“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”JOHN 12:12-15
Jesus Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem – what is also called Palm Sunday marks the transition between His earthly ministry, and His passion of the cross. So, is it the end of something, or the beginning of something? YES. In some ways, this marks one of the greatest, most pivotal moments in the life of Christ. His birth, life, and tactical ministry are now behind Him. But the stage set before Him is His ultimate earthly and redemptive ministry that begins here. Here are just a few thoughts to consider as we look to this day.
This moment isn’t a surprise.
In Zechariah 9:9, we read this scene prophesied 500 years earlier:
“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.”
The people of Israel, gathered for the Passover Feast would have known that this was no ordinary Passover celebration. For thousands of years, God’s children had been anticipating their king coming to rescue them, to conquer the wickedness of their oppressors, and bring peace and flourishing to the land. So, when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, there is a faint vapor rising out of the words of the prophet Zechariah that points to this day. But this moment is orchestrated by God, and carried out by Jesus. Remember the words of Zechariah – Your king is coming, with righteousness and salvation, clothed in humility, and mounted on a donkey. In some ways, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for!
This moment is misunderstood.
Later, in John 12:16, we read that the disciples didn’t understand exactly what was happening – and wouldn’t fully until Jesus was glorified. But there is a pretty clear indication that the crowd had a narrative they were working with. The palm branch that was being waved was, culturally, a symbol of victory and triumph, peace and eternal life. The crowd was expecting a conquering hero, which Christ is – in the most full and complete way – just not on this day. They were expecting a king that would satisfy their longing to see Israel exalted as a political, economic and social power, but that wasn’t His agenda on this day. He accepts their praise of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” but with a different trajectory, because He came to set up a “kingdom reign over all nations, including Israel and Rome – a reign of grace in the hearts of His children, and a reign of peace over ALL that He has made.” (Gospel Transformation Bible)
This moment isn’t isolated.
The fact that this is all happening after the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38) and that the people are still speaking about it is a wonderful reminder that everything is going according to God’s master plan, and that the elements of that plan are connected.
His friend has died.
And so, Christ displays His power over death, and LAZARUS lives again.
The fact that this is all happening during the Passover feast is beautiful, and poetic. Imagine the scene – All of Israel, gathered to remember, again, that during the plagues against God’s enemy in Exodus 12 there was a passing-over of God’s wrath and judgement for those who would paint the doors of their homes with the blood of a lamb. Now Christ, riding into the holy city of Jerusalem on a donkey, boldly yet humbly declaring that He has come to set up a righteous kingdom, is also declaring that the gate to that kingdom is Himself – the ultimate lamb. CHRIST is our only hope, and He is our Passover lamb. It is the ultimate demonstration that is yet to come in the story of the passion that “He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of Christ.”
And so, Christ displays his power over death, and WE live again.
This moment is for us.
I love what this scene does for my expectations of Christ and His kingdom. It’s easy to sit back and read this narrative, critiquing Israel’s hope for a kingdom that is ultimately unsatisfying because they were looking for a political king, a social king, a victorious king – here and now! But what of me? Am I so different? Don’t I have it within me to think that political systems, social programs and economic flourishing are ultimate goals of a peaceful society? Do I judge Israel, yet water my own garden of misunderstanding by hoping in the systems of this world?
Christ humbly yet boldly calls us, in this moment, to trust in HIS kingdom. Later in John’s gospel, Christ calls us to be branches of a vine that is rooted fully and ONLY in Himself. We are called to abide in Christ, trust in His sacrifice, and to be about the flourishing of HIS kingdom. A kingdom that sure and secure, but it hasn’t come to its final fruition. So, we are to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and HIS righteousness.” We look forward to the day when that kingdom comes, but for now we are His ambassadors to a world that desperately needs to hear the message of the gospel – that there is One who conquered sin and death for his people (those who repent and believe in Him) who triumphed over death for Himself, and will – one day – finally, with unchallenged authority DESTROY Death. Forever. That is the kingdom He promises – one where there is no death because death has been defeated; and where there is no weeping, for our loving Father will wipe every tear from our eye. A kingdom of a renewed creation where the nations are healed, and there is no shadow because the glory of Christ is an all-encompassing glory that declares His reign over all things.
So let us remember that though He once rode into the Holy City of Jerusalem on a donkey in humility, He is now seated at the right hand of the Father – ruling and reigning in glory as the GOOD and PERFECT King.
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15b