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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 51 – John 12:12, 16

Jesus enters Jerusalem

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” … “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

This is usually called the Triumphal Entry but how much triumph there was in it is a matter for dispute. Perhaps it should rather be called the well-timed entry because Jesus had clearly decided that he wanted to be crucified (WANTED to be CRUCIFIED!!!) on the day of the Passover so he had carefully organized things so that that would happen. The other gospels tell us that he arranged for two disciples, who may or may not have been two of his inner circle, to fetch the donkey and it even sounds as though he had arranged with the owner of the donkey to borrow it without most of his disciples knowing what he had done.

He wanted to be convicted and judiciously murdered. He went about that by doing something that would really upset the Jewish leaders. He may even have made sure there were some people in the crowd to start the chanting of the Psalm and create the general excitement. The Psalm that was used was number 118, where we read, “Lord, save us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. … With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession.” Just to make matters worse, or better from his point of view, he made sure they added words from Zephaniah 3: 15, “The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;” thus making sure he fitted in with Zechariah 9: 9 where it says, “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey”.

So this all appeared to be an open claim to kingship. The crowd were interpreting it as a conquering hero act. We may be sure the Roman authorities and the Jewish leaders, who will have been closely watching what was going on, will have come to the same conclusion. It all looked like the first move in a revolt against the rule of Rome and those Jews who were profiting by the help they gave to the occupying authorities.

The next day Jesus cleared the Temple courts, as John recorded in chapter 2, just to make doubly sure of his death! That is what the Son of the Living God did for us, for you, for me.

Once a year most churches celebrate Palm Sunday (also called Passion Sunday). When we are involved it is important that we grasp the full significance of what is well expressed in the old hymn: “Ride on, ride on, in majesty/In lowly pomp ride on to die.” It is an act of remembrance, but we need to remember not just this moment of apparent triumph, but the deep and lasting triumph that was only achieved through death, the grave and resurrection.

We are told that, “at first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.” So it is with us. We too will not at first grasp much of the significance of what Jesus did for us. Indeed, to a considerable extent we never will be able to get our minds and hearts properly round how the Son of God could die for us, what that means for us, how that should affect our day-to-day living and where we shall end up as a consequence.

But with the gift of the Holy Spirit to help and encourage us we walk on, hand in hand with Jesus. What glory is ours! Hosanna and hosanna and hosanna.

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