The triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem is read twice in the church year. It is read on the First Sunday in Advent and again on Palm Sunday as we begin Holy Week. When heard in Advent, the reading has a general relationship to the arrival of the Lord in the past, right now, and in future judgment. When heard today it has a special relationship to the suffering and death of our Lord.
This reading is vitally important in setting the stage for what happens from now until next Sunday. This reading’s second appearance is also odd because the Lord, while He otherwise carefully avoided all royal honors, has no problem receiving royal honors from the crowd. Why did Jesus have a royal entry when He set Himself toward His passion in Jerusalem?
Jesus wanted to express Himself as the promised King of Israel and as Lord. No longer does He hide His divine attributes. He lets His omnipotence shine forth as He tells two of His disciples, Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. When the two disciples find the colt, some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.
See yourself in those standing there wondering what these two random men are doing untying a random colt. Their action looks like stealing. All it took was saying what Jesus told them. They let them go. The power of Christ’s Word breaks down barriers, even the barriers we put up to try to stop the Lord from giving His gifts among us. Then it was the gift of beginning His suffering and death. Now it is our reason, our senses, and everything that makes you believe Jesus could not do what He says He is able to do.
These things also try to block from your memory the words of Zechariah’s prophecy: Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt! You are afraid. Jesus has every opportunity to walk away from His work of redemption. He begs His Father to take the cup of suffering from Him. It was the Father’s will that His only-begotten Son suffers and dies this way for your sin. He could have sent countless angels to fight on His behalf. The sword is sheathed. There is no violence here. There are no angels ready to minister to Him as they did after His satanic temptations.
Jesus wanted to show His great willingness to suffer. When times of suffering come to you, you are allergic to what comes upon you. You know the blessed cross of affliction will come, and indeed now comes in many ways. The cross may be lifted. Then again, you may have to bear the cross for your entire life. Jesus saw what was coming. He never shirked from setting His face on Jerusalem. He told His disciples many times, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.
The disciples go with Jesus. They do not understand what will happen. In time, Jesus will open their minds to what is said in the Old and New Testaments concerning His death and resurrection. Looking back at what happened that week, the disciples could see why most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Now is the time for the Savior of Jew and Gentile to be recognized publicly and received by His people as their King. We are doubly blessed not only to hear His triumphal entry into Jerusalem today, but also to hear a portion of Saint Matthew’s account of the Passion of the Christ. Let there be no part-time Christians this week, dearly beloved. We also should join with the disciples and accompany Him in His Passion. Jesus is our King and our Lord. Willingly He took upon Himself great love for our sake. As we sing in the marvelous hymn, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth”: Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,/ To slaughter led without complaint,/ That spotless life to offer,/ He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies,/ The mockery, and yet replies,/ “All this I gladly suffer.”
“All this I gladly suffer.” Rare is the occasion that you would suffer anything for even your closest friend, let alone your closest family member or even your spouse. Our first instinct in suffering, even considering Jesus’ suffering, is to look away and wish it would not have happened. We ignore His suffering for our sake. We ignore our own suffering and surrender to it rather than fight it. Jesus never surrendered. He went through the whole miserable business without one word of complaint. He did all this willingly. He did it gladly, for your sake.
We walk behind the royal banners that forward go this week to the cross, through the tomb, into hell, out of the tomb, and into the world. The sacrifice is complete. The atonement is made sure in the resurrection. You shall not die. You live because Jesus dies and lives for you. No wonder our Savior does not shirk a royal entrance into Jerusalem. He is the King of the Jews. He is truly the Son of God.