By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
The period between Palm Sunday and Easter is known as the Passion Week, and the Triumphal Entry is the first account to be included in all four Gospels.
For a variety of reasons, this was one of the most waited-for times in Jewish and Christian history. Josephus the historian noted that the Jews had anticipated the Messiah would appear from somewhere near the Mount of Olives, which is where Jesus made his approach into Jerusalem.
Two of the most significant reasons are indicated by the words of people in the crowd as Jesus rode into the city. The Jews had in their belief for hundreds of years that a new king, from the line of David, would come and be established on the throne.
From the words of those in the procession, it was obvious they were certain Jesus was that king, the Messiah, the anointed one, their deliverer: “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Mark 21:10).
The other reason, which goes hand in hand with the concept of a king, was the miracles performed by Jesus. Some in the crowd had witnessed healings and were present when Lazarus was brought forth from the grave. “As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen” (Luke 19:37).
On the way to Jerusalem the disciples had followed Jesus’ instructions to prepare for the Passover and pick up the colt on which he would ride. I love the willingness of the donkey’s owners, when the word of Jesus came, to give what they had. The disciples said, “The Lord hath need of him” (Luke 19:34), and the owners immediately consented to them taking it.
Those in the crowd were excited to witness the Triumphal Entry, yet after Jesus’ death and resurrection, his words took on deeper meaning to his listeners. The word Hosanna comes from the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrating the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt. Shouts of “Hosanna!” are similar to those of “Long live the King” or “God save the King.”
The irony of that, especially if we read John’s account of the hours following the triumphal entry, is that during the next few hours with his disciples, Jesus explained in great detail that he was soon going to die.
Symbolically, Jesus’ entry would not be one of thundering into the city on a stallion, oppressing and controlling them. Rather, he would come humbly on a beast of burden, bringing peace to their hearts and solutions to their needs. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29), he had said.
Also, symbolically, he comes humbly to us, offering to enter the gates of our hearts and deliver us from bondage. May we say with the crowds, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38).