Who is this King of Glory? artwork for Palm Sunday by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin

As we come upon Holy Week once again in the church year, we praise Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:61).

On Sunday Jesus rides a donkey down from the Mount of Olives. He did this so that on Friday he could carry his cross up to Mt.Calvary.

The image of Jesus entering Jerusalem, created by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, may at first glance appear stationary and without expression of emotion by the Palm Sunday worshipers. However, at the same time, this painting is also dominated by Jesus in his regality and majesty.

It is a simple painting that contains much depth … much like the events of that first Palm Sunday.

In the beginning of the week, Jesus is praised as a king with palm branches in the air and robes thrown on the ground. On Friday the soldiers mock Jesus as a king with a purple robe, a crown of thorns and a sign above His cross that reads, “The king of the Jews.”

On Sunday Jesus rides past the walls of Jerusalem carried on a donkey. On Friday Jesus’ corpse is on Golgotha’s hill, being carried by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, so he may be buried in a borrowed tomb.

This was the greatest miracle of all time! The King dies for his subjects. The Shepherd lays down his life for sheep who love to wander. The Creator allows his creatures to crucify him.

“See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). There is both a simplicity and a depth to the entrance of Jesus on Palm Sunday.

If Jesus came in the fullness of his glory with his voice like thunder and his eyes like fire, we would surely run from him in fear. When Isaiah saw the Lord’s glory, he came undone (Isaiah 6). When Jesus stilled the stormy sea, the disciples were terrified (Matthew 8). When he ordered the fish to jump into their nets, the disciples demanded that he depart from them (Luke 5). So Jesus humbled himself and became a servant (Philippians 2:8).

Jesus humbled himself and came as a servant so that we would not fear him, but trust in him. He did not enter Jerusalem on a gleaming white steed to rule over us, rather he came gentle and riding a donkey because he was being obedient to Another.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem. He is riding on in majesty. At the same time, He is riding to a criminal’s death. A death that will make centurions and governors shake, but a death that will take a criminal to paradise.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King. The people putting their cloaks on the ground and waving palm branches in the air recognize this. Even as a King, Jesus still enters with humility and gentleness.

The next time Jesus comes, it will not be with humility and gentleness. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him” (Revelation 1:7).

On Palm Sunday, the people praise Christ with palm branches. One day, we will gather with the saints in heaven to wave palm branches in victory around the throne of Christ (Revelation 7:9). There will be no gentleness or humility … only glory and victory. For Christ reigns now and forevermore as our King of kings and Lord of lords.

For this Sunday we witness Jesus riding to his death. We also see him riding to his victory over death.

Questions to consider as you meditate on this painting and the significance of Palm Sunday.

What does Palm Sunday mean for us? What is its significance? What do we learn about ourselves? If I was someone in the crowd that first Palm Sunday, what might have been my reason for being there? What agenda might I have had for Jesus? What does Jesus mission “to die for the sins of the world” say about all of my agenda items? What does this day show me about my Savior?

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