As they approached Jerusalem in the vicinity of Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus asked two of his disciples to go on ahead. "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, there you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, `Why are you doing this?' tell him, `The Lord needs it and will send it back here directly.'" They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some who were standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest!" Entering Jerusalem Jesus headed for the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
On a hot and humid day you just know when it is about to thunder and pour down. You wait. You just know it's going to rain. But have you ever waited like this and the rain doesn't come? Has that ever happened to you? The humidity gets worse. Your body tells you it's going to rain and … it doesn't rain?
Was this a bit like the suspense of the disciples when they arrived at the outskirts of Jerusalem? They were expecting things to get clearer. Jesus would do what He had to do. He had been teaching many things. They sensed a storm was coming. It seemed pretty close. This was the final stage. But what happened? No storm. Instead, Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey!
Some thought that Jesus would lead a political uprising. When such followers heard His teaching, they didn't stay around for too long. But now crowds of ordinary people gathered at His arrival to the twin cities of Bethphage and Bethany, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The good and righteous Rabbi sent by God had arrived. They were glad to be in His procession. Some may have sensed it was an important historical moment in God's dealings with His people. But there's something else to take from this passage.
Jesus did many things which weren't written down. He had friends all over the place. Now we read that He had contacts in Bethphage and Bethany. This was the time His disciples learned about this. This colt was there for the final leg.
The way Mark tells it, Jesus was acting with great care. In writing this Mark also had to be careful, avoiding names, and protecting those who followed Jesus in those regions. At least that is what it seems like to me. The plans of the Jewish authorities to kill Jesus were well advanced. Later, after killing Him, they continued to hunt down His followers. Mark was careful in writing these things. A little later on we read that other un-named contacts helped Jesus prepare for the Passover.
By staying with His friends in Bethany, Jesus was also being careful.
Jesus taught by parables. Here Mark gives us a live picture of how He responded to the Old Testament's teaching of the Messiah. The King came on a donkey - this was not just a symbol although it is a wonderful picture. They were singing as they went. This was it, the real thing. Matthew refers to Isaiah:
62:11 Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the ends of the earth; say clearly to the daughter of Zion: "Behold, your salvation is coming; behold his reward is with him and his full payment is before him.
and also to Zechariah:
9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Look out your King is on His way to you; and He is certainly triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.
His inner circle saw how He had planned His Messianic actions. The crowds saw the teaching "live". My hunch is that as well as singing Zechariah 9 they were also singing Psalms 120 to 134, the Ascent Psalms, those to be sung as you travelled up to the temple, to thank the Most High for all His goodness.
Jesus continued teaching about the Son of Man. Arriving on a hired donkey and its foal was an important moment. He had been teaching the Messianic prophesies since Galilee and Caesarea-Philippi. Now Jesus' disciples were part of a procession singing about the Coming of God's Prince. God keeps His promises. And in riding on a donkey Jesus was consciously acting in a prophetic way, just like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had done.