It began with a wild celebration.
There were so many people in the streets, it must have been electrifying. As they waved their palm branches and shouted “Hosanna,” I wonder if anyone found it odd that the famous prophet-king they were celebrating had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey?
Word had spread that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem and the anticipation of this great man who could do marvellous miracles had grown to a fever pitch. The city reverberated with shouts of joy and acclamation, because if the rumours were true, this Jesus was the long awaited King all of Israel had been waiting for.
He wasn’t the first supposed messiah or king to enter the city. Many others had claimed to be that blessed one, and they’d all been defeated or executed or exposed as frauds. But there was hope running riot in Jerusalem that day and the doubters and Pharisees could not silence it.
The King was finally here.
He’d set everything right. He’d defeat their oppressors. He’d liberate them all. He’d prove unconditionally that the Jews were God’s chosen people and He would set up a glittering kingdom for them right there from Jerusalem that would rule the world. After centuries of waiting, slavery, bondage, exile and brokenness, the Jewish people would now be the glorious citizens and rulers of a kingdom with no end.
When a conquering king entered a city, a celebration was to be expected. This was the moment the new king would show his wealth, his majesty, and his awesome power.
And yet, here He was. Riding a donkey.
Surely a grand white horse would make more sense?
But Jesus was a very different sort of conqueror and an incredibly different sort of King.
Expectations are funny things aren’t they?
When our expectations aren’t met exactly in the way we’d hoped, we often find ourselves angry or disappointed, clamouring for what we thought we deserved.
And just like the people cramming into the streets for a view of the promised King, we too come with our ideas and expectations of what Jesus must be like. We want Him to fix everything, prove us right, defeat our enemies, provide our deepest desires, and most of all, fit into our expectations of what sort of saviour we think we need.
And then He comes. And He’s not at all what we expected.
All four of the Gospel accounts retell the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The writers knew it was important for us to see the expectations placed upon Jesus, the faith that He would finally be the promised one, the belief that He would set the people of Israel above everyone else, the excitement at the political future of power ahead.
But Jesus came to be a servant to all. He didn’t come to be the political messiah the people thought they wanted. He came to be the sacrifice everyone, everywhere needed.
He came to Jerusalem not to rule, but to die. He rode in on a donkey because the trappings of a king don’t make a king.
The choices of a king make a king.
And this King, this Jesus, had made the choice to give everything for everyone at rugged cross that was only a week away.