The “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem is a scene that’s found in all four biblical accounts of Jesus’ life, and each author brings out different aspects of the event. If you’ve been following along with this Four Minutes in Mark series, the main themes of his story won’t surprise you too much.
First, we see Jesus exercising divine authority to appropriate a donkey for his entrance into the political and religious capital of the Jewish nation. If he knows its owner ahead of time, we aren’t told. Instead, Mark emphasizes the fact that Jesus gives specific directions to his disciples, foreseeing everything that will take place when they take the donkey. There’s something a little eerie about it—a supernatural knowledge of what’s about to take place. This isn’t the first time that Jesus has predicted his future, and we’re beginning to see that his predictions are accurate to the last detail.
Now, maybe you’re wondering why Jesus chooses a donkey! Wouldn’t a hulking stallion be more fitting for a king entering his capital to claim his throne? Well, not according to scripture. Jesus is going out of his way to fulfill the words of Zechariah the prophet:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
Zechariah, speaking words inspired by the Holy Spirit, sees a coming king who will enter Jerusalem to shouts of joy. He is a righteous man, coming to save his people. Mark records that all of these things are taking place. He also emphasizes that Jesus is riding on a young donkey. Why? Zechariah says that it’s an expression of humility. Jesus isn’t entering as a glorious, conquering hero. No, he’s claiming his throne as a weaponless peacemaker:
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10)
This is bad news for the Pharisees, the religious authorities who want Jesus to advance their political and religious cause by driving out the Romans and their ungodly influence on the Jewish nation. That may be their agenda, but it’s not Jesus’ agenda. He hasn’t come to make war on the surrounding nations but to speak peace to them. He has come to save them, not destroy them.
So what is Jesus doing in Jerusalem? Well, whatever it is, it involves the temple. He walks into the temple court, looks around for a while at everything…and leaves. It’s a bit of an anticlimactic ending. Once again, Jesus remains incognito. But rest assured, the cloak’s coming off soon. And it won’t be long before his humble yet audacious claim to the Jewish throne stirs up a hornet’s nest of controversy.
So what’s our response to this? Well, we need to consider what this tells us about Jesus. It’s so consistent with what we know about him from the rest of Mark’s gospel. Jesus is absolutely unwilling to cede any of his authority. He is the God-man, the Messiah, the King, and he is not afraid to lay claim to that position. Yet he is humble about it; rather than trumpeting his high position, he chooses to use his power in subtle ways, revealing himself only to those who “have ears to hear” (Mark 4:9). He is careful to reveal himself as a suffering servant rather than a magnificent conqueror.
Our response must be the same as his fellow pilgrims to Jerusalem. As he enters the city, they sing phrases from the Psalms that are rich in their expectation of God’s promised Messiah. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Praise the Lord our God because at long last our Savior has come. Praise him because he is uncompromising in his authority. Praise him because he is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). There is no one who embodies this paradox like Jesus.
Now, perhaps you don’t like this kind of Jesus. Perhaps you want a Jesus who’s just a good man, who doesn’t insist that he is the exclusive Lord over all the earth. Or perhaps you want a Jesus who offers a victorious life, free from suffering—who promises health, wealth, and a positive attitude. Or perhaps you want a Jesus who’s a culture warrior, who will champion your favorite political or social cause. If so, let me offer you this word of warning: what Jesus does over the next week of his ministry is really going to cheese you off, because he’s about to expose and condemn false disciples like you. Just a heads up, you know.