Cities love to host parades when their sports teams win championships. Military parades celebrate those who have served to defend the nation. On Thanksgiving Day, huge floats parade the streets of NYC. Every day of the year, Disney World hosts parades to help “all your dreams come true.”
Parades are important to cultures. They display our values and lift our spirits.
In the first century — like today — parades were held during times of festival and celebration. It was during the Passover festival that Jesus came riding into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, with people lining the streets of the city shouting His praises.
Here is how the biblical writer Mark describes the event:
Mark 11:1-11 (HCSB)
When they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples and told them, “Go into the village ahead of you. As soon as you enter it, you will find a young donkey tied there, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here right away.’”
So they went and found a young donkey outside in the street, tied by a door. They untied it, and some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the donkey?” They answered them just as Jesus had said, so they let them go.
Then they brought the donkey to Jesus and threw their robes on it, and He sat on it. Many people spread their robes on the road, and others spread leafy branches cut from the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting:
He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One!
The coming kingdom of our father David is blessed!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
And He went into Jerusalem and into the temple complex. After looking around at everything, since it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Let me suggest two of the things this event teaches us.
1. God is absolutely trustworthy. God keeps His Word. He said in Zechariah 9:9 that their King would enter the city of Jerusalem (Zion) riding on a donkey, and that is exactly what Jesus did. These words were spoken prophetically hundreds of years before Jesus was born, and He fulfilled them (along with hosts of other prophecies) to perfection. When you see in your mind the picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, let that picture remind you that God is absolutely trustworthy. You can trust Him, and you can trust His Word.
2. Jesus is the King Who Saves. The people lined the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus entered the city. They placed palm branches in the streets. The palm branch was a familiar symbol to those who lived in the Roman Empire of that day. Palm branches were on their coins and in other places as a symbol of victory. The people shouted, “Hosanna,” which literally means, “Save us!” They were calling out for Jesus to be their king, just as David had been their king 1000 years ealier. They were thinking earthly king. But Jesus knew that He did not come to establish an earthly kingdom that would be bound to time and space. Jesus came to die for our sins and rise from the dead, declaring that He is the conquering, eternal King. To all who believe, throughout all generations, from every tribe and nation on earth, Jesus is the King who saves us from our sins.
After this victory parade, what did Jesus do? He went down to the temple complex to check it out. He had some work to do there soon because the activities there had drifted far away from God’s original intent for that space. Then He went to the home of some dear friends in Bethany, along with His closest followers, one of whom would soon betray Him. Jesus knew that He would be going to the cross in less than a week.
Everybody loves a good parade. But who will stick around for the real work to be done when the parade is over? We have work to do. The messages are still the same: God is absolutely trustworthy, and Jesus is the eternal King Who Saves. Tell people this good news.