This Sunday we will celebrate Palm Sunday; a monumental day in Jesus' final week of His earthly ministry. But carefully looking over the accounts of the Gospels writers will reveal some things that just don't make sense. After years of ministry in which Jesus downplayed His identity, why all of a sudden does He allow public adoration? With the village of Bethany located within a short walking distance of Jerusalem, why go to the trouble of stopping in the next town (Bethphage) to pick up a donkey's colt? With a multitude of people praising God and shouting joyfully over His arrival, why does Jesus stop, gaze upon the city of Jerusalem and weep? And lastly, after the "big parade", why does Jesus merely enter the Temple mount, look around and leave?!
Jerusalem was Jesus' "city of destiny". This was the place where all the prophecies concerning Him would come true. These prophecies focused on the long awaited descendant of King David, who would return to Jerusalem, ascend to the throne and reign over Israel. Jesus' acknowledgement of the peoples' praise (and His refusal to follow the Pharisees' request and quiet them) is a claim to that kingship. Although the people were expecting an entirely different kind of king, Jesus' triumphal entry was His ascension to the throne of David as promised through the Prophets.
The prophet Zechariah wrote that a king would come to restore Israel riding on a colt (Zech. 9:9). And it is well-known in ancient times that a king who came in peace would enter a city riding on a colt. The little village of Bethphage was in the path of Jesus' route to Jerusalem. By sending His disciples ahead to pick up the colt and entering upon its back, Jesus fulfills this well-known prophecy- a fact that Matthew points out in his account of this monumental day (Mt. 21:4-5). The people also make this connection, immediately spreading their garments before Him (a custom performed for royalty also seen in 2 Ki. 9:12-13) and greeting Him with psalms that recognize Him as the awaited Messiah (Ps. 118:25-26).
The four Gospels allow us to see Palm Sunday from different perspectives- different camera angles as it were. Luke's Gospel focuses on Jesus' state of mind and is the only one which records Jesus' reaction as He descends the Mount of Olives and the city of Jerusalem comes into view. Jesus' lament in Lk. 19:41-44 is that of a deep sorrow in contrast to the excitement and joy of the crowd. For Jesus, it must have been heart-breaking to know that the rejection of the Prince of Peace would have devastating consequences on the City of Peace. About 40 years after Jesus said these words, the Romans would totally destroy Jerusalem. Barclay wrote in his commentary on Luke, "The tears of Jesus are the tears of God when He sees the needless pain and suffering humankind experiences as a result of their foolish rebelling against God's will."
As quickly as the Triumphal Entry begins, it ends. Mark notes that it was late, so Jesus takes a cursory glance around the Temple and leaves. Such a strange ending for a day of fulfilled prophecy! But maybe not; perhaps Jesus was looking ahead to what was about to come in His final week on Earth- overturned tables, challenges to His authority, a Passover meal, betrayal, desertion, and finally the cross. The Triumphal Entry allows us to see Jesus in full; His destiny as Messiah, the Son of God and Jesus the Son of Man who weeps to the core of His heart over those whom He loves and is willing to give His life for. The exuberant entry into Jerusalem may fade into the sorrow and desertion of Good Friday but it is a small hint of what is to come after His betrayal and crucifixion. So let’s join with those ancient voices and proclaim, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:9; Lk. 19:38; Jn. 12:13) and look ahead to the angel’s declaration, “He is not here. He is risen just as He said.” (Mt. 28:6; Mk. 16:6; Lk. 24:6).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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