Summary: Palm Sunday: We refer to His entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as "triumphal." But it was not His entry that was triumphal -- it was His love

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On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. John 12:12-15

Parallel passages Matt. 21:1-16; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19: 29-48. John 12:12-16

Homilies on the text

The conjecture is that this Greek word “Hosanna” (ýsannà) is the transliteration of )n(#w) a Hebrew word that means “save us.” It occurs six times in Scripture, across each of the four Gospels, and is said to also be comparable to the exclamation of the Saints in white in the passage at Revelation 7:10, when they exclaimed:

“Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

The great African Bishop, Agustin wrote “The branches of palm trees are laudatory emblems, significant of victory, because the Lord was about to overcome death by dying, and by the trophy of His cross to triumph over the devil, the prince of death. The exclamation used by the worshipping people is Hosanna, indicating, as some who know the Hebrew language affirm, rather a state of mind than having any positive significance; just as in our own tongue we have what are called interjections, as when in our grief we say, Alas! or in our joy, Ha! or in our admiration, O how fine! where O! expresses only the feeling of the admirer.” Homilies on the Gospel of John Homily 51.2

The Jews took “Zion” to mean Jerusalem – the “City of David” and therefore the Holy City of God. In 19:39 of his Gospel, Luke says that these events greatly vexed the Pharisees. They no doubt recognized the prophetic significance of Jesus entering Jerusalem (or Zion) this way, because they recalled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” Continuing in Agustin’s Holily we read,

“What a cross of mental suffering must the Jewish rulers have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King! But what honor was it to the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship over Israel was not for the purpose of exacting tribute, of putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, of subduing His enemies by open warfare; but He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, and hope, and love were centred in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews, is in the heavens the Lord of angels.” Homily 51.4

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