The triumphal entry marks the occasion when Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we know today as “Palm Sunday.” On that day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey’s colt. The disciples spread their cloaks on the donkey for Jesus to sit on, and the masses came out to welcome him, laying their cloaks and the branches of palm trees before him.
The people hailed Jesus as the “King who comes in the name of the Lord” as he rode from Bethpage, down through the Kidron Valley, and up the slope to the Golden Gate entrance of the Temple complex.
Jesus’ purpose in riding into Jerusalem was to make public his claim to be Messiah in fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy. Jesus rode into his capital city as a conquering King and was hailed by the people as such.
And those who went before and those who followed were shouting,
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)
“Hosanna” is a shout of jubilation that basically means, “Savior” or “Save Us.” This was a huge change of course in Jesus’ ministry. No longer does Jesus tell his disciples to be quiet about him, but to shout his praises and worship him openly. In the Hebrew Scriptures we learn that the spreading of cloaks was an act of homage for royalty. Jesus was openly declaring to the people that he was their Messiah and King – the one they were waiting for.
But this is where the triumphal entry of Jesus gets a bit confusing… While the people accepted Jesus as their Messiah, they welcomed him out of their desire for a deliverer, someone who would lead them in a revolt against Rome. They hailed Jesus as King with their many “Hosannas,” recognizing him as the Son of David who came in the name of the Lord, but they missed the bigger picture – they missed the spiritual nature of his Kingship.
The account of the triumphal entry of Jesus is one of obvious contrasts. It’s the latest example of the “clash of kingdoms” we’ve seen throughout the Gospel accounts. It is the story of a King who came as a lowly servant on a donkey, not a prancing steed. He rode in on the clothes of the poor and humble, not on royal robes. This King came not to conquer by force, but by love, grace, forgiveness, and his own sacrifice. His is not a kingdom of earthly splendor, but of lowly servanthood. He conquers not armies and nations, but hearts and minds.