The Triumphal Entry of Christ.

The Scriptures describe past military parades and conquests of Israel’s kings (1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles) as well as one to come (Rev. 6). John 12:12-19 is an explanation of the Christian’s greatest parade of conquest to this point in spiritual history. Recorded in all four gospels, the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover is the commencement of Christ’s passion week. We see an irony of faith in this grand parade for the Son of God who has come to suffer and die for the sin of the world.

The final battle has not yet been fought. The triumphal entry of a ruler into a city is typically after the battle has been fought and won. Christ enters Jerusalem as a lamb led to slaughter, with His final battle, the agony of the cross, only days away. Many will believe in Jesus during the passion week, but many who shout "Hosanna" never will.

The crowds sought temporary political relief to enthrone Jesus as liberator over Roman dominance; yet Jesus came to provide permanent spiritual relief, to liberate all from the eternal bondage and suffering caused by their own sin. Religious ones sought to seize Him and kill Him, yet Jesus sought to die only to rise again that all mankind may live and have life more abundantly in Him.

During this passion week, man succeeds at that which God in His sovereignty ordained. The irony of faith is seen in how God’s divine and eternal intentions in Christ are not the temporal and self-appeasing intentions of man.

Son of Promise

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that the excitement of Jesus coming to Passover begins in Bethany among the people who were eyewitnesses of Lazarus’s resurrection. From there, Jesus instructs His men to go into a little town to find a donkey for Him to ride for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Matthew records that the disciples find the donkey and its foal, covering one of the animals with their outer garments for Jesus.

John’s account begins with people inside the city coming out to meet Jesus. Tens of thousands have entered Jerusalem for ritual purification in preparation for the Passover celebration (John 11). This crowd now joins the throng coming from Bethany. The streets are lined with massive, tumultuous crowds from the Bethany road to the Mount of Olives all the way to the eastern entrance to the capital city.

Against the will of the Sanhedrin (John 11), divinely unstoppable Jesus continues His ride amidst the sound of literal shouts of tens of thousands hailing His arrival. Men and boys would cut palm branches to wave in the air, while others would place the branches in the street for Jesus to travel over. If there were no branches, then people would place their outer garments on the street in honor of the arrival of this promised one (Zachariah 9:9).

The palm branch, a symbol of Israel’s righteousness as God’s chosen people (Psalm 92), was an expression of joy, waved by the people for the Son of Promise who would take His rightful place on the Davidic throne. Through victory and triumph over Roman domination, the crowds thought King Jesus would bring political freedom and autonomy back to God’s chosen people.

Son of Peace

John describes Jesus as the Son of Peace (John 12:13). Just as God had provided peace for His children from Egyptian enslavement, the people were now expecting to know peace from Roman dominion. They shouted "hosanna," which is a command meaning "save now." This was the shouted prayer of tens of thousands as far as the eye could see and the ear could hear (Psalm 118:25).

While the horse was the beast of the battlefield, signifying the beginning of battle or a victory, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, signifying peace. The unbelieving Jews understood that the Messianic King would have the power to declare victory and bring peace from the word of His mouth. Even to unbelieving Israel, Jesus is the King of Peace.

The Son Who Dies for the Souls of Men

The Lord Jesus demonstrates a divine patience towards His own who are slow to understand (John 2:18-22; 12:16). God is patient with our spiritual growth, which is not merely a public show of obedience to God. It is the divine outworking by the grace of God of the consistent development of our renewed heart and mind into and towards Christ-likeness. May we be as patient with each other as God is with us.

God is not slow in keeping His promises, desiring that none would perish and all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Though Jesus is the promised one of Zechariah’s prophetic word, the Messiah who brings peace (Isaiah 9:6), this time of His earthly kingdom is not yet come. On this specific Passover Sunday, the Son of Peace brought salvation from sin, not political freedom. Jesus is to be praised for being the suffering, slain servant of God before the foundation of the world.

Jesus’s heart as the Son of God is that all might believe and have eternal life through His name. As He is traveling along the Bethany road, and as Jerusalem comes into view, Jesus stops and weeps over the condition of the souls of these beloved countrymen and the whole world (Luke 19:41). We see another irony of faith as the Savior weeps amidst shouts of joy. With this divine perspective, Jesus enters the city to fulfill the will of His Father who sent Him.

The loyal souls in Jerusalem on this triumphal entry day are the foreshadowing of those who would be part of the commissioning of the church less than fifty days forward from Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. John tells us that they kept testifying, and no one could quiet them (John 12:17-18). The push towards the reception of Jesus as the promised king of peace was so overwhelming that religious unbelievers began turning on themselves (John 12:19).

Each believer needs to be an active part of God’s triumph.

Application Points

  • Would you be among those testifying of Jesus as the Son of God who resurrected Lazarus?
  • Are you praying for a specific person who needs the Lord, looking for opportunities to share the gospel with this person?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore

Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; 2 Corinthians 2

A Hymn to Encourage: "Salvation, O the Joyful Sound!"

SALVATION! O the joyful sound!
What music to our ears!
A sov’reign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.

Glory, honor, praise, and power,
Be unto the Lamb forever!
Jesus Christ is our Redeemer:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord.

Salvation! O Thou bleeding Lamb,
To Thee the praise belongs;
Salvation shall inspire our hearts,
And dwell upon our tongues.

Salvation! Let the echo fly
The spacious earth around;
While all the armies of the sky
Conspire to raise the sound.