Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
I have to be honest, I had no idea what Palm Sunday was before starting this blog. I knew it was something that the church celebrated every year, was part of the lead up to Easter and I had a vague idea it should have something to do with palm leaves. I knew that these might be handed out in church, but I had no real comprehension of why we celebrate Palm Sunday. And this passage in Luke doesn’t even mention palms!
I had so many questions reading this passage...firstly what is a colt? And why would Jesus send two disciples on to get one, announcing that the Lord needs it? Up until now we have seen Jesus ask people not to tell others of the miracles he has done, not announce that ‘The Lord needs something.’ Also, how does he know that no one has ever ridden this colt?
In Matthew 21:2-11 the events are described slightly differently, as Matthew describes him riding on a donkey in order to fulfil the prophecy from Zechariah 9:9;
“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
In Greek, a colt can also be a young donkey, so we can assume that this is what Jesus ‘triumphantly’ rode into Jerusalem.
A donkey does not scream King. It looks less like victory and more like parody..
Yet the presence that Jesus commands causes people to throw down their cloaks and praise God joyfully —so loudly that the Pharisees want them to stop. To which Jesus basically tells them there is no point because, if they did, even the stones would cry out.
This is a new phase of Jesus’ ministry that leads directly to his death. He does not enter on a donkey because he is a king that would overthrow the Roman empire… this is the humble arrival of someone who brings peace. In other versions of this text we see that not only did they lay down cloaks, but also palm leaves which were a symbol of peace and victory.
Even on the road to a violent death at the hands of his oppressors, Jesus doesn’t just represent peace. He embodies it.
His humble entry becomes triumphant because of how he is seen by those around him. People can’t help but shout out in joy and lay down cloaks, and branches.
And in a few days, these same people will watch him be crucified. The same ones who cry out in welcome will soon call for his death.
So why do we celebrate Palm Sunday? We celebrate because Jesus walked down this road knowing it would lead to his death. We celebrate because he represents peace not war. We celebrate because he willingly gave up his life so that we could find ours.
Christina is a music and religious education teacher who was recently made chaplain in East Glendalough School in county Wicklow. She is currently working on an MA in Chaplaincy Studies at Dublin City University in between episodes of The Good Place and the Great British Bake Off.