by Andy Pierson
“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” ~John 12:12-17
A public setting….Tensions and expectations that have been growing since chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel of John are coming to a head. The air in Jerusalem is charged with excitement…and a foreboding that seems to linger in the dark shadowy cracks of the city walls…and in the crevices of the dark hearts of wicked men.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is dramatic. By openly entering the city where he is a marked man with a price on His head he takes the first step toward the final confrontation. To face the powers of this evil world head on. Obedient to the Father knowing it leads to His death.
Passover, a feast that Jews were to attend in Jerusalem, and consequently the population of Jerusalem swelled enormously at this time. A crowd begins to gather from around Israel and the larger world of the diaspora.
The news of Jesus has spread into every corner of this middle eastern city.
“Will He will come to the feast?!?!”
The anticipation is so thick it could be cut with a knife. News arrives in the crowds in Jerusalem.
“Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem! We must prepare! He comes!” The public emulates and mimics the emotional expression of Mary only en masse. “Our Savior has arrived!”. The enthusiasm is barely contained.
“LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.” ~Psalms 118:25-26
This is an entirely perfect thing to do as Jesus is coming up to Jerusalem. But there is more involved here. The cry of “Hosanna!” is a Hebrew word (hoshi`ah-na) that had become a greeting or shout of praise but that actually meant “Save!” or “Help!” (an intensive form of imperative). These were not praises alone. They were also supplications and pleas to a King. They were forms of words used to address a/the King with a need. In the case of humanity, the need of blood atonement that was soon to come for all of mankind’s sins…long before many would ever realize they needed it. Hallelujeh! The palm branches the people carry and throw at His feet are symbolic of a victorious ruler during the Maccabean era.
The cry of Hosanna! and the palm branches are in themselves somewhat clouded in origin, but their import is made clear as the crowd adds a further line: “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Clearly they see in Jesus the answer to their nationalistic, messianic hopes. Earlier a crowd had wanted to make Jesus king (John 6:15), and now this crowd is recognizing him as King in the city of the great King. Here is the Davidic ruler who would come and liberate Israel, establishing peace and subduing the Gentiles.
Jesus’ response to the accolades? Jesus responds by finding a young donkey to sit on, purposely making a mess of the scene they have created. He should have found a stallion, a horse or symbol of power and virility to ride on. Why did He look for a donkey’s colt. How silly of Jesus. How embaressing. Instead Jesus paints and constructs the image of the humble servant, deliberately. The servant who will suffer by His people’s own hands. His action undercuts their nationalism and points in a different direction, evoking an image from the Prophets. The Prophets that they ostrasized, ignored, mocked, threw in wells, silenced and killed. His actions point to a Kingdom and a Kingdom’s rule….but not a kingdom of earthly origin. A Kingdom of God…
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