Was it a victory lap? When Jesus rounded the last turn and gazed upon the city from the hilltop, did He think He was coming in victory? The people certainly did. They proclaimed “Hosanna” and “Blessed be the One who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Jesus arrived as a King would atop a donkey. He did not arrive on a charger or war horse, but on a donkey, in peace.
We call it the Triumphal Entry, the Sunday before Easter just as it was in that week before the Resurrection nearly 2000 years ago. We celebrate it as Palm Sunday, for they waved palm branches before the donkey’s path into the city. But was it truly triumph that waited for Jesus? The synoptic gospels show Jesus making his way to the Temple and clearing out the money-changers, in effect, declaring judgment on those who would convert the house of prayer into a den of thieves, a place of merchandise instead of worship. No one dared oppose Him because they saw Him as a prophet, and prophets often did powerfully symbolic things. And then Jesus left the Temple and went back to Bethany. Did He walk back?
Jesus’ triumph seemed to be fleeting, for in a few short days, He would be hanging from a cross outside the city. They would be calling for this prophet’s crucifixion at the top of their lungs. He would be scourged at the end of a Roman whip. He would be dead before the week was over.
It is not triumph as the world sees. That’s what happens today. The world sees a King who did not take his throne. They could not see the King who longed for the throne in each man’s heart. They looked for s politician, not a Savior. Jesus knew that true change would not come through laws and rulers, but by His own blood. Let us celebrate the triumph of a Savior, not over enemies, but over death itself. That is Jesus triumphant.