John 12:12 – 19 Jesus comes to Jerusalem as king
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,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written:
‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
See, your king is coming
Seated on a donkey’s colt.’
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’
* * *
All four gospels include this story, and their descriptions are similar. You can find them at Matthew 21:1 – 11, Mark 11:1 – 11 and Luke 19:28 – 44. The gist of each story is that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey or a colt, and was acclaimed as king of Israel by large crowds. St Matthew and St John record that the entry on a donkey was to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9); ‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’
St John provides two other elements:
- He mentions that it was the testimony of the witnesses to the resurrection of Lazarus that brought the crowds; and
- He records the response of the Pharisees to Jesus triumphal entry.
St John’s explanation for the malice of the Pharisees is that they feared a popular religious movement that would provoke Rome. A movement that identified its leader as the Messiah was doubly dangerous; the Messiah was to be king of Israel, and establish the throne of David once more.
They were under no illusions as to what would happen. The Romans would crush them mercilessly. (And they were right, as we know from the way the Romans subsequently dealt with various Jewish uprisings. Eventually Israel was destroyed as a nation state until the 20th century).
But Jesus was not a military leader; he was not someone seeking to overthrow rulers by violence. For his triumphal entry into Jerusalem he signalled as much by choosing to ride a donkey. If he had been a military leader, he would have ridden a horse.
And yet, he was (and is) a king, and he affirms as much.
In Matthew 21:15 – 16 we read: “But when the chief priests and teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read “From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise”?’
In Luke 19:37 – 40 we read: “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
And that brings me to the heart of what I need to consider.
What does the kingship of Jesus mean to me?
However Jesus chooses to rule, the essence of kingship is that he rules and I obey. When I don’t obey, I deny him; I turn my face away from him; I step away from him.
I must be obedient to Jesus, because he is the king.
Thank you for opening my eyes to the kingship of Jesus. Please help me to be obedient to his will.
In Jesus’ name, Amen