The Triumphal Entry
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:1-10–ESV)
Growing up with this donkey ride
I grew up attending services in the Christian church. As a child my parents, Sunday schools and Bible story books taught me about this ride of Christ. I have studied it as an adult considering its relationship to ancient prophecies and the implications of Jesus riding on a colt. These types of things have made it familiar to me. It is so familiar that there are images in my mind that are triggered when I as much as hear the words triumphal entry.
Never far from those images are other ones. Chief among those other, darker images are of those of the trial and crucifixion of Christ. The mismatch between these events is jarring. It is disconcerting. It is hard to hold the “Hosanna’s” and the “crucify him’s” in my mind. Stamped above those mental pictures is the word: incongruous! Why?! Did it have to be that way?
You will understand later
7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” (John 13:7–ESV)
In John 13 we see Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, and Peter protested. Jesus understood Peter’s discomfiture, but did not back down telling Peter to wait a bit. Peter would understand later. Jesus was planting an experience that would be used later. He was burying an anchor point in the ground which would be understood later when it was tied to other things.
I have built 4 pirate ships with my children as they have each gone through seventh grade. That has taught me a lot about ship parts. The thing that stuck with me this year was that shrouds are the cords which go from the hull or deck to the mast giving a side-to-side stability.
Shipbuilders install chain-plates or anchor plates for the shrouds. There will be much strain upon these anchor plates when the ship sails so they must be fitted tightly. When the anchor plate is fastened to the hull it does not get used, but is set there for the future.
The triumphal entry was like that. It would be better understood later.
Now is partially later
A lot more can be understood at this point than when Jesus rode the colt into Jerusalem to the great wavings of Israel. The final understanding is going to be the eternal one, but at this point we see much better than the crowds during that afternoon ride.
The ride of Christ was never to be a ride to an earthly kingdom. We know now that the kingdom of Christ is in heaven and in the hearts of people. That was God’s plan. It was man’s invention that the Messiah was going to be an earthly one. At the time of the triumphal entry neither the religious nor the geo-political situation was amenable to the rise of a Jewish world ruler. Not in the context that the average Jewish person conceived of. Too, had a feature like that begun to take root Jesus would have deftly refused it. Playing with these what-ifs though bears little eternal utility.
The anchor point Jesus laid with the donkey ride was going to have shrouds that tied all the way to heaven and back again. That he would self-identify as a king and admit as much to the Gentile Pilate makes sense in the context we now have. Now is the time of partial understanding.
Some keys points from this passage:
- There will be things laid as anchors in our lives for future God’s future use
- Some things God does are for your spiritual advantage, and make little sense when they happen
- It is possible for some great events to look like great fails
- The shrouds of spiritual meaning may stretch all the way to heaven and back
- Some crowds play roles that are far different than what they seem or hope for