On what proved to be the first day of Passion week, Jesus entered His capital city. The road to Jerusalem would be crowded with thronging pilgrims on their way to the Passover feast, which commemorated the most important event in their national history, the exodus from Egypt.
Jesus chose to approach and enter the city riding on a donkey. The humble pilgrims acclaimed Him, shouting “Hosanna,” but Jesus wept. Luke leaves us in no doubt as to the reason for those tears. He was foreseeing the dreadful consequences of the nation’s rejection of Himself, knowing that their choice of revolutionary action would lead to disastrous overthrow, as indeed it did.
Jesus entered Jerusalem in such a way as to make an open and unmistakable claim to Messiahship. The time for reserve was over. He was throwing down the gauntlet. It was as though our Lord deemed it necessary to give the nation a final chance to accept its King, and made His entry in this way to remind the people of the prophecy in Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9).
As their rightful King, Jesus had claims, but force cannot command love. His kingdom had to be rooted in the hearts of men, so He appealed to them in a way unlike anything they expected or desired. All emblems of power and authority were laid aside; there was only His personal dignity to persuade them. Any man’s acceptance of Christ must be free, completely unforced.
He, the Messiah, entered the capital of the chosen nation not on a war horse, but riding on a donkey, the symbol of humility and peace. Here was no political king, but the spiritual Lord of a spiritual kingdom. In the words of Henry Milman:
Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O’er captive death and conquered sin.
Harry Dean, Power and Glory