The Sunday before the darkest day in history. How did we get here?
Jesus of Nazareth has spent three years teaching His 12 disciples and attempting to keep out of the spotlight while simultaneously conducting miracles and preaching the gospel of repentance. He came for a mission, and it’s time of fulfillment was near as He approached Jerusalem for the final time.
His most recent and dramatic miracle was the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44), which caused quite a stir in the region. So as Jesus approaches Jerusalem a large crowd has gathered to see Him.
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethpage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘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. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.’ ‘
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.
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! And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’ ” Matthew 21:1-11
‘Hosanna‘, according to Strong’s concordance, is an ‘exclamation of adoration’ which means ‘Save now!’.
The words the crowd was shouting come from Psalm 118:25-26:
“Save us, we pray O LORD! O LORD! we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who come in the name of the LORD!”
By quoting these verses and giving Jesus the title ‘Son of David”, John MacArthur notes in his study Bible, they “make it clear that the crowd was acknowledging Christ’s messianic claim.” MacArthur also noted that the laying of their cloaks on the ground and waving branches was an ‘ancient act of homage reserved for high royalty.’
The crowd was adoring their long awaited Messiah. At long last, the delivering king was here!
Finally, Israel would be out from under the oppression of Rome. The tax burden would finally be lifted and freedom to worship and gather would be theirs. They wanted to be ‘saved now!’ And the Savior was here in front of them.
But, wait a minute. Something wasn’t right.
Kings who want to conquer the enemy didn’t ride on donkeys. They rode on war horses. Jesus rode humble, and mounted on a donkey, signifying he was coming in peace, not war. (Zechariah 9:9-10)
Kings wore royal robes and a crown, and held a scepter signifying their absolute authority. Jesus had none of these.
By Friday He would be given all three – the only robe was a mock one; the crown – made of thorns; and the scepter – a reed. (Matthew 27:27-30) This deliverer was about to be stripped naked and crucified – a humiliating and shameful death. All of it, undeserved. Conquering kings didn’t allow such things to happen, they fought valiantly first.
Israel’s hope of “Hosanna” was soon dashed.
For today, Palm Sunday, five days before the darkest day in history, the crowds chanted “Blessed be the name of the LORD!” In just five days, those waving palm branches in worship would change their fickle words. In just five days, their bloodthirsty chant would become, “Crucify Him!”
You see, He wasn’t the hero they expected, nor wanted – the one designed in the imagination of their self-righteous hearts. He didn’t do what they expected. His meekness angered them. After all, a deliverer – the Messiah they were waiting for – surely must be more glamorous than this fellow from Nazareth. They could not understand that His conquering would come later, in His second return. He had greater things to accomplish in His first visit – things they wouldn’t accept or believe.
One day He will ride on a white war horse, wearing many crowns, and a robe dipped in blood and He will conquer His enemies with a sharp sword and scepter of iron (Revelation 19:11-16). For now, He was a meek and humble nobody riding on a donkey and offering the only peace they needed.
Jesus was never painted in the holy Scriptures as glamorous nor as attractive. That’s the thing – the Truth of Scripture is not always glamorous, but it is always true. Will you believe it?
“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
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