There have been many major turning points throughout human history that have changed the course of nations and even the entire the world. When these events start to unfold they may not seem all that significant. Sometimes within that situation people do recognise something important is happening but they can hardly imagine that it is the beginning of an even greater change because of which their world will never be the same again. Christ’s “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem is one of those events which people at the time knew was momentous but no one could fathom how momentous it actually was. Even today 2000 years later where Christ has had an incomparable impact on world history and billions of Christians all over the world mark the event on Palm Sunday, it is not fully appreciated how important it was. As believers, Christ’s final entry into Jerusalem was the beginning of the defining turning point of the history of the world.
The reason why it is relatively underappreciated is because most people do not fully recognise how it relates to his death and resurrection. When you look at the gospels they are actually an intimately related series of events culminating with Christ’s ascension. It is important to note that even though each gospel is different, they all record Christ riding into Jerusalem. The only other narrative that is found in all the gospels is the passion narrative and in each gospel his entry into Jerusalem is the beginning of his passion, the final period in Christ’s earthly life and the climax of his ministry. It is clear that Christ riding into Jerusalem was very consequential.
I have discussed elsewhere how it is a bit of misnomer to call it a “triumphal entry” since he would have rather arrived on a horse, an animal of warfare that signifies victory. In that part of the ancient world, entering the royal city on a donkey was part of an coronation ceremony installing a new king. The crowds of course recognised what he was doing and also because they were steeped in the Jewish scriptures. Jesus was enacting Zechariah’s prophecy of how the long awaited Messiah, the divinely chosen King of Israel, would enter Jerusalem on a colt to be crowned (Zechariah 9:9, 14:4.)
As I already mentioned, in all the gospels it was a major transition in Jesus’ public career where everything became focused on Jerusalem. In the synoptic gospels, in the first part of his ministry he went about Israel preaching the kingdom of God. Throughout that time, there was a lot public speculation if he was the messiah, the king God had chosen to rule his kingdom, the same kingdom Jesus had been announcing with powerful signs was imminent. Up to that point he had never publicly declared that he was the Messiah. However, when he rode in on that donkey he was saying loud and clear that he was the true heir of the Davidic dynasty (Matthew 21:9.) I explain in another article that the reason he stopped preaching the kingdom on his final trip to Jerusalem was because he went there to start his kingdom reign. Jesus’ death and resurrection was how God was finally going to bring his rule on earth as it is in heaven.
When a new king is installed he takes his seat of power from which he reigns. If Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the royal city of God, was a coronation procession, its conclusion was definitely him ascending to God’s heavenly throne to rule creation. So as I explained in a previous piece, what connects Palm Sunday to Christ’s ascension is that it is actually one long coronation. He entered Jerusalem to rule it as its rightful king but the Jewish leaders in collaboration with the Roman officials rejected him, executing him as a would-be rebel king, a false messiah. We must take not that crucifixion was reserved for insurrection and other acts of high treason against the Roman empire. God raising Jesus’ from the dead vindicated his messianic claims, which he made public when he rode into Jerusalem, and proved that God had appointed him king over the entire world and not just Israel (Romans 1:3-4.) The resurrection of Jesus was a fundamental change in reality itself, the beginning of a new creation. The risen Lord being seated at God’s right hand meant a new cosmic administration where Christ is implementing his life-giving rule in the world beginning in and through the Church (Ephesians 1:19-23, 3:10; Colossians 1:15-18; Revelation 1:5-6.)
Christ’s death and resurrection were truly revolutionary because they resulted in a new world order where Christ is exalted to God’s right hand as Lord. The day this royal, reality altering revolution began was when a week before Passover a controversial young prophet from Galilee came down from the Mount of Olives, riding into Jerusalem, the city of the king, on a donkey. His provocative actions on that day announced in no uncertain terms to Israel that he was not only the Messiah but he had come to start his reign in the royal city, just as God had long ago promised in Israel’s scripture. Little did anyone know that surprise coronation procession would end in Jesus’ heavenly reign as the resurrected Lord over all creation.