Summary: The triumphal entry, leading to the question of whether or not we will let Jesus be King in our lives
Jesus the Triumphant King – “Portraits of Christ” series
This Sunday night, hundreds of Hollywood “stars” will gather for the Academy Awards. Very few will “slip in the back door:” instead, they make an entrance. They will walk down the long red carpet, smiling at the cameras and waving to the people in the stands (who, by the way, all had to apply and go through extensive background checks), showing off their clothing (and undoubtedly a bit more), chatting with the reporters. Some will go to great, great lengths just to be noticed.
Contrast that with Jesus: to the man healed of leprosy in Matt. 8 He said: “See that you don’t tell anyone.” To the two blind men He healed in Matt. 9 He, “warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’” And in Mark 1 (quickview) , a demon possessed man in Capernaum yelled out “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”, to which Jesus replied “Be quiet!” Jesus often chose not to be in the limelight. In fact, most of Jesus ministry happened outside of the capital city of Jerusalem, away from the big pomp and ceremony of the Temple, in small towns and villages along the way.
Until today. Until the event we know as “The Triumphal Entry,” the day we remember each year as Palm Sunday. This day all of that changes. Now, we see Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem being proclaimed as Messiah and King.
It is pretty obvious from the timing of all the events that Jesus had determined to be killed during Passover. Tension had been building, opposition growing stronger. When Jesus announced His intention to return, His disciples recognized the danger and discouraged Him, culminating in Thomas’ declaration “let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16 (quickview) ). So they left, and went to Bethany (right outside of Jerusalem), where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. This attracted even more attention, and a large number of Jews were putting their faith in Christ. So many heard the testimony of Lazarus and believed in Christ that the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus (John 12:10 (quickview) ). This is important background, because John’s gospel tells us of two crowds on this Palm Sunday, the crowd from Bethany that had witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, and a second crowd from Jerusalem, made up of people there for the Feast of Passover, who heard that Jesus was coming and went out to meet Him. These two crowds met as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey.
I don’t know if you’ve been to a parade lately, but you can imagine the sight. People, large crowds of people, pressing in to see Jesus. They prepared the road in front of Him by laying palm branches, and by taking off their cloaks and allowing the donkey to walk on them. This was a way of honoring a king, like the red carpet today, and it made a strong statement: here is our King.
Why a donkey? We’ve generally viewed this as an expression of humility, but in fact that is only partially true. It is true that a donkey is contrasted with a powerful war horse, that the Jews would have been familiar with the Romans marching into their capital city on powerful stallions. And so there was that difference. But there is more to it – the Jews also recognized the donkey as a royal beast.