Palm Sunday (John 12:1-18)
The word for today is “fulfill.” Today we follow the Lord as He enters the Holy City of Jerusalem. The multitudes greet Him as the King who “comes in the name of the Lord” (OSB John 12:13). The crowd praises Him as the Son and successor to King David. And the throng shouts, “Hosanna.” This term is a Hebrew word of prayer and praise that means “Save, we implore you!” (Strong’s, #5614, 277). Thus, in today’s Gospel (John 12:1-18), the Gospel writer John quotes the Prophet Zechariah, “Fear not daughter of Zion. Behold your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt (OSB vs. 15).
The Kind of Kingdom He Comes to Establish
Today we join in the affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the “Messiah.” He comes to enter the arena, to do battle, to conquer sin, death, and the devil. He does not ride a warhorse nor drive a chariot, but He sits meekly upon the foal of a donkey. This lowly beast of burden is a sign of the kind of Kingdom He comes to establish, a reign of mercy and peace as He taught throughout His earthly ministry.
But there is something we might miss in all the excitement of His coming. The Scriptures and the Trisagion say that He comes to fulfill the Scripture. Thus, John says, He sits on a young donkey “as it is written” (OSB vs. 14). Matthew says, “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying…” (OSB 21:4). And the Triodion echos these pronouncements: “Thou has drawn near with haste unto thy Passion, to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, Then the children of the Hebrews, foretelling the victory of the Resurrection, came to meet thee with psalms and branches, saying, “Blessed art thou, O Savior, have mercy upon us” (Mother-Mary 1994, 491).
By these repeated declarations, we should understand that whatever is to take place for our salvation will not happen by coincidence. The will of human beings does not direct the series of events to follow. And the human imagination does not produce them.
Foretold and Fulfilled by the Design of God
The fulfillment of the Scriptures proves that all that happens is by the merciful design of the Almighty God. All that God promised through the Prophets, all that the righteous People of God hoped for, all that the Scriptures foretold is to be fulfilled this week.
What does it mean “to fulfill.” The Greek word comes from the idea of filling something up (Strong’s #4137, 204). A promise is empty until it is “filled” when it is kept. A hope is hollow until it is “filled” when it is realized. Only when a dream or expectation comes true is it more than wishful thinking. Therefore, when a statement is fulfilled, it is verified to be true. When the Gospel writers say that this took place to fulfill the Scriptures, it means that the incident confirms the truth of the Word of God.
The Church holds that the fulfillment of the Scriptures is strong proof of the divine purpose behind the events of our salvation. What occurs was foretold. Therefore, it’s truth is reinforced. The fulfillment of Scripture is down to the last detail of the beast that Jesus rode when He entered to Jerusalem to the gambling of the soldiers for the Lord’s tunic (NKJV John 19:23). These occurrences, therefore, were not coincidence. They took place according to a divine plan announced centuries beforehand. This correspondence between the foretelling and the happening shows that both the Word of Promise and the Word of the Fulfillment of that Promise are true. Therefore, we can trust the Scriptures when they report that God intended the events that Scripture records to occur and, in fact, saw to it that they happened.
So let us believe the proclamation of the Word of Scripture and the hymns and prayers of the Church as they narrate the events of our salvation throughout this week. And casting aside all doubt and every hesitancy, let us boldly follow the King whom we praise with such exultation today.
Mother-Mary, Archimandrite Kallistos Ware. 1994. The Lenten Triodion. South Canaan, Pennsylvania St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press.