The Triumphal Entry
by Rachel Temple
In our passage today, we see Jesus and his disciples heading to Jerusalem. Jesus had visited Jerusalem multiple times in his life, as an infant to be dedicated at the Temple, as a child with his parents to observe the Jewish festivals, and multiple times in his adulthood and public ministry. But this time it’s different. This time he pauses outside of town and sends his disciples to retrieve a donkey for him to ride into the city (v.30). This begs the question, “Why?”
The Jews were commanded in Deuteronomy 16 to appear in Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the major Jewish festivals. In our passage today, Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem with tens of thousands of other Jews, in order to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also known as Passover. This was an annual feast in order to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt and to serve as a reminder of the mercy extended to the households who were marked by the blood of a spotless lamb, sacrificed on their behalf. Jesus, in His humanity, is entering into this tradition, just like so many other Jews at the time.
In Matthew 16:21, Scripture is clear that Jesus knows why he’s heading to Jerusalem; that he’s headed there to “suffer many things . . . be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” He knows his sacrifice on the cross will fulfill the requirements of the law, once and for all, and will put an end to the perpetual need to offer sacrificial lambs for sins. This fulfillment of the law will usher in a new Kingdom, a Kingdom of peace between God and humankind, hence his entering the city like a king riding on a donkey.
Kings were known to ride on horses, but the Old Testament also tells us of several kings who rode on donkeys as a symbol of their kingship (2 Samuel 16, 1 Kings 1). While riding on a horse was a sign of war, the riding on a donkey was a sign of peace. Furthermore, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10. By Jesus riding on the donkey, it’s a nod to his kingship and it points to the nature of his kingdom of peace, made possible only by his substitutionary atonement – he was the substitute for our suffering.
Although we know how the story unfolds later in the week, how the crowd’s blessing of Jesus turned to mocking and murder, the initial response shows they recognize the gesture on some level. They glimpse the Kingdom of God and see Jesus as the exalted king, eliciting a right response: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”
During this Holy Week, may we, too, be particularly mindful of our King and His ultimate sacrifice that frees us from the perpetual need to make ourselves right before God. May we live lives of utter praise and thankfulness because we can know eternal peace with a Holy God though Jesus.
Dear Lord, thank You for entering into our world and taking the punishment we deserve. Thank You for bringing an end to our perpetual striving to make ourselves right. Thank You for making a way for us, a sinful people, to know eternal peace with a Holy God. Help us, Lord, to lay our cloaks before You and worship You as the King of Peace that You are.
Rachel Temple and her husband, Adam, joined The Falls Church Anglican as newlyweds in 2001 and were members until 2005. After nine years back in South Carolina, they returned to The Falls Church Anglican in 2014, along with their four children, and live in Alexandria. Rachel is involved in the Thursday morning women's Bible studies.