Summary: The Triumphal Entry ushered in Jesus' final week before his crucifixion. He was gathering a greater following and the religious leaders didn't like that. Jesus was being hailed as king.
“ALL HAIL THE KING!”
1) All hail the King! (Vs. 12-13). “The great crowd”. It was near the Passover and the week long Feast of Unleavened Bread celebration, where the population in Jerusalem rose from about 50,000 to over two million. Even though there was a huge crowd to witness his dramatic entry, Jesus wasn’t concerned about drawing attention to himself; he wasn’t focused on self-glorification. Remember in John 2 when he was in Cana at the wedding his mother prompted him to perform a miracle and his response was that it wasn’t his time. He performed the miracle in obedience to his mother but it was clear that he wasn’t about showing off for the crowd. Then in John 6, after he miraculously fed the 5,000 the people wanted to make Jesus king but he withdrew from them. He could’ve gone along with it and enjoyed the honor of men but he wasn’t about that; he wasn’t about seeking the spotlight. He waited until God said it was time. Now, at this special feast, it was time for Jesus to allow himself to be recognized as Israel’s king. The timing of Jesus riding into Jerusalem was significant because it also fulfilled prophecy. The late Ray Steadman wrote: "In the book of Daniel Chapter 9 we read a prophecy about 70 weeks. It is generally understood that the prophecy talks about "a special 490 years of Jewish history which would begin to run its course when the command was given to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity. When 483 of those years had elapsed, Daniel predicted, Messiah, the prince, would then be presented to his people. Two very interesting books by Sir Robert Anderson, "Messiah the Prince" and "Daniel the Prophet" trace the fulfillment of this prophecy, pointing out that on the very day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem 483 years had elapsed from the time of the issuing of the commandment to the rebuild the walls of Jerusalem." There’s a lesson here for us. God knows what he’s doing when he directs us. What might seem like good timing to us may not be to Him. We are told in Gal. 5:25 to “keep in step with the Spirit”. There’s good reason for that. If Jesus had not entered into Jerusalem when he did prophecy would not have been fulfilled. If we do things out of step with the Spirit certain things will not be fulfilled. Timing is everything. Let your life be directed by God’s timing; not your own. A royal reception (13). What’s the significance of the palm branches? They were considered symbols of peace and victory. This is fitting for Jesus as the Prince of Peace and the one who would be victorious over death. Ps. 118:25-27. “Hosanna” means ‘save us now’. It was a cry of urgency. They were eager for deliverance but deliverance from what? The Jews were under Roman rule. They weren’t the free nation they once were. The Jews were longing for the one who would restore their nation back to the way it was in the days of Solomon. So, in shouting, ‘Hosanna’ they could very well have meant, ‘Save us from these Romans!’ John 6:14-15. Why would they want to do make him king by force? I think it’s the same reason why they’re giving him this kingly reception now. They were eager to have a political Messiah who would get them out from underneath Roman rule and restore the freedom of Israel. In Matthew’s version of the “Triumphal Entry”, it says that some were laying down the palm branches while others ‘spread their cloaks on the road’ (Matt. 21:8). This was a symbol of recognizing and honoring Jesus as king. In 2nd Kings 9:13, when Jehu was anointed as king of Israel, it says that they took their cloaks and spread them under him. So we have three separate indicators that Jesus was receiving a king’s welcome: the palm branches, the declarations of the people and the spreading of the cloaks. Although it may have been politically motivated, Jesus was receiving a royal reception and being hailed as king.
2) What’s with the donkey? (Vs. 14-16). To some who were there this act would’ve been confusing and perhaps even laughable. Even the disciples didn’t really understand all that was going on here. Chances are the Roman guards who would have been there keeping things in order wouldn’t have been impressed. Their “triumphal entries” back in Rome were much more extravagant. Whenever a Roman general was victorious on foreign soil he was given a “Roman triumph” celebration when he returned to the city. It would be like a “ticker-tape parade,” only with much more splendor. The general would ride into the city in a gold-covered chariot with white stallions pulling it. So I’m sure the Roman soldiers were shaking their heads at the sight of this so-called King. What real king would ride on a goofy donkey? What powerful leader would stoop so low? What they didn’t know was that by coming in on this “goofy” donkey, Jesus is providing verification that he is truly the Messianic king of Israel by fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10. This declaration was given 550 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem. At the time Israel had no King. They were just returning to Israel after their Babylonian exile and captivity. Author J.C. Ryle gives us a flavor for the prophecy to the ears of that day: "Fear not; be not cast down or depressed, O daughter of Zion, or inhabitants of Jerusalem. Low and depressed as your condition may be now, there will be a day when you shall have a King again. There shall come one who will rise on a certain public location into thy gate,-a King on a colt, not as a Warrior, with a sword in hand, but as a peaceful Prince, a just and holy King, better even than David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah, and burning with him salvation for souls. Therefore, think not yourself forsaken, because thou art poor now, and have no King. Look forward to your coming King.” Not only did Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey signify him as king, it also signified him as a king coming in peace. As William Barclay put it, “A king came riding on a horse when he was bent on war; he came riding on a donkey when he was coming in peace.” Jesus was trying to show the people that he was not the warrior they were expecting. Jesus didn’t do things the way people expected him to. He wasn’t about showmanship; he didn’t do things to impress people. I’m sure he knew that many would laugh and scoff at his entry. This is the Messiah, riding in on this silly donkey? This is the Messiah, the one who’s been seen hanging out with sinners? The carpenter, that’s the Messiah? He doesn’t look very kingly. Look at him, just an ordinary face dressed in those ordinary clothes. There’s nothing special about him. That’s how some people see Jesus today? They laugh and scoff at the stories of his miracles and about him dying for everyone’s sins and then raising to life again. They shake their heads at the idea of God coming in the flesh to be born in a stinky ‘ol manger. Jesus wasn’t concerned about fulfilling people’s expectations; he was concerned about fulfilling the Father’s expectations. What about us? Just like the ridicule Mary received because of her act of costly devotion we too might be thought of as foolish because of what we do as Christians. Will we be too embarrassed or ashamed to put ourselves out there like that or will we be like Jesus, fulfilling the Father’s will no matter how it might be received by some?