Michelle Kritselis

Jesus enters Jerusalem

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him. They shouted, “Hosanna!? Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord![c]?    Blessings on the king of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 Don’t be afraid, Daughter Zion. Look! Your king is coming,? sitting on a donkey’s colt.[d] 16 His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. After he was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 17 The crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were testifying about him. 18 That’s why the crowd came to meet him, because they had heard about this miraculous sign that he had done.19 Therefore, the Pharisees said to each other, “See! You’ve accomplished nothing! Look! The whole world is following him!”


John August Swanson’s Entry into the City certainly captures the excitement and “bustling” feel of the event described in this week’s verses. The canvas is packed with people. Bodies spill out onto the streets and crowd atop buildings; faces peer out of windows just to catch a glimpse of Jesus and send Him a blessing. His presence was a big draw, after all—everyone wanted to see the man who had raised Lazarus from the dead. What’s more, He came riding in on a donkey, just as it was prophesied the Messiah would. There’s a palpable feeling of hope both in these verses and in the faces of the people in the crowd. The king of Israel is here to free the Jews from the tyranny of Roman rule! Raise those palms high!

However, we know what will happen less than a week after the scene depicted in this work: the throngs of people who shouted “Hosanna!” at Christ on Palm Sunday will abandon Him (or cheer for His execution). Swanson’s painting manages to portray this dichotomy as well—to me, it feels as ominous as it does celebratory. The scene is awash in blood-red. Spears brandished by Roman soldiers mingle with the fluttering flags and palms. The sky is bright at the horizon, but the clouds overhead are dark and foreboding. A soldier at the painting’s bottom-right corner restrains three dogs snarling at something outside our view. Entry into the City foreshadows the Passion as much as it illustrates Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem.


Further Questions

 In the right-hand side of the painting, a crowned figure watches the scene with an outstretched hand. Who is this, and what do you think Swanson intended this gesture to mean? Do any other figures in the crowd stand out to you? The painting’s anachronistic elements (e.g., clothing, architecture) make it seem more relatable to a modern context. Have you ever been in the crowd in a scene like this one? What feelings did the experience evoke? Prayer Lord, during the Lenten season—a liturgical period of preparation and sacrifice—let us always be reminded of the sacrifice You made for us.



Michelle Kritselis is a professional editor and an amateur art enthusiast. In addition, she serves as the development coordinator on the board of Brown Paper Box Co., the theatre company she co-founded in 2010. She lives in Rolling Meadows with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Vivian.

Last Published: February 28, 2018 10:17 AM