By J.R. Miller
The triumphal entry was one of the most remarkable incidents in our Lord's life. Usually Jesus made no public demonstration, did nothing to draw attention to Himself in any way. Indeed, He avoided notoriety and fame; He did not strive nor cry aloud; neither did anyone hear His voice in the streets. He spoke to His disciples confidentially of His Messiahship--but did not publicly proclaim it. On this occasion, however, He made a public demonstration; riding into the city as a king would ride, thus proclaiming to the multitudes assembling for the Passover feast--the fact of His Messiahship. How shall we explain this? May we not say that it was another way of presenting Himself to the people, offering Himself to them as their Messiah, for the last time? A prophet had foretold that He would thus in this spectacular way, ride into the city--but He did not do it merely to fulfill prophecy. The prophecy was part of the will of God for him--and there was a reason for it beyond the fulfilling of what had been foretold.
"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them: Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me." Note their obedience. "The disciples went--and did as Jesus had instructed them." They were glad to have a part in the honoring of their Master. No doubt they themselves shared the expectations of the multitude regarding Jesus, hoping that the time had now come for Him to assume His place as King. It was a lowly errand on which they were sent--to bring to their Master the animal on which He was to ride--but they were proud to be chosen for this service. We should be glad always to run any errand, even the humblest, for our Master. If He were here now, and wanted to ride somewhere, who would not be eager to bring Him his horse to ride upon?
Jesus has told us that we may now do just such errands for Him--since what we do for any of His little ones, even the least, in His name, is done for Him. We may so set Jesus before us--that our very drudgeries shall be made Divine; we may thus transform them into heavenly ministries, by doing them for Him. The angels never think about the degree of honorableness in the tasks they are set to do.
Promptly the disciples returned, bringing with them the animals they had been sent to bring. "They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them." The donkey was a symbol of peace. If Jesus had ridden on a horse, it would have spoken of war--but He was the Prince of Peace. In those days there was nothing degrading on riding on an donkey. It was the royal animal.
The disciples were told to say to the owner, that the Lord had need of the animals. There is nothing that Christ may not use--nothing of ours, however lowly, which may not have its place in advancing His kingdom and glory. It is said that once Queen Victoria was traveling through the Highlands and stopped a little while at the home of a poor woman to rest and sat in a common chair. When the royal party was leaving, one whispered to the old woman, that it was the Queen who had been in her home. She took up the chair on which the Queen had been sitting and carried it away, saying, "No one ever shall sit in this chair again, because my Queen has used it!" Our King will use anything we have, and what of ours He uses--is lifted to highest honor. He has need for our money, our hands, our feet, our lips--and we do well when we hold all our possessions ready at any call of His--to be used as He desires.
It was a strange scene--the enthusiasm of the people that day as Jesus rode toward the city. "A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road." Xerxes, history tells us, when passing over the bridge of the Hellespont, found the road strewn with branches of myrtle, while perfumes filled the air. When Alexander the Great was entering Babylon, flowers were strewn before him. It is no wonder that these Jewish pilgrims honored Jesus that day. For the moment they regarded Him as indeed their Messiah. They were escorting Him into the city, as they thought--to take His place on David's throne. They were not deceived, either, for Jesus was really going to His coronation, though not to such a coronation as they thought. He was to be crowned--but with thorns! The people were indeed escorting the Messiah--but not such a Messiah as they were looking for. The time of His triumph was indeed at hand--though not such a triumph as they expected to see. His kingdom was not of this world. His glory was to be reached through disgrace and shame. He was the king of sorrows, because through sorrow He prepared redemption for the world. The strange pageant of that day was a picture, a Divine foreshadowing, of the coming day, when all nations shall join in honoring Christ as King.
Glad were the songs that rang out on the air that morning: "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" The people were disappointed in a sense. In a little while all their bright hopes had vanished--Jesus went to a cross instead of a throne! Soon "Hosanna!" was changed to "Crucify Him!" Soon the palm branches were withered and trodden underfoot by the throngs. Yet the people sang that morning better than they knew. They thought of the restoring of David's kingdom; the King that was coming was really far more glorious than David. They expected liberty from the Roman yoke; Jesus brought liberty from the yoke of Satan and sin. They expected restoration of homes, riches and honors; Jesus had restored us to our place in our Father's family. They looked for physical prosperity; He brought the peace of God and the prosperity which comes by righteousness. They expected the conquest of all nations by their Messiah; he will conquer the whole world by His grace and truth. The earthly blessings they looked for as a result of the Messiah's coming--were but the shadows of the heavenly joys which He actually brought.
A remarkable scene occurred in the temple. "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves." The temple was the house of prayer--but it had been changed into a den of robbers, as Jesus says. Not only did these traders desecrate the sacred house by making it a marketplace--but they robbed the people by usury and overcharging. Jesus cast out the traders and the money changers and cleansed the holy place. Thus it is that He would do--when He comes as King into our hearts. Made to be temples of God, houses of prayer, homes of purity and peace--sin has turned them into dens of robbers, desecrating them and filling them with unholy things. Christ's first work is to drive out all that defiles them, all that is unholy, and make them ready to be God's dwelling-places!
The rulers were vexed when they saw all that Jesus had done. They seemed to have been especially annoyed by hearing the children singing their hosannas to Jesus. He reminded them, however, that their own Scriptures had foretold this very scene: "Have you never read: From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?" Everywhere in the Bible we learn that children are dear to God. He wants their earliest love. He is pleased to hear their voices in songs of praise. A sweeter music rises to heaven from the children's singing, than from trained choirs of insincere, formal, or mere professional worshipers. The children should always be in the church services and should join in the songs. The service is completed, perfected by their voices.
The great triumph of Christ is still going on in this world. The palm branches which were waved that day have long since faded, and the music of the songs has died away on the air; but uncounted millions are following in the procession of those who honor Him. Among these are prophets, apostles, martyrs and saints of all ages. Countless multitudes have been gathered from the darkest abodes of sin, and, wearing white garments washed in the blood of the Lamb, are now among those who honor Christ. Old men and boys, feeble women and maidens, all saved by the power of the cross--are now singing the song, "Hosanna to the Son of David!"