Easter Week 1 – John 12:12-19
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the crowds sang his praises, for one brief moment everyone treated him like he deserved to be treated. I’m the coming days we’ll see the moment get ruined as the crowds reject him and his disciples disown him. In just four days the crowd will go from chanting “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” But for this one, glorious moment, mankind welcomed God in their midst.
Palm branches were a national symbol of Israel; palm trees were very common in Judea and symbolized abundance and plenty (where there are palm trees, there is water). This crowd was quite literally proclaiming Jesus to be their king and preemptively celebrating his victory over the Roman Empire. They were chanting in Hebrew hoshiya na (transliterated as “hosanna”) straight from Psalm 118:25, where the Psalmist says, “Save us, we pray, O Lord!” Everyone was expecting Jesus to promptly unseat Roman occupation in Jerusalem, perhaps with some of those miracles he’d been practicing, and set up his Messianic Kingdom to establish an enduring Israel.
But of course we know that’s not how things go down. The Triumphal Entry is sickly ironic compared to John 19:1-16, where the Jews go from proclaiming Jesus as their king to saying, “We have no king but Caesar.” If we could grasp the hatred Israel had for Rome at the time we would see the gravity of what they said. The chief priests were actively choosing the oppressive reign of a villain over Jesus.
We can use this passage as an opportunity to reflect on all the times we vacillate between lauding Jesus as our King and actively rejecting his reign in our lives. We can reflect on the irony of this passage, that Jesus was the King whether anyone recognized it or not; similarly, Jesus is most certainly the King over our lives, whether we conform to this truth or rebel against it. And And looking ahead towards the cross we can see the only real solution for our sedition.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read John 12:12-19 for us?
• What stood out to you from this passage?
• What can this “king on a donkey” prophecy tell us about Jesus?
• In the triumphal entry, what about Jesus do you think the crowds got right? What do you think they missed?
• These crowds will call for Jesus’ death in just a few days. How do you think they went from celebrating him to rejecting him?
• Reflecting on yourself, when do you celebrate Jesus being king and when do you reject his rule?
• Thinking ahead to Easter, what does Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for his rule as king over our lives?