Palm Procession: John 12:12-16

The King Comes!

How does a leader stand out in a crowd?

Popular Translation

Jesus raised Lazarus from his tomb.

12 After that, the crowds who arrived for the Passover festival heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So, they took palm branches and went out to greet him. They said,

“Hosanna! God blesses the man who comes in his name! He is the King of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a small donkey and sat on it. The Bible says:

“Don’t be afraid, daughter Zion. Look! Your king is sitting on a young donkey. He is coming to visit you!”

16 His followers didn’t understand any of this at first, but when God gave Jesus glory on the cross, they remembered all this was written about him and what the people did for him.

Literal Translation

12 On the next day, the crowd, the (one) having arrived at the (Passover) festival, having heard that JESUS was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took palm branches, went out to (have) a meeting with HIM, and shouted,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the (ONE) coming in the name of the Lord [and] the King of Israel!”

14 Having found a small donkey, JESUS sat on it, just it has been written,

15 “Fear not daughter Zion. Look! Your king comes to you sitting on the colt of a donkey.”

16 These (things) his disciples did not understand (at) first, but when JESUS was glorified, then they remembered that these (things) had been written about him and (the crowd) did these (things) for HIM.

12:12 “On the next day” The entry into Jerusalem followed the raising of Lazarus. The term “next day” should not be taken literally, but in the sense of God’s time. The gospel writer John understood “day” of revelation/salvation in the same sense as a “day” of creation in Genesis. For John, “day” meant “time frame for an event of divine activity.” In John’s mind, each “day” built up to the “hour” of Jesus’ glory on the cross, for each day had an event that revealed the person and mission of Jesus in a progressively fuller sense.

12:13 “Hosanna! Blessed is the (ONE) coming in the name of the Lord [and] the King of Israel!” 12:13a comes from Psalm 118:26. The title “King of Israel” was added; this title was a theme of John’s that would shown to its fullest on the cross.

12:15 Based upon Zechariah 9:9.

John’s gospel has a different point of view from the others. He laid out his gospel as a series of events and monologues that built step by step to the Passion. When we read John, we should ask ourselves, “Where does this passage fit on the road to the cross?”

The entry into Jerusalem represented a turning point for John’s gospel; it was the last public appearance for Jesus. While it did not have the dramatic impact as the resurrection of Lazarus, it brought Jesus into Jerusalem and onto the “home turf” of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In John’s gospel, when he entered Jerusalem, he would not leave until he revealed himself as the Messiah on the cross.

Like the other gospels, John saw the entry of Jesus into the city as a fulfillment of Scripture. The scene reminds us of the entries David and Solomon made. Waving of the palm branches and the shouts of “Hosanna” were glorious, while riding the small donkey was a sign of humility and service. John saw these contradictory images fleshed out on the cross. That’s why his followers didn’t understand the meaning of the images; they could only understand through the lense of Calvary.

Ultimately, the images of the entry only make sense in light of the Passion. When the people proclaimed Jesus as the King of Israel, they prophesied his glory would only come through service, even if that service meant a horrible and shameful death. When we hear the words of the entry proclaimed, let us remember their foreshadowing. Christ is our King, our crucified King.

As you look upon a crucifix, meditate on the Passion for a few moments. How is Jesus King in your life?