There is an incident in the concluding days of Christâ€™s earthly ministry that is likely to be passed over with but little attention if the Bible reader is not careful. And yet, it is brimming with treasure, ready to be mined if the student is diligent enough to appreciate the task.
The significance of the event is underscored by the fact that the circumstance is recorded in all four Gospel accounts. For brevityâ€™s sake, we will produce only Matthewâ€™s record.
â€œAnd when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came unto Bethphage, to the mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying unto them, â€˜Go into the village that is just ahead of you, and straightway you shall find a donkey tied, and a colt with her: untie them, and bring them to me. And if any one says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them; and immediately he will send them.â€™ Now this is to happen that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, â€˜Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King is coming to you, Meek, and riding upon a donkey, And upon a colt, the foal of a donkey.â€™ And the disciples went, and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon. And most of the crowd spread their garments in the road; and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the road. And the crowds that went before him, and that followed, cried out, saying, â€˜Hosanna [save now!] to the son of David: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.â€™ And when he was come into Jerusalem, the entire city was stirred, saying, â€˜Who is this?â€™ And the crowds said, â€˜This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galileeâ€™â€ (Mt. 21:1-11; cf. Mk. 11:1-11; Lk. 19:29-44; Jn. 12:12-19).
It would be of considerable value if the student would consult a work such as the one by William Stevens and Ernest Burton, A Harmony of the Gospels (New York: Scribnerâ€™s Sons, 1932), as an aid in seeing each of the Gospel accounts, with their complementary elements, side-by-side.
The setting of this episode takes place on the Sunday, just prior to the crucifixion later that week (cf. Jn. 12:1,12), as the Lord and his disciples made their way toward Jerusalem. This day is commonly called â€œPalm Sunday,â€ the appellation being taken from the events that occurred subsequently on this notable occasion.
As they approached a village called Bethphage (â€œhouse of figsâ€ â€” specific site unidentified) on the western slope of Olivet, Jesus dispatched two (un-named) disciples into the community to obtain a donkey for use in the remainder of his journey into the sacred city.