This week on Pray the Word, we are looking at different texts each day that correspond to different that were happening during Holy Week, close to a couple thousand years ago. So, today’s text is John 12:12-15 “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!'”
Jesus enters Jerusalem in an unexpected way, surrounded by the praises of people who would soon scoff at His name.
So, just picture the scene. Streets of Jerusalem filled with visitors. The city, typically home to around 40,000 people, would swell to over 200,000 as Jews from far and wide would make this annual pilgrimage for the Feast of Unleven Bread. This week would then culminate in the Passover, which meant religious fervor would be at a height. So, for a Jew, Passover was a reminder. You think back to the Old Testament, of Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. How God had spared Israel from his judgment, while striking down the Egyptians. So, better time for Israel’s Messiah, in a sense, to make a grand entrance, and deliver God’s people, now from Roman rule.
So, on this Sunday of Holy Week, this scene was set for Jesus’ triumphal entry. Some had already heard Jesus teach with authority. Others had seen him heal the sick, cast out demons, perform all kinds of miracles. There were even reports that he had raised people from the dead. So with that kind of build-up, I think we can understand the crowd’s reaction to Jesus when they took branches and bow down and cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”
But despite all this acclaim that Jesus was receiving, he, just think about it, he didn’t look like a conquering king, he made this great entry, not on some war horse, but on the back of a donkey, which was a picture of peace. Which had to make people think about, “Well, was this really Israel’s Messiah? Like, this long awaited deliverer. Did we miss something, here?” But this scene, like John writes, was actually foretold centuries earlier by Zechariah the prophet. “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your king is coming, sitting on donkey’s colt.”
So, in one sense, obviously, yes, the people were right to offer praise. Like, Israel’s kind had indeed arrived. And he had come to save God’s people. However, the salvation he was bringing, would come in an unexpected way. He was entering into the city, through shouts of praise, but he would soon hear a crowd of people calling for his crucifixion. Indeed, this was the king and the Messiah, but not the kind that many Jews expected.
And the way he would save them, would be by dying for them. And we have to be careful not to criticize the crowds for not understanding God’s plan, here, in John 12. Like our own sin blinds us to that same truth. We would never have seen Jesus for who he really is, if God hadn’t opened our eyes to this truth, and without the help of his spirit, we would never see that our greatest need has nothing to do with our political freedoms, or lack thereof, or our finances, or our reputation, even our physical health. That our greatest need is spiritual. That we’ve all sinned against a Holy God, and we can’t save ourselves from the penalty, power of sin. Only a king, who comes to deal with our sin can offer us the hope that we need.
So, we need a king who is a Passover lamb, to take away the sin of the world, and that’s what Jesus came into Jerusalem to do. So, we pray, God, our way of thinking is so different from yours. And we are so tempted to think in worldly terms, even selfish terms of what we think we need. But we just bow and confess right now, that our greatest need is forgiveness of our sins, is a reconciliation to you. And we praise you, Jesus, for making that possible. We praise you for defying expectations, for redefining greatness by coming in a humble way like this, into Jerusalem, and giving your life for people whose praise is fickle.
And God, you made a way fur us to be reconciled to you that is far beyond anything we could have ever asked, or imagined. And we give you glory today, here, as we begin this Holy Week, and remembering these events. God, we praise you for your grace, in Christ. Jesus, we praise you for your humility. We praise you for coming to save us from our sin, and from ourselves. And we pray that you would help us to glorify you today, with the lives you’ve given us to live in this world. Help us to live according to your ways, not our ways. In Jesus name we pray, amen.