Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest.”
It was a different type of crowd that streamed into Jerusalem for the Passover that year. It buzzed with excitement. It came with expectations. Many believed they were going to crown a king.
It surely looked that way.
The palm branches and cloaks spread on the road; the chants of “Hosanna”; the sight of Jesus riding into the city on a donkey—all this reminded them of the prophet’s words: “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9).
The chosen 12 disciples thought for sure they were on their way to his coronation. The mother of two of them quickly submitted their names for choice spots in his government.
For the Jewish leaders, an attempt to crown Jesus as King of the Jews was one of their greatest fears. If successful, they expected he would quickly throw them out of their positions of power just as he had thrown the moneychangers out of the temple. How the Romans would react to this insurrection was another great fear.
Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, and Herod, king of Galilee, were concerned about the possibility of Jesus being crowned as a king to take their places. They feared the repercussions that would come from the powers back at Rome. The Roman Senate did not tolerate disturbances to the famed “Pax Romana,” the peace which existed between nationalities within the Roman Empire.
Even if the attempt at rebellion by this Jesus was quickly smashed, heads would roll—and not necessarily figuratively.
By the end of this week, many charges would be raised against the rabbi from Nazareth. For the Jewish leaders, the condemning one was that he claimed to be the Son of God. By Jewish law, that called for the death sentence, even though they no longer had the right to carry it out.
For the Romans, it was the claim to be a king that sealed his fate. And Rome did have the authority to carry out a legal execution.
We might ask if the frenzied Palm Sunday crowd realized how dangerous the situation was. If they did, they might have dismissed the danger by pointing out that Jesus of Nazareth had already shown that he was not intimidated by Jewish or Roman authorities. In fact, it seemed he was not afraid of anyone or anything.
If he could drive out demons, cure afflictions with a touch, and raise the dead, what chance did his enemies have to overpower him?
He didn’t need an army to back his claim to the throne. He was in possession of superhuman power.
He showed that supremacy when the detachment of soldiers came to arrest him in Gethsemane. The mere words, “I am he” threw them to the ground, helpless.
What chance did his enemies have to prevent him from taking over as their king?
The very chance that he gave them. He would not resist them. He came to place himself into their hands. That had been the plan all along.
The Jewish leaders, the Romans, and the Palm Sunday crowds misunderstood his objective. They thought he was aiming for a crown of silver or gold.
He had in mind a different crown.
He rode into Jerusalem on that day to receive a crown of thorns.
Thereby, he won for us the crown of life.
Thus, he gained his victory—and so did we.
“All glory, laud and honor to thee Redeemer King.” We shout out, “Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.” Heaven declares him to be “King of kings and Lord of lords.” We agree. “Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.