Blog / All Hail King Jesus!

It was the third pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Jesus and His disciples. As they walked through Jericho to Bethany, others on their way joined the group: “That’s Jesus! He heals, turns water into wine, feeds thousands, calls out demons, and raises the dead! He is a miracle worker! Let’s walk with Him—He might do some other magic.” Soon a buzz went through the crowd and hundreds gathered near this Jesus.

The crowd swelled.

Outside Bethphage Jesus stopped and gave unusual instructions to two of the disciples: “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once” (Matthew 21:2-3, ESV).

For three years the disciples had walked with Jesus as He taught about the heavenly Father, His words full of reconciliation and redemption. He brought soul life and light out of death and darkness. Many times they stood aside, confused and wondering what the stories meant. Other times they rejoiced to see the throngs following and cheering and thought: leaving the boats was a good decision—what a great experience this is!

As Jesus mounted the donkey a whispered voice said, “Zechariah 9, Zechariah 9! He is our redeemer—He is our Messiah. He is the King of the Jews!” Suddenly the word passed down the road with enthusiasm. “This Jesus is our King! He is riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey just like the scripture prophesied. HE IS THE ONE who will free us from Rome!” Some began quoting the Zechariah 9 words to their children: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9, ESV).

Imagine the excitement as the story traveled up and down the road—we are walking with the King! 

The long history of persecution under the heavy hand of Rome influenced generations of Jews. Even as the families proceeded to Jerusalem on this Passover week, they recalled the story of Egypt and the taskmasters who enslaved their forefathers. They told of Moses and the way God saved them by releasing them from the Pharaoh. They spoke of the way God took them out under the direction of Moses, through the Red Sea, onto the other side. Egypt was behind; the promised land lay ahead. Parents made sure each child knew why they traveled to Jerusalem once a year for this most exuberant and holy celebration.

But this year was different. “Is Jesus the new Moses? Are we in the company of the one who will deliver us from Rome? Are we walking with the Messiah? Are our children experiencing the glory of Yahweh?” Questions filled the minds and voices of the traveling pilgrims.

The multitudes sang a favorite song based on Psalm 118: “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!” Here comes Jesus, the King! Here comes the Messiah! We are going to be free from the fist of Rome. YAY!

Their chant was a victory song, anticipating the overthrow of their masters. Little did they know their prescient words spoke of true salvation. Their Hosannas cheered on the man for whom they had waited so long. Their voices sang of the time of release. And they were there! How could they know their shouts presented a message far from their expectations?

Hosanna began as two Hebrew words Hoshi’a na meaning “Save us, deliver us, please!” The plea changed meaning over the years to a cheering shout of celebration. In their victory cry they declared the essential message of salvation without knowing what they were saying. As they repeated the name of Jesus they were crying out, “He will save His people.” And He would save His people indeed—not from Rome, but from the penalty of sin and from the wages of sin which is death. 

Jesus came into Jerusalem at the time the pilgrims prepared to present their paschal lambs, their Passover sacrifices. Without their knowing it, with every step closer to Jerusalem He moved toward the ultimate and final, acceptable offering to God. He, in His substitution, made the only perfect way for us to enter into the presence of God the Father. He absolutely personified Hosanna!

The early church established the tradition of Palm Sunday, honoring the triumphal entry in AD30. In retrospect we understand the triumph, but on that day the multitudes convinced themselves they were there to experience the greatest delivery since Moses. They anticipated telling others the “eyewitness account” of being within arm’s reach of Jesus. They were there!

Palm fronds covered the road, signifying the coming of a conquering hero. How could they have known what He was to conquer? They eagerly looked to their political freedom, but God the Father planned for eternal spiritual freedom. Their cries of Hosanna filled the city of Jerusalem, upsetting not only the Romans but the Jewish religious leaders. The very accolades offered were moving Jesus closer to death on the cross, closer to the eternal and everlasting deliverance.

Over two thousand years later we hand our children palm branches, usher them down the church aisles, and join in shouting Hosanna! Hosanna! Do we really know what we are saying? Are we thinking we are offering up a corporate “Yay, God! Yay, Jesus!”?  Do we understand we are calling out for salvation? 

When we tell our children the story of Palm Sunday we must carefully describe the message of deliverance, not just celebration. Hosanna isn’t just a shout of joy—it is a cry from our heart and soul. As we tell the story of Easter we must begin before the foundation of the world when the plan of salvation was established in the mind of our great Triune God. Our call for hope began in the plan of a sovereign Lord.

The irony of Palm Sunday is that the chants of Hosanna were answered at Calvary. Their desire to celebrate a champion found its fulfillment in Jesus. He saved, and the pleading for salvation and deliverance came true. In Jesus, man was reconciled to God the Father. In our Lord Jesus Christ, spiritual bondage was broken.

Palm Sunday is indeed the beginning of triumph. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem ushered in our entry into life everlasting.

My friend Tom Zampino, New York City real estate attorney and poetic wordsmith captured his impressions of Palm Sunday.  He masterfully demonstrates the trials and the triumph represented on this long ago day in Jerusalem.

Palm Leaves

It was long ago joined.

That great cosmic battle undertaken in a Garden called Eden, set right in a Garden called Gethsemane.

We are the players and the played. Insurrectionists and executioners. Accusers and accused. Haters and the hated.

We are, at once, Iscariot, Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and the crowd, existing somewhere between the living and the dead.

And yet…

Palm leaves, that ancient symbol of victory and peace and eternal life, remind us that though we are broken we are fixable, incomplete we can be made whole, unlovable we are loved.

For we are also, at once, a frightened Peter, a humbled Simon, and a courageous Joseph from Arimathea.

And those palm leaves scattered all about do more than just remind us.

They point the way home.

Yes, He came to save. The plea was heard and acknowledged. Our way home was assured. We now praise Him with loud hosannas.

Brenda Smith

Brenda A. Smith lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas. Her work as President of the Breakfast With Fred Leadership Institute creates opportunities for Christians to “stretch and bless the next generation of leaders…to the glory of God.” She is currently a Womenary board member and a Womenary student since 2012. Observing God’s life lessons in the everyday gives her a love for illustrations which bring His truths home. Her colorful seasons of life: marriage, mothering, divorce, business, caregiving for parents, and non-profit leadership. Music, reading, writing, and most of all – family(including 9 grandchildren) are sources of joy. Encouraging women to truly see His sovereign hand even in the darkest days and trusting in His goodness is her heartbeat.
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