Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:1-11
There really is nothing quite like a good parade. For thousands of years, civilizations all over the world have come together to celebrate and express joy through these wonderful displays. Whether it is to celebrate the victory of a long and hard-fought war, the newly crowned Super Bowl champs, or to simply celebrate the fact that it’s another holiday season and people need an excuse to see their favorite cartoon characters in giant inflatable form; people love parades. There was no exception to this in ancient Jerusalem. Approximately 2000 years ago, the Jewish people threw a parade of their own. However, there had been no military victory, no championship trophies, and no oversized inflatable cartoon mouse. Instead, these people were celebrating something much bigger: the coming of the long awaited and much anticipated savior of the world.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was something so significant and so important that it’s one of the few events that all four Gospels document. As Jesus made his way to the city while riding a donkey, the crowds went ahead of him to celebrate the coming king. They threw their cloaks on the ground and cut off palm tree branches to give almost a red carpet effect to welcome him to the sacred city. While this may seem like an odd and even messy way to welcome somebody, this actually reflects a respect for royalty (2 Kings 9:13) and a celebration of freedom as the ancient Jewish text of 1 Maccabees documented the use of palm branches to celebrate liberation from an oppressing enemy just a couple of centuries earlier. This was not just a parade to have for fun or to pass the time, this parade meant something. It meant freedom was coming, oppression was about to come to an end, and a people that had only known pain for centuries were about to experience victory that had been foretold thousands of years earlier.
With joy and excitement, they cried out “Hosanna,” an expression that translates to “Save!” They knew their savior had not only arrived but had come to save them. Save them from oppression, from an identity that had only known defeat and agony, and save them from a past that only separated them from a loving God. Needless to say, the people had more than enough reason to celebrate. The King they had been waiting for had finally arrived and was right in front of them. It would seem reasonable to expect that these people had no idea that the man riding in front of them would be dead in a matter of days and their cries of joy and celebration would turn to cries calling for his death.
This would be the start of the most important week in history.
- The story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is full of powerful imagery. What moment in the story sticks out to you the most? Why?
- The people expected Jesus to come and liberate them from the Romans but he came for something much more. Can you think of a time where you expected God to work in your life in a certain way but he worked differently?
- How do you celebrate what God will do in your life? Is it with the same joy and excitement the Jews showed here?