There is something wonderful about the parade that brought Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before He was tortured and crucified. That parade – which we often call the “Triumphal Entry” – was a day when Jesus not only welcomed open adoration as Messiah and King; He even organized it. He deliberately made plans with His disciples and others to make the day happen.
When we read about it (the account is found in all four gospels), it simply feels good. Jesus knew so much rejection and sorrow throughout His ministry that we happily read when He was openly worshipped and welcomed. If many in the world today mock and reject Jesus then we who do love Him must be even more concerned to worship Jesus in Spirit and in truth.
Through all of it, this moment of His greatest publicity and public triumph speaks to us of several aspects of Jesus’ character.
First, it shows us the courage of Jesus. Jesus knew that the religious leaders would arrest, condemn, mock, scourge, and deliver Him to the Romans for crucifixion (Matthew 20:19). Yet Jesus had the courage to not only enter Jerusalem, but to enter in as public way as possible.
Second, it shows us the obedience of Jesus. Jesus did this in deliberate fulfillment of a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. He was careful to come to Jerusalem on a donkey and not a horse, which the kings of Israel were to avoid (Deuteronomy 17:16).
Third, it shows the mastery of Jesus. Mark 11:2 tells us that the young donkey (a colt) had never been ridden before. It was a miracle of mastery over creation that Jesus could calmly ride this unbroken animal.
Fourth, it shows us Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy. Many believe that Jesus designed this day to deliberately fulfill prophecy, especially the prophecy of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27). Sir Robert Anderson worked through the chronology and believed this entry into Jerusalem matched that prophecy to the day. Some dispute his conclusions, but as John Walvoord wrote, no one has been able to conclusively disprove them.
Perhaps most importantly, this amazing parade shows us the humility of Jesus. One reason Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 was that it was a sign that the Messiah was lowly, and in part the animal He rode showed this. He didn’t ride the triumphant stallion of a conquering general, but the customary mount for royalty, coming in peace. This was quite a contrast to the warhorse of a conqueror, and it challenges us to take the lowly place instead of the place of self-exaltation.
Though the triumphal entry was a joyful celebration, a Roman spectator would wonder what was so “triumphal” about it. It didn’t compare at all to the kind of parade Julius Caesar had when he came back to Rome from Gaul. That was a parade lasting three days as he displayed all the captives and plunder he brought back from his wars. In contrast to this, the procession of Jesus must have seemed pretty humble, and showed that Jesus was a different kind of King.
Jesus came to a Messiah-expecting world; there was a high level of messianic hope in His day. Yet many or most missed the Messiah when He came, including many of those who earnestly expected Him. This strange and sad situation happened because people looked for the wrong kind of Messiah. They looked for a political or military Messiah, not for the humble and lowly savior from sin.
Are you expecting the wrong kind of Messiah? Are you looking for a Savior modeled on a Hollywood image, or are you ready to receive the humble servant nature of Jesus? Put your hope and expectation on the right kind of Messiah.