Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and The Need for a Messiah

Photo Courtesy of Geralt.

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.

                                                                                                      —John 12:12-18

As we are in the middle of Lent and quickly approaching Easter, I thought I would take Tuesday of each week for the next 7 weeks to  take a look at Holy Week. Palm Sunday begins this special week, and is a rather bittersweet part of it. On the one hand, it is a joy to see Jesus receive the laud and honor He so greatly deserved. And yet, it is hard to read about, knowing full well that those very same people who are praising Him are about to cry out, “Crucify Him!” in just a few short days. How fickle is the honor of fallen human beings.

Just the day before the triumphal entry, we see again this separation between those who were truly Jesus’ friends and those who wanted to see Him killed. John 12:1-3 says,

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

Contrast that with John 12:9-11:

Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

The chief priests were so vicious that not only did they want to kill Jesus, they wanted to kill Lazarus, too! Though raising Lazarus from the dead was all Jesus’ doing, and Lazarus had nothing to do with the miracle of his own raising, they wanted to kill Lazarus anyway. As you can see, the stage was definitely being set for what will happen on Good Friday.

So, why the triumphal entry? Why the rejoicing over the arrival of the One long ago promised? Why the need for a Messiah in the first place? Well, the Jews of the time would have told you one thing, while we see something else in the whole of Scripture. The Jews of the time were expecting a Messiah who they believed was promised to free them from the enslaving bonds of Roman rule. They viewed the promised Messiah’s description of breaking the chains and freeing the people as referring to civil freedom. And while that will be an aspect of Christ’s second coming, it was not, however, the ultimate purpose for His first.

The purpose for His first coming was to break the chains of sin, death, and hell which were reigning over all of us since the fall in the Garden. In the midst of this darkness, this pain and separation from God as a result of sin, our God shows Himself to be infinitely merciful and kind. In a similar circumstance where I as a parent would have been fed up, not even wanting to deal with my kids in that instant, our Heavenly Father behaved far differently. Even then, with Adam and Eve, He was already looking forward to a Messiah, a Redeemer Who would come and rescue His people from the bonds of sin. God never wanted to be eternally separated from us; He never wanted sin to come between Himself and His kids. And so He promised, all the way back then, on the very day sin first entered the world, a Savior.

We read of this Savior in Genesis 3:13-15,

And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Salvation through Jesus our Messiah was no “Plan B” option God had to quickly come up with when Adam and Eve blew it. No, this was God’s rescue plan for His children—a plan He had secured since before the dawn of time, since before sin ever even came into the world:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Before we ever needed a Messiah, God planned to provide us with one. And that is why there is so much to rejoice over on Palm Sunday.

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