Triumphal Entry -or- Mistaken Identity?
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38″Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!“40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
As the unwitting crowds excitedly lay down garments and branches along the road into Jerusalem, they loudly and joyfully exclaimed “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”. But this is not a joyful scene at all; instead it’s quite disturbing. For those swarming crowds did not really know what they were saying or even who exactly this Jesus was that they were praising. Their expectations were so off the mark that when it became clearer that Jesus would NOT be the socio-political savior they’d been hoping for; they disbanded, disappointed and disillusioned.
They got Jesus wrong. Even those closest to him got him wrong.
Over the last three years of Jesus’ public ministry they all grew enamored with his authority-drenched teachings, his counter-cultural style, and his power-displaying miracles. Those growing crowds thought they could maybe get behind this one who very well could meet their main need: That of removing the yoke of Roman oppression and leading the Jews in a second exodus out into freedom. They thought Jesus might be the one that the Old Testament scriptures seemed to have been pointing towards, at least in their incomplete (and mistaken) understanding of who that Messiah would be and what his kingdom would entail.
But they got Jesus wrong. They got him so wrong that they very quickly ended up walking away disenchanted. In fact, while teeming crowds praised him with “Hosanna” and “Peace” that one day, within a short week’s span they’d be condemning him with screams of “CRUCIFY”. He was definitely not what they had expected or hoped for.
No real surprise here. People always seem to get excited about a Jesus that holds the same ideologies and priorities that they clench so tightly to. This can be said of the skewed Jesus of the Aryan Nazis, of the Westboro picketers, the Jesus Seminar skeptics, the American KKK, the Western “Me-First” individualists, the post-sexual-revolution permissives, and of the 1st century Jewish disciples who layed down palm fronds before the one they hoped would free them from the Romans. They all got (and get) Jesus wrong. Dead wrong.
People get excited about a Jesus that will look, behave, and act according to their own personal expectations, even if based on improper interpretation or understanding of scripture.
Basically, people get excited about a Jesus that is a mirror image of themselves.
This was true then and it is still very true today. The “Triumphal Entry Jesus” was more a fabrication and construction in the crowds’ own minds than he was the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, the Messiah of God. For one reason, his kingship and kingdom were of another realm (though having broad application to that time and place; as well as to ours).
The crowds, recounted in Matthew’s narrative (21:11) called Jesus “prophet”. The Pharisees in Luke’s narrative (19:39) called Jesus “teacher”. But Jesus called himself LORD. In Luke 19:31, Jesus self-identifies as “Lord” (the Greek word Kurios). Ironically, this title was reserved for the Roman Emperor and was unlawful to use of any other person. But Jesus Christ is Lord of all (and over all) including the Roman Emperor and the Roman governmental systems that oppressed the Jews.
But his kingship and kingdom were of another realm. In verse 42, Jesus distressed and distraught, wept over Jerusalem (the Greek word klaio used of Peter who wept bitterly as the cock crowed twice upon denying Christ three times –Mt 26:75, Mk14:72, Lk22:62) and Jesus declared through those tears that the peace the people were hoping for would indeed come, but in a whole other way. It was hidden from their eyes (v.42), in a sense, but also right smack in plain view riding that donkey’s colt into town: Jesus was the one. THAT Jesus.
Ponder this: A Jesus whom we create that is in lockstep with our own social, political, military, sexual, and/or financial proclivities (that we and our contemporaries often buy into) is a Jesus of mistaken identify and isn’t able to challenge or change us where we need it most. He’s not the real Jesus but rather a mirror reflection of ourselves when we read into scripture what we desperately want it to say rather than letting the text speak for itself.
The REAL Jesus does not layer himself on top of all our self-absorbed agendas, but rather replaces them with his Christ-centered lordship. And why? Because the one who rode into Jerusalem in mistaken identity, and later died a criminal’s death under cloud of shame and isolated aloneness, is the very one who rose on the third day and now is seated on the King’s throne at the right hand of God. Triumphal entry indeed.