A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"
The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." (NIV Matthew 21:8-11)
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. The Triumphal Entry of Jesus is, most commonly, the gospel message that is shared during that day. It’s the story of how Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was met by crowds of anxious people who were looking for hope. They placed their coats and palm branches on the road before Him as if to receive a long-expected king.
The words they cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” gave further proof that they were expecting Jesus to be a king. The word Hosanna comes from the Hebrew words yasha` ( יָשַׁע - save) and na' (נָא – please). When they cried “Hosanna” they were crying out as they would have to their king, to save them from the enemies and from those who oppress them. They are crying out to Jesus, “Please, save us, our king.”
This cry should be important to all of us. This cry, “Please, save us, our king” is the primary step that we take in receiving God’s grace. Every Christian receives God’s grace because he or she cries out, “Please save me, God!” By His grace and His love, Jesus is always faithful to do just that—to save us.
This is great news! This is part of what we observe during Holy Week—the faithfulness and passion of Christ to offer salvation to anyone in the world who would receive it. Most of us do know, however, that Holy Week ends in the betrayal and death of Jesus by the very same people who, earlier that week, ran out to meet Him crying out, “Please, save us, our king.”
So, what happened?
Matthew records that, after the triumphal entry, Jesus continued preaching about the importance of obeying God. He continued to call out the Pharisees for promoting empty religion. Jesus rebuked them for binding the people to impossible standards instead of just trying to help them grow in their relationship with God. Jesus let the Pharisees, and the teachers of the law, know that they were so hung up with a fundamentalist doctrine that they actually rejected the very God they claimed to serve.
Jesus also told the people that they should not put their hope in the government for matters that God had called them to handle, such as caring for the poor. Jesus preached that everything the Father commanded boiled down to loving God with everything that you are and, as a result of that love, loving your neighbor as yourself. He preached about the individual’s responsibility to live a holy life that glorified God and brought light to the world. Jesus even made it very clear that a person who rejects someone in need, also rejects God.
These were not the messages the people wanted from a king. They didn’t need a king to come and tell them that they needed to change. Instead, they wanted a king who would come and punish their enemies and hand them everything they desired. They wanted a king who looked like every other king in the world. So, when Jesus refused to be less than God, and less than love, they turned on Him. Less than a week after crying “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they cried “Crucify Him!”