To fully understand the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem we have to understand two very important historical facts.
1. The Romans LOVED a good parade. Even the name of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem gives us a big hint here. The Romans had something called "The Triumph." When a Roman leader had gone out and won in battle or taken over a group of people, he got to have a BIG parade. There are very strict guidelines on what gets you a Triumph, how many men you killed, how much loot you gathered, etc. And there are also strict guidelines on how you entered Rome... in a chariot pulled by two (later four) white horses and preceded by the Roman Senate, your captives, and so on. These things were BIG.
2. The Jews lived in constant fear of the Romans, both hating them and submitting to them at the same time. And anyone who had the guts to stand up to the Roman leadership was a good show. It would only be about 40 years after Jesus' death that the Romans would virtually destroy Jerusalem, robbing the temple and laying seige to the hilltop fortress of Masada where nearly 1000 Jews committed suicide in order to not live under Roman rule any longer.
So knowing those two things, the Triumphal Entry of Jesus takes on an interesting twist. Jesus rides into Jerusalem making a mockery of a Roman triumph and everyone there knew it. They were having a wild time waving branches, getting into the moment and thumbing their collective noses as the Roman leadership in town. They had all likely heard about Lazarus being raised from the dead and were curious about this man who was so powerful. For Jews in the know, they also realized the prophetic implication of Jesus entering at Passover riding on a donkey. They would have recognized the reference to prophecy that we read yesterday.
It was full of wild fun for some and intensely meaningful for others. I doubt that anyone there other than Jesus had any idea how quickly this event would bring things to a head.
But most of the crowd was likely there for a show. They were there to celebrate a holiday and got to snub their oppressors at the same time. What could be better?
But within a few days, that same crowd who was so enthusiastic when they thought it was all fun and games, has dwindled down to a handful of folks hiding and even fewer willing to make a public stand with Jesus at the cross.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Who are you going to be this Easter season? One of the big crowd who likes the parade or one of the committed few who stick with Jesus when the going gets tough?