The triumphal entry refers to the religious day known as Palm Sunday that occurred one week prior to the resurrection of Jesus and the Sunday prior to His Friday crucifixion. It is shared in all four Gospels (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19) as one of the key events of Jesus' earthly ministry.
What is the triumphal entry? How is the triumphal entry significant?
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey (colt) that had never been ridden alongside another donkey. The disciples placed their cloaks on the colt for Jesus to ride. This is described as fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: "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."
Many of the people of Jerusalem who saw Jesus arrive acknowledged or treated Him as royalty. Mark 11:8 says, "And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields." This act of placing cloaks or palm branches on the road was an act generally used for a king or important ruler.
The people of Jerusalem also sang praises of Him. Matthew 21:9 explains, "And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!'"
Jesus' arrival during this time of Passover week led to much attention in the city. Matthew 21:10-11 notes, "And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, 'Who is this?' And the crowds said, 'This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.'"
Jesus' disciples did not understand the significance of the triumphal entry at the time. John 12:16 reveals, "His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him."
The Pharisees were jealous of the attention Jesus received. John 12:17-19 notes, "The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, 'You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him."
There are many reasons the triumphal entry of Jesus was important. It served as a fulfillment of prophecy, recognition of His role, and prepared the way for the events that led to His death and resurrection. It also reminds us of the importance of recognizing Jesus as the King He is, not necessarily as the king we desire. The people who shouted "Hosanna" later shouted "Crucify him!" They desired deliverance from Roman rule. Jesus came to deliver us on a much deeper level—from the power of sin. The triumphal entry is something Christians continue to celebrate and commemorate today. Truly Jesus is our deliverer and King, worthy of our praise and adoration.
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