2020-4-05 Jesus’ Triumphal Entry

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          April 5, 2020

“Jesus’ Triumphal Entry”
John 12:12-19

Today is Palm Sunday (or, in some branches of the Church, Passion Sunday)—the Sunday before Easter.  Today begins Holy Week, a week that culminates in glorious Easter celebration.  Today, we note Jesus’ triumphal ride into Jerusalem.  May we today, like the crowd that day, worship Jesus well.  Hear once again the inspired, in-Scripturated, infallible, inerrant Word of God read and proclaimed once again in this place.


The degree of acclamation that Jesus receives in this text never fails to strike me.   A large, or great, crowd gathering for the Passover feast hears that Jesus is coming to Jerusalem.  They meet him with branches of palm trees, which depict victory and triumph.[1]  They cry, “Hosanna!”  Hosanna is an Aramaic (that is, late-Hebrew dialect) term that originally served as a cry for rescue (as in Psalm 118:25), but stood in Jesus’ day as a general expression of praise.  The assembled host continues, “Blessed art Thou, the One coming in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”  This is lofty praise indeed.

Why did that great crowd bestow such soaring acclamation upon Jesus?  The commentators theorize generally that many Galilean pilgrims were coming to Passover at Jerusalem, and among those Galileans were a robust number noting His earlier ministry there with favor.  That may well be true, but we have a more explicit reason in our text for the crowd’s adulation.

The crowd went to meet Jesus because they heard that He had done this sign—this miracle to a purpose.  The Holy Spirit leads John to use the Greek word semeion (shmeion) that we translate by the word sign.  Signs, as used here, are miracles to a purpose.  Jesus does not perform these signs on a whim merely to show Himself off.  He performs His signs—His miracles—to a purpose.  John, in His Gospel, notes two purposes.  Jesus, by His signs, glorifies Himself and engenders saving faith in elect beholders.  This sign alluded to in today’s text is the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).  This is the seventh listed by John in His Gospel; the other six are Jesus’ turning of the water into wine at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11), His healing of the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54), His healing of the invalid at Bethesda pool (John 5:1-15), His feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-15), His walking upon the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-21), and His healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41, esp. 9:1-34).  Surely Jesus glorified Himself and engendered saving faith in those appointed for eternal life in each of these signs.

Jesus enters Jerusalem to great acclaim from the crowd gathering to celebrate Passover.  Let’s look a bit at the nature of Jesus’ entry.  First, Jesus’ triumphal entry fulfills prophecy.  We read in the final Psalm of the great Hallel (Hallel: Hebrew for praise, Psalms 113-118) of a Blessed One coming in the Name of the LORD, to Whom the Psalmist cries for rescue (Psalm 118:26, 25).  The Apostle John, through the Spirit, rightly applies this text to Jesus.  Second, the prophet Zechariah records that Zion—Jerusalem, emblematic for the elect people of God in Christ—must rejoice, for a King is coming, mounted on the foal of a donkey.  John, once again, applies this prophecy rightly to Jesus.  Jesus is the occasion for rejoicing and loud shouts, for He comes that Palm Sunday into Jerusalem, that citadel of God, mounted on the foal of a donkey.

Second, Jesus’ triumphal entry displays the nature of His Person and reign.  Jesus, by His mounted entry into town to an adoring throng, announces to all who will listen that He is a King—the King of glory.  Jesus, by riding a donkey into Jerusalem, announces that He is a King of peace, and not of war.  Kings who entered cities on horses in that day announced that they sought war.  Jesus seeks peace—and, according to Luke, weeps because Jerusalem does not know the things that make for peace (Luke 19:41-42).  Jesus, by coming relatively unattended and unadorned to Jerusalem, announces Himself as a humble King.  He comes not with trumpet fanfare in regal robes, but He comes in humility to those who will receive Him.

We see finally in today’s text the frustration and anger of the Pharisees—a leading sect of first-century Judaism.  They get no acclamation like Jesus receives—though they lust for it, they do not get it.  They fear loss of position under Roman authority, and they experience loss of face when Jesus corrects their doctrine and practice—yet they cannot gainsay Him at any level.  It is readily apparent to the disinterested observer that the Pharisees cannot stop Jesus; in fact, they cannot even slow Him.  Hence, they vent their exasperation to (or, perhaps, against) one another, saying, “You see that you are gaining nothing.  Look, the world has gone after Him.”[2]

Would that such adoration of Jesus continued ad infinitum at Jerusalem.  Alas, such is not the case.  In fact, we go from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify!” in five days.  Why does public opinion of Jesus swing so dramatically?  First, the Jewish religious elite scheme to remove Jesus, and His threat to them, by any means available.  In Judas Iscariot they find their accomplice for their nefarious deed.  Second, Jesus Himself disappoints Messianic expectation.  The common people of the Jews hope for a political deliverer.  They hope for a leader who will throw Rome back halfway across the northern Mediterranean Sea—with the Pharisees, Sadducees, et al., thrown with them.  When Jesus gives no indication of doing this, the tide turns against Him.  Third, and most fundamental, opinion swings according to the definitive decree of God.  Jesus, in order to glorify God and to atone for sin in elect sinners—thus, reconciling them to the Father in Himself, simply must die.  Jesus knows this, accepts this for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), and, hence, sets His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

Remember, though, the story does not end at “Crucify!”  Nor does it end at, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (Jesus’ last words before His death in Matthew and Mark) or, “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit!” (the same, in Luke) or, “It is finished.” (the same, in John).  In fact, the story never ends—it extends forward into the future to all eternity.  For God’s glorious coup de grace in this matter, however, let us attend His Word next Lord’s Day.


[1] Matthew Henry, Commentary.

[2] The second-person pronouns are plural in the Greek text of the quote of the Pharisees.