The King Is Here!  Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Pastor Phil Andrukaitis, April 2, 2023

General Theme: That You May Believe in Jesus Christ and Have Eternal Life

Sermon Title:  The King Is Here!  Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Sermon Text: John 12:12-19

Subject: Reactions towards Christ

Complement: As Jesus moves triumphantly through this world, people respond with various reactions.

Dominating Idea: Walk triumphantly in Christ – the world is watching us.


Parades – there is something special about them.  Whatever the reason behind a parade, if its cause stirs our hearts, we make the effort to participate as a spectator and to support its cause.  For example, many communities across our nation sponsor parades on Memorial Day (May) and Veterans Day (November) to honor veterans, both dead and alive. 

And who doesn’t love St. Patrick’s Day parades when the Irish community with their bagpipes march down the main streets of New York and Chicago.  On that day, EVERYONE is Irish! 😉

And then there are other causes that the general public support.  For example, there is a global movement underway to promote June as Gay Pride Month whereby LGBTQ community bring people together by conducting parades and festivals.  These events are held throughout major cities across our nation, celebrating and advancing their unbiblical values and lifestyles.

Whatever the motivations behind parades, there will always be enthusiastic supporters, the curious, and the critics. 

Transitional Sentences

Well in a similar manner, Jesus’ Triumphal Entry is a likened to a parade, drawing out the curious and the critics.  Please listen as I read the passage from John’s Gospel, chapter 12:12-19.

Beginning at verse 1 in chapter 12, the reader will notice that John has shifted the focus from a quiet, somber dinner meal held in Bethany to the noisy crowded streets of Jerusalem.  You may recall that during the meal hosted by Simon the leper who lived in Bethany, Mary anointed the Lord because she was preparing Jesus for His burial. 

But, as the next day (Palm Sunday) began, a “great crowd” of enthusiastic pilgrims, who had already arrived for the Passover celebration, heard that Jesus was coming and (12), gathered palm branches, and went out to meet Him with the cry of Hosanna, which means, save us now!  In fact, this multitude was ascribing the messianic title, King of Israel, to Jesus.  Read Psalm 118:25-26.

Describing Christ’s Triumphant Entry, Bruce Milne observed the following impact:

  • “…is an exposition of Jesus’ kingship”
  • “…is more than Israelite nationalism”
  • “…proclaims Jesus as the King of Peace”
  • “…brings divisiveness, as the coming of the King means the usurping of our rebel
    kingdoms and the denial of our sinful independence”
  • “…points to Jesus as the universal King.”[1]

I would add that Christ’s Triumphant Entry was Jesus’ death march as He willing entered the city, knowing that He would lay down His life as the Passover Lamb.  He was the Father’s offering to save sinners from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.

While John’s abbreviated version of Christ’s Triumphal Entry leaves out some of the Synoptic details, John directs the reader’s focus to the reaction from the crowds.  [For a fuller read on this event, examine the following passages – Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; and Luke 19:29-38.]

What does Christ’s triumphal entry mean to you and me today?  Before we answer this question, let us examine what this event meant to Jesus Christ and to the Roman authorities, the passionate multitude, the perplexed disciples, and the religious authorities and draw a principle from each.

I.         The Triumphal Entry according to Jesus Christ:

                        My time to act has come  (John 12:12-13)

On the eve of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Mary anoints Jesus while Judas Iscariot slips away to strike a deal with the Pharisees and chief priests to betray Jesus.  Even though Jesus’ enemies were closing in on Him, they were not permitted to take His life until all things as predetermined in the Court of Heaven, were in place. 

Early in the morning, Jesus departs from Bethany, comes to the village of Bethphage, and borrows a young colt on which no one has ever sat (Mark 11:2).  As He approached the city of Jerusalem, Jesus wept over it (Luke 19:41) because…    (These 3 reasons are significant!)

  • …the people would fail to recognize Him for Who He is
  • …the people would fail to understand the purpose of His sacrifice, and
  • …the people would perish as Rome would destroy the city and slaughter people [A.D. 70].

Nevertheless, Jesus demonstrates His sovereignty over creation, including the affairs of man, by fulfilling His promises made over five-hundred years earlier.  His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was that of a messenger of peace, not as a conqueror.  Listen to Zechariah’s prophecy:

“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).

Jesus is not only able to fulfill His promises; He is able to choose the day and hour, the very moment to fulfill His Word.  Therefore, when Jesus chose the exact day on which to enter Jerusalem, He fulfilled one of the most remarkable prophecies of the Old Testament, Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24-26).[2]

Principle:  God acts according to His purposes, not according to our expectations. 

II.        The Triumphal Entry according to the Roman authorities: 

                        What a joke!  Is this King for real?

Triumphal entries were common in ancient times, as kings would parade victoriously through a city they had conquered.  Since Jerusalem was a conquered territory at the farthest outpost of the Roman Empire, the Roman authorities were accustomed to the Jewish nationalists who tried to stir up the people to rebel against Rome, during the Jewish holidays, especially at Passover.[3]

When Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, the Roman soldiers and authorities probably laughed aloud among themselves when they heard the people shout,

“Hosanna!  Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD!  The King of Israel!”  (John 12:13)

Later in the week when Jesus was eventually arrested, He stood in the presence of Roman soldiers and was mocked, spat upon, beaten and humiliated.  They were mocking His kingship.

It is important to understand the Roman’s view of a triumphal entry.  To help us understand, William Barclay describes this event in the following way:

“The highest honor which could be given to a victorious Roman general was a Triumph.  To attain it he must satisfy certain conditions.  He must have been the actual commander-in-chief in the field.  The campaign must have been completely finished, the region pacified, and the victorious troops brought home.  Five thousand of the enemy at least must have fallen in one engagement.  A positive extension of territory must have been gained, and not merely a disaster retrieved, or an attack repelled.  And the victory must have been won over a foreign foe and not in a civil war.

“In the Triumph the procession of the victorious general marched through the streets of Rome to the Capitol in the following order.  First came the state officials and the senate.  Then came the trumpeters.  Then were carried the spoils taken from the conquered land.  For instance, when Titus conquered Jerusalem, the seven-branched candlestick, the golden   table of the shew-bread and the golden trumpets were carried through the streets of Rome.  Then came pictures of the conquered land and models of conquered citadels and ships.  There followed the white bull for the sacrifice which would be made.  Then there walked the captive princes, leaders, and generals in chains, shortly to be flung into prison and in all probability almost immediately to be executed.  Then came the lictors bearing their rods, followed by the musicians with their lyres; then priests swinging their censers with the sweet-smelling incense burning in them.  After that came the general himself.  He stood in a chariot drawn by four horses.  He was clad in a purple tunic embroidered with golden palm leaves, and over it a purple toga marked out with the Roman eagle at its top, and over his head a slave held the crown of Jupiter.  After him rode his family; and finally came the army wearing all their decorations and shouting, Io triumphe! their cry of triumph.  As the procession moved through the streets, all decorated and garlanded, amid the cheering crowds, it made a tremendous day which might happen only once in a lifetime.”[4]

Principle: There is nothing greater than the cross of Jesus to display the glory of God. 

When the Roman centurion witnessed the death of Jesus on the cross, the centurion said, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” (Luke 23:47)Read Galatians 6:14.

III.      The Triumphal Entry according to the passionate multitude

                        We are “high” on Jesus!  (John 12:17-18)

Every year as the Passover celebration got underway, the city of Jerusalem’s population would swell; thus, affecting the city’s infrastructure.  Since all the Passover pilgrims could not be contain within the city, thousands of people would live on the hillside, in little booths.  Certainly, city officials must have been stressed out, wondering how to contain social disruptions and marginalize the influence of Jewish nationalists, under the watchful eyes of the Roman government.  It must have been a nightmare for the city’s officials.  You could say it was akin to “Spring Break” in Florida when the city is overflowing with young people who want to party.

As Jesus approached the city, the crowd that accompanied Jesus from Bethany, were for the most part, eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Lazarus (John 12:17).  The raising of Lazarus was most likely a catalyst for the crowd’s excitement.  When this crowd merged with a much larger crowd – the Passover pilgrims, who were camped outside Jerusalem, living in booths on the hillsides – a great ground swell of excitement and optimism for Jerusalem was created.  Finally, the King of Israel has come!   

As Jesus entered the city, the excited crowds shouted, Save now!  The multitudes expected something dramatic to occur; they believed that Jesus would somehow overthrow the Roman oppressors and reform the Israel’s spiritual leaders. 

Illustration:  To relate this this spirit of excitement, hoping that something dramatic would occur, consider the atmosphere on January 6, 2021 when violent protestors stormed the Capital.

Psalms 113 through 118, known has the Hallel [which means Praise God] were engrained in every Jewish boy.  These psalms were part of the Passover celebrations and were sung at great acts of praise and times of joyful thanksgiving in the Temple.  Therefore, as Jesus rode into the city, the multitude shouted praises and called Jesus their king, throwing down palm branches and their cloaks, believing that their Conqueror had come to deliver them.

In the past, Jesus refused to be called King.  Remember how the multitude were scheming to make Jesus their “Burger King,” especially after He fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish and promptly dismissed the multitude?  Well, this time, Jesus receives this praise and adoration.  Nevertheless, Jesus knew that this crowd would change its tune later in the week.  The Gospel writer, Mark records the following: 

“Now at the feast he [Pilate] was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested.  And there was one named Barabbas, who was  chained with his fellow insurrectionists; they had committed murder in the  insurrection.  Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them.  But Pilate answered them, saying ‘Do you  want me to release to you the King of the Jews?’  For he knew that the chief   priests had handed Him [Jesus] over because of envy.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he [Pilate] should release Barabbas to them” (Mark 15:6-11).

Principle: A superficial attitude towards Jesus creates a fickle faith; it is not a mature                            witness nor does it exhibit saving faith.

Jesus knows His own; yet, He is grieved by the superficial attitude many folks have towards Him. While Jesus came to deliver His people from oppression, it was not from the oppression of Rome but from the oppression of sin.  Jesus came to set us free – free from sin’s penalty, power, and presence.

Do we follow Jesus, only when life is going well for us?  Or do we cling to Him and welcome the trials of life, knowing that each trial is designed to cultivate a godly character in each of us?

IV.       The Triumphal Entry according to the perplexed disciples:

                        “Now we understand!”  Do they?   (John 12:16) 

There is an old saying, “ignorance is bliss.”  Is it really?  The disciples were ignorant about the deeper purposes behind the actions of Jesus.  Like the multitudes who failed to understand the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, the disciples also failed to comprehend the events that were unfolding before their very eyes.

As John wrote his Gospel account many years after the events, he inserts a parenthetical thought; recalling the early days when the disciples were ignorant of many things, even though they walked with Jesus. 

The fact is, the disciples did not understand the events of Palm Sunday.  They disciples did not comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ first coming; Jesus had to come as a Savior to deliver sinners from sin.  Jesus’ second coming will be as Judge and Conqueror.  John writes:

“His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him” (John 12:16).

When did the disciples finally understand these events?  The Scriptures teach that when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, The Helper, The Spirit of truth was the fulfillment of a promise made by Jesus.  John writes: 

“He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13)

Therefore, “the Passion and Resurrection were the keys in unlocking the mystery of Jesus’ person”[5] and are rightly understood with the Holy Spirit’s assistance.

Principle: Depend upon the Holy Spirit’s guidance when it comes to understanding                                prophetic “end times” as revealed in Scripture.

Even though there are several eschatological positions to explain the “end times,” we need to depend upon the Spirit’s guidance.  Do not allow your dogmatic position to determine your fellowship with other believers.  Rather, be humble enough to recognize that no one completely understands all the details about “end times.”  In God’s due time, we will comprehend the events of our lives.

V.        The Triumphal Entry according to the religious authorities

                        We know what You are up to!”     (John 12:18)

While the disciples failed to understand the events, the Pharisees and chief priests understood the events from a different perspective.  Their true motives were revealed by their actions.  What did the religious authorities treasure most?  “They prized the approval of men above all else – above truth, above the Law, above the welfare of Israel.”[6]

When the multitudes saw the arrival of the Messiah, the Pharisees and chief priests rightly discerned that the people were shifting their loyalty away from the priesthood.  No one was able to stop the growing attraction to Jesus.  Thus, the religious authorities felt powerless.  They said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing.  Look, the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19).  Therefore, there was no other course of action for the religious authorities to take; they had to eliminate Jesus. 

But like the disciples, they too did not grasp the significance of Jesus’ first coming.  Jesus would become the Passover Lamb Who would take away the sins of the world.  And by entering the city of Jerusalem, Jesus was sovereignly forcing the hand of His enemies, thereby revealing His sovereignty by fulfilling Scripture.

Principle: God can glorify Himself, even with the sinfulness of man.


Returning to the question first asked, what does Christ’s triumphal entry mean to you?  Now that you understand what others thought, what will you do with Christ?  Jesus calls every sinner to repent of his or her sins and to believe in Him.  No person is without excuse (Romans 1:18-20)

For those who have not humbled themselves before God, come to Him now by agreeing with God that you are a sinner.  Do you believe Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross for you and was raised from the dead?  Do you desire to live for God and to escape the judgment of hell for your sins?  Then cry out to Him now, where you sit.  He knows your heart.

As for my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us renew our commitment to Jesus.  Let us walk with Him, asking Jesus to renew our passion for Him and for the lost.  When we look into the eyes of unbelievers, may God enable each us to see the fires of hell in their eyes.  For that is what they will see.  They will never see the glory of God as we will see.

I close with this psalm from Joseph Bayly, entitled, A Psalm for Palm Sunday

King Jesus, why did You choose a lowly ass [donkey] to carry you to ride in Your parade?
Had You no friend who owned a horse – a royal mount with spirit for a king to ride?
Why choose an ass [donkey], small, unassuming beast of burden trained to plow;
not carry kings?

King Jesus, why did You choose me,
a lowly unimportant person to bear You in my world today?
I’m poor and unimportant, trained to work, not carry kings –
Let alone the King of kings,
and yet You’ve chose me to carry You in triumph in this world’s parade.

King Jesus, keep me small so all may see how great You are;
keep me humble, so all may say,
“Blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the LORD!”
Not what a great ass [donkey] He rides.

[1] Bruce Milne, The Message of John, (Downers Grove:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1993), 180-183.

[2] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, John 12-21,  (Chicago:  Moody Press, 2008), 14-15.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 1, (Wheaton:  Victor Books, 1989), 340.

[4] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, (Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 183-184.

[5] Merrill C. Tenney, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 9, (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 127.

[6] Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights – Insights on John, (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2010), 215.

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