|Matthew 21:1-11, 14-17||Read Online||Mark 11:1-11||Read Online||Luke 19:29-44||Read Online||John 12:12-19||Read Online|
“Look, your King is coming to you…”
We call it the “Triumphal Entry” of Christ, but in many ways it was anything but triumphant. Here was a King who didn’t even own a horse, who instead road into town on a borrowed donkey. There were no nobles to ride before Him, no trumpets to announce His arrival. There wasn’t even a crown on His head.
More telling than these things, however, was the truth that the crowds of people who were throwing down their robes and spreading palm branches in His path didn’t really know who He was. They knew He was the Son of David. They reminded each other that He was “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Most of all, they were excited to welcome Him as the “King of Israel who comes in the name of the Lord.”
But none of them understood that He wasn’t just coming in the name of the Lord—He was the Lord. Nor did any of them realize that He was a King unlike any king Israel had had in the past. Those kings (if they were any good at all at being kings) understood that their number one assignment was to keep Israel’s enemies from destroying her.
It had been many years since that sort of king had ruled in Israel, but the people knew the stories well. No wonder they were excited—this was probably the first real king-candidate they had found in many generations. Maybe at last the arrogant Romans would have met their match in this Man who could even bring people back from the dead. Thus their cries were profound and heartfelt: “Hosanna! Save us!”
It must have been rather confusing then when the first action their new King took had nothing to do with unseating—or even unsettling—the Roman rulers. Instead, according to Matthew, He marched into the temple and began attacking His own people, the Jews!
So was the whole celebration nothing but a sham? Not at all. It was actually an important part of God’s pre-scripted plan for human history. We know this first because the details were clearly foretold in the prophetic record. “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 1:9)
We are also given in this story a glimpse of the unmatched supremacy of Christ over all natural circumstances. When Jesus sent the two disciples to get the donkey, He not only perfectly described what they would find, but also the conversation they would have with the bystanders who saw them untie the donkey. Moreover, even though this was a young animal that had never had anyone on its back, it was content to carry Jesus through crowds of screaming people without the least evidence of stubbornness or fear.
Finally, we see in this story the great tension between the fallen present and the triumphant future. The people in Jerusalem, like people everywhere throughout history, had a desperate longing for a conquering King to bring peace to their land. It was this very heart-cry, I believe, that caused Jesus to weep over the city as He approached it. He knew it was soon to enter an even more painful season in which the last safe place, the temple itself, would be utterly destroyed.
But He also knew that all of creation, along with all of heaven, is poised and waiting for another celebration event, this time a truly Triumphal Entry of their King into Jerusalem. In that day He will be riding on a horse, the great white horse of a victor. In that day there will be trumpets, and vast numbers of nobles—and children and rocks and even the stars—who will be shouting together the praises of their King. In that day there will be not one but many crowns on His head (Revelation 19:12). And from that day on His Kingdom will be universal and eternal, never to be challenged again.
- In John’s vision of heaven, one of the elders refers to Christ as the “Lion of Judah.” What John sees on the throne, however, is a slaughtered Lamb (Revelation 5:5-7). How can Christ be both exalted and lowly at the same time? What does this tell us about God’s love?
- Even though the people did not understand Who they were praising, nevertheless their praises were received by Jesus as right and good. Later, when the children in the temple area continued to cheer Him, He also affirmed their praise (Matthew 21:16). From this we might see that authentic praise is less of an intellectual response and more the outflow of our hearts. What is lost if our worship does not come from our hearts? How can we restore it?
- Modern America has very little concept of what a king really is. Our idea of government is a democracy based on human rights and majority choices. Yet something within us still rises up and desires an earthly king—someone who is powerful, whom we can trust to lead us, who will protect and provide for us. Why is this actually dangerous, especially in our post-Christian times?