Today, begins a commemoration of what Christians call the Passion Week. Passion Week is the last week of the life of Christ on earth. It is the week in which Christ enters Jerusalem on a donkey to the blessings and Hosannas of multitudes and ends with His death on a cross, following by the resurrection out of the tomb.
For my blogging this week, I am going to take a break from the normal themes of my blog on particular days and focus each day on the events that occurred around 2,000 years ago.
Here is a quick run-down of the events of the Passion Week.
- Monday. Jesus enters Jerusalem – for the last time (Matt 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19) and visits the temple (Matt 21:10-11; Mark 11:11).
- Tuesday. Jesus curses a fig tree (Matt 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14), and then leaves to cleanse the Temple a 2nd time (Matt 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46).
- Wednesday. Jesus debates the religious leaders (Matt 21:23-23:39; Mark 11:27-12:44; Luke 20:1-21:4). Then later that day, He preaches the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-36). It is also on this day that Judas plans the betrayal of Christ with the religious leaders (Matt 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).
- Thursday. Jesus has the Last Supper with His disciples (Matt 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-30; John 13-14). From there they travel to the Garden of Gethsemane and it is here Jesus is betrayed and arrested (Matt 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-52; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-12). Later that night, Annas and Caiaphas would try Jesus (Matt 26:57-75; Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:13-27).
- Friday. In the morning, Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod Antipas (Matt 27:1-30; Mark 15:1-19; Luke 22:66-23:25; John 18:28-19:16). Then about 9:00am, Jesus was taken to the cross and probably died in the afternoon on that day (Matt 27:31-60; Mark 15:20-46; Luke 23:26-54; John 19:16-42).
- Saturday. Jesus lay in the tomb.
- Sunday. Then 3 days later, this week comes to a final and great climax when He rises from the dead (Matt 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-13; Luke 24:1-35). There is or will ever be a more important week then this one.
Today, let’s consider Monday’s event – the Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time.
John 12:12-19 has been called the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ. Instead of riding in a golden carriage, Jesus chooses to ride a donkey; instead of being surrounded by money being thrown at him, Jesus is surrounded by people waving palm branches.
The Triumphal Entry is recorded in all four Gospels and in John’s gospel, we read this:
“12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.””
There was a great multitude in Jerusalem at this time for the Passover Feast. The Passover was one of the Jewish feasts where Jews would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate it together. Jewish historians tell us it is likely the city of Jerusalem had about 2.7 million people on this particular Passover.
The people gathered to welcome Jesus were waving a palm branch as a symbol signaling the hope of a Messianic liberator. It was the poor, ordinary’s man way of acknowledging royalty has entered the city or area. They shouted “Hosanna” as a way of saying, “Salvation is coming,” which was a fulfillment of prophecy (Zech 9:9-11). These crowds likely weren’t expecting the kind of liberation Jesus would offer. Their hope was for political liberation from the Roman Empire; Jesus mission was liberation from sin.
And the Pharisees quickly challenged the reason for his coming (vs. 19). They were frustrated with Jesus’ welcomed reception by the people in Jerusalem on that day. It is possible this one event would put the final “nail in the coffin” for the religious leaders; it is possible they might have walked away from the Triumphal Entry with the mindset that they had to get rid of Jesus as soon as possible. I say that because four days later, they would arrest him so He could be delivered up on a cross.
What does all of this mean? Does the Triumphal Entry in to Jerusalem really matter? Does it symbolize anything in particular. There are three points of significance for such an event:
- By the Triumphal Entry, Jesus proves He is willing to lay down His life voluntarily. Jesus knew this fanfare on this day would be quite temporary. J.C. Ryle says in his commentary on John 12:12-19, “He did not bleed, and suffer, and die, because He was vanquished by superior force, and could not help Himself, but because He loved us, and rejoiced to give Himself for us as our Substitute. He did not die because He could not avoid death, but because He was willing with all His heart to make His soul an offering for sin.” He is willing to accomplish the Father’s will by dying on a cross for sins. The Christian life is about dying to self; that is one thing we learn from the Triumphal Entry.
- By the Triumphal Entry, Jesus fulfills prophecy. Up to this point, there were hundreds of prophecies that had been fulfilled about the birth and life of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Bible is filled with thousands of prophecies and not one prophecy has ever gone unfulfilled!
- By the Triumphal Entry, Jesus demonstrates He is the true Messiah and what king He will be. He is not the political Messiah and deliverer they hoped He would be to deliver them from Rome, but He is the spiritual Messiah and deliverer that would deliver them from sin.
Many people want Christ on their own terms; they want Him to be some kind of crisis counselor or some type of good friend or buddy. But the world does not want Him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But this is who He is and always will be. And that is how He arrived in Jerusalem.