The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him (John 12:12-16). 


“Humanity is fickle,” a poet once wrote. “They may dress for a morning coronation and never feel the need to change clothes to attend an execution in the afternoon. So Triumphal Sundays and Good Fridays always fit comfortably into the same April week” (Calvin Miller, The Singer).


So it would be with the clamoring horde who went out to greet Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. They had heard he had done something beyond belief. He had raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Surely anyone who could defeat the most feared enemy of humankind could drive out the forces of Rome that were occupying the nation of Judah. So, man, woman, and child alike shouted as loudly as they could: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!”


It’s the palms they waved which give away what the people were thinking. In that day, palms were used to greet great military leaders, conquering kings who brought glory to the nation. The crowd was greeting Jesus as someone who could put their country back on top and give them the glory they craved. In effect, they were saying: “Hail, warrior King.”


Jesus was thrilled by their praise, right? Not at all. Hoping they would get the point, he found a donkey and sat on it. A lowly burro. A king ready for war or returning from war would come down the street on a prancing and decorated horse with the monarch’s army marching behind. A ruler seeking peace, though, would come in on a donkey. So Jesus wanted people to understand that his kingdom would not come through armed conflict, but by the suffering of his own death.


Our Lord intended to make peace and justice more than just dreams in the hearts and minds of the hurting and downtrodden. The author of John wants us to see the scene that Sunday in terms of two prophecies. One comes from Zechariah. The other is from Zephaniah. Even if you have never heard of either of those writers, you will be thrilled by what they had to say. They told of a time when there would be no more fear or hopelessness. There would instead be joy and singing. Those who were always left out and forgotten would get attention. That, says John, is the sort of kingdom Jesus was promising to the crowd.


Once that became clear, Jesus turned into merely a hero for the day. The crowd dressed to crown him as king turned against him. Their shouts of praise turned to jeers. Their festive garments became fouled with the blood of their would-be ruler.


But what was bad news to people who were bitterly disappointed with Jesus is good news for us. In a world full of war, Jesus holds out the promise of peace. In a nation where so many in business, government, and church are arrogant, prideful, and greedy, Jesus gives an example of a leader who is humble and giving, even to the point of sacrificing his own life. To people who are hurting or forgotten or lonely, and maybe that describes you today, Jesus says “I know your pain. I remember you. You are important to me. I will give you the joy you long to know.” To all who seek inspiration and strength in the midst of life, Jesus will give resurrection power, for we believe that though this humble king was put to death, he rose again and was crowned with glory and honor.


And that’s something worth cheering about.

© 2009 Tom Cheatham

Please visit these Lenten blogs by other writers in the CCBlogs network. You may need to go a blog’s homepage or archives to access the latest entries.


Don’t Eat Alone     

Pastor’s Post

Faith at Ease     

Holy Vignettes     


Where the Wind   

As the Deer   

The Other Jesus

Mark Powell     

Getting There     

Ellen Haroutunian


Welcoming Spirit     

Living Word by Word

Where the Wind     

Faith in Community   

When Grace Happens

Theophiliacs J. Stambaugh     

Theophiliacs A. Hunt     

Everyday Liturgy

Available Light     

Work in Progress     

Allan Bevere

A Diner at the End of Time     

The Painted Prayerbook   

Just Words

The Church Geek   

Breaking Fast on the Beach     

The Pocket Mardis


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