Jesus Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem
Nancy B. Detweiler
Throughout his ministry, the religious authorities were disturbed over the large crowds following Jesus. Even though their Old Testament prophets had performed the same works, the people were impressed with Jesus’ ability to multiple the bread and fishes, to heal the sick, and to raise the dead. Rumors were rampant regarding “Who is Jesus—really? … John the Baptist? … Elijah? … Jeremiah? … one of the prophets? … the long expected Messiah? (Note the wide-spread acceptance of a prophet reincarnating.)
Jesus knew his life’s mission was to reveal to the people the Way through the Narrow Gate to enlightenment (Matthew 7:13-14). He demonstrated this Way through the major events (or Initiations) in his life. We have discussed the 1st Initiation—the birth of the Christ within our conscious awareness … the 2nd Initiation—Baptism of water and the spirit … and the 3rd Initiation—Transfiguration into a Light being. Now, Jesus must turn toward Jerusalem.
Jesus was aware that many wanted to crown him “King of the Jews,” so he could lead them in defeating their Roman dictators and once more establish Palestine as a sovereign nation. He was also cognizant of the religious authorities’ fear of losing their standing within the religious community because of his teachings to follow the spirit of the law rather than the literal law. He knew returning to Jerusalem was dangerous due to a plot to kill him. This plot played into the Divine Plan in that Jesus intended to lay down his life, so he could take it up again and prove to the people: there is no death.
Jesus turned resolutely toward Jerusalem. The city was filled with worshippers who had come to celebrate the Passover Feast. They heard Jesus was on his way from his friends’ home in Bethany to Jerusalem. According to John 12:13 (the only gospel to name the tree branches as “palm”), the people gathered palm branches and spread them on the road along with their garments—both essential items in their daily lives.
“Palm” branches are significant in that the palm tree provided a favorite fruit, its sap a fermented drink, leaves for roofing their houses and for weaving mats and baskets. According to the gospel of John, these precious palm leaves were gathered as a celebration of joy. Also the “upright and stately form of the palm suggests justice and nobility.” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary) In I Kings 6:29, 32, we find that palms were used as a motif in Solomon’s Temple. “He carved the walls of the house all around about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers …. He covered the two doors of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers.”
The people prepared a royal walkway for Jesus. They shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”
What did Jesus do? He found a young ass and sat on it. John’s gospel includes as explanation the fulfillment of the prophecy: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on the colt of an ass!”
The ass’ colt was a domesticated animal and commonly thought of as an essential item in any family’s personal property. “The domestic ass is most frequently referred to as a means of transport for goods or people …. Issachar is called an ass because his life is hard labor (Genesis 49:14)…. In the ancient Near East gods and kings rode on asses.” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary)
In Zechariah 9:9-10, we find: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey …. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Remember Jesus’ temptations during his 40 day fast in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). The devil (symbolizing our lower self’s ego) took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me (the lower self ego).’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
Why did Jesus choose to ride an ass into Jerusalem? Could he have done so in order to turn the prophecy found in Zechariah on its head? Later, during his trial, Jesus explains to Pilate “My kingdom is not from this world …. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:36-37)
Could Jesus have ridden into Jerusalem on an ass in order to symbolize the fact that he overcame the temptation to rule the world as a physical plane king? The ass was after all a beast of burden common to all households.
Was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem a triumph because he had overcome the temptations of the world … not because he was proclaiming himself “King of the Jews?”