Five years ago, on April 30th, 2013, the first Dutch King in more than 123 years was inaugurated with great pomp and ceremony. It would appear that no expense was spared. Pictures portray an event fitting for, well, fitting for a king. The entire Kingly family was dressed in the finest of apparel. Guests from France, Britain, Spain, Denmark, Morocco, Sweden, and Japan were all present, just to name a few. From the arrival of the vast array of kings, princes, queens, and dignitaries of every sort, to the crowning of King Willem-Alexander, the attention of the world was, for a brief moment, focused on events taking place in the Netherlands.
Almost 2,000 years ago, a relatively unknown peasant from the obscure Roman territory of Israel made His way from Bethpage into the city of Jerusalem. There were no dignitaries present from foreign nations; no kings, queens, or heads of state who watched Him as He crossed the Kedron valley and entered into the city of Jerusalem. The only political authorities who might have been present eyed Him with hatred, planning and plotting His death, even as the multitude heaped loud Hosannas unto “he who cometh in the name of the Lord.”
The triumphant entry of our Lord is one of the few events in our Lord’s life that was recorded by all four of the gospels (Matt. 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:35-44, John 12:12-15), and if you were to count the total number of words used by all four writers to describe that event, it would amount to less than 300 words. Yet those few words speak volumes about our Lord and His triumphant entry into the very city where He would, within just a few short days, be rejected by those who praised Him, and then crucified at the hands of lawless and wicked men.
In order to fully appreciate our Lord’s triumphant entry, it must be viewed through the mind of a nation whose expectation was for a Messiah that would be a temporal prince; one who would lift up the banner and sword against the Romans and restore their lost nationality. They had attempted to make our Lord King when they witnessed the feeding of the 5,000, and they sought then to make Him their long sought after deliverer. But Jesus would have none of it! I don’t think the multitudes ever lost sight of that desire and expectation. So when Jesus publicly, and intentionally, mounted the foal of an ass and made His way into the city, the hope of the multitude was renewed, and they cried with great enthusiasm, “Lord SAVE!” I have no doubt that at that moment many had faith in Jesus as a deliverer, but not with a spiritual faith that Jesus demanded of His followers. Their desire was for someone, somebody, to lift up the banner and sound the trump for battle, and lead the people out of their oppression. It is that background that helps me see why the crowd was so zealous, so enthusiastic, and so aroused that Sunday when Jesus entered the city. Take a closer look with me at our Lord’s triumphant entry and see with the eye of faith the meaning of this occasion, and exactly why Jesus’ entry was public rather than private.
First our Lord’s triumphant entry demonstrated His COURAGE. Jesus was fully aware of what awaited Him in the city. Though initially welcomed by the masses, beneath the surface was a boiling caldron of hatred on the part of the Jewish leaders. The leaders of Israel had sworn to destroy Him. Jesus had a price on His head. Many a man would have considered it the better part of valor to slip into the city under cover of darkness, using the back streets so as to conceal their presence. On various occasions Jesus had instructed His disciples to remain silent regarding the Lord’s mission. Now it was His “hour,” and the time had come for Him to declare His Kingship, and to do so openly. William Barclay put it like this: “Here he begins the last act with a flinging down of the gauntlet, a deliberate challenge to the authorities to do their worst” (Barclay, Daily Bible Studies). It would take a courageous King to lead Israel out of bondage once again. It would take greater courage for the King of kings to willfully lay down His life for deliverance from spiritual bondage.
Second, our Lord’s triumphant entry verified His CLAIM. The disciples of the Lord were fully aware of His claim to be the Messiah. There were others who had confessed the name of Jesus, and who had acknowledged privately (and some publically) that Jesus was the Christ. But the time had come for Jesus to make the claim openly. This He did when, like the prophets of old, He demonstrated it with what we sometimes call an “object lesson.” Jeremiah, that great prophet of old to whom some likened Jesus (Matt. 16:15-16), placed a yoke about his neck to demonstrate the impending yoke that Babylon would put upon the neck of Judah. In the style of the prophets, our Lord verified His claim as Messiah by this amazing public display in the presence of friend and foe alike. Had Jesus slipped in unawares, His arrest, mock trial, conviction, and crucifixion may have gone completely unnoticed by the multitudes. There would have been no “Hosanna’s,” no public recognition, no fulfillment of the prophecies associated with this occasion. This was the moment to which Jesus had been steadily moving. He rode on the foal of an ass rather than a stallion. His triumphant entry was that of a King Whose Kingdom was to be one of peace and not military might.
Finally, our Lord’s triumphant entry was a CALL to all men. This would be the last opportunity for the nation to accept Him. But alas He was fully aware of the pending rejection, and so Luke tells us that He “wept over” the city as He crossed the Kedron valley into the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). This is one of only three occasions where it is said that Jesus wept (cf. John 11:35 and Hebrews 5:7). The multitude demonstrated great enthusiasm as they shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matt. 21:9). That enthusiasm would give way to anger within a few short days, and their call for praises that Sunday would soon give way to calls for His crucifixion the following Friday. In those few minutes, perhaps hours, Jesus declared His Kingship, and with that declaration, extended heaven’s call to all men. He still calls today, not from the road into Jerusalem, but from a hill called Calvary. “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Let us exemplify our Lord’s courage, uphold His claim, and heed His call. To do otherwise will bar us from heaven’s gate, and entry into the New Jerusalem where our Lord awaits His faithful children.