Triumphal to Triumphant

Palm Sunday comes and goes every year. Sometimes we remember the triumphal entry, but many times we don’t. I remember, as a child, staggering down the aisles of my boyhood church waving plastic palm branches to the song “Hosanna” while trying to find the familiar faces of my mom and dad in the audience. As adults, we smile and think the kids are so cute, but does it lead us to contemplate the significance of that day?

Palm Sunday celebrates that amazing day when Jesus descended the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. Jesus told two of His disciples exactly where to find a donkey and what to say to the owners that would allow Jesus to borrow it. He didn’t ride into Jerusalem on a stallion ready to rally the troops for battle. Instead, Jesus put His humility on display by instantly taming a wild donkey and riding an animal that symbolizes peace into the city. He presented Himself to the people as the Messiah by fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. The multitude that followed Him recognized this and accepted Jesus as their Messiah. The crowd expected Jesus to be triumphant from a military standpoint. They viewed the Messiah as the King who would deliver them from Roman rule and free their nation. That crowd, even though they had followed Jesus from a distance, did not recognize Jesus’ true mission for spiritual triumph.

As Jesus continued to approach the city, celebrated by a fanfare of cloaks and branches, it seemed as if He ignored the crowd singing His praises. Jesus gazed at the city and observed the momentary recognition for Himself by His followers, but He also recognized the future rejection of His salvation by the nation. These thoughts moved Him to tears as He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). It is ironic that at that moment of excitement and festivity Jesus saw the current state and future fate of Jerusalem. Jesus’ actions deliberately challenged the religious leaders and set in motion the official plot of His own death.

So how do these observations affect us today? It is easy to follow Christ when things are going well, when there is cheering and fanfare and when things happen in life that fit our view of God. But how do we act when things take a turn for the worse? How do we respond when the cheering turns into jeering? How do we cope when God no longer fits into our perspective of reality? A few days after the triumphal entry these very things happened to Jesus and His followers, and His disciples let fear get the best of them. They abandoned Jesus on the spot. Would we have done the same? Do we do the same? As we enter Easter week, remember that the triumphal entry led to Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion but ultimately, an opportunity for us to be triumphant. Don’t forget to praise the One who gave us life everlasting.


reprint from 2010 article