The Significance of the Triumphal Entry
"Another View of Christ's Passion"
Although we are very familiar with the triumphal entry through our annual celebration of Palm Sunday, I wonder if we really understand its significance. Perhaps we understand part of it. Jesus is recognized for who He really is, the King of Israel. The chants and praises given Him there well describe His glory. Jesus says those same chants would sound from the rocks if God permitted them. Indeed all creation would join in ringing out glory, praise and honor to our Jesus Christ.
Modern society, however, know parts but not the whole. We can understand all sorts of details but can’t seem to know the meaning of the details. I believe this is true of the modern church too. We pick out the events of Christ’s life and still celebrate them but are woefully sad at linking the events together, understanding the meaning.
Wisdom enables a person to discern the best actions by understanding the consequences of different decisions. Each of the Gospels (Mt 21; Mk 11; Lu 19; Jo 12) records this important incident of Christ’s life showing us that the Triumphal Entry is a key to understanding the Gospel. Some of us understand Christ’s proclamation only as the one who just performed so many miracles. We, like those in the Gospel scenes, can get excited about all sorts of glorious events. When great events happen, tens of thousands of people gather in the cold shouting enthusiastically over some field competition.
Now I know we would quickly deny that what happened here is much like some soccer or football game. But the hoorays and shouts seemed to disappear from the words on the pages like the ending of a game. Jesus was praised and exalted, then He wasn’t. Is He like another game fading into history? We would think so except that this game was written on the eternal press and is annually replayed before us all.
The modern Christian’s dismal view of the Gospel influences his perspective of Christian life. He chooses to be a Christian because Jesus won in the end. He accepts the passion of Christ, but the suffering is Christ’s payment for our sins. We love the idea that He would die for us and that we are the victors. We just do not see how they are linked together and therefore have no real ‘Christ-likeness' in our Christian life.
The necessary link is provided for us back in the prophetical books. The Servant Song in Isaiah 53 starts at the end of Isaiah 52 in verse: 13, five stanzas are provided for us that show the overall picture. It starts with Christ’s glory and ends with Christ’s glory (end of Isaiah 53).
The whole pattern goes like this: the glorious Lord descended and took the form of a man. This of course is the birth of Christ. But then He takes on man’s sin along with all of its shame and died the death of a sinner. He stepped way down into humility. The triumphal entry reminds us of this huge step down. Jesus knew of its true significance, but others were oblivious to it. The wicked Tempter that pursued Him knew all of this too well. Only Jesus could truly understand the loss and suffered alone.
The modern Christian looks at Christ as a Savior and not Lord. We applaud His Passion. We just do not realize the implications of it all. We don’t know how to put it together. If we did, we would probably reject it.
We like to think of Christ who paved a road to heaven through the sacrifice of His life. This is true. But we think of the Christian life as starting at the bottom at our conversion and walking upwards toward its glory. We love the scenes of triumph and victory. And who doesn’t. But we don’t realize that the road of Christ did not start at the bottom but at the top. His glory was everlasting. His magnificence is beyond comparison. The Entry simply reminds us that Christ started in glory and honor but then takes those steps downward, each step with careful deliberation and sacrifice.
It is this humbling of Christ that so clearly marks the way for us in the life we are now to live on earth. We want all the glory and prosperity now. We want the victory and press releases now. This is not the Gospel. The Gospel carefully lays before us the path down. The Triumphal Entry poignantly alerts us to Christ’s glory and reminds us of the steps down He is taking.
The Christian walk on earth must be one of laying aside the pursuit of self. Like Christ our Master we deliberately choose to take these downward steps. We willingly forsake our selves so that we can choose God and prefer others. Note how elegantly the apostle recorded this descent.
The Christian life is to be characterized by humble service. Christ’s humble attitude is to be our attitude toward life. We are now to put our serving towel on and wipe the disciples’ feet. As Christians we are privileged to share in Christ’s humble but loving life.
The modern church has an affair with the world of success. We love winning the games. We don’t want to associate with the losing team. We don’t want to be identified with the failures. We might like a Jesus who died for us. We get to think so highly of us. In deformed fashion we think, “Oh how special I am that He would die for me!” We weren’t special. Doesn’t grace mean something like undeserved kindness?
The picture turns even worse when the modern Christian sees that to be a genuine Christian means that he must identify with Christ’s ignoble death where there is no ease, comfort or applause. We are shaken. We tremble. We rebel. Suddenly we comprehend what Christian living is all about. We are shocked. What do we choose? Do we choose Christ and His sufferings so that we may live? Or do we choose the fanfare with all of its enticements now? We are sadly reminded how some reject this Gospel when they truly understand it.
The Triumphal Entry reminds us that each Christian who would desire the crown must also endure the cross. Repentance has lifelong effects. We live in the humility of the cross so that Christ’s love and power might flow in and through us.
One day that glorious day will shine, indeed, as it did for Christ on His resurrection day. One day the glorious new day will break forth and we will meet Christ. But our ascent is not yet. Now is our time to share in Christ’s humble walk. Now is the time to follow His pathway to the cross. We say “No” to serving our own desires and affirm His will and ways. Many Christians have wondered why there is no power in their Christian life. The reason is that they have not been following Christ. Christ’s path led to denial of self so that He could fulfill God’s will. There is no difference for any of us.
The Triumphal Entry is our annual reminder or call that a true Christian is one who is willing to forsake the fanfare and successes of life, and has chosen to join Christ in His walk toward Jerusalem.
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