Jesus’ Triumphant Entry
This year’s messages during the season of Lent will start instead of end with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Since this is the first Sunday of Lent, we will, for the rest of today’s service, think about what happened on the first Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. The entry was indeed triumphant in many ways. However, as will be discussed, there were also some unhappy things that happened.
The report of the first Palm Sunday will be taken from the first three Gospels in the New Testament, beginning with Mark 11:1-10.
We remember that Jesus, at the point of Mark 11, had been doing His ministry for three years. During those three years He had visited many places around Israel. He had performed many miracles of many kinds. He had taught many lessons. All of which were very good things. All of them gave Jesus a wonderful reputation and a considerable following in addition to the disciples He had chosen to be His close associates.
However, Jesus had also sparked much opposition. Recently some of the opposition had come from those who had been followers. It seems that when Jesus began to insist that those who followed Him actually obey His teachings, most of the followers left Him. For much longer, the religious leaders of the Jews were opposed to Him. Some of that was caused by Jesus being more popular than the religious leaders. Jealousy of Jesus caused Him problems.
Right before Mark 11, Jesus, despite knowing of the opposition, which would be especially strong in the capital city of Jerusalem, set off for that city. Jesus had been there before. He was going again. He went, knowing that when He arrived, He would face the most vicious persecution of all. He knew those opposed to Him would work it out for Him to be arrested, tried, mistreated, and then crucified.
Jesus knew all that because He is God. The human aspect of Him would suffer, but the divine part of Him knew what was coming. He went to Jerusalem anyway, determined to carry out His God-given mission of becoming the Savior from sin.
Mark 11. As they - as Jesus and His disciples - drew near to Jerusalem, they arrived near the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is a high hill across a valley from Jerusalem. As they reached that spot, Jesus sent two of His disciples to Bethphage to get the colt of a donkey. They were to find the animal, untie it, and return to Jesus with it.
Jesus added that the two disciples were not to be mistaken for donkey rustlers. He told the disciples that if they were questioned, they were to answer that the Lord had need of the colt and would send it back right after He was done using it.
Whether Jesus had made arrangements earlier or He had a good enough reputation that the owner of the colt knew who Jesus was, I do not know. However, when the two disciples did find the animal and did untie it and were asked what they were doing and they did respond as instructed, the owner and those with him allowed the animal to be taken.
When the two disciples and the animal arrived to Jesus, the disciples threw their garments on the colt. That made for kind of a saddle. Jesus then began the last part of His journey to and into Jerusalem.
I have no doubt shared this before, but I always thought the ride Jesus made that day was at least several miles long. However, as I learned when some of us visited the Holy Land a few years ago, that was not the case. It was a very short ride down the Mount of Olives, into and through a narrow valley, then up to one of the gates leading into the capital city. The ride may have taken some time because the area was crowded, not only with the normal residents of Jerusalem, but also with huge numbers of others there for the Passover season going on, but the distance was short.
Speaking of the crowd, most of them, as they saw Jesus approach, reacted in some significant ways.
In a positive turn back to Him, any threw pieces of their clothing on the road, hoping the donkey that carried Jesus would step on their garments. That was, back then, something that represented a closeness to an important person. It was a sign of willingness to be subject or subservient to the one riding past, in this case Jesus.
Others threw palm branches on the road. Palm branches were, in that culture, symbols of liberty, victory, and joy. That day the people proclaimed Jesus had come to offer them all three of those things.
Just about everyone shouted as Jesus passed them on the colt. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord? Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!”
“Hosanna” was a word of request. A request that Jesus save them.
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” That was, for those people, a way of calling Jesus Savior.
“Hosanna in the highest” means the people proclaimed that Jesus was higher - more important - than anyone else anywhere. It meant their intent was to rely upon Jesus rather than anyone else.
Just about everyone threw clothing or branches on the road Jesus was on as He approached Jerusalem. Just about everyone shouted out to Jesus words of praise. Just about everyone, but not everyone, which takes us to Luke 19:39-40.
It seems that some in the crowd that day were some of the religious leaders who had opposed Jesus for quite some time. They were not at all happy about what was going on, that being the case for two reasons.
Remember religious leaders were often disturbed by how popular Jesus was. That day there was a lot of popularity on display, all of it directed toward Jesus. And verse 37 refers to the multitude “rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice.” It must have sounded almost like a riot. Everybody knew that any hint of civil unrest could bring an immediate and very violent response from the Roman army. The religious leaders might have been concerned about that.
As Jesus rode past some of the religious leaders, they shouted, not praise, but a demand. “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
Jesus heard the shouts of praise from most of the people. He also heard the shouts from the religious leaders. Interestingly, the ones He answered were the religious leaders. However, He did not do as they demanded. He instead said, “I tell you, if these people were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Very quickly, remember what happened the day Jesus was crucified. At the moment of His death there was lots of noise.
Some of it came from the curtain in the Temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. A thick, tall curtain that was torn from top to bottom, meaning it was an act of God. What a sound that made.
Some of the noise came from tombs that were opened. The sound of stones being moved from the openings of the tombs was heard.
And, just as Jesus had predicted would happen, rocks were split.
Jesus knew His praises had to be proclaimed. They were not proclaimed by people when He was crucified, so the rocks did indeed take care of it, but on Palm Sunday, He was praised. He told the religious leaders He would not stop what was going on.
However, Jesus was not overcome with the praises. As mentioned earlier, He knew what was going to happen in Jerusalem. He knew He would be crucified. With that, He knew that many of those calling blessings to Him that day would soon be calling for His death. That is how susceptible so many of the people were to crowd mentality.
We know Jesus was not overcome because of something that happened right before He entered Jerusalem. He paused for a moment and - verse 41 - wept over the city, saying in verse 42, probably to Himself, though also in prayer to God, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace.”
Jesus had been preaching peace for three years - peace with God, peace with others, peace possible by accepting Jesus - but most of the people in and around Jerusalem that day had not accepted Jesus. Despite their positive words and actions that day, Jesus knew they had not and likely would not, at least in the short term, accept the peace He had available.
Jesus wept. He then entered Jerusalem and went directly to the Temple, where - we are now in Matthew 21:12-13 - He did a very interesting thing. Instead of praying, He became violent. He began by driving out of the Temple all who bought and sold. He then overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats who sold pigeons.
It seems out of character for Jesus to do violence. However, He was completely justified in what He did, which He explained as He shouted, it is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.”
What was the problem? How were the buyers, sellers, and money-changers robbing?
First, the buying, selling, and money-changing were going on inside the Temple, thereby interfering with people’s ability to concentrate on praying. There was too much noise in the dickering to keep the mind on praying.
Second, while money needed to be changed from people’s currency to the required Temple currency, those doing the changing were often cheating people. The arguing spoiled any spirit of prayer.
Third, while animals were needed for sacrificing, animals people brought with them were too often refused, and the animals for sale were way more expensive than they should have been. Again the arguing spoiled any spirit of prayer.
Jesus was angry. He was angry because people who had come to the Temple to pray were unable to pray. That is why He became violent, which was perfectly acceptable because His was a righteous anger.
However, did we catch what Jesus said as He cleansed the Temple. He called the Temple His house. That further upset the Jewish leaders, who said, “His house? It is God’s house. Who does Jesus think He is?”
And one more thing. Guess who benefitted from the money-changing and the selling of sacrificial animals. The family of the Jewish High Priest benefitted, which means Jesus had directly opposed the elite of the elite, which got Him in even deeper trouble.
But then verses 14 and15 of Matthew 21.
When things settled down - when the Temple was once again a place of prayer - three groups of people went to Him. They were the blind, the lame, and children.
Jesus healed the blind and the lame. He accepted the praises of the children as they cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” As mentioned, hosanna means, save us. The Son of David is a name of the Savior. How interesting that despite the violence of a few moments earlier, those in need still knew it was Jesus who could and would help them.
That of course further angered the religious leaders, but Jesus still accepted the praises of those who meant what they said, He did that as He helped those who were in need of His healing power.
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Between now through April 7, we will be considering some of the things that happened between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. We will also, each week, think about some of the things Jesus said as He was being crucified, starting with the first thing He said, which returns us to Luke, this time 23:34. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus was most immediately referring to those who had directed the events leading up to His crucifixion, along with those who were observing what was happening, so many of them mocking Him with a kind of gruesome joy, many of those mockers the same people who on Palm Sunday had praised Him.
“Forgive them,” Jesus prayed. What love He showed. Despite the humiliation, the pain, the fact that out of anyone and everyone who has ever lived, He alone was perfect and yet was dying the most horrible death, Jesus still had so much love that He asked God to forgive the very ones who had turned against Him and the ones who were mistreating Him.
Jesus knew forgiveness was necessary for His tormentors to have a relationship with God. Such a relationship is what Jesus wanted and still does want for everyone, so He prayed.
The part of the prayer that is, “For they know not what they do,” is interesting. It certainly appears Jesus’ tormentors had a very good idea they were killing the one who claimed to be God’s Son. However, their enthusiasm for what they thought was right was misplaced. They needed to know who Jesus really and truly was and is. Jesus knew that when they came to that knowledge, they would need forgiveness. That is what He prayed they would receive.
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Every season of Lent the call is important. Let’s not be like the people whose joy on the first Palm Sunday turned to demands for the mistreatment of Jesus. Let’s keep our joy. Let’s not ignore who Jesus is. Let’s know He is God’s Son who is the Savior who deserves to be praised, worshiped, and prayed to. Let’s not allow anything to interfere with us doing those things. Let’s be good examples of those who have been forgiven. Examples of worship, praise, and love.
The closing song for today All Glory, Laud, and Honor. We will sing verses 1 and 3.
All glory, laud and honor
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring:
Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name comest,
The King and blessed one!
To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise:
Thou didst accept their praises -
Accept the praise we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King!
The middle verse of the hymn is the basis of today’s benediction.
Lord, the angels in Heaven are praising You on high. This day we join them in that wonderful activity. Help us all other days to do the same.
As the people on the first Palm Sunday laid down palm branches and pieces of their clothing to praise You for who You are, this day we give You our praises. Help us all other days to do the same.
Lord, You deserve all glory, all praise, all honor. Help us to always give You those things. Amen.