What is the meaning of the ‘Triumphal Entry’ or ‘Palm Sunday’?

The Triumphal Entry occurred on what is known today among many as ‘Palm Sunday.’ Normally, the Triumphal Entry is interpreted to represent the time when Yeshua (Jesus) came and officially offered Himself as the King of the Jews and as Israel’s Messiah. But that is not the best interpretation of the actual significance of the Triumphal Entry, because Yeshua had already been offering Himself as the Messiah and the King of the Jews for the previous three and one-half years. Israel had already rejected the Messiahship of Jesus about a year and one- half earlier (Mat. 12:22-45). At that point, Yeshua said that the generation of His day was guilty of committing the “unpardonable sin”; therefore, they were under the judgment that would come in the year A.D. 70. Furthermore, the Kingdom offer was then rescinded, to be re-offered to a later Jewish generation: the generation of the Great Tribulation. The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was not for the purpose of officially offering Himself as the King; there was a different purpose.

THE SETTING ASIDE OF THE LAMB OF GOD

The Triumphal Entry took place in the context of the Passover. The significance of this particular Passover was that this was the Passover when Yeshua knew that the final atonement for sin would be made, by virtue of His death (Lk. 22:14).

The date when this event occurred, insofar as the Jewish calendar is concerned, was the tenth of the Jewish month of Nisan. According to Exodus 12:3-6, it was on the tenth day of the month of Nisan that the lamb was to be set aside. Between the tenth and the fourteenth of the month, the lamb was to be inspected and tested to be sure that it was without spot and without blemish (Ex. 12:5). Beginning on the evening of the fourteenth of Nisan, the Passover occurred. So the Triumphal Entry was not the time that Jesus was offering Himself as the King, that was nothing new, but rather, this was the day of the setting aside of the Lamb of God. What happened over the next several days was the testing of the Lamb to prove that the Lamb of God was without blemish and without spot (I Pet. 1:19).

John 11:55 and 12:1, 9-11 state that Yeshua arrived in the town of Bethany, which by then had become a suburb of Jerusalem. He arrived six days before the passover, which would make it the eighth day of Nisan. This was the regular Jewish custom during the Passover feast. Those who would come to Jerusalem for the observance of the Feast of the Passover would arrive in the Jerusalem vicinity on the eighth of Nisan. Yeshua was keeping with that pattern. Two days later was the tenth of Nisan, the day of the Triumphal Entry, the day of the setting aside of the Lamb of God. Again, the purpose of the Triumphal Entry was not to offer Himself as the King or to re-offer the Kingdom. These things had been rejected and, for that generation, the rejection was terminal. There would be no re-offer of the Kingdom until the Great Tribulation. What happened on this day was that the Passover Lamb of God was set aside for a period of testing to prove that He was indeed without blemish and without spot.

The Gospel accounts detail what happened. Between Bethany and Jerusalem there was a town called Bethphage. As Jesus left Bethany and was passing by the town of Bethphage, He sent His disciples to fetch a colt. Mark 11:2 states that they would find “a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat.” They were to take this colt to Yeshua because this would be the colt on which He would ride into Jerusalem. A miracle takes place here which few people notice. The Gospels of Mark and Luke clearly state that this was a colt “upon which no one had ever sat.” Normally, if one rides a colt upon which no one has ever sat, the colt would buck because it has not yet been broken. In this case, the colt did not buck, showing Jesus’ authority as the Messiah and as the Creator over the animal kingdom. In verse 3, Yeshua told His disciples that if anyone objected to their taking this colt, all they needed to say was “The Lord has need of him” and the colt would be immediately released, with no further objections raised. The colt was brought to Yeshua, and He rode into Jerusalem in fulfillment of a messianic prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9, which states that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem upon just such a colt. Matthew 21:4-5 emphasized this as being the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Just as He was riding the colt into Jerusalem, suddenly the buzzing of rumors began to spread that Jesus was coming, riding in as the Messianic King of the Jews. The Jewish people responded; and their response was something significant. John 12:12-13 states: On the morrow a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried out, Hosanna: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.

Mark 11:8-10 states: And many spread their garments upon the way; and others branches, which they had cut from the fields. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, Hosanna; Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord: Blessed is the kingdom that comes, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest.

Matthew 21:8-9 reads: And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the way. And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

Luke 19:37-38 reads: And as he was now drawing nigh, even at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen; saying, Blessed is the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

The four Gospel accounts together give a full description of the responses of the multitudes. They responded in several ways. First, they cut off palm branches and laid them before the feet of the colt upon which Yeshua was riding. Secondly, they cried out Hosanna in Hebrew, Hoshanah. Thirdly, they said, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord. Normally, these are not actions that are performed during the Passover, rather, they are performed during the Feast of Tabernacles. The response of the multitudes showed that they were expecting the Feast of Tabernacles to be fulfilled on this occasion. According to Zechariah 14:16-21, the Feast of Tabernacles is to be fulfilled by means of the Messianic Kingdom. The declaration, Hosanna, and the actions of the multitudes showed that they were expecting the Kingdom to be set up on that occasion in fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.

However, they did not yet realize that Jesus was not coming to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles, rather, He was coming to fulfill the Passover. The Passover was not to be fulfilled by the establishment of the Kingdom, but by the death of the Messiah. The multitudes misinterpreted the purpose of His riding into Jerusalem on that occasion.

Furthermore, one of the greetings they applied to Yeshua was, Blessed is he that comes in the name of Jehovah, which comes from Psalm 118:26, a messianic psalm of the Old Testament. From a Jewish frame of reference, that particular phrase is an official Messianic greeting. The rabbis taught that, when the Messiah comes, He must be greeted with these words. When the people applied these words to Jesus, they were proclaiming Him, by the thousands, to be the Messiah of Israel.

But while the masses were proclaiming Him to be the Messiah, the Pharisees did not go along with them. The Pharisaic response is recorded in John 12:19:The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Behold how ye prevail nothing; lo, the world is gone after him.

Luke 19:39-40 adds: And some of the Pharisees from the multitude said unto him, Teacher, rebuke your disciples. And he answered and said, I tell you that, if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.
To the Pharisees’ objections, Yeshua responded that there must be a testimony to the fact that the Messiah had come. If the multitude had been silent, the stones would have cried out the very same lines.

That Jesus was not riding into Jerusalem to offer Himself as the King with the Kingdom is made clear by what happens next. In the context of the many Hosannas and greetings of Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord, in the context of many proclamations of His Messiahship, the words of Yeshua remained words of judgment. Luke 19:41-44 states: And when he drew nigh, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, If you had known in this day, even you, the things which belong unto peace! but now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies shall cast up a bank about you, and compass you round, and keep you in on every side, and shall dash you to the ground, and your children within you; and they shall not leave in you one stone upon another; because you knew not the time of your visitation.

If Jesus had simply offered the Kingdom as He rode into Jerusalem on that day of the Triumphal Entry, He would have been accepted as the Messiah by the multitudes right then and there! He was being proclaimed as the Messiah by thousands upon thousands of Jews. It cannot be claimed that this was a minority, because Matthew 21:8 states that it was true for the most part of the multitude. The objectors were the leaders, but the masses were proclaiming His messiahship. If Yeshua was offering Himself once again as the King and re-offering the Kingdom, they were accepting it. However, that was not the purpose of the Triumphal Entry. For no amount of Hosannas and Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord could change what had already occurred a year-and-a-half earlier. The unpardonable sin had already been committed by this generation. They had already rejected His Messiahship on the grounds of demon possession; and because that sin was exactly what He said it was, unpardonable, under no circumstances could the judgment now be removed. Otherwise, the unpardonable would have become pardonable, negating the very words of Jesus. In spite of the many Hosannas, in spite of the many messianic proclamations, because the rejection had already occurred and the unpardonable sin had already been committed, the words of Yeshua were words of judgment.

Jesus once again reiterated that Jerusalem was destined for destruction. The Temple was to be torn down until not one stone stood upon another. The reason for this is at the end of verse 44, “because you knew not the time of your visitation.” Because Jerusalem had not recognized at the proper time that the Messiah had come, the judgment was still going to occur. The time of your visitation, which they did not know, was in Matthew 12. After a manifold testimony of His Messiahship, after Yeshua proved Himself by many miracles, signs, and wonders, after they heard Him teach and preach and proclaim for the past year and a half, they had rejected Him. Thus, they did not know the time of their visitation. Because of this, they were still under judgment.

Again, the purpose of the Triumphal Entry was not to offer the Kingdom, but the purpose was to set aside the Lamb of God in preparation for the Passover sacrifice. Mark 11:11 states that He went on and entered into Jerusalem. Greater details of what happened once He entered the city are given in Matthew 21:10-11: And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, Who is this? And the multitudes said, This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.

The whole city understood the significance of what was happening. But, once again, the chief priests, the Sadducees, and the scribes, the Pharisees, objected in Matthew 21:15-16: But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children that were crying in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were moved with indignation, and said unto him, Hear you what these are saying? And Jesus said unto them, Yea: did ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise?

When the Pharisees objected to the worship Yeshua received, His response was to let them know that the Messiah had these things coming to Him. Jesus’ acceptance of the praise and worship showed that He accepted their claims that He was the Messiah. At that point, Yeshua left Jerusalem and returned to Bethany (v. 17).

On that day, the tenth of Nisan, the Lamb of God was set aside. From the tenth until the fourteenth, this Lamb would be tested to show that He was indeed without blemish and without spot and then He would be offered as the Passover Lamb to take away the sin of the world.

For more on the Triumphal Entry click here.