The triumphal entry is one of the most important events in the life and ministry of Jesus and it is mentioned in all four of the gospels. It is important because, with much forethought, planning, and great intentionally Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.
Today skeptics and unbelievers say that Jesus of Nazareth was just a simple rabbi who wanted nothing more than a revival of righteousness among the people of Israel. They say that he never claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah. They say that his death was not a sacrifice pre-ordained by God to secure forgiveness for the sins of the world, but the bad end of a good man. They say that the resurrection of Jesus was not the conquest of death, but just wishful thinking on the part of his disciples who simply refused to let the Master they loved simply disappear into that long, good night that awaits us all.
At the very least, Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on “a colt the foal of an ass,” proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus did indeed think himself to be the long-awaited Messiah. It proves, too, that he thought that his death was a necessary part of God’s plan. Indeed, in order to bring about his rejection by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and his death at the hands of their Roman Masters, Jesus manipulated and used Zechariah’s prophecy with all the dexterity of a 21st Century political agitator. He got exactly what he expected. What does the hymnist say:
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your pow’r and reign.
Jesus rode on expecting his death, but he rode on trusting God for a resurrection.
In those days, the people of Israel regularly prayed that God would not just send them a Messiah, but that God would:
“…gird (the Messiah) with strength that he (might) shatter unrighteous rulers, and purge Jerusalem from nations that trample(ed) her down to destruction.” (Psalm of Solomon)
The people wanted a battle-hardened, battle-ready king, mounted on a white charger, and followed by a great and invincible army. Jesus gave them a king who was ready to sacrifice himself, not just for the salvation of his people, but for the salvation of all people.
He left all the rest in God’s hands. And because he did, we can still say, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”