We take for granted the little headliners in our Bible. You know what I’m talking about. The “Jesus turns water into Wine” or “The Wise Men” at the top of a paragraph or two. It helps us find what we are looking for in a jiffy.
You know those weren’t in the original text, right?
They were added hundreds, and even thousands, of years later when the Bible was getting translated into English, and other languages. What can we say, we like our shortcuts.
It’s weird we call Jesus’ last entry into Jerusalem “The Triumphant Entry”. The gospel writers never called it that. Neither did the disciples. I have yet to see a quote from Jesus saying, “I remember at the triumphal entry when…”
Somehow what happened got lost in translation. Literally.
#1. The people were confused as to who Jesus was. Some people believed Jesus was the Son of God. But most people saw him as an amazing prophet who healed people. Many thought he was the Messiah, but I mean that in the Jewish sense and not the Christian one.
The word Messiah means “the anointed one”. In Judaism, it refers to one who is anointed as an earthly King. The Jews were and are looking for a Messiah that is a great human leader, like David. Not a heavenly leader who is the Son of God.
The Messiah also was the title for leaders of the zealots. They were people who were trying to overthrow the Roman government so Israel could have control again. There were other “Messiah’s” before Jesus. To most people, Jesus the Messiah coming to town meant Jesus the political prophet was coming to deliver them from Roman oppression.
#2. People waving palm branches at Jesus was a statement. Palm branches were a symbol of justice and political freedom for the Jewish people. Waving them for a Jewish leader was a way to show defiance to Rome in a non-violent way. It was a nanny nanny boo-boo to all the Roaming Romans who were guarding the crowds. And I guarantee they weren’t happy about it.
#3 Look at what Hosanna means. The crowds yelled it, and it means “Save now” or “Deliverance”. The people yelling these things weren’t making a religious statement of deliverance from sin, even though they were quoting Psalm 118.
They were cheering for a “new Solomon”. A national king. The throne Jesus was about to ascend to used the cross as his royal step stool. They had no idea.
The people loved their temple and their God. They didn’t need deliverance from sin because the sacrificial system already did that for them. In essence, most of the people were saying, “Here comes deliverance from the Romans”. Jesus was going to be their political powerhouse.
How do we know this? They were waving organic political signs and shouting deliverance to their Messiah as a rally cry. They even said Blessed is the King of Israel.
I bet the Romans loved that one.
And the religious leaders.
#4 Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the King riding in on a donkey. But they didn’t see it as the King of their lives, just the king of their region.
John 12:15 quotes Zechariah 9:9 and says: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (NIV)
Jesus fulfilled this Messianic prophecy when he came just as it is written. This is a great example of the phrase “You only see what you are looking for”. The Jews were looking for an earthly King to make them into a great nation.
So, the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, who saves us from sin and death, wasn’t exactly… triumphant.
No one knew the Lamb of God was coming to be sacrificed.
No one understood who Jesus was.
When they called Jesus the King of Israel, they meant a political king, rather than King of their souls.
When they cried, “Deliver us”, they meant for their nation, and their “now”.
When they waved palms of justice, it was in defiance of oppression, not a celebration of freedom from the bondage of sin.
When murmurs of “the Messiah” went through the crowd, God’s anointed and holy son wasn’t even on their radar.
Now that you’ve got this information, what do you do with it?
Buck up little camper. They didn’t know who Jesus really was, but I hope you do.
Celebrate God incarnate. The Son of God came to show us how to love and how to live. He beat sin and death so we can live with him forever when we believe.
Make your entry into this Easter season triumphant.
Realize what it is all about. Contemplate it. Breathe it in.
See Jesus for who he is in the Bible, and in your life.
And above all… please… make sure you get it.