Palm Sunday.

In this text, Jesus enters Jerusalem again for last time. The Gospel writers record 55 events within the last week before Jesus’ crucifixion, and this Triumphal Entry kicks them all off. Today we will use terms from literature to look at the characters in this event, their attitudes and reactions, and the influence Jesus had in their lives.

Protagonists (Good Guys) – Disciples

Verse 1-5

The two disciples' obedience inaugurates this incredible week of Jesus’ ministry and fulfills prophecy given thousands of years before their lives.

  • Does obedience ever become mundane for you? The disciplines of godly living are not things we often feel like doing, but we still try to obey. Remember that your day-to-day simple obedience to the truth of God’s Word has powerful influence. Your time and effort as a disciple following Jesus are not lost. None of us perfectly live out all we know of God’s Word (in that sense, we are all hypocritical), but what matters is to be willingly submitted to the Gospel message we are trying to share. Jesus gives amazing significance to our lives. Everything matters!
Antagonists (Bad Guys) – Chief Priests and Scribes

Verses 12-16a

What were these religious leaders missing in their inappropriate response to Jesus? It was not their positions or expertise that made them bad. They responded to Jesus with indignance, showing that they had an issue with authority. Jesus demonstrated His divine right to heal on the Sabbath, cleanse the temple, command all people to repent, and grant forgiveness; but they refused to recognize it.

  • When considering eternity, we would be wise to set aside the categories of rights and fairness. In fact, what we want is what we don’t deserve: grace and mercy.
  • Be careful about feeling indignant. Jesus is worthy to sit on the throne of our lives. He will tolerate no rival, even ourselves. Discipline yourself to joyfully submit to His will for your life. This looks like embracing His Word even when it tells us to change direction.
Foil (reflective characters)

In dramatic literature, foils are characters that reflect something, either principles or traits of other characters. The foil in this passage could be crowd or the children mentioned in verse 16. The crowd equated Jesus with the prophets, but the children actually called Him the Messiah.

Children understand wonder, while adults forget what is truly wonderful. Children simply call it like they see it and often repeat things incessantly. The children in Matthew 21 had just seen Jesus healing people with a word. They were overcome with wonder and could not hold back.

Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2 as he combats the indignance of the chief priests. The Psalmist zooms in from “all the earth” and “above the heavens” to the praise of children in verse 2.

  • Has the wonder of salvation faded for you? Remember the simplicity and wonder that you experienced at the moment of your salvation.
Hero – Jesus

It is wonderful to have an event told to us by an infallible narrator, the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of all Scripture.

The Messiah is a complex character, but this passage presents Him in His simplicity. His understanding is more nuanced than anyone else. He understands people’s greatest need, and he is singularly focused on their salvation until it is accomplished. Beyond "saving now" (the literal meaning of Hosanna), He will save from everlasting to everlasting.

Jesus knew what His entrance into Jerusalem would lead to (Matthew 16:21). Luke 9:51 describes His focus on His ascension, the complete finishing of His atoning work and the commissioning of the Church.

  • Jesus is truly heroic and worthy of our affections. The essence of worship is telling Jesus how great and special He is. Hymn texts are a great help for this; but you can do it yourself too. Try writing down some compliments and telling them to Jesus. A good place to start is by contrasting Him to your own reality.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Matthew 6:16, 17:2, 26:39, 26:27 – Jesus’ face in the Gospel