John 12:12-15 — Jesus’s Triumphal Entry as an Acknowledgment of his Kingship — LeGrand Baker

Before he died, Jacob gave each of his 12 sons a patriarchal blessing. A description of Jesus’s kingship, his Triumphal Entry, his Atonement and second coming are all encoded in Judah’s blessing.

8 Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
10 The sceptre [of kingship] shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk (Genesis 49:6-12). {1}

Notwithstanding the promise, by Jesus’s time the scepter of kingship had in fact departed from them, and no Jew had sat upon the throne of Judah for 600 years. But the Jews had not forgotten. They were deeply concerned about preserving their genealogies. For example, priests had to prove their descent from Levi in order to function in their priesthood, and even though the Zadok family no longer ruled as High Priests in Jerusalem after 150 B.C., they had retained their heritage in exile in Egypt. The identity of the royal family was also kept in the collective memory. Jesus’s genealogies in the New Testament, and the peoples enthusiasm about his entry into Jerusalem testify that they knew who their legitimate king should be.

The prophet Zechariah had promised that the King would come again.

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water (Zechariah 9:9-11).

Zechariah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Each of the four gospels describe the event.

1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, cerebrate overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves (Matthew 21:1-12).

As I pointed out last time, in the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, the king, the Ark of the Covenant (representing the presence of Jehovah) and all the people made a grand, joyous procession around the city, through its gates, and into the temple where the king received his coronation rites.

In Jesus’s Triumphal Procession we see that same pattern, a joyous procession where the people hailed their king and led him into the city. Then Jesus also went to the temple, but not to receive his coronation, rather to assert his rights of priesthood and kingship by cleansing the temple of the avarice and corruption of the Jewish leaders.
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1 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,
2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.
3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.
4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.
5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?
6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.
7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.
8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.
9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve (Mark 11:1-11).

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28 And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.
29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,
30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.
31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.
32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them.
33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt?
34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him.
35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.
36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.
37 And when he was come nigh, even now 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 that they had seen;
38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;
46 Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves (Luke 19:28-46).

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12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,
15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt (John 12:12-15).

In the ancient ceremony, as the people danced and sang in this triumphal procession around the city, they were measuring it with their steps, re-defining it as sacred space. They were creating a New Jerusalem with a new Temple, and the people had become Zion. C. L. Seow described the procession as an expression of triumph:

As in comparable rituals from elsewhere in the ancient Near East, the procession was conducted in joy by priests and other cultic participants. It culminated in a feast celebrating the occasion and symbolizing the deity’s acceptance of the city as the divine abode from which blessings would be dispensed to the multitudes. The psalm concludes with a promise by the deity:

17 There I will cause a horn to sprout for David; I will prepare lamp for my anointed.
18 His enemies I will clothe with shame, But on him his crown will gleam (Psalm 132:17-18). {2}

Aubrey Johnson understood this uniting of the king and the people as a “triumph of righteousness.”

In the renewed life of the king, the people live again; his ‘Salvation’ is also their ‘Salvation’. The key to life is SEDEK or ‘righteousness,’the loyal functioning of the corporate whole. Thus the procession of the ‘righteous’ moves forward through ‘the Gates of Righteousness;’ through ‘the Gate wherein the righteous do enter,’ to continue the ritual. {3}

The procession was a time or rejoicing. Together all the people sang and danced their way around the city, as is shown in Psalm 68:

24 They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary
25 The singers went before, the players on intruments followed after: among them the damsels playing with timbrels (Psalm 68:24-25).

Gary A. Anderson understood this singing and dancing to be very literal:

The experience of deliverance in this psalm is not characterized by a simple journey to the Temple to praise God. The psalmist declares that his deliverance can be observed in his own ritual movement. His state of mourning has become dancing, and his sack cloth has been replaced by festive attire. The ritual movement from mourning to joy has mirrored a spatial movement from Sheol to Temple, from the absence of God to the presence of God.{4}

J. Blenkinsopp made this point very well:

We begin from the supposition that the entry into Jerusalem, as recorded in all four gospels, is conceived both as messianic and royal parousia. That the First and the Fourth Gospels see it as messianic event is conveyed explicitly by the quotation from Zech 9: 9, but there are indications enough in Mark that he saw it in a similar light. The passing over the Mount of Olives with its unmistakable associations, the ass ‘upon which no man had ever sat,’ the wording of the acclamations to ‘the one that is to come’ point in this direction; and the entry has its expected climax—though not on the same day—in the cleansing of the temple. The significance of most of these elements is very much accentuated by Luke, who makes the progress to Jerusalem centrally thematic in his presentation of the public ministry—beginning from the decisive turning point of 9:51. In particular, we note that the great rejoicing of the disciples begins at the descent of the Mount of Olives, which is, in a special way for Luke, the mountain of revelation and of the Messiah—the scene of his last teaching both before and after the Resurrection, of the eschatological discourse, of his taking up and return.”{5}

As they approached the gates of the city, they sang the 24th Psalm. Some modern scholars have called this psalm a “temple recommend.”

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory (Psalm 24:1-10).

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” The psalm was not only a command that the doors of the city be opened, it was also a implicit declaration of their own worthiness to enter the Temple. The king, and symbolically all the people, entered into the Temple itself. They were in sacred space and in sacred time.

When the people accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem, they hoped to be recreating that sacred event. BUT:

47 …But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,
48 And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him (Luke 19:28-48).

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FOOTNOTES

{1} Several scrilptures mention that the Savior will be dressed in red garments: Isaiah 63:1-9; Luke 22:42-47; Revelation 19:9-16; D&C 76:107-110, 88:102-109, 133:45-50).

{2} C. L. Seow, Myth, Drama, and the Politics of David’s Dance (Atlanta: Scholars, 1989), 196.

{3} Aubrey Johnson, “The Role of the King in the Jerusalem Cultus.” in The Labyrinth: Further Studies in the Relation between Myth and Ritual in the Ancient World, edited by S. H. Hooke. 73-111 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1935),106.
Johnson’’s “SEDEK” is the same word as zedek.

{4} Gary A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance: The Expression of Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 91.

{5} J. Blenkinsopp, “The Oracle of Judah and the Messianic Entry,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 80 (1961): 55-64.

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