Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jerusalem and The Passover Feast
The ISBE sets the scene:
Pilgrimage was made annually to Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice…
Passover in NT temple days was a spectacle of excitement and devotion. Pilgrims near and far ascended to the holy city…
Days before Passover began, Jerusalem was a hubbub…Many pilgrims…arrived early to sell or barter their wares…
And numbers? Josephus’ assessment of 3 million Jews (including the city residents) is considered an “extreme exaggeration” or symbolic. But the throngs of pilgrims would have swelled to well over one hundred thousand.
Jesus and the Crowds
John tells us that “six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was…” (John 12:1), and dined with him and his sisters. This event attracted its own crowd of disciples and others.
“Now [on the next day] when they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples” (Mat. 21), to fetch a donkey.
And then, “a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him…” (John 12:12).
So, here is the scene. With crowds of pilgrims converging on Jerusalem from every direction, some pilgrims who have heard of his approach meet Jesus, accompanied by a crowd of disciples, on the road outside of Jerusalem.
[Looking Ahead: As an important side note, let us not overlook the unfounded equating, that we may hear, of the “crowds” accompanying Jesus outside the city, shouting, “Hosanna” with the “crowd” in the city before Pilate’s seat, shouting “crucify.” Though a popular refrain, it is poor speculation, which pays no attention to the setting and has no foundation in the text itself. See Holy Week, Beware of Idle Conjecture]
Hosanna is a transliteration [“to represent or spell in the characters of another alphabet” a word from a different language in one’s own language] of the Hebrew word from Psalm 118:25 which is translated, “Save now, I pray, O LORD;…”
W.F. Albright notes, in Matthew (AB) that it “is a prayer for deliverance (“Save now!”); it is not in any way a cry of praise….The meaning of the vocative [“a grammatical case in certain inflected languages to indicate the person…being addressed.”] la was misunderstood quite early, and the Greek translation therefore rendered the vocative O son of David as “to the son of David,”…[italic mine] What we have here, therefore, is an ancient liturgical text, a cry to the anointed king for deliverance”.
We see the same picture in the episode immediately preceding the Triumphal Entry, in the plea of the Two Blind Men (Mat. 20:29-34): “Take pity on us, son of David!”
“Sir, let our eyes be opened.”