Jesus Christ wants to share His eternal victory with you. An event that occurred on His last Sunday in Jerusalem illustrates this.
The sun was rising rapidly. It was beginning to shoot its golden arrows across the horizon to gild the sky and curtain off the dawn that would bring a new day to the history-filled city of Jerusalem. This is the festive season of Passover. The old city was filled with pilgrims, visitors, and travelers who had come from many countries to share in the feast. Secular census records indicate there were at least 2,500,000 people in Jerusalem for the event. An exciting rumor spread through the city: “Jesus Christ is coming!”
Behind Him were His sermons; ahead, His suffering. Behind Him were His parables; ahead, His passion. Behind Him were His suppers of fellowship; ahead, His last supper of betrayal. Behind Him the delights of Galilee; ahead, dark Gethsemane. Prophecy was now to become practice.
A mental walk through the event helps in making an application of great truths inherent in the day.
Jesus had spent the night at the home of friends in Bethany on the opposite side of the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem. The two towns were no more than five miles apart.
Historians tell us that traditionally persons from various regions all had their special area around Jerusalem where they camped for feast days. The south end of the Mount of Olives had for years been the camping grounds of people from Galilee. These were the unsophisticated and unspoiled people of the area where Jesus spent most of His time and performed most of His miracles. They knew Him best. On several occasions they had tried to make Him a king (John 6:15). Mark 12:37 says of them, “The common people heard Him gladly.” The Galileans were “the common people” with whom He was popular.
In the city of Jerusalem were the wealthy and superficially religious leaders. Jesus had antagonized them by referring to the “scribes and Pharisees” as “hypocrites” (Matthew 23). Also among them were the Sadducees who had long been plotting His downfall. In order to preserve their wealth and lifestyle, they had consorted with the conquering Romans. In doing so they compromised their faith. They had much to lose if they displeased their Roman overlords. These man-pleasing priests and scribes plotted their nefarious death scheme. The poorer Galileans had nothing to lose. The city dwellers would do anything to placate the Romans in order to continue to prosper.
To them the issue was “the economy, Stupid.” In their eyes Jesus was an expendable. Besides, in the eyes of the religious leaders He was a threat to religious tradition, not the Messiah.
Notice that in Mark 11:9 there were two groups. “Those that went before” were persons who had come out of Jerusalem because of their curiosity as a result of all the shouting. “Those who followed” and “cried out” were the Galileans.
Our distance from the event causes us to merge the two crowds into one and assume it was the same people who shouted “Hosanna” that also cried “crucify Him.”
It was the jubilant Galileans who shouted “Hosanna” and the aristocratic, superficially religious ingrates of Jerusalem who wanted to appease the Romans who cried “crucify Him.”
With which crowd do your actions suggest you would have related? Do you daily put Him to an open shame or is your lifestyle a praise of Him, resulting in people praising Him?
I. The Provisions for His Coming
A. Time. Timing is critical to everything we do. Doing the right thing at the right time is important. Don’t grow weary and become discouraged in waiting for God’s timing in your life. His clock is never wrong. He is a clock watcher, as this event illustrates. Therefore, we need not be.
Passover was a celebration commemorating the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian captivity. It always occurred on the 15th of the Jewish month of Nisan. That’s about mid-April for us. All who lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem were required to attend. Actually, Jews from all over the world gladly gathered for this major happening. As excitement mounts with the approach of our holidays, so an air of exhilaration preceded Passover. Extensive preparation preceded it. Roads were repaired, tombs were whitewashed, and children were rehearsed in the significance of the event. The prophet Daniel foretold when this momentous event would occur. In Daniel 9:24-26 he said it would be 173,880 days until it happened.
Jesus went to Bethany six days before Passover (John 12:1) and entered Jerusalem the next day, April 6, 32. That was precisely 173,880 days from the time of Daniel’s prophecy. In this act, the Father was further validating Jesus as the Messiah.
This may have seemed to have been an impromptu happening, but it had been scheduled in eternity 173,880 days in advance.
He was also dramatizing for us the fact that He keeps His word and always performs on time. He is a clock-watcher.
Incidentally, prophecy said Messiah was to come before the destruction of the temple. The temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., and with it all the records showing family ancestry perished.
Prophetically it was written Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), Isaac (Genesis 17:19), and Jacob (Numbers 24:17). It was written He would be from the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7). Birth records and title deeds were kept in the temple. When it burned the records were lost. Thereafter there has been no way to validate these family tree coordinates since then.
Two unanswerable questions confront those who doubt His Messiahship. If He were not the Messiah who was? If He were not, how can anyone since the destruction of the family ancestral trees were destroyed, prove from which tribe they descended?
God the Father wanted God the Son to be well identified on His visit to earth.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world famous fictitious detective, Sherlock Holmes, tells this story on himself and his identity. As he tells it, he was waiting for a taxi outside the railway station in Paris. An accommodating taxi driver drove up, put his suitcase in, and got in himself. As he was about to tell the taxi driver where to go the driver said, “Where can I take you Mr. Doyle?”
Doyle was astounded. He asked the driver if he recognized him by sight. The driver said, “No sir, I have never seen you.”
Puzzled Doyle asked how the driver knew he was Conan Doyle. The driver responded, “This morning’s paper had a story that you were on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi-stand where people who return from Marseilles always wait. Your skin color tells me you were on vacation. The ink-spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you are a writer. Your clothing is English, not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduce that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”
Doyle exclaimed, “This is truly amazing. You are a real-life counter-part to my fictional character, Sherlock Holmes.”
“There is one other thing,” the driver said.
“What’s that?” Doyle asked.
“Your name is on the front of your suitcase.”
Messiah was identified in even greater detail.
B. Materials. In any project it is important to have the right resources, the proper materials.
Jesus needed a couple of donkeys. Centuries earlier the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9) said Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
All those along the route He was to ride had learned in infancy and repeated often the prophet. As they beheld Him riding the words would have reverberated in their thoughts:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus knew where the resources He needed were. One was in the possession of an unidentified disciple. He not only had twelve apostles but many disciples, and the owner of the donkey was evidently one. A disciple is a learner or follower. Every Christian is in reality a disciple. Today every true follower of the Lord and supporter of His cause is needed. Our Lord has need of us to pray, study, give guidance, and financially support His cause. These things we should do willingly, eagerly, spontaneously, and without thought of acclaim or promotion.
Though He had the authority to command it, He gave the opportunity to refuse its use. He had the integrity to make His request through His disciples. He had the honesty and justice to return it.
Are you withholding what the Master needs? Are some of the resources needed by His church being held by you? Are you that resource?
Through the ages there have been those who have delighted to serve a meaningful though menial role in His kingdom. He has always had those of us who delight to be the equivalent of His donkey, that is, the means by which He achieves His purpose.
When our beloved Lord needed someone to reform the medieval church from its petrified dignity He chose the rough unpolished son of a miner, Martin Luther, as his donkey. When He needed a donkey to arouse the orthodox church of England He called from behind the bar of the Bell Inn in Gloucester, George Whitfield. When He needed a hard-hitting, free-swinging, evangelist at the turn of the century to shatter the formalism engulfing American Christianity He called a drunkard from Cartersville, Georgia named Sam Jones to be His donkey. They would all be proud to be likened to the beast of burden that bore Jesus into Jerusalem that day.
II. The Purpose For His Coming
A. He came to cleanse. In 175 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes conquered Jerusalem. He sacrificed swine on the holy altar and turned the sacred temple into a brothel. Antiochus whose other name “Ephiphanes” means “the Manifest God,” not only had an ego problem, he had a spiritual problem. Three years later Judah Maccabee recaptured Jerusalem and physically cleansed the temple. Now Christ came to the temple to cleanse it spiritually from hypocritical defilement. That is what He wants to do in our lives. A spiritual cleansing is a joyous thing inherent with unimaginable blessings.
B. He came to forgive. He was called “King” and “Lord.” The Greek word for “Lord” is kudos. It was used in various ways. In which of these prominent ways is it used by you?
It was used as a title of respect like our Southern use of the words “Sir” or “Ma’am.” It was used of one who is in charge. Luke refers to an individual who was the “lord of the vineyard,” meaning He was the master in charge of the vineyard. It was used of deity. The Romans mistakenly thought Caesar was divine and called him Kurios Caesar.
Is He the One you respect who has authority over you as your divine God?
C. He came to identify with His followers. It was now time to bring to a climax His reason for coming to earth.
III. The Perception of His Coming
He who could have ridden the wind rode a donkey. He who could have summonsed the Seraphim chose a donkey.
Scripture says, “All things were created by Him,” Yet, He borrowed a donkey. “The earth is the Lord’s,” but He borrowed a donkey. Involved was:
A. Donkey. Jesus didn’t come riding a high spirited war steed or prancing white stallion, but on a colt, an animal associated with peace. They were ridden by judges.
B. Cloak. Symbolized His kingship.
C. Palms. Matthew, Mark, and John each use a different word for “branches.” Matthew speaks of young branches or shoots. Mark refers to a mass of straw. John speaks of palm branches. Each was right. All three were used. Each writer simply mentions the one that stood out to him. This shows there was no collaboration or duplicity in their writing. Each wrote from his own viewpoint.
Years before, this was the means the people used to greet Judah Maccabee when he liberated the city. The reaction of the crowd was the hailing of Christ as Liberator.
D. Hosanna. Pilgrims today follow Christ’s route from Bethany to Jerusalem. As Christ’s climactic moment arrived, He and His entourage mounted the crest of the Mount of Olives where suddenly the vista of the Holy City bursts into panoramic view.
The Jewish historian Josephus wrote of what he looked upon: “The outward face of the Temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflect back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn away their eyes, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays.”
The exuberant and impetuous crowd of common people on the Mount of Olives shouted, “Hosanna,” meaning “Let even the angels in the highest heights of heaven cry unto God, save now!” (Matthew 21:9).
In that shouting crowd were persons who owed Him gratitude for their restored sight, straight limbs, clear sane reasoning, and healed bodies; even one named Lazarus, his life restored from the grave. We, like them, are indebted to Jesus. Well might we be to join them in praise of Him.
IV. The Popularity of His Coming
Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives into the Kedron Valley and started His approach through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. It would be there that He would later encounter the hostile crowd intent on appeasing the Romans shouting “Crucify Him!”
With which crowd do you identify? I don’t mean which in your more spiritual moments do you profess to identify with. In reality with which crowd does your lifestyle more closely identify. Consider the various reactions and mark yours. Some:
A. Wanted to use Him. The Zealots wanted Him to be their military liberator.
B. Wanted to ignore Him. The Romans felt superior to this lowly Nazarene whom they sought to ignore.
C Wanted to obey Him. The owner of the donkey eagerly wanted to obey.
D. Wanted to worship Him. They knew He had resurrected Lazarus (John 12:17-18).
The eventful morning of His entry into Jerusalem was a Sunday. On this day will you allow Him to enter your heart in triumph? He comes in only by special invitation.
The crowd reaction of that day is not so different from the various responses of today. John Mark in his gospel makes an interesting observation regarding Christ’s immediate followers: “Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid…” (Mark 10:32).
When Jesus goes before you there is no need to be afraid.
They were not intimidated by their fear, they followed. Courage isn’t not having any fear. It is doing what you know is right in spite of your fear.
Is fear in any form holding you back in your response to Christ? If so, show faith in Him and express courage by reacting with the crowd that shouted “Hosanna.”
Following Christ involves courage, heroism, enthusiasm, power, glory, and peace. Palm Sunday is a living out of Christianity.
Jesus Christ wants to share His eternal victory with you. An event that occurred on His last Sunday in Jerusalem illustrates this.