The Formal Presentation of the King (Matthew 20:29–21:17)

It is not uncommon to look forward to something for a long time only to be a tad underwhelmed, unfulfilled, or disappointed at its eventual realization. Whether a particular milestone or accomplishment, a unique experience or possession, the goal has been anticipated, daydreamed about, planned for, and worked toward. And yet, when the longing gives way to reality—the milestone reached, the accomplishment grasped, the experience felt, or the possession owned—it’s not all that had been expected. It is wonderful but, at the same time, it seems that something’s missing. Something about the experience does not quite match what was envisioned. 

In a way, this was what faced national Israel when their Messiah finally marched into Jerusalem, his would-be capital city, and was presented to them as their long-awaited King. It was exciting and cathartic, celebratory and worshipful. And yet, at the time, something was missing. Something didn’t quite match that which they had come to anticipate and expect.


Have you ever looked forward to something for a long time only to be a little underwhelmed when it eventually comes to pass? 

Maybe you’ve anticipated a particular milestone like graduation, employment, parenthood, grandparenthood, or retirement. Or maybe you’ve looked forward to a particular experience like traveling the world, financial freedom, or falling in love. Or maybe you’ve yearned for a particular possession like a vehicle, a house, or a company. 

Whatever it is, you’ve looked forward to it, daydreamed about it, planned for it, worked toward it, envisioned what it will be like when you finally get it. But when it arrives, it’s not what you’d expected. It’s wonderful but, if you’re honest, it seems that something’s missing. You may not even be able to tell what that something is but something’s off. The experience of what was long anticipated doesn’t quite match what it is you had come to envision.

In a way, this was what faced Israel when their Messiah finally marched into Jerusalem, his would-be capital city, and was presented to them as their long-awaited King. It was exciting and cathartic, celebratory and worshipful. And yet, at the time, something was missing. Something didn’t quite match that which they had come to anticipate and expect.

And, this morning, we’re going to identify what that something was and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, use it as fuel for our instruction, celebration, and anticipation. 

We’re studying today what is often called “the triumphal entry.” It describes a formal presentation of Jesus to Israel as their King. But we’re going to notice a mixed reception of Christ. And, finally, we’ll land on this incomplete celebration—the something missing. So, a formal presentation, a mixed reception, and an incomplete celebration.

A Formal Presentation

This is a formal presentation. Jesus is publicly unveiled to Israel as her long-awaited King marching triumphantly up to his capital, toward his throne, with much fanfare (20:29). 

To go with this large royal entourage he’s given royal heralds, those who accurately announce both his identity and his arrival (20:30–31). Son of David, is a very specific title reserved for the one God himself promised to send, a descendant of king David, who would reign over Israel from Jerusalem forever with a rule characterized by peace, justice, liberty, and righteousness. It’s a messianic title and here, two unlikely heralds are accurately announcing his final approach to Jerusalem. “Hear ye, hear ye! The Son of David has come!”

The announcement continues in Jerusalem (21:9a) and, finally, into the temple (21:15b). This passage is a formal presentation, complete with an accurate announcement of Jesus’s identity and arrival.

Add to that miraculous confirmations. Not only is he announced but he confirms the veracity of those announcements (20:32–34; 21:14). These are not random miracles. They are direct fulfillments of messianic prophecy (see Ps 146:8; Isa 35:4–5). As all of his miracles had been, these confirm his identity and arrival, that he is, indeed, the Son of David marching toward his throne.

There’s also a providential demonstration (21:2–3, 6–7). Jesus calls his shot. “Go into that town and here’s what you’re going to find. When this happens, do this, and then this will happen.” That’s like me saying, “after church go to Swiss Chalet. There you’ll find a new employee. Sit in his section. When you do he’s going to tell you they’ve run out of chicken. You tell him you brought your own. Go to the trunk of you car and you’ll find a live hen. Bring it to the restaurant and they will prepare it for you.” It’s impossible. And yet, because Jesus is King, Messiah, and God, he validates this formal presentation with a demonstration of his power and providence.

Finally, there’s all this fulfilled prophecy (21:4). Matthew here smashes together quotes from Isaiah and Zechariah that predicted the oddly humble presentation of Israel’s King—Behold your King . gentle … on a donkey. The crowds recognize prophesy is being fulfilled and quote Psalm 118 (21:9; Ps 118:22–26a). The people are connecting this formal presentation before them to the past promises of God. “Finally! This is the day the Lord has made! We rejoice because here comes the promised corner stone, salvation, and prosperity!”

More fulfillment: Jesus quotes Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7 to claim to be doing God’s work cleansing the temple (21:13). And when the religious leaders show disapproval, Jesus reaches back to Psalm 8 to show them they should know God will get worship from whomever and whatever he wishes (21:16). This scene is littered with fulfilled prophecy. 

This is quite an entrance. In fact, it’s more than that: it’s a formal presentation of the King to his would-be subjects. He’s announced accurately, confirmed by miracles, providential demonstrations, and fulfilled prophecy. This man, truly is the Son of David, the Messiah, the Deliverer, the King of Israel. Here he is, people, at long last.

In the first-century, Jesus was presented to Israel as the Son of David. Today he presents himself as Saviour and Lord. Confirmed by his resurrection, announced by his apostles, he humbly rides up to all people, looking at our hearts. The question every person must, and ultimately does, answer is Do you receive him? Do you trust him? He died for your sins, rose from the dead, and promises everlasting life to all who do. He’s been presented. It’s decision time.

As Billy Graham, the famous evangelist, once said: “You can’t give Christ a definite maybe; it has to be a definite yes or a definite no.”

A Mixed Reception

Back to Matthew, Jesus is finally and formally presented to Israel as her Messiah. How do they respond? Well, it’s kind of a mixed reception.

There are many who receive him appropriately, accepting him as the Son of David he’s being announced and confirmed to be. The blind men, for example, after declaring their belief and being healed, followed him (v. 34). They come after him excitedly and willingly. Add to them, the children in the temple (v. 15), chanting his messianic identity.

Many in Jerusalem, lining the streets, welcomed him with enthusiasm (21:8). They create a make-shift red carpet on which the King can travel. They shout “Hosanna,” a word of prayer taken from Psalm 118:25 requesting deliverance. These people are asking Jesus, their King, to deliver them as the One sent from Yahweh. Many receive Jesus appropriately, with excitement, submission, and worship.

Others, however, receive him inappropriately. With the blind men are many who sternly told them to be quiet (v. 31). They’re annoyed with these unassuming heralds and, in their anger, failed to receive the King.

Matthew also tells us, after Jesus’s donkey ride, many were still confused or unclear about his identity (21:10–11). Well, that’s partly true. He is a prophet. But haven’t we just learned he’s much more? He’s not just a prophet from Nazareth. He’s the Son of David. The one to whom you can call, Hosanna! Deliver us! So, there’s confusion.

Finally and most dramatically, the chief priests and the scribes—those who knew best the Scriptures, prophecies, messianic expectations, and titles—refuse to receive the formal presentation (21:15).

A formal presentation met with a mixed reception. Some received him appropriately, excitedly worshipping and following. Others did not, responding instead with annoyance, confusion, and opposition.

And there are many mixed responses to Jesus today. Some hear the message of salvation, are confronted with the righteousness of their Creator and their own sinfulness in comparison and get defensive, confused, apathetic, or even angry. Others however, see him as he is and throw themselves before him in faith, asking him for healing and worshiping him for who he is.

An Incomplete Celebration

So far we’ve seen a formal presentation of Jesus as King and the mixed reception he received. Now, finally, we want to put our finger on the something missing. This is a big moment for Israel. Long anticipated. And yet, it’s an incomplete celebration. Something’s missing.

We find the answer in two of the prophecies quoted by Matthew. More specifically, we find the answer in what’s left out of the prophecies quoted by Matthew. First, look again at 21:5. “Say to the daughter of Zion.” That’s from Isaiah 62:11 and Matthew uses it to introduce Zechariah 9:9 (21:5b–d). Beautiful. Victorious. Serene. Celebratory. 

But, wait. Let’s go back to Zechariah 9 because there’s something missing (Zech 9:9b). Did you hear it? Matthew, when pulling this prophecy forward and applying it to Jesus’s formal presentation leaves out one line: “He is just and endowed with salvation.” Not only that, but verse 10 is also left out (9:10). Why?

Similarly, look at Matthew 21:13. Jesus’s calling Israel out for misusing God’s temple by quoting Isaiah 56:7 which predicts a coming day of perfect worship. But, if we go back to Isaiah, here’s what we read: “For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” Did you hear it? Jesus quotes a prophecy about establishing right worship but leaves out the phrase “for all the peoples.” Why?

These omissions are not accidental oversights or Scripture memory slip-ups. They’re left out on purpose because, while this formal presentation of the King to Israel is a celebration, it’s an incomplete celebration. Why? Because Israel has already rejected their King. Jesus came calling for a national repentance that the kingdom may come and their leadership said “no.” In fact, the last time Matthew records anyone from Israel rightly identifying Jesus as the Son of David is when he was rejected (12:23–24, 31–32).

In Matthew’s gospel, from that point on, Jesus’s ministry changed. He started speaking in parables to hide truths from a nation that had rejected him. He turns his attention from national Israel to his disciples, preparing them for their future ministries in his absence. 

So, this formal presentation, this triumphal entry, is an incomplete celebration. Jesus is entering Jerusalem as their King, but as their rejected King. He’s entering as a humble Messiah, but not just and endowed with salvation as he would have been had they accepted him. He’s entering to cleanse the temple, to establish right worship, but not yet in a final way that opens it up for all the peoples.

It’s not that salvation is off the table entirely and it’s not that all the peoples won’t eventually get to worship in the temple. It’s just that, because of Israel’s hardheartedness at his first coming, those specific blessings will come at his second coming.

And so, you see, this formal presentation, this triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, is an incomplete celebration. They longed for it and, when it came, something was missing. Something was off. Something was delayed because of their sinfulness. 

Anticipate the Triumphal Entry!

But that something missing, we know, won’t be missing forever. Today we can read this account and Anticipate the Triumphal Entry! The complete one. The one that could have been but will surely be. The one in the future when King Jesus, the Son of David, will ride into Jerusalem and Israel will say Hosanna, behold our King, he comes with perfect justice and final salvation granting unending worshipful access to God for all the peoples. The incompleteness of this triumphal entry should prompt us to anticipate the coming triumphal entry.

As we close, let me read some passages that depict the future presentation. Read Revelation 19:1–6, 11–16.

The King is coming, friends. Healing is coming. Deliverance from sin and evil is coming. Salvation is coming. Unhindered worship is coming. Perfect access to the Father is coming. Celebration is coming. The real triumphal entry is coming. Even so, come Lord Jesus.


Latest Posts

Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

Written by:

Share it:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email