Many Christians from around the world celebrate Palm Sunday, otherwise known as Jesus’ triumphal entry. Yet, what was the significance of this day in Jesus’ life? Why were the people waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna”? Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt? What did it all mean, and how does it relate to your life today? In other words, how does Palm Sunday connect to your Monday?
From Robin Hood to The Man in the Iron Mask from Lancelot to The Lord of the Rings, so many of the legends in literature are about the desire for a king to come and set everything right. This desire was also the great hope of the Jewish people. This is why the people were waving palm branches when Jesus rode into town. Palm branches were a Jewish symbol of freedom and victory. It would be like Americans waving their red, white and blue flags on the fourth of July. However, instead of celebrating something that has already happened, the Jews were crying out for something to happen. The word, “hosanna” means, “Lord, save us now!” This was a desperate cry for liberation. The people were expecting Jesus to give them political freedom through military victory over the Romans. Yet, Jesus came to deliver his people from a far greater power and enemy.
What’s significant is that Jesus didn’t say, “No! You’ve got me all wrong. I’m not a king.” He did something to show them, “I’m not that type of king.” Jesus chose to ride in on a small donkey. Jesus didn’t come marching in on the stallion of pride; he came in on the colt of humility. The Apostle John taught that this was all foretold by the Prophet Zechariah who said, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your King is coming sitting on a donkeys colt” (John 12:15). A colt is a very young offspring of a donkey. So, Jesus’ feet would have been hitting the ground as he rode in. Jesus came in as low as he could go.
Where is the triumph?
Where is the triumph in the triumphal entry? Jesus’ triumph was in his humility. J.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, was once asked why the Dark Lord Sauron missed Frodo walking right into Mordor to destroy the ring. Tolkien explained that Sauron could not conceive that someone with that much power would be willing to give it all away. Yet, it was through giving away his power that Frodo destroyed the greatest power of evil. In a similar way, Christ came to conquer the greater enemies of Satan, sin and death by humbling himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. Jesus’ march into Jerusalem was indeed a victory march, but it was victory veiled. The cross was his victory veiled, and his resurrection and ascension was his victory unveiled.
Moreover, an ox is used for plowing, but a donkey is made to carry burdens. This is why it’s often called a beast of burden. So, why is Jesus on a beast of burden? Jesus is humbly identifying himself with all his people’s burdens and preparing to take the whole load of them to the cross. Jesus is not like many earthly kings who are bothered by his subject’s burdens. Rather, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There’s no burden too great for Jesus to bear. Behold your King! The mighty King of the universe is the humble burden-bearing friend of sinners. So, how should all this relate to Christians today?
Relevance for Monday
Palm Sunday means the end of fear. Speaking of that day, Zechariah said, “Fear not, daughter of Zion” (John 12:15). Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem means the end of fear because he has paid for every sin and proved that even in the darkest of times, God is working all things together for his people’s good. It also means the beginning of humility. How are Christians meant to arrive to work or come into a room full of people? The same way Jesus arrived in Jerusalem — with an attitude of humility and a readiness to serve. He entered as low as he could, and his followers are to do the same. The call for Christians is to get low in their businesses, in their marriages, in their churches, etc.
Followers of Jesus should follow in the steps of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. This is a lesson that’s not easily learned. Some of Jesus’ disciples were once arguing about who was the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “Whoever desires to be great among you, must become a servant of all” (Mark 10:44). Jesus taught that getting low is what it means to truly get ahead. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out that, “Jesus made greatness possible to anyone, because everyone can serve.” Jesus entered Jerusalem in humility, ready to serve, and this should be a Christian’s approach to life as well. God wants to lift his people up, but you cannot lift a person up unless he or she is already low. C.H. Spurgeon said, “Every Christian has a choice between being humble and being humbled.” The lessons of Palm Sunday are meant to be lived out on Monday. The way to get ahead is to get low, and the way to overcome evil is through fearless sacrificial love, knowing that one-day when the King returns for good, his victory will be complete and his glory will be completely revealed.
Jeremy McKeen is the lead pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in communications and philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Knox Theological Seminary.