Images of the Savior (40 â€“ His Triumphal Entry)
The writings of the prophets are filled with predictions of a coming glorious king, from the line of David, who would once again take up the scepter, destroy the enemies of the people of God, and reign in righteousness forevermore (e.g. II Samuel 7:12-13, Isaiah 11:1- 16, Jeremiah 23:5-6). These same prophets also speak much of a coming servant of the Lord, who would suffer much, and be despised and rejected by his own people (e.g. Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:6-13; 52:13-53:12). In Jesus, these two distinct prophetic lines converge with admirable precision, his everlasting kingship being loudly proclaimed by the same people who, a few days later, would reject him indeed, and leave him to drink alone the inexpressible cup of the Father's wrath, a man afflicted beyond measure and full to the brim with sorrows surpassing the imagination. But herein lies the wonder: these two remarkably diverse characteristics of the person and ministry of the Son of David do not co-exist in an unnatural and forced juxtaposition, but rather complement and give meaning to each other, in a relationship that bursts all conceptual bounds of true glory and praiseworthiness that had ever before been dreamed up, extending the dominion of the Kingdom of the Christ into realms that no king had ever before conquered. The unique glory of Christ consists in part of his humility and suffering; and through his time of humiliation, he became the king of death and hell, victorious over sin and the devil, even as before he was the king of life and righteousness. The deepest lowliness won the highest glory, and cast across the illimitable regions of the shadow of death the splendor of the noon-day sun, transforming them into a fruitful and fair place, and bringing them forevermore into the eternal Kingdom of peace. Every spite and thorn and cruel stripe that Jesus bore wrought for him in the fires of divine justice and mercy another rare and marvelous jewel for his crown, the likes of which no other king has ever worn, nor indeed could bear, for it is fitted for one brow alone, that which once bled with the chastisement of our peace, and now irradiates the divine majesty, lighting the New Jerusalem toward which we press on in the wonder of hope.
There is no event in the earthly life of Jesus, save that crowning event of all events, his death and resurrection, that more poignantly displays this diverse majesty in the Messianic accomplishment than that of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, at the beginning of the week in which he was to suffer and enter into his glory. Let us observe the nature of his humility and his royal glory, the divine necessity for both of these things, and the various responses of the crowds.
First, we see that this was an event testifying to the unsurpassed glory of the Savior. The crowds here confessed him to be the king above all kings, waving their palm branches as at the Feast of Tabernacles, and singing the victory psalm of the messianic Savior (Psalm 118:25-26). They were crying out, â€œHosanna,â€ which means, â€œSave us, we pray!â€; and moreover, â€œHosanna in the highest,â€ which intimates that this Savior is the final and greatest Savior, who would accomplish a salvation greater than any that had come before, greater even than that most notable type of the Old Testament, the redemption from Egypt; and finally, â€œBlessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,â€ which holds him up both as the unique representative of Jehovah, and indeed, Jehovah himself, as his name alone is exalted (Psalm 148:13), and the glory of it he will not give to another (Isaiah 42:8). Now, that this ascription of praise goes beyond the designation of a mere man, and recognizes Jesus as very God, may be further proved by two additional considerations. First, the psalm which these crowds were quoting reads, â€œSave us, we pray, O Jehovah!â€; and hence, the crowds were intentionally addressing him as Jehovah, the one true God. And second, inasmuch as they were calling him the greatest and ultimate Savior, they were referring to him by a title which God has reserved for himself alone (see Isaiah 45:21). So we see then, that Jesus was here glorified with the â€œname which is above every nameâ€ (Philippians 2:9-11), the name of Jesus the Lord, that is, the Savior Jehovah.
But we also recognize this as an expression of deep humiliation: for the Savior-King here entered his city, not on a magnificent white charger, but on a lowly ass, and at that a previously unridden colt, the foal of an ass. And we note, moreover, that this lowly animal did not even belong to Jesus, but was borrowed from a man in Bethphage; from which circumstance, we may learn that the glory of Jesus was his alone, from the beginning of time; but his humiliation was something that he borrowed, as it were, or took upon himself willingly, have laid aside the full splendor of his divine majesty. Jesus was rich, but for our sakes he became poor (II Corinthians 8:9); he was from all eternity the radiance of the divine glory, but he borrowed the meek and lowly form of a servant â€“ and what a wonder it is that, through his borrowed humility, he won for himself an even greater glory, namely, the unique glory of Savior, Redeemer, and Mediator between God and man!
Now, let us note the divine necessity for these things. As certainly as Jesus, the Lamb of God, was â€œslain from the foundation of the worldâ€ (Revelation 13:8), so surely were all the events pertaining to the accomplishment of redemption ordained from eternity by the divine counsel. And so notable an event as this was certainly not an exception. We see the necessity of Jesus' humiliation in that it was precisely prophesied many years before he came to this earth, and was therefore as certain as the infinite wisdom and power of the Godhead. For first of all, Zechariah long before this time announced, â€œBehold, your King is coming to you, righteous and bringing salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt, the foal of an assâ€ (Zechariah 9:9)! And even so did Jesus come at this time. But second, we observe that Moses commanded that at the beginning of the week of the Passover, the children of Israel were to bring out their passover lambs (Exodus 12:3); and so it was necessary that the true passover Lamb be brought to the city at the beginning of the week in which he was to be slain for the sins of the world; which thing most notably occurred in the life of our Savior, at this event.
We may also note the necessity for Jesus' glorification in his words to the unbelieving Pharisees that, â€œif these should be silent, the rocks would cry outâ€ (Luke 19:40). Even as Jesus' humility was certain and foreordained, so the praise that this humility deserved was a necessary effect. The Lamb of God died with a definite purpose that cannot be stopped, and that purpose was to call out a band of worshipers from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9-10). When Jesus approached the deep valley of shame and death, he did not merely hope to win a people for his everlasting praise. He did so in order to save a people indeed, so that they might â€œshow forth the virtues of the one who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous lightâ€ (I Peter 2:9). Just as Jesus' passion was foreordained, so were the results of that passion. Oh, let us arise and take the glorious news of the gospels to every people under heaven! Let us beat the hedges and the byways, for the thing is certain, and the divine counsel will stand! If we are faithful to death, we will be given a part in this everlasting Kingdom; and just as the King through his sufferings won a Kingdom and a Name, so we through our sufferings will not fail to call out the elect into that hardly-bought paradise! When we are persecuted, we will yet be triumphant, and even if our blood is spilled out, it will spring up a hundredfold with eternal Kingdom fruit. If our Savior conquered through his deep affliction, how can we doubt that we who follow in his steps will likewise overcome?
But finally, let us notice the response of the crowds. We immediately discern that everyone in Jerusalem was made to respond to this King of kings; and so will it always be. Whether we rail against him as the Pharisees, sing out his praise in false and fleeting approbation as the crowds, who here hailed him as Lord and a few days later clamored for his crucifixion, or else show forth our worship in true obedience as his genuine followers, we will by all means be forced to acknowledge him. Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead, and he will not forever be ignored. Many persons think little of this man, either foolishly supposing themselves to be atheists, or else so entangled with the fleeting riches of this world that they have no time for him. But one day, he will return with great glory, and every eye will see him. No one will then escape the necessity of appearing before him. Every man who has ever been born will then be made to answer to him face to face: those who were furiously mad against him, as these Pharisees, those who slighted him by a greater concern with other things, and those who blasphemed him with insincere praise, when in their hearts they were still dead in sin, will be made to feel in individual audience the eternal wrath of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. But those who loved him in truth, who walked behind him through the vale of suffering, and considered every loss to be a joy for the sake of him whom they had gained, will rejoice forevermore in the glory of his righteous power and his gentle mercy. Ah, dear reader, in which class will you be? Know of a certainty that there is no third option.
We pray that on that day, you will cry out with the saints in joy, â€œHallelujah, for the Lord God Almighty reigns! We will rejoice and be glad and give him glory, because the marriage feast of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself, and it was granted to her that she should be clothed in pure, radiant linen; for the linen is the righteousnesses of the saintsâ€ (Revelation 19:6-8). â€œEven so, come, Lord Jesusâ€ (Revelation 22:20)!