The Triumphal Entry (John 12:12-19)
By Andrew E. Courtis
Have you ever seen a grand entry? Perhaps you have made one yourself. I think every husband would agree that the greatest grand entrance they have seen was the time when their bride entered the wedding ceremony and walked down the aisle. That is truly a grand entry.
A grand entry can be influential and memorable, but no one has had an entry to bring about the greatest of act in the history of the world than that of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this passage we are introduced to what is commonly referred to as the Triumphal Entry. Behind the scenes was a corrupt plot to arrest and kill Jesus. However, the intention was to wait until the Passover was over as this was an incredibly busy time in the city of Jerusalem, and such an arrest will cause uproar from the people (Matt. 26:5; Mark 14:2; Luke 22:2).
Jesus of course knew about their plans, so He retreated and spent a few weeks in ministering before He came to Jerusalem for the Passover. Back in 12:1-11 we read about the Saturday evening in which Mary demonstrated her lavish love toward the Lord Jesus Christ. John tells us that the event recorded in 12:12-19 occurred “the next day” (12:12). It is now Sunday and this is the beginning of Passion Week. Knowing that all this is going on in the background, how will Jesus make His entrance into Jerusalem? Jesus sent His disciples ahead to pick up a donkey and its colt.
Sermon Summary: In this message we will consider three significant truths concerning the Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
1. JESUS ENTERED AT THE APPOINTED PERIOD
The first important thing to consider about His entrance was that it occurred at the appointed period. It wasn’t an accident or coincidence. John begins by saying, “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem” (12:12). It is important to understand that He was coming because He decided to come. We need to remember that everything Jesus did was according to the Divine timetable. No moments were wasted and everything was done with purpose and intention. Everything He thought and did was instep with the Divine agenda because before Him was always the plan to glorify the Father. This was His food and drink. Jesus entered into Jerusalem at the perfect time. It was a planned and perfectly timed entrance.
2. JESUS ENTERED IN FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY
The second important thing about His entrance was that it occurred in fulfillment of prophecy. In this passage we see two prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. In response to the news that Jesus is coming, John tells us that this large crowd “took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (12:13). The words, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” are taken from Psalm 118:25-26. Understanding Jesus to be the Messiah they adds the words “even the King of Israel!” Here the crowd is declaring Jesus to be the Messiah. However, they are hoping for a political Messiah that will bring down the Roman rule and provide them with deliverance. This is devastating. They want a Jesus that fulfills their longings and desires. They don’t desire Jesus because of who He is. All too often people will say they believe in Jesus but it turns out that it is to only serve their own sinful and selfish desires.
The second prophecy is found in the act of Jesus riding the young donkey. John writes,
“And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!’” (12:14-15).
This is a quotation from Zechariah 9:9. Notice that this prophecy was fulfilled literally. Israel’s king came actually sitting on a donkey’s colt. When it comes to prophecy many use an approach to Scripture in which they spiritualize the text. This approach seeks to find the figurative meaning to the text. When it came to Zechariah 9:9, it was fulfilled in the same manner in which it was written. A common and helpful rule of interpretation is, “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.” Zechariah said, “your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!” and He did just that.
The disciples did not yet understand the significance of these things until after Jesus’ death and resurrection (12:16).
3. JESUS ENTERED IN PREPARATION FOR PASSOVER
The third important thing about His entrance was that it occurred in preparation for Passover. Why would Jesus be willing for such attention to take place and why was He willing to be greeted and treated as the Messiah? There are a few answers to those questions. Firstly, He is the Messiah so this is His right. Secondly, this act has forced the hand of the religious leaders to fast track their plan to arrest and kill Jesus. Jesus will be crucified on the Passover because He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29). A large portion of this crowd was only there because they saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, and they wanted Him to use His power to overthrow the Romans (12:17-18). In response to this, the Pharisees said, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (12:19). This heightens their frustration and will lead to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
This was truly a Triumphal Entry because of what it represented and what it was leading to. But that is not the end of the story. As you take time to carefully observe the language in this passage, and compare it with Revelation 19, there are some very interesting similarities and supplementary events to look forward to in the future. Revelation 19 could be labeled The Triumphant Return. At His entry there was a large crowd (John 12:12), and in preparation for His return there will be a large crowd gathered (Rev. 19:1, 6). At His entry the crowd praised Him (John 12:13) and in preparation for His return the crowd will praise Him (Rev. 19:1-2, 6-8). But there is a difference. At His entry He was riding a donkey, which symbolized humility and peace. At His return, He will be riding a white horse, which symbolizes power and victory. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming, and just as prophecy was fulfilled literally when it came to His first coming, so it will be fulfilled literally at His Second Coming.
Jesus came the first time into Jerusalem so as to die on the cross in fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus will come the second time in fulfillment of prophecy so as to usher in His everlasting kingdom and bring judgment on the unbelieving. This will happen. The Bible says it and we are to anticipate it. Consider the following prophecies, which are only two among many:
“On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward” (Zech. 14:4)
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30)
The book of Revelation, which is filled with things yet to happen just prior and after our Lord’s return, gives us this amazing picture of a crowd in Heaven awaiting the Lord’s return,
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Rev. 7:9-10)