The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, and “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 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!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” (John 12:12-16).
One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. His voluminous output of literary work continues to be enjoyed today two centuries after being originally written. Obviously, an annual read for me is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. My holiday season wouldn’t be the same without either reading the book or watching one film version featuring the actor George C. Scott starring as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Another Dickens’ classic that has received much praise and adulation is entitled Great Expectations. It is the story of Phillip Pirrip , nicknamed “Pip, “an orphan whose “great expectations” is to improve his life and social status; not through snobbery, but through the Victorian England conviction of education, social refinement, and materialism, which was seen as a noble and worthy goal.
In today’s text from John 12:12-16, we witness the “great expectations” of the Jewish masses when Jesus entered the City of Jerusalem on the eve of the Passover. Their anticipation was that Jesus would be their political deliverer, or messiah, who would drive Rome away from Israel and establish an independent and sovereign nation. Such was the setting for what has come to be known as “Palm Sunday.”
One commentator says that, “We see that as Jesus comes to the city, the crowd, waving palm branches, greets Him with a shout: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (v. 13). Palm branches were a national symbol for first-century Judea, and they were frequently used in contexts associated with messianic expectations. Palm branches had been waved about two hundred years earlier when the Maccabees liberated the temple from foreign occupation, so their use on Palm Sunday seems to indicate that the crowd expects Jesus to be the promised Messiah, the son of David appointed to lead them to independence. This is confirmed in the cries of the crowd, which are drawn from Psalm 118 and were seen by the rabbis as words to be pronounced at the Messiah’s arrival. The shout “Hosanna!” in fact, means something like “Save us now!” and we know that the salvation that many first-century Jews were looking for from the Messiah was a political liberation from Roman rule.”
However, Jesus does not enter the city like an earthly conquering king. Rather, He rode a donkey and not a war horse fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. While King David rode a donkey and was a skilled and able warrior (I Kings 1:33), Jesus’ mission is not one of political salvation but instead the salvation of people’s souls. Jesus’ battle was/is not with flesh and blood but rather the foes of sin, Satan and death (Colossians 2:15).
Even though their “great expectations” were sincere, the Jewish nation was wrong in what they thought the Messiah was to accomplish. They did not consider that He would rather be a suffering and crucified servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) instead of a great and grandiose king.
What is your perspective and what are your expectations of Jesus Christ? If they are anything less than biblical, they may be sincere but they will be sincerely wrong. Immerse yourself in the Scriptures to understand who Jesus truly is.
Soli deo Gloria!