12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, NKJV)
The Passover feast of the Jews was approaching as Jesus entered Jerusalem. People laid palm branches (and even clothing) in His path as symbols of festive joy (Matt. 21:8; cf. Lev. 23:40; Rev. 7:9). The people verbalized their anticipation of victory with shouts of praise from the Psalms: “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psa. 118:25-26). “Hosanna” (“save now” or “oh save!”) punctuated their excitement that Jesus was the “Son of David,” the “King of Israel” (Matt. 21:9). But, Jesus was not riding upon a mighty steed as a conquering hero, but upon a lowly donkey (fulfilling a prophecy depicting the humble nature of the King and His kingdom, Jno. 12:14-15; Zech. 9:9). The salvation He brought was redemption from the bondage and death of sin, not freedom from their oppressive Roman overlords (Isa. 62:11-12). His kingdom is “not of this world,” and when their vision was not realized, they viciously turn against Jesus and shouted, “Crucify Him!” (Jno. 18:36-38; 19:14-16). We must not conjure up false images of Jesus and His gospel. If we do, we join hands with the faithless crowd that crucified the King of Israel, the Savior of the world.
17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. 19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (John 19:17–19, NKJV)
Calvary is the Latinized form of the Place of a Skull, the skull-like hill where Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33). With criminals hanging on either side, Jesus was nailed to a cross until dead. Crucifixion was execution by torture, a most horrid, gruesome event. (The word excruciating derives from the Latin excruciatus, “from, or out of the cross.”) Nails driven through the hands and feet would damage nerves and send fiery bolts of pain through his limbs. Already severely weakened from being scourged, every breath became increasingly labored and shallow. The weight of his body prevented normal breathing, while every movement caused more shots of agony to course through his body. Soon, dehydration became another factor leading to death. Sometimes legs were broken, quickening death, but in Jesus’ case (John 19:32-33). Finally, exhausted and racked with agony, the body releases its last breath and death comes mercifully (John 19:30). Jesus endured crucifixion so we can be saved. Our sin deserves the eternal agony of hell (Romans 6:23). Jesus died so we can live. No one ever cared for you like Jesus (John 15:13; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1). Do you care for him?
9 Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9–10, NKJV)
How could shouts of Hosanna (“save, we pray” or “save now”) turn so quickly to shouts of “Crucify him!” (Mk. 15:31)? Because Jesus did not meet their expectation of salvation, of a king and of the kingdom. They expected a king who would save them from Rome (like David saved Israel from their enemies), and a kingdom wielding earthly power over men. But, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jno. 18:36). He withdrew Himself from forcible attempts to make Him king; His kingdom is “within” (Jno. 6:15; Lk. 17:20-21). And so, they killed Jesus. Even to this day, when Jesus does not fit people’s expectation of salvation, their shouts of hosanna turn to scornful contempt. For example, Jesus could not be more plain, that one must believe and be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:16). Yet, people ridicule His way of salvation as “water salvation.” They clamor for “faith only” salvation (which will never save the lost, see Jas. 2:14-26). When one shouts, “Save me, Lord,” he must be willing to be saved Christ’s way. There is no other way (Jno. 14:6; Acts 4:12).