Jesus Enters Jerusalem
(Matthew 21.1-11; Luke 19.28-40; John 12.12-19)
1Jesus and his disciples reached Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives. When they were getting close to Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2He told them, “Go into the next village. As soon as you enter it, you will find a young donkey that has never been ridden. Untie the donkey and bring it here. 3If anyone asks why you are doing this, say, ‘The Lord needs it and will soon bring it back.’ ”
4The disciples left and found the donkey tied near a door that faced the street. While they were untying it, 5some of the people standing there asked, “Why are you untying the donkey?” 6They told them what Jesus had said, and the people let them take it.
7The disciples led the donkey to Jesus. They put some of their clothes on its back, and Jesus got on. 8Many people spread clothes on the road, while others spread branches they had cut from the fields.
9 In front of Jesus and behind him, people went along shouting,
God bless the one who comes
in the name of the Lord!
10God bless the coming kingdom
of our ancestor David.
Hooray for God
in heaven above!”
11After Jesus had gone to Jerusalem, he went into the temple and looked around at everything. But since it was already late in the day, he went back to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
This event in the life of Jesus is often referred to as the Triumphal Entry. A quick reading of the passage seems to confirm the appropriateness of that title. Nevertheless, such an interpretation raises some difficult questions. How can Jesus be received so positively at the beginning of the week, when at the end of the week the crowds will call for his blood? This festival took place every year, with the same songs, the shouts of “Hosanna,” and the waving of palm branches. How much new significance do the people see in the arrival of Jesus? Furthermore, Mark has already recorded tremendous confusion about who Jesus is and what being the Messiah means. Even if the crowd thinks that Jesus is the Messiah, how do they understand the Messiah’s role?
Mark expects that the readers of his Gospel will interpret this event in light of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The crowds waving their palm branches, of course, have no idea that Jesus is on the way to the cross, nor that the cross will yield to eternal glory. At best, the crowd believes that Jesus is a great man of God, and they continue to look forward to the coming kingdom of their father David. This is very different from seeing Jesus as the great Son of David, the Son of God, and the Saviour of both Jew and Gentile. Mark fully expects his readers to see that the crowd is speaking better than they know – the crowd has no idea how appropriate their words really are! Jesus is the king and the Messiah who brings the kingdom of God into time and space. How Jesus will do this, however, is literally unimaginable to the crowd. The kingdom comes, and Hosannas are appropriate, only because of the king’s cross.
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! God, thank you for the deliverer, the Messiah: your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to see him clearly so that we can praise him fully. May our minds and our hearts rejoice in your salvation. Amen.