Summary: Jesus enters Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, riding on a donkey, symbol of humility and peace. Jesus as the true Messiah-King is different than all would-be Messiahs and Kings.
Palm/Passion Sunday Yr C, 20/03/2016
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
“Jesus the Messiah-King”
The first hymn that we sang today, “All glory, laud, and honour, to you, Redeemer King,” is a favourite one for Palm Sunday. Christians sing the hymn around the world on this day. There is an interesting story about the hymn’s origin.
The story—although it may be apocryphal—goes like this: On Palm Sunday a crowd had gathered in the ancient French city of Angers to see the annual procession of dignitaries headed by the king, Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, pass through the streets.
Their route went by the cloisters where Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, had been imprisoned and deprived of his bishopric for supposedly plotting. As the procession drew level with his cell it came to a halt, for a voice could be heard singing something that they had never heard before, “All glory, laud, and honour!”
The king listened, deeply moved, and when he discovered that the singer was the imprisoned Theodulf, he ordered his immediate release, and restoration as Bishop. Further, he commanded that the lovely hymn should be sung every year during the Palm Sunday processions.1 Most likely since then in many places around the world, this hymn has been sung every Palm Sunday. The hymn is often a favourite for processions both inside and outside churches on Palm Sunday as worshippers wave either their palm branches or palm crosses and remember that first Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
Speaking of Jesus entering Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, it is rather ironic that this event is referred to as Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Contrary to the story of Bishop Theodulf being released from prison and restored as Bishop, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, by human standards, was not a triumphant one but a failure, since it led to his cruel death on a cross on Good Friday.
Moreover, when a king entered a city in a triumphant way, he usually rode on a horse or in a chariot drawn by horses. There was likely much fanfare as trumpets were blown and all the rich and powerful folks, dressed in their finery, followed their king in the procession.
How different was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem! Jesus entered the holy city not riding on a horse to symbolize military power and victory. Rather, he came riding on a donkey, an animal that symbolized humility as well as peace. Yet, such an entrance into Jerusalem was viewed by God’s people as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.” Many believed this prophecy referred to the coming of the Messiah when he would come and right all wrongs and bring justice and peace to God’s people. So when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on that donkey, many thought this was it, the Messiah had come to deliver them from Roman oppression.