Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Peace be with you!
Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for the final time before his crucifixion took a bit of preparation, but Jesus had it planned out to a tee. While still in the outskirts of Jerusalem, Jesus sends two disciples to a village to get a colt and to bring it back to him. Roman officials commonly requisitioned animals and human labor. The fact that Jesus instructs the two disciples to say, “The Lord needs it” (Mark 11:3), tells the owners that a powerful man needs the colt. However, Jesus’ promise to return the colt immediately sets him apart from other rulers.
Now the colt is significant for a few reasons: First, the colt has never been ridden before, making Jesus the first one to ride it., which would have been an honor to an important Roman official. Jesus enters Jerusalem on a young colt as a king. Second, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt fulfills Zechariah 9:9:
Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
Look! Your king is coming to you:
he is legitimate and victorious,
humble and riding on a donkey –
on a young donkey, the foal of a female donkey.
Jesus presents himself as the long-awaited king of Israel, the Messiah. Even though the disciples and the crowd may have missed the significance, Jesus has made it known to all that he is the Messiah. The crowd and his disciples may have acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah but as the one who will conquer the Romans as a military hero, not as the Son of God who will die for their sins and redeem them to be in a relationship with God the Father.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we cannot help but get caught up in the excitement of welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. We have missed the fact that it was a small crowd that surrounds Jesus in Jerusalem, rather than the large crowd that we imagine. Either Jesus is still a bit unknown in Jerusalem, or his followers are afraid to come out in fear of the Pharisees. Plus since Jesus is entering Jerusalem during the Passover, many of the people in town are at the temple preparing to make their sacrifices.
Whatever the case, Jesus is welcomed by a small crowd with a lot of energy to cover his path with their cloaks and palm branches. The small crowd yells, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10 NRSV). Although these phrases became common to say in the Jewish culture, one cannot deny the excitement of the crowd, which Jesus would rescue them from the Romans.
Jesus carries out a well-thought plan to reveal himself as the Messiah – the one sent by God to free them from their sins. As readers, we can identify Jesus’ entrances into Jerusalem as a Messianic action. We understand the significance behind it all. Jesus is beginning to prepare for the events of Holy Week.
As we begin the Holy Week journey, put yourself in the different characters’ mindsets. Feel their fear and joy as they watch the unfolding of Jesus’ crucifixion. Ask yourself where you are in the story.
Go out into the world and shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10 NRSV). Welcome Jesus into your town and into your home. Celebrate Jesus’ Messianic claim. Jesus may not be a king in quite the way we expect, but he is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for how Jesus entered Jerusalem as king, giving us a reason to celebrate his Messianic claim. Help us to claim Jesus as our Messiah in a world where it is easier to deny him or reject what his kingship means for us. Remind us of your glory this coming Holy Week as we walk beside Jesus and watch him be the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. Thank you for your glory. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. Where are you in the story of Palm Sunday? Are you with the crowd shouting “Hosanna”? Or are you hiding in fear of the Pharisees?
2. How would your congregation welcome Jesus into your church?