“The Triumphal Entry”
This passage relates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus ordered procurement of the donkey to fulfill prophecy, but he did not order the palm branches, the laying down of cloaks, or the hosannas? Why are the cloaks mentioned in the story twice? The cloaks were presented as an act of respect, reverence, and recognition of Jesus’ kingly status. The people of Jerusalem covered Jesus’ “parade route” with them.
Consider a present-day marching band on parade—everyone is dressed in “cloaks,” and everything has to be just right or you’ll get in trouble. Before a parade, the band’s members often ask each other “where are the horses?” Horses (rather, what they leave behind) are obstacles to a group that isn’t supposed to deviate from its straight lines. How nice it would be for the band if something was laid down over the horses droppings!
Ancient streets were dusty, dirty, and possibly filthy with waste. If you laid your cloak down for Jesus—would you get it back? Would it be trampled? Would it be damaged or rendered unusable from grime? What if it was your only cloak? Exodus 22:26-27 tells us that a cloak was an important thing—something that should not be taken permanently from someone: “If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in?” Cloaks were protection from rain, cold, insects, thorns, perhaps even something dangerous like a knife blade. We can also “cloak” ourselves in things we think we think might somehow protect us but really don’t, like fear, worry, and anger.
A cloak is also a disguise or identity—the first thing someone sees of you. It serves as our identity to the outside world. In ancient times, a cloak would have identified a Roman soldier, a tax collector, even a simple carpenter. We, too, make assumptions about people based on their clothing.
When we take off our cloak, we give up our fears and drop the pretensions of our public self. It’s not that we are allowing God to finally see our true selves, because he already knows us. What’s important is that we finally allow ourselves to be truly open and vulnerable to Jesus and trust that he truly loves us–even though he knows precisely who we really are.
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mk. 8:34-35). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Cor. 5:17)!
By dying to self, we allow Jesus to transform and heal us. When we throw down our cloaks in sacrifice to Jesus, when we shout “hosanna–save now,” we allow him a triumphant entry into our hearts, and he brings his transformative power into our lives.