A triumphal entry into a major city overpowered by the Romans was a lavish political and military event to honor the conquering general.
The processional usually involved political dignitaries, governing officials, a large military contingency and, of course, the commanding general.
The finest gold and purple uniforms were the attire for the dignitaries. Parade dress was mandated for the army commanders who were mounted on the strongest horses. A large contingency of foot soldiers was in regular dress carrying banners.
Sometimes there was a red carpet placed at the gates of the city upon which the political leaders and army officers rode horses and chariots as they marched into the city.
The planning for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was apparently initiated in the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha just days before the event. They wanted the King of Kings to enter Jerusalem like a King was supposed to enter a capital city.
But there were problems. They had no powerful stallion to ride. The best they could do was to borrow a young donkey from a stranger.
There were no carefully tailored military uniforms, just the regular clothes of the common people.
A homemade saddle was crafted for Jesus by carefully folding cloaks over the donkey. There were no banners to display, so they cut branches out of palm trees to wave in the air.
They had no red carpet to unfold at the gates of the city, so they took their outer coats and made a carpet out of common clothes.
Jesus and his followers began their triumphal march toward Jerusalem. As they approached the city, apparently they stirred enough interest for a small crowd to gather to watch this home grown parade.
Mind you, the citizens of Jerusalem were probably not impressed, for they had seen the frequent displays of the mighty power of Rome.
But note the contrasts. A triumphal entry on the part of the Roman elite was a symbol of power and suppression. The entry on the part of Jesus and his disciples was a symbol of humility and freedom.
The powerful horses were reminders of war. The donkey was the symbol of poverty and peace.
The richly tailored uniforms were symbols of status and elitism. The cloaks worn by Jesus’ disciples were garments of the servants.
The elaborate banners carried by the military were symbols of conquest. The palm branches carried by the disciples were symbols of peace.
The red carpet was the symbol of power and influence. The cloaks or outer coats of the disciples were symbols of service.
The messages are that love is more powerful than hate, that peace is to be pursued more than war, that humility is to be sought more that status, and that service to others is more important than privilege.
So each time we approach Palm Sunday, let us thank God that Jesus taught us how to plan a “triumphal entry” into a meaningful life.