After finding the animals the disciples returned to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives (Luke 19:35-38). They then placed their garments upon the animals and Jesus on the colt and marched toward the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. While they went they placed their garments in the path of the colt upon which Jesus rode, while they shouted “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38).
They were singing out the Psalm 118, which was a Passover night ritual. It would have been known to all, like Amazing Grace is known to us today, or Silent Night during Christmastime or Christ the Lord is Risen Today during Easter. Psalm 118:26 reads: “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD” (Psalms 118:26). This is certainly a Messianic Psalm, and it was formally sung again, this time in the Temple as Jesus was drawing his last breath upon the cross. The next verse in the Psalm is: “God is the LORD, who has shown us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (Psalms 118:27) Immediately before verse-26 we read:
“Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity” (Psalms 118:19-25 KJV)
Marching toward the Eastern Gate, Jesus disciples were singing this hymn. No doubt, they thought he would immediately take upon himself his right as King and drive out the Roman tyrant, but at this time, journeying toward the Eastern Gate of the Temple, they were announcing to the world that the King, who comes in the name of the Lord, has come, and he is the long awaited Messiah. Four times in the first four verses of the Psalm it is sung out to the Lord that “His mercy endures forever.” It was supposed to be a time of peace with God—between God and his people. This is what Jesus pointed to, but the nation, including Jesus’ disciples, looked for a time of war between Israel and the nations, especially the Roman tyrant. Yet, the Psalm expresses the joy upon the earth over the coming of the Messiah, which in reality and ultimately refers to his garments dipped in blood (Genesis 49:10-11), referring not to his entering the Eastern Gate, but to his leaving by the Eastern Gate to be crucified upon the Mount of Olives a few short days later. At that time this same Psalm would be sung in the Temple, while the Sacrifice upon the cross was “bound” upon the “horns of the Altar” of heaven (Psalm 118:27).
These details may have little meaning for us today, but they had great meaning for the disciples. It was done when acclaiming a person king over Israel (cf. 2Kings 9:13). Nevertheless, no matter how one looks at Jesus, one must admire his moxie! The folks at that time wondered if Jesus would even come to the Passover that year, because of the “price” placed upon his head by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem (cf. John 11:55-57). It would have been the expected thing for him to avoid Jerusalem entirely that year, or at least, if he did come, to do so secretly to avoid a confrontation with the authorities. But, no! Here comes Jesus right down ‘their main street’ so to speak—through the Eastern Gate, the most used and most honored gate in all Jerusalem. He entered that gate with the eyes of everyone in Jerusalem fixed upon him. No secret here! Jesus placed himself upon display so the whole world could see him. He did it so his coming couldn’t possibly be missed. It is quite impossible to overstate what Jesus did here. The “outlaw” had come to town right under the nose of the sheriff. What would the Jewish authorities do?
Jesus was in the very act of presenting himself as “Messiah” in a manner more forceful than at any other time in his public ministry. He was deliberately fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, but notice what the prophecy claims. The King was coming “lowly” upon the colt of an ass, and not as a conqueror, riding upon a horse, like the gentile kings did. Rather, Jesus was coming in peace—i.e. peace with God. The time of the rebellion begun in Genesis 3 had come to an end. Jesus, God in the flesh, had come to them in peace, and would soon become the Peace Offering upon the hill, Calvary, in a few more days. Every Jew expected a conquering hero for their Messiah, but Jesus came to them lowly and in peace.