The time has finally come. Jesus has spent the night with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. It’s a steep climb up the hill from Bethany and Jesus with his disciples walk that portion of the trip the next day. As they near Bethpage, a small village near the top of this ridge, Jesus asks them to get a donkey. Seems odd. Jesus just walked up this steep hill, why does he want a donkey to ride down into the Kidron Valley?
We learn in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, daughter Zion! Shout, daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.” Oh, so that’s why. For some reason this fulfills prophecy, as Jesus begins what is called his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
It’s getting close to Passover, and during this high festival of the Israelites, people come from all over to be at Jerusalem as they seek to offer their sacrifices, and as they celebrate this historical event, when God rescued Moses and all the people of Israel by having the death angel pass over their houses if the doorposts were painted with blood. During this festival there is not room within the city, so people camp all over, including on the side of this hill, the Mount of Olives. These campers are all along the road as Jesus mounts the donkey and with his disciples goes down the hill, with Jerusalem before them. His ride will end at the bottom of the valley, at the Gihon Spring.
Again, these are Jews and they sense something special. They’ve heard of this Jesus, some of them have seen him perform his miracles, others understand what is taking place. They gather their palm leaves to wave as they cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt. 21:9) Others shout, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” (Mark 11:10) Others, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38) Yes, they are recognizing Jesus as king, just as Zechariah had stated.
But why? What is it about this donkey ride into the Kidron Valley that points to Jesus as a king? The Jews studied the scriptures (I Kings 1), and they knew. They would recall another time when the kingdom was in transition and something just like this took place. David had been king, but his time was coming to an end. He had not yet announced his successor. His son Adonijah saw this opportunity and wanted the kingdom for himself. As he went about being coronated outside Jerusalem, Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan learn of it and go to warn David. David had promised Solomon would be king.
David puts Solomon on a donkey that had previously been used only for himself. In view of all in Jerusalem he has Solomon ride the donkey down the western hill of the Mount of Olives to the bottom of the Kidron Valley, ending at the Gihon Spring. Once there, Zadok the priest anoints Solomon as king!
And so, as Jesus does this same thing the people wave their branches and shout Hosanna to another son of David. They are ready to crown him as king! But this story has a twist. Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the king who will reign forever. But just a few days later his crown will be one of thorns.