During the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, the people from all over Israel came to celebrate this national feast. The Jewish historian, Josephus, estimated that almost three million people crowded the Holy City for this celebration. When Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the crowd was inspired and threw palm branches and their outer garments in his pathway. They shouted “Hosanna,” which meant literally “save now.” The crowds were inspired by the presence of Jesus and hoped he might be the long-awaited Messiah. “Here comes our king. Save us now,” they shouted.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey not a horse. In the ancient world a king rode a horse when he was going to battle, but when a king rode upon a donkey, it was a symbol of peace. In the day of Jesus a donkey was not looked upon as a contemptible or amusing animal. It was a symbol of peace. Through this vivid prophetic picture or dramatic parable, Jesus attempted to teach the crowd a lesson about who he was. Drawing on Zechariah and other prophets who depicted the coming of the Messiah upon a lowly beast (Zechariah 9: 9), Jesus portrayed his kingship as a way of peace not war.
Most in Jesus’ day missed the symbolism of his dramatic entrance into Jerusalem then and so may we if we are not careful. The inspired crowd that shouted “Hosanna” soon, days later, became an incited mob and yelled, “Crucify him.”
On this Palm Sunday, may we choose to follow the Prince of Peace by the way we believe and live and not join the crowd that rejected our Lord.
Prayer: Help us, O Loving God, to follow the Christlike way of service and not be led down the crowded streets of a shouting mob to self interest and rejection of the narrow path of our Lord.