Anticipation may have waned by the time first century Jews were looking for their Messiah to come. It was not for lack of desire, surely, but that they had waited so long. It is hard to stay excited about something, even a great deliverance for hundreds of years. But they waited. And they watched. They watched the Mount of Olives East of Jerusalem. The prophet Zechariah, hundreds of years prior had said:
Zec 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.
They looked for the Messiah to come, and they expected him to come on a donkey. This was also a prophecy of Zechariah:
Zec 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
So imagine the anticipation building again as these things are being fulfilled in Jesus.
Mat 21:1-5 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, (2) saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. (3) If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” (4) This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, (5) “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”
The disciples and the crowds saw what was happening. They saw the fulfillment of prophecy. They were tracking with Jesus. Most of them did.
Matthew 21: 6-9 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. (7) They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. (8) Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. (9) And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
They see the fulfillment of prophecy and proclaim him the king. When king David had grown old and was nearing the end of his life one of his sons Adonijah wanted to reign as king in place of David’s chosen successor Solomon. Adonijah went out of the city and took some important officials with him and set himself up as king. Meanwhile word came to David what was happening so he acted quickly. He had Nathan the prophet and Zadok the priest anoint Solomon king and parade him through the streets on David’s own mule proclaiming this son of David is king. The significance was, “he who sits on the king’s mule sits on the king’s throne.”
Jesus is coming as King. But this mule has never been ridden. He is David’s Son, but he reigns on a greater throne than David had sat. He rode into Jerusalem not only as the fulfillment of prophecy as the long awaited King, but as a prophet himself. Long ago at many times and in many ways God had spoken by the prophets but now he was speaking by his Son. It was not yet understood that he was coming also to serve as a priest who would both be the sacrifice and offer the sacrifice to turn away God’s wrath from His people. Here rides Jesus! Prophet, Priest, and King. He is worthy of worship and worthy of praise!