Probably not a lot of Christians think about the meaning of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem until it is what churches call, Palm Sunday. For many years I didn’t understand what it was really about. I saw pictures of Jesus riding a lowly donkey and the people of Israel were tossing their garments in front of Him, others cut down branches from trees and spread them along the way.
“And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (Matthew 21:9)
You can almost hear the excitement and noise. The crowd was hailing, praising, chanting: “Hosanna (save now) in the highest!” A day of great celebration and tears of joy. Then a week later, many of these same folks were still shouting, but instead of praise, they were screaming: “Crucify him!” And Jesus died. Huh? What? What am I missing here?
Jesus’ purpose for riding into Jerusalem was to make public His claim that He was their Messiah and King of Israel in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. In the gospel of Matthew, the King coming on the colt of a donkey was an exact fulfillment 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.”
Jesus was openly declaring to the people that He was their King, the Messiah they had been so long waiting for. Every Jew should have known Zechariah’s messianic prophecy. That’s why the crowd hailed Jesus as their king. So, what went wrong? Why did they insist that Jesus be executed several days later? Sadly, Israel did not recognize Jesus as their Savior from sin. They were looking for a messianic deliverer who would lead them in a revolt against Rome. Although they recognized Him as the Son of David who came in the name of the Lord, when Jesus refused to lead them in a massive revolt against the Romans, the crowds saw Him as a failure and quickly turned against Him.
Later, in Matthew 23:39, Jesus says of the Jews: “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
The day is coming when Israel will repent of its rejection of their Messiah, and in bitter contrition look on him whom they pierced, and finally, owning and receiving Jesus with glad “Hosannahs!” They shall behold Him coming in power and glory, and shall regain their old position as beloved of God (Hosea 3:4, 5, Zechariah 12:10). Then “all Israel (all of the remnant during the tribulation) shall be saved” (Romans 11:26).
(Image by Gerhard Gellinger)