Formations 04.10.2022: The Triumphal Entry

John 12:12-26

We’ve come to Palm Sunday, a day of celebration. In some churches, people spread palm leaves on their sanctuary floors to honor the day Jesus came to Jerusalem for the last time. It’s an easy scene to picture because most of us have attended celebratory parades and other events. We can imagine the excited crowd, hear their cheers, and sense their anticipation of encountering the celebrity, Jesus.

Most people in that crowd had no awareness of the dark shadow hanging over the celebration. Jesus’ disciples had an inkling of it but didn’t fully understand. Jesus knew, though. As he rode the slow, humble, plodding donkey through the adorned streets, he must have envisioned the cross that waited for him at the end of the week. Was it hard for him to smile and wave at the crowd? Was he concerned that his disciples would hold on to the wrong ideas about his mission?

Our lesson text mentions “some Greeks” who wanted to meet Jesus, and much of the rest of John 12 records what Jesus said to them and to the others in the crowd (vv. 24-36a, 44-50). He continued the refrain that he had tried to share with his disciples: what dies will bear fruit, I will be lifted up in death to draw people to me, the light will only be here with you a little longer, and I have come to save the world. At one point during these teachings, he “departed and hid from them” (v. 36b). Jesus shared all he could share with the crowd, and they still didn’t truly hear him. So, in John 13, he chooses to spend his final moments with his closest friends, the disciples.

It’s hard to feel triumphal about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when we know the rest of the story. As happy as the scene appears, the truth of what is about to happen weighs heavily on our hearts. Because we know how the story ends, though, we can celebrate the triumphal entry for what it truly was: not a jubilant parade honoring a celebrity leader but a service of worship and praise for the Savior of the world.

Discussion

• How does your church celebrate Palm Sunday?
• Why do you think this story is known as the “Triumphal Entry” considering what happens to Jesus at the end of the week? What is triumphal about it?
• How do you think Jesus felt as he rode the donkey? How did his disciples feel as they witnessed the crowd’s reaction?
• How can we celebrate Jesus’ coming while acknowledging his suffering?
• What do you think would be the best way to welcome Jesus if he entered your city in person today?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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