12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord-- the King of Israel!" 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: 15 "Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18 It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!"
Meditation: The Jewish people had long expected that the Messiah would come at Passover time. When news spread that Jesus had raised his friend Lazarus from the dead and was now on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover, the crowds gathered in great excitement to greet him. When they saw him approaching from the Mount of Olives they went out to hail him as their Messiah King. They shouted the prophetic words of Psalm 118:25-26: "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord-- the King of Israel!" The Jewish people had sung this victory psalm every year during the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. This psalm praises God for delivering his people from bondage in Egypt and points to the day when God's annointed King will enter Jerusalem as its conquering hero. The word "hosanna" in Hebrew literally means "save, pray!" or "save now!"
Jesus went to Jerusalem at Passover time knowing full well what awaited him -- betrayal, rejection, and crucifixion. The people of Jerusalem, however, were ready to hail him as their Messianic King! Little did they know what it would cost this king to usher in his kingdom. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem astride a colt was a direct fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah (9:9): Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem. Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, and riding on an ass and upon a colt the foal of an ass. The colt was a sign of peace. Jesus enters Jerusalem in meekness and humility, as the Messianic King who brings victory and peace to his people. That victory and peace would be secured in the cross and resurrection which would take place in a matter of days at the time of Passover.
Augustine, the great 5th century church father, comments on the significance of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem: "The master of humility is Christ who humbled himself and became obedient even to death, even the death of the cross. Thus he does not lose his divinity when he teaches us humility. ..What great thing was it to the king of the ages to become the king of humanity? For Christ was not the king of Israel so that he might exact a tax or equip an army with weaponry and visibly vanquish an enemy. He was the king of Israel in that he rules minds, in that he gives counsel for eternity, in that he leads into the kingdom of heaven for those who believe, hope, and love. It is a condescension, not an advancement for one who is the Son of God, equal to the Father, the Word through whom all things were made, to become king of Israel. It is an indication of pity, not an increase in power." [Tractates on John 51.3-4]
The religious leaders were upset when they heard the report of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Now they react with even greater jealousy when they hear that the crowds hail Jesus as their Messiah. Their derisive comment that the whole world is now going after Jesus is an ironic testimony to Jesus' mission - to not only be Israel's Savior and King but the Savior and Ruler of the whole world as well.
Psalm 24 is another prophetic passage which echoes this triumphal procession of the King of glory into the gates of Jerusalem: Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Jesus Christ came to bring us the kingdom of God. He is the true King who offers peace, joy, and everlasting life for those who accept his kingship. Does the Lord Jesus find a welcome entry into your life and home as King and Messiah?
"Lord Jesus, be the King and Ruler of my heart, mind, life, and home. May my life reflect your meekness and humility that you may be honored as the King of glory!"