And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9 ESV)
Mark 11 begins the narrative that has traditionally been referred to as Holy Week. At the end of this week, Jesus would be crucified before rising again in triumph, just as he predicted. But before his triumphant victory over death, he still had work to do.
The events that form this final and most important week in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ take place in Jerusalem, the holy city. Jerusalem is home to the brightest and best chief priests and religious leaders. It was once the regal capital of Israel in its most prominent days, where the great King David sat on the throne. The first-century Jews longed for the day wherein the promised Messiah would come and restore the wealth and power of Israel as he reigns from David’s throne.
The so-called “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus and his disciples into Jerusalem records the royal procession of the king coming into his capital city. But Jesus doesn’t ride a war horse. He isn’t met with the biggest crowd. He is not surrounded by royal guards. While the vision we have of his followers waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna” certainly seems like a huge celebration, it is actually quite humble compared to the arrival of other dignitaries.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “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.”
Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem is a direct fulfillment of this prophecy, and part of this prophecy is the emphasis that is that Jesus comes humble and mounted on a donkey. This is not a typical procession. This is not a typical royal arrival. This is not a typical king.
Those shouting “Hosanna” (meaning, “God, save us!”) were no doubt excited – but did they know what they were celebrating? Were they still thinking that this was the King that would restore David’s throne, overthrow the Romans, and raise Israel to worldwide prominence? Did they think he was coming to conquer?
We know the end from the beginning. Jesus came to Jerusalem first to be handed over to the Gentiles and crucified, in order to purchase salvation for sinners. His celebrants in Jerusalem may not have grasped that concept just yet, but they were willing to follow him.
Likewise, there is much we don’t know about the future rule and reign of Christ. We know he’ll defeat death finally, that he’ll wipe away every tear, and that he’ll set up a kingdom of perfect righteousness. But let’s face it – we don’t exactly know how that’s all going to pan out. Thus, just as those disciples shouted “Hosanna” with limited knowledge of the future, likewise, we worship Christ, only dimly knowing what the King will do, while pledging ourselves to him as the only King worth following.