The crowds gathered at the gate, awaiting the arrival of a king. It may seem odd that a king would ride on a donkey’s colt however, it was the way of kings to ride to battle on horses, but when they returned to Jerusalem in peace, they rode upon a donkey. And this is where we find Jesus, being welcomed as a king and riding upon a donkey’s colt. But it isn’t just kings who are carried upon donkeys, but sacrifices, as well.
Jesus comes to the city in peaceful mien, his whole purpose to herald an age of peace. All the while, the powerful machine of the Roman Empire maintains Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, with military force. The irony is all too clear for the pilgrims who had gathered to greet this humble king.
His entrance into the city is overwhelmingly significant, both in its signs, and it meanings. Jesus is greeted as the very line of David, the Tribe of Judah, reclaiming the throne of Israel. For the people who believe, the coming of Jesus is the promise of liberation; the coming of a new era.
I’m not certain that the crowd of pilgrims who stand waiting for Jesus are the same people who shout “crucify him.” But if they are, they represent for us the weakness of spiritual vision; a kind of short-sightedness that eventually blinds hearts.
Certainly there is a period of time between his entrance and trial (which we do not read about today) in which their hearts may have been turned against Jesus. Whether through capriciousness, or short-sightedness, we cannot know for certain what caused such vehemence against Jesus. However, we can pretty easily guess at some of their reasoning.
After all, it isn’t hard to miss that a king and messiah would become a sacrifice for all of Creation. Likewise, most revolutions are defeated after the death of their leader. It also isn’t hard to miss the presence of a kingdom which “is and is not yet” at the same time. If anything, Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday makes our own short-sightedness so much more evident, especially since we move so quickly from a triumphal entry, to a brutal execution.
What remains, however, is the promise that this is only the beginning. Today is the beginning of Holy Week, the precursor to a new season of new life, and the memorial of our redemption. So how do keep from missing the significance of today? How do we train our spiritual eyes so that we will not miss the presence of the Kingdom of God in the midst of the Kingdom of Earth? It starts with our “Hosannas.” But more than that, it is our ability to see beyond every moment of everyday, and recognize that the foundations of God’s Kingdom are laid in our hearts. Because this is promise to those who Christ redeems. When we realize this, we need not look very far to see the triumph of Jesus’ humility and the Messiah in the King.