The story of Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem proves it is possible to celebrate the right person for all the wrong reasons.
Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a colt. People lined the road, covering it with their cloaks and palm branches and crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
In other words, they greeted him as a king. In our day, we know this was appropriate. As people who understand the full story, we know that God in flesh, the very source of salvation, rode before them.
But at the same time, we must remember that the cheering crowd and the disciples who walked with Jesus were blind. The people were blind to what was about to happen, to the way salvation would be made possible.
Their blindness didn’t happen because Jesus had left them in the dark. Three times he had told his followers the truth: that the Messiah must be condemned, mocked, humiliated and killed before rising from the dead on the third day.
No one wanted to see this picture he had painted, however. Instead, prestige, power and instant gratification were on the minds of Jesus’ followers.
Jesus told the truth about where the colt was leading him, but not long before the ride, James and John instead tried to maneuver themselves into seats alongside the earthly throne they believed Jesus would soon occupy. I want to scream across 2,000 years and warn them, “Open your eyes, see what’s coming—blood and violence and a cross splintered by nails driven through flesh.”
Jesus told the truth about the road ahead of him, but during the ride, the crowds that would abandon him in just a few short days cheered him onward, believing he would conquer both the corrupt Jewish leaders and their Roman puppet masters. If only they could have seen Jesus’ humiliation and suffering to come at the hands of these earthly powers.
Jesus told the truth about the need for the Messiah’s death and resurrection, but not long after the ride, even nature failed him. Hungry as he left Jerusalem for the evening, the creator of the universe rightly expected a part of his creation, a fig tree, to provide him sustenance. The tree failed to see to the needs of the one for whom it was made, and withered under the creator’s curse.
Everyone had something he or she wanted from Jesus, but no one for a moment seemed to consider what God wanted through Jesus. What God wanted was a complete and total solution to the problem of sin, a repair to the gap between God and the people made in God’s image. God didn’t want Jesus to storm a fortress. He wanted Jesus to retake and ultimately remake the universe.
This solution goes beyond earthly kingdoms, beyond who gets which title once Jesus takes control. It’s a solution no human could see because no human could imagine how far God was willing to go to redeem us and live in harmony with us.
We do know something of the mind of the man who rode that colt into Jerusalem. Philippians 2:5-11 helps. Here, we see the infinite mind humbled, reduced and emptied of any sense of entitlement.
The crowds cheered, but Christ knew he rode toward death. Did the trip into Jerusalem at any time give Jesus a clear view of Golgotha? The cry of “hosanna” must have contrasted sharply with the shout Jesus knew would come just a few days later—”Crucify him!”
But as I’ve said, the people lining the road and walking with Jesus could not see what was in the mind of Christ, and even his closest disciples refused to hear his words. They wanted what they wanted, standing as a cheering mass, thinking they knew everything but actually knowing nothing of God’s plan.
To understand, they would first have to wonder at a stone rolled away from a tomb and see a battered and broken body restored to life. Only the cross and the resurrection would allow them to “come to themselves,” to borrow a phrase from the parable of the prodigal son.
Let me ask you this:
Do you really grasp what God has done through Jesus? Do you know he rode to his death for you, for your sins, the sins committed years ago, the sins committed yesterday, the sins still to come?
Do you cheer and cry hosanna for the right reasons? Do you cry hosanna with every moment of your life, conforming yourself to the one who has saved you? Is your life now his?
Thank God for Easter Sunday and the blindness it heals.