Our lesson this week from Matthew 21:1-16 covers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But Jesus wasn’t the first ruler to carry out a triumphal procession: at this same period in history, Roman triumphs honoring victorious generals were well-known as magnificent and glamorous affairs. A Roman general’s triumphal procession included politicians, soldiers, musicians, captives, and spoils of war paraded through the streets of Rome. In the middle of it all, the successful general rode on a four-horse chariot, wearing a crown of laurels. By comparison, Jesus’ triumphal entry must have seemed simple, even pitiful. Though He was worthy of a greater triumph than the Roman world had ever seen, Jesus humbly entered the streets of a hostile city seated on a donkey, accepting the praise of a rag-tag band of followers and crowds who were fickle and insincere.
Despite the humility of Jesus’ entry, why might a religious ruler or a Roman onlooker have had cause for concern? What motivated the crowd to participate, and what was the symbolism of their actions? Why did Jesus even follow through with His triumphal entry if He deserved something greater and if many shouted His praises for the wrong reasons?
We’ll affirm on Sunday that Jesus is a powerful king and conqueror, and deserving of our complete worship. We’ll consider at least two other triumphs of Christ: his triumph over Satan, sin and death on the cross and his final triumphal return as a conquering warrior at the Second Coming. Can you think of relevant Scripture verses that expound on these triumphs? What is our part in the triumphal procession of Christ? Finally, we will draw applications from the account of Jesus cleansing the temple in the latter part of the lesson text. Jesus, our deliverer and conquering king, deserves pure worship from the corporate church and from each individual believer. What might stand in the way and distract or defile us from making the most of Him? All this and more, Sunday at Shalom!