They thought they had finally figured out what he was doing. It was all so confusing. He had talked about dying in Jerusalem, but now he was going there anyway. He had talked about being handed over to the Gentiles; what did the Gentiles have to do with Israel’s Messiah? (except, of course, that he would eventually crush them and restore Israel. That would be something to see: Israel restored, free and glorious, heavy-handed Rome banished from their lives, and Jesus on the throne as King David once had been!) But it was terribly unclear – first he talked about how dangerous it was, and now he was obviously about to make a public spectacle of himself! If it was so dangerous, why didn’t he just lie low for a while? Or, given the power that they had seen him use, power which must surely signify his Messiah-ship, why was he worried about danger at all? If ever someone had the ability to defend himself, then surely it was Jesus?
And then there were all these arrangements about a donkey. (A donkey???? A donkey that had never been ridden????)) They had no idea when or how he made these arrangements, but apparently he had! So two of them duly fetched the donkey, threw their cloaks over it in lieu of a saddle, and there he was, riding into Jerusalem! Suddenly it all started to make sense; now, assured and confident, they could lift their heads high as they walked in his train. Somebody remembered the words of the prophet Zechariah, how the righteous, victorious king would come to them riding on a donkey, and they looked at each other, round-eyed with excitement. For there were the crowds ,cheering wildly, throwing their cloaks down before him, tearing palm branches from the trees that lined the road so that they could wave them in the air while they cried out “”Hosanna! Lord save us!” It seemed a glorious moment – finally Jesus was coming into his own, now he would take up his throne and reign gloriously as their Messiah-king! They were so sure it was finally falling into place!
It was only much later that they recalled that Jesus alone had seemed unexcited by all that was going on. It was not just kingly dignity – he had actually seemed unhappy … no, something much stronger than that, as if he was bracing himself to carry an impossible burden, as if every step into Jerusalem was a step closer to something dreadful. And it was later again before they truly understood, before they found the truth upon which they could stand with an assurance so absolute that it would carry them, through every vicissitude, to the ends of the earth!
For there was no assurance in earthly kingship, or in the plaudits of a fickle crowd who could cry out ‘Hosanna!’ one day, and ‘Crucify him!’ just a few days later. They had seen where that led – to a crucified king and the daylight turned to darkness. But in an empty tomb and a risen Lord, in the overcoming of sin and death and every power of the evil one, here was a place where a man could find such assurance that he could rest upon its truth for all eternity.