
Riding Into Jerusalem
One of the details to resolve concerns Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and a colt. Matthew described two animals whereas Mark and Luke only mention one animal. If it were two animals, which one did Jesus ride on?
“(1) Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, (2) 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. (3) If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.’ (4) This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, (5) ‘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.’ (6) The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. (7) They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them” (Matthew 21:1-7 ESV).
In Matthew, a donkey and a colt are mentioned. Mark and Luke mention just the colt. Mark writes: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it’ ” (Mark 11:2 ESV).
This was prophesied in Zechariah. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).
Two animals are mentioned here, but it would be absurd to think that Jesus rode on both. Jesus rode on the colt. Zechariah, Mark, Luke, and John all say this. This was a special colt. “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here” (Luke 19:30 ESV). Mark 11:2 also suggests that the colt had never been ridden.
What is the point of that? Here was an older donkey, and a younger donkey that had never been ridden or even sat upon. We suggest that the older donkey shows the close of the Jewish Age. The Law was about to become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). It was going to be nailed to the cross. All the sacrifices that were done by the priest using bulls and goats were going to come to an end. Paul writes that these sacrifices were just types or shadows of better things to come (Hebrews 10:1).
They were replaced by the younger colt representing the Gospel message involving grace and personal sacrifice. The narrow way was about to be opened to those who accepted Christ and made a consecration to be like him. The veil in the Temple was about to be ripped from top to bottom so that both Jews and Gentiles could have access via this new and living way into heaven itself.
Thus, it was appropriate that Jesus selected the young colt when his two disciples brought him the ass and the colt.
Before Jesus sat on the colt, the disciples put their garments on the two animals. This shows the honor and respect that the disciples had for Jesus. The people threw their garments into the street as Jesus went by but the disciples placed their garments on the animals showing a higher honor and privilege for the disciples. This is fitting because the disciples had a special relationship with Jesus.
Mark’s account adds to this picture. “And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him” (Mark 11:4). Mark tells us that they found the colt where the two ways met — at the intersection of two roads.
Certainly, Israel was at a cross roads in its history. It was time for them to accept their King. A few did and they were rewarded at Pentecost. But most rejected him when he hung on the cross. He did not look like a king to them when he was on that cross. Little did they understand that the king had to give up his life so that we could gain life.
The cross roads is similar in symbol to the older ass and the younger colt. Starting in 33 AD, the road to travel is faith
and grace, not the works of the Law.
Why did Mark, Luke, and John refer only to the colt? First of all, we have to assume that Matthew is correct since the holy word is divinely inspired. Matthew gives the more detailed account. The others provide additional, important details such as the cross roads but they are not as complete.
Confrontation With the Money Changers
Next, we come to the Temple confrontation between Jesus and those who were using the Temple as a place of business (Matthew 21). The tables of the money changers were overturned and they were driven out by Jesus. He rebuked them for making God’s house a den of thieves.
John records a similar Temple scene with the money changers in the beginning of our Lord’s ministry (John 2). It follows the miracle of Jesus’ turning the water into wine.
Because of this, some commentators say that there were two cleansings — one in the beginning and one at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Pastor Russell and other commentators say there was only one at the end. How do we explain this?
Matthew, Mark, and Luke only wrote about one cleansing at the end of our Lord’s ministry. John’s account was written long after the other three. John’s account was meant to add important details that were left out of the other
John tells us that our Lord made a whip of cords to drive the money changers out. He adds that Jesus poured out the coins. Most importantly, John tells us that Jesus told them if they destroyed this temple, he would raise it up in three days.
There is an important reason why this cleansing had to happen at the end of our Lord’s ministry. It had to take place after our Lord assumed the office of king. He did this on the 10th day of Nisan in the last year of his ministry. This preceded the cleansing of the temple. As their king, he had full and unquestioned rights to do what he did.
Some claim that any Jew could have done what Jesus did with regard to cleansing the temple. However, in practice, this never happened. Instead, Jesus waited until he had the full right to do this as king. The raising up of Lazarus, the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and the cleansing of the temple, were all events that our Lord used to show the Jews that he was the son of God, their Messiah and their king. These events were linked together closely in time.
Antitypical Money Changers
Bible Students generally see the antitype to 33 AD as 1878 — 3½ years after our Lord’s return in 1874. It was a similarly pivotal year. Our returned Lord started to do his kingly work in various areas. With Israel, the Zionist movement slowly began with the establishment of the first Jewish kibbutz called Petah Tikva. Concerning spiritual Israel, Jesus raised the sleeping saints as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The year 1878 also marks the time when Jesus began to cleanse the spiritual temple by calling his people out of Babylon. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). Our Lord was disappointed with what he saw in Herod’s Temple in 33 AD, picturing his disappointment in what he found in nominal Christendom in 1878. That is why he calls on his people to leave.
At his first advent, Jesus made a small whip of cords to drive out the cattle. The whip is really an emblem of his authority. He did not use the whip on the people but on the cattle. Furthermore, there is no mention about him releasing the pigeons and thus defrauding their owners. Even in our Lord’s righteous anger, we see his wisdom and kindness. It is not blind rage like we have with fallen man.
To sum up, our Lord is cleansing the antitypical Temple now by driving out the money changers. He does this with the truth. The whip represents truth and authority. His purpose is to get rid of the money changers by using the presentation of truth. Their rejection of the truth binds them to their own false philosophies and will lead to their eventual destruction at the end of the harvest. Unlike their preaching of a fiery hell for those who do not believe, these hypocrites will have an opportunity in the next age to repent and accept the truth.
Our next point concerns Jesus’ remarks about rebuilding the Temple. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19-21 ESV).
Since it took 46 years to build the Temple, the Jews did not understand Jesus’ statement about raising it in three days. They did not realize that Jesus was talking about himself and his church. They would kill him on the cross but three days later he would be resurrected as a glorious, divine spirit being. The followers of Jesus would also go down in death but be raised as a stone in the true, spiritual Temple of God (1 Peter 2:5, Ephesians 2:10-22).
The Temple is not a building of brick, mortar, wood, and steel but the spirit begotten followers of Christ. We are waiting for the temple or church to be made complete and glorified. When will this happen? Jesus says it will be raised up on the third day. This is the Millennial day or 1000 year day coming after two days or after two thousand years of the Gospel Age and the church’s development.
The Pharisees did not understand about the resurrection of Jesus. Likewise, the ministers of our time do not understand about the resurrection of the church.
What comes after Jesus evicted the money changers? “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14 ESV). There is a greater fulfillment of this in Christ’s earthly kingdom. After the church is glorified, all of mankind will be healed in both a physical and spiritual sense. We look forward to the day of healing for all mankind.
This was quite a day and part of a significant last week. The disciples had the privilege of laying their garments on the donkey and the colt. We also have a great privilege similar to that in professing our faith and assisting the brethren. We are glad that he has made our fellowship free from the corrupting influence of the nominal systems. He has indeed evicted the money changers from our midst. We can now sup with him in spirit and in truth. We look forward to the day when all will be healed from their spiritual blindness.