Entry Into Jerusalem
In 2008, some of us from Fellowship Community Church took a trip to the Holy Land.
Our first stop was Cairo, Egypt. We then traveled to and through the Sinai Peninsula, eventually arriving at Eilat, the southern-most city of Israel. A resort city on the Red Sea. What a fancy place that was.
For the next several days, we traveled through Israel, seeing the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the Mediterranean Sea. We visited many cities, including Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, Jericho, and Tel Aviv.
We also walked the area that is at the center of today’s message. The area between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem.
On a personal note - a personal testimony - in Jerusalem, I was afflicted with a severe sickness. I think I contracted the illness in Egypt, but it hit me in Jerusalem. It was a kind of illness that completely zaps energy.
I still remember the morning in Jerusalem. We were to be on the bus at 8:15 for that day’s tour. It was 7:45. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, my head down.
I prayed. The tour that day was to feature so many important things critical to the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry. I did not want to miss any of them. I prayed, asking the Lord to give me the strength to get on the bus.
I did not know how the Lord was going to do what I asked, but in what was a wonderful miracle, as soon as the prayer was complete, I felt a wave of health wash over me. In a matter of a minute, my stomach was settled. my energy returned - I could hold my head and the rest of my body up, which means I was able to leave the room and the hotel, get on the bus, and have strength for the entire day.
I still remember the feel of that day. I am still thankful for the miracle of answered prayer. So it was I was able to join others in our group in walking the very path Jesus traveled on the day we will consider today. The day He traveled from the Mount of Olives to and into the city of Jerusalem.
One more personal note. Before the Holy Land experience, I had thought Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was quite a long journey. At least a few miles. Maybe longer. What I learned is that it was a very short journey. The Mount of Olives is a hill just across a narrow valley from Jerusalem.
The entry into Jerusalem may have required a bit of time because of the huge numbers of people in the area, but the distance traveled was very short.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is recorded in all four New Testament Gospels. While other accounts will be referred to from time to time, for this message, we will follow the account presented by Luke. Luke 19, beginning with verse 28 .
One day, toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus asked two of His disciples to go to a certain village near where they were. They were on the Mount of Olives. Jesus asked the two disciples to go to one of the villages on the Mount of Olives.
Jesus instructed the two disciples to find a colt. A colt of a donkey. A colt tied. A colt on which no one had ever yet sat. The disciples were to untie the colt and take it to Jesus.
Of course the colt did not belong to the disciples or to Jesus, which means the owner of the colt might object to his animal being taken. In case that happened - in case anyone asked them why they were untying the colt - Jesus instructed the disciples to say, “The Lord has need of it.” They were also to promise that when the Lord was done using the animal, it would be returned to the owner, so the owner was simply asked to let his animal be borrowed.
The disciples went to the village to which Jesus directed them. They found the animal Jesus had described. They were asked what they were doing. They did explain. The owner let them take the animal.
When the two disciples got the animal to Jesus, some garments were placed on it, to form kind of a saddle. Jesus got on the animal. He began the trip from where He was on the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem.
Again, it is a very short distance down the Mount of Olives, across a narrow valley, then back up to Jerusalem, but again, there were many, many people in that area. This happened during the Jewish holiday of Passover. The entire area in and around Jerusalem was literally packed with people.
As Jesus made His way on the colt of a donkey, He soon became noticed. That is because, even without CNN and Fox and ABC, CBS, and NBC, Jesus was well-known. What He had done in teaching and in healing and in doing other miracles was well-known. Because of His reputation, as Jesus rode the colt, extreme excitement began to build.
Excitement displayed in a number ways
For instance, two things were laid on the road before Jesus. Some threw pieces of their clothing on the road. Others threw palm branches on the road.
Those were not just things.
Pieces of their clothing on the road were a sign, in that culture, of being willing to be subservient to the one riding past. It was a sign of willingness to be involved with the one riding through the area. If a person’s garment was touched by the animal someone was riding - in this case, the colt ridden by Jesus - there was a feeling of connection with the one riding by.
Palm branches, were, in that culture, symbols of liberty, victory, and joy. By throwing palm branches, the people proclaimed Jesus had come to offer all three of those things.
People threw clothing and palm branches on the road. In addition, just about everyone in the crowd began shouting. The shouting included rejoicing and praise to God for all the mighty works they had seen. It included, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest.” The people shouted, Hosanna,” which was a word of request. In this case, a request made of Jesus. A request that He save them. “Hosanna. Save us. Save us now, we beseech You [we beg You].” They added, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” “Son of David” was, for them, another way of saying Savior. That day, they called Jesus Savior. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” That was an acknowledgement Jesus had come from God.
The shouting was so loud, the throwing of the clothing and the palm branches was done with so much vigor, the whole scene became so boisterous, that some of the religious leaders along the road started shouting at Jesus with another message. “Rebuke the people,” they said to Him. They ordered Jesus to insist the people along the road be quiet.
The concern of those religious leaders was both legitimate and illegitimate. It was illegitimate because they hated Jesus. They could not stomach seeing and hearing Him being honored. It was legitimate because if a riot broke out, which the excitement might have promoted, the Roman army would be sent to the area to calm the crowd, which would have been done in a very violent way.
The religious leaders ordered Jesus to quiet the people. Jesus’ answer? “No.” He explained. He said that if the people were silent, the stones along the road would cry out.
So it was that the excitement surrounding Jesus continued as He crossed the narrow valley and started up the hill that led to the gates into Jerusalem.
Then, just before He entered the city, Jesus stopped and did a very interesting thing. He wept, which was more than crying. More than sobbing. Weeping suggests bitter anguish, as though the one weeping is mourning the dead.
What a strange sight that was. Most of the people along the road had just been supportive of Jesus. How strange that someone so popular would weep. Is that how He handled popularity, especially since His tears were clearly not joyful tears?
Jesus weeping was a very strange sight. What an interesting indication of what Jesus knew. He knew what was about to come. He knew that most of those who had just honored Him would, in a matter of days, turn against Him.
And listen. It was not what would happen to Him that caused Jesus to weep. His weeping was for the people of Jerusalem. He was greatly sad that all His teachings and all His healings and all His other miracles over the previous three years had had such a little impact.
And it was not that He was feeling sorry for Himself for being so ineffective. He grieved that so many people, who had been given the chance to be saved from their sins, had and were continuing to turn their backs on the opportunity He offered them to be close to God.
Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. He said, “O Jerusalem, would that even today you knew the things that make for peace.” The people of Jerusalem should have known the things that make for peace. Real peace. But they did not, despite what Jesus had said and done. Instead, the people of God were more interested in rules and regulations, using those things as a basis of their spiritual security.
“O Jerusalem, would that even today you knew the things that make for peace, but now they are hid from your eyes.” Which I think means, not that God was hiding His will from them, but that they had been so blind, they could not see anymore. There is the phrase, “None are so blind as those who will not see.” The people of Jerusalem - this can apply to anyone even today who does not accept what Jesus offers - had made a habit of not seeing. That habit was keeping them from recognizing the importance of Jesus.
Jesus added the prediction that Jerusalem would soon have turmoil. The turmoil of enemies surrounding them, hemming them in on every side. Enemies that would dash them and their children to the ground. Enemies that would not leave one stone upon another stone throughout the city.
That did happen 37 years later. In 70 A.D. the Roman army attacked Jerusalem. The army dug a trench around the city. That kept anyone inside the city walls from escaping. The army then built hills against the walls of the city, allowing Roman soldiers to scale the walls of the city, thereby gaining entrance to it. Before that, the army began starving the people. After that, Roman soldiers slaughtered those who had not starved. Then the army destroyed all the buildings in and the wall around the city, except for three towers, one for each of three Roman heroes the army generals wanted to honor.
So complete was the destruction of Jerusalem, including the Temple, that, as Jesus had predicted, not one stone was left on another. Why did that happen? It was because, Jesus said as He wept over Jerusalem, “You [the people in Jerusalem] did not know the time of your visitation. Many of the people of Jerusalem had not, did not, and would not recognize Jesus for who He was and is, He being the only one who can make anyone right with God.
After the weeping and what He said, Jesus finished the ride into Jerusalem. Once in the city, He went to the Temple. There, a change occurred. A change of mood. Jesus’ sorrow changed to anger. The change was caused by three things He saw.
One of things He saw were money-changers plying their trade.
On the face of it, the money-changers were doing what needed to be done, which was the changing of worldly currency to Temple currency. That was needed so people visiting the Temple could pay the required Temple tax. But there was a problem. It was common that those doing the money changing charged a fee that was far more than it should have been, which means those who had come to worship were being cheated. Plus, the money changing was done inside the Temple, which was a hindrance to those trying to worship.
Another thing Jesus saw were people selling animals needed for sacrificing.
That was something else that seemed OK on the face of it. Animals were needed for sacrifices. The animals had to be without blemish. The animals being sold met that requirement. But there was a problem. The amount of money charged in the selling was far more than it should have been. And this, too, was being done inside the Temple, which was another example of people being cheated and worship being interfered with.
The third thing Jesus saw were some people simply passing through the Temple. Not intending to pray or worship, but simply using the Temple as a short cut to wherever it was they were going. That, too, was improper use of the Temple.
Jesus saw those three things when He entered Jerusalem and arrived at the Temple, which caused Him to become angry.
In His anger, Jesus drove the money-changers and the sellers of sacrificial animals out of the Temple. He overturned their tables. He may have confronted some of those just passing through.
As He did that, He shouted, “Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers!”
What Jesus shouted was true. The Temple was His house and it was being misused. However, His words created two problems for Him. Because He claimed the Temple as His house, He claimed to be God, which was considered by the Jewish leaders to be blasphemy. And the businesses Jesus disrupted were run - at least sponsored by - the High Priest, the most powerful man in the Jewish nation, and his family. Jesus’ actions hurt their economic feelings.
What a scene it must have been with the tables being overturned and some of the animals escaping, Jesus rapidly moving through the businesses and shouting about His house. What a scene.
But then, another mood change, this time from anger to kindness. Kindness shown in a number of ways. Jesus healed some in the Temple who were afflicted, He taught those willing to listen, and He accepted the praises of children.
I am intrigued by the thought that Jesus’ burst of anger did not dissuade the common people. It did not cause them to turn away from Jesus. In fact, maybe when the people saw Jesus returning the Temple to its proper use, they were more attracted to Him.
However, the displays of kindness further upset the religious leaders who, in just a few days, would be able to turn many of Jesus’ followers against Him. But what a wonderful way to end Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
For this week - and beyond - let’s be challenged, by today’s passage, in a number of ways.
Let’s be free to do what the crowds did as Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Let’s praise Him and honor Him and ask for His salvation. Unlike those people that day, let’s keep doing that.
Let’s make sure we do not cause Jesus to weep. We can accomplish that by accepting Him as Savior. Have you done that? If not, will you?
Let’s use His power to keep ourselves from misusing the Temple that is our bodies. Let’s make sure our lives are devoted to prayer and worship, keeping our attention on those things.
And let’s continue to accept His blessings, learn His teachings, and praise Him.
Our closing song is Hosanna, Loud Hosanna. We will sing verses 1 and 3.
Hosanna, loud hosanna,
The little children sang;
Through pillared court and temple
The lovely anthem rang:
To Jesus, who had blessed them
Close folded to His breast,
The children sang their praises,
The simplest and the best.
“Hosanna in the highest!”
That ancient song we sing,
For Christ is our Redeemer,
The Lord of Heaven our King;
O may we ever praise Him
With heart and life and voice,
And in His holy presence
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He rode on a colt of a donkey. That is significant because doing so fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy about the Savior. It was one more proof of His claim to be the Savior. And the colt displayed the kind of Savior Jesus would soon become. Not a military hero. Riding a horse would have displayed that. But a humble, spiritual Savior.
It is that kind of Savior we celebrate. The Savior who took a journey of coming, teaching, and doing miracles. A journey that, shortly before His death, included riding into Jerusalem, accepting but not being flattered by expressions of praise, then weeping over those who did not and would not believe in Him, and proclaiming by word and by action that He was and is the Son of God.
As we know, Jesus’ death was not the end. On the third day, He rose from the dead. He later returned to Heaven. But He did die. Let’s be thankful He did that for us. Amen.