“Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!
When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.'” Matthew 21:8-11
Today is Palm Sunday, marking the day in which Christ made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to acclaim and the cheers of the crowds who were arriving for the approaching Passover celebration. It had been foretold in the prophets that the Messiah—the anointed one of God—would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. The people of Jerusalem knew that their king, the Son of David, the true King of Israel, would approach them in gentleness and humility. Riding in on a donkey is not what a hero does; it is not what a king does. But it is what the Messiah would do, and it is what the Son of God did.
When Christ arrived, a scene erupted. Those who knew the prophets knew what they were seeing; they understood what was happening. The stories of all Christ’s miracles had spread throughout Israel. The accounts of His standing up to the Pharisees and Sadducees had given hope to those who were oppressed by the religious establishment. Sinners who had been changed forever by Him spoke of His grace and forgiveness. All who heard Him teach would tell of the authority with which He taught. Now this man, this Jesus of Nazareth, who taught and spoke with authority not of this world—greater than that of any of the scribes and Pharisees—He was riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Could He be the King for whom Zion had so long been waiting?
The people surely thought so. At least, they thought He would be the one to restore the Kingdom to Israel. Surely Christ would come in and free His people from the yoke of Roman oppression. Surely this Son of David would come and restore His the throne of His father, David. He must be the one, they thought. Surely He must be. And so they cheered Hosanna! to Him and spread palm branches and their coats out on the road before Him.
He has come to free us, they thought and prayed.
Christ had come to free them, though not from Roman occupation. When He entered the gates of Jerusalem that week, the clock began ticking on the final hours of His life. Christ would be crowned a king, but not to cheers and adulation. He would be forsaken and scorned. The same people who today were cheering Hosanna and praising Him as the Son of David and the fulfillment of Scripture would be crying out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” in only a few short days. This, too, would be for the fulfillment of Scriptures.
Rome was not the enemy Christ rode in that day to confront; it was sin. His entry into Jerusalem was to free the people there that day—and you and me—from our sin and separation from God. Since the fall of man in Eden, God had been enacting a plan to restore man to a relationship with Him. Sin had long since plagued mankind and prohibited mankind from being able to fellowship with God as we once had. A price would have to be paid; innocent blood would have to be shed to pay the debts that our sins incurred, and so Christ rode into Jerusalem, in humility and gentleness. He rode in to settle our accounts before God; to lay down His life as a ransom for many.
artwork: “Palm Sunday Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem,” James Tissot