A King’s Triumph
When Jesus came into Jerusalem, it was a courageous way to present Himself to Israel as their King and Messiah. Jesus knew that the religious leaders were determined to arrest Him and deliver Him to death. Knowing this, Jesus nevertheless had the courage to not only enter Jerusalem, but to come into the city as publicly as possible.
Here’s how John chapter 12 records it, starting at verse 12:
The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13)
When Jesus came into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, you could say that it was a patriotic parade.
In that day and for those people, it might have looked like a Fourth of July parade in modern America.
- The crowd shouted that Jesus was “The King of Israel.”
- They waved branches “of palm trees,” which were a patriotic symbol for an independent Israel going back to their last independent state under the Maccabees.
It was an excited, happy time of welcoming the Man whom many thought could be the King of Israel to overthrow the hated Romans.
Since it was near the Passover, there were a lot of Roman soldiers in Jerusalem. It isn’t hard to imagine that several of them saw the parade and felt it was important to tell their commander – Pontus Pilate – that the Jews just welcomed into the city a King to replace the present rulers.
If Pilate received the news, how do you think he responded? Think of the questions he might ask of the soldiers who brought the report.
Pilate would ask, “What kind of army did this King of the Jews have?” The answer was, “There were no soldiers, only children who laughed and danced with the parade.”
Pilate would ask, “What kind of patriotic war songs did they sing?” The answer was, “None at all, only songs of praise to the God of Israel.”
Pilate would ask, “What kind of weapons did they have?” The answer was, “They didn’t have swords or spears, only palm branches.”
Pilate would ask, “What about the King? What kind of horse did He ride?” The answer was, “He didn’t ride a warhorse. He didn’t ride a horse at all. It was a donkey, and young one at that.”
We can image what the Roman commander thought of all this:
- Is this your army? Are these your battalions?
- Is this your war-horse, a little donkey?
- Where are your weapons? You have no swords, spears, or arrows?
- Are these palm-branches your battle flags?
- Where are the cities you have burned and devastated?
- Where are the prisoners you have captured and enslaved?
If Pontius Pilate thought at all about the parade that brought Jesus of Nazareth into Jerusalem, he probably laughed. The Romans knew how to put on a proper military parade, and this wasn’t it. It was like the difference between a great military parade with soldiers and tanks and missiles, contrasting with a children’s Fourth of July parade.
Therefore, Jesus said something dramatic with this entry to Jerusalem. “Yes, I am a King of love and power as I showed with raising Lazarus from the dead. But I’m not like the kings of this world; I am a humble King, and I have come to serve and to die for My people.”
We call this the triumphal entry – but it was a strange kind of triumph.
- It was the triumph of humility over pride.
- It was the triumph of grace over law.
- It was the triumph of seeming weakness over seeming strength.
- It was the triumph of religious reality over religious image and tradition.
- It was the triumph of self-sacrifice over human domination.
The most wonderful thing about this is that the humble King won. He defeated the Roman Empire and every other empire. His kingdom remains and grows daily. Honor Jesus, the triumphant king, and honor Him today.