“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Zechariah 9:9 NKJV
We see the Old Testament prophecy above fulfilled in Jesus’ Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, and John 12:12-15. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, less than a week before his death on the cross.
Tree branches were strewn in the road before Jesus. This would be similar to rolling out the red carpet for a dignitary or ruler today. Christians often celebrate Palm Sunday by waving palm branches in a procession. In ancient Greece and Rome, palm branches symbolized victory, joy, peace, and triumph. They were used to celebrate champions of the games or military victories. Palm branches were also used for celebration in Israel’s Feast of Tabernacles, or The Feast of Booths (see Leviticus 23:40). We read about palm branches in Revelation 7:9 as well.
The people who welcomed Jesus also shouted, Hosanna, which literally means means, please save, or save, we pray. It is also used as a shout of praise. It seems that many of the Jews of Jesus’ day wanted him to save them from Roman occupation. However, Jesus came for an even higher purpose—to save his people from their sins.
The Hebrew term which is transliterated, Hosanna, is used in 2 Samuel 14:4 and Psalm 118:25. In the triumphal entry account, the people quoted the first part of the next verse, Psalm 118:26: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
The symbolism of the donkey was one of kingship and peace. Horses often depicted war, but Jesus identified with the lowly and was a man of peace. He was riding into Jerusalem as a declaration that he was the King of Israel. Sadly, most of the Jews ended up rejecting Him. Before the week was over, they had handed him over to the Romans, who crucified him. In Luke 19:41, Jesus wept over the city because he knew that the Romans would come against Jerusalem and destroy the city in 70 A.D. due to their rejection of Jesus. But we know from Romans 11:26 that God is not done with Israel yet. Jesus will return one day again, sit on the throne of David, and set up his Millennial Kingdom in Jerusalem and rule over all the Earth.
So as we celebrate Palm Sunday, let us remember why Jesus came. Jesus came the first time to die on a cross to pay for the sins of the whole world. Then he rose again. One day he will come back for those who have put their faith in him. We all have to decide whether we will worship him as our King. The Bible makes clear “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)