it is important to read the other accounts of the Triumphal Entry, as they
include certain details that Mark left out.)
now come to the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry. As with the other
Gospels, we still have a substantial amount of text left. On balance, the
Gospels devote about half the text to the final week. It begins with the
Holy Bible, New International Version
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and
Bethany at the
Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2saying to them, “Go
village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied
which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you,
‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back
4They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a
doorway. As they
untied it, 5some people standing there asked, “What
are you doing, untying that
colt?” 6They answered as Jesus had told them to,
and the people let them go.
7When they brought the colt to Jesus and
threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.
8Many people spread their cloaks on the
road, while others spread branches they
had cut in the fields. 9Those who went ahead and those who
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of
is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
11Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the
temple. He looked around at
everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the
for the moment, that you were from another planet. You have a grasp of the
language, but no learning on our customs, traditions and pleasures. You see a
crowd going into a stadium, and you follow along to see your very first
baseball game. What would you see; how would you react?
The National Anthem
the loudspeakers come two bars of music. Everyone stands and turns to look in
a particular direction. It appears they are looking at a piece of colored
cloth on a pole. Most place their hand over their heart. At the end of the two
bars, everyone begins singing a tune which seems well beyond the capacity of
the average human being. What is going on here?
- Ritual – the
singing of the National Anthem is a ritual. It is an affirmation of
patriotism. It recollects a war long since over, but mostly it is a way
of uniting the crowd. Standing, hands over heart – all these are ritual
movements meant to portray a meaning. Ritual unites, but it also proclaims
certain things to be true.
- Symbolism –
that colored cloth (the flag, obviously) clearly cannot be the object of
their devotion. It must, therefore, represent something else which is not
easily portrayed. The meaning of the symbol depends largely upon the
experiences of those who see it. To our interplanetary visitor, it means
nothing. To a veteran, it may be of deep significance. Interestingly,
all agree on what it means, yet all have a different experience of it.
now note that various individuals, clad in three differing uniforms, take the
field. Those guys in black seem to be obsessed with making gestures with their
hands. Sometimes the crowd applauds; other times they boo. There seems to be
no connection between the gesture and the reaction. What’s going on here?
- Open signals – the signals of the umpires are open to all. Balls
and strikes, safe and out, these are ways of conveying the decision to the
- Secret signals – the coaches along the side of the infield have
signals too. But these are supposed to be kept secret, as they are meant
for one team only. To understand these, you would have to be a member of
one of the teams.
Pattern of the game
curious of all seems to be the pattern of the game. It evidently has no
clock. They change sides suddenly, but all players seem to know when to do
- Prescribed – it’s clear that the rules for this game are
prescribed somewhere. There must be a rule book. Somehow or other
everyone knew to stand up half way through the seventh inning.
- Not predestined – it’s equally clear that this is no stage
performance. The players attempt to perform as best they can, but
obviously no one has predestined the results.
curious game, baseball.
Triumphal Entry is a fixture in most churches. Palm Sunday comes around, and
little children are given long palm branches (and a stern injunction not to hit
other small children with them). This gives the kids something to do during
the services and provokes any number of cute pictures. Most churches skip the
part with the donkey (donkeys are not amenable to indoor cleanliness). But do
we get the meaning of the entry?
Rituals and symbols
like the singing of the National Anthem and the flag on the pole, this passage
uses ritual and symbols to show meaning:
that colt? You’ll note that it is the symbol of a King coming in peace.
(Kings coming in war ride a horse). Jesus is offering himself to the Jews
as their king, in the lineage of David.
not entirely obvious at first reading, but if you will map out the route
Jesus takes to get here, it’s clear that he went from the southwestern
corner of Jerusalem, out one gate to Bethphage – a village near the Mount
of Olives – to come through a particular gate. That gate is the Eastern
gate (now called the Golden Gate). We know from Ezekiel that this gate is
the one through which “the Prince” will ride. Jesus is presenting himself
as Prince of Peace.
last may take a bit more explaining. Ezekiel (44th chapter)
describes a Temple not yet built. Premillennialists insist that this is the
Temple that will exist during the Millennium. Whether or not this is a
fulfillment (at least in part) of this prophecy cannot be stated for certain.
But that gate had the significance mentioned. We still say that we “orient”
ourselves. The original meaning of that word was to face east – towards the
and in accord with Ezekiel, this gate is now shut permanently. It is blocked
with masonry. This prophecy is so important that in 1917, when General Allenby
(British Army) conquered Jerusalem, he came in using a gate on the western
side. It did know good. Postmillennialists (who know that 1917 is a crucial
year in their timetable) immediately seized upon the event as being prophetic
fulfillment. Mayhap it is. The British occupation of Palestine ended with
the establishment of modern Israel.
of it what you may: Jesus wanted to enter through that gate. He proclaimed
himself “the Prince.”
like in our baseball game, there are signals being used here:
is the “Conqueror’s Psalm.” It’s from Psalm 118. It was sung as Judas
Maccabeus entered the city in triumph. This, then, is entry in triumph.
disciples and the crowd shout “Hosanna.” The word means “save now.” So
this signals that Jesus is coming as Savior.
branches? Cloaks on the ground? This is the traditional welcome given to
Pattern and prophecy
happens according to God’s plan; but all happens as people do it of their own
free will. Just as our baseball game has nine innings, three strikes and
you’re out, so this portrayal his its pattern as well. It comes from
prophecy. Recall that colt. Do you see that it has never been put to
agricultural use? If you will go back into Numbers, chapter 19, you will see
the significance of that. Such an animal was required as a sacrifice for
purification of the Tabernacle – a forerunner of the Temple. Jesus is
presenting himself – at the time of Passover – as the Sacrifice which makes
atonement for sin.
all this is interesting stuff (I hope) – but what good is it? Its use is
simply this: in the Triumphal Entry our Lord presents himself to the Jews (and
thus to us) in several roles. We need to ask ourselves how we see him – and do
we respond to him in those roles.
Most of us connect the word savior with Jesus. But do we really feel ourselves
in need of a savior? Some – whose lives have been wrecked – know this feeling
intimately. But for many of us the attitude is one of good works. We feel
that our good deeds outweigh the evil we have done, and God will be generous in
rewarding that. The sense that we are all sinners is something which is
downplayed in much of the church today. We forget: the only acceptable
sacrifice for God is the pure one. Only Jesus can make atonement for us.
in the position of a counterfeiter caught in the act – who asks a few minutes
to print up some more bills to pay his fine. The Judge is not amused.
difficult for modern Americans to accept anyone, even Jesus, as King. We have
trouble with the word “Lord.” We are so used to the idea that no one has that
right (1776 and all that). But human beings need righteous authority in their
here’s the test: do you feel any call to obedience to Christ? Or are his
commands useful in justifying what you had planned to do anyway – and ignored
for a moment, I could tell you the price of any stock on the market – a year
from today. Do you suppose my advice would be sought? My purchases carefully
watched? Count on it.
Jesus is a prophet is acknowledged. But do we consider him in that role? A
prophet is one who “foretells and forthtells.” Do we listen to his warnings?
Over and over he gives us instruction in righteousness.
than that: he has prophesied his return. On that day all will be revealed.
Are we ready for it?
accounts indicate Jesus’ words that the stones would cry out if his disciples
are two ways in which we ignore this about Jesus. One, in aggregate, is the
way in which we are mistreating his planet. But more important for the
individual Christian is this: we are often guilty of treating Jesus as
“buddy.” We forget that we are the pot in his potter’s hands. The matter is
one of respect merging into awe. Do we see him as the Almighty Creator?
all things we miss, this is surely the most grievous. Every week we take
Communion, just to remember that sacrifice. He who had no sin became sin for
us. Do we have any sense of gratitude for that? Amazing grace, how sweet the
you really want a personal relationship with someone, you must know quite a bit
about them – who they really are. Jesus here presents himself as Savior, King,
Prophet, Creator and Sacrifice. If we truly wish to be his friend, we will begin
by acknowledging this.