Palm Sunday, 10 Nisan
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33)
The time had come for the Lord to make His official appearance in Jerusalem. Having spent the bulk of His ministry in and around the Galilee, He now set His sights on the Holy City for what He knew would be His final showdown with the religious leaders. It was a long walk and would require most of the day.
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)
As they came to the twin villages of Bethpage and Bethany on the Eastern slope of the Mt. Of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples ahead to fetch the donkey He knew would be waiting there, and as He crested the Mt. Of Olives he saw the beautiful city spread before Him. Large crowds were arriving for the Passover and many of them had already heard that He had raised Lazarus from the grave. Surely this was the long awaited Messiah. Some spread their cloaks on the road while others cut palm branches and laid them in front of Him as He rode down the western slope, across the Kidron valley, and into the city. There were large joyful crowds both in front of and behind Him spontaneously shouting the portion of Psalm 118 that was reserved for the entrance of the Messiah into the city.
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)
A contingent of the ever present Pharisees was there, and some of them instructed Jesus to rebuke His followers. If Jesus was not the Messiah, and they didn’t think He was, the crowds were committing blasphemy.
“I tell you,” He replied, “If they keep quiet the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
It was 483 years from the day Persian King Artaxerxes had issued the decree authorizing the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem after the 70 year Babylonian captivity (Nehemiah 2:1-10). It was the day ordained in history for the Messiah King to officially present Himself to Israel (Daniel 9:25), and instead of rebuking His disciples He rebuked the Pharisees for not knowing this.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)
It was also the 10th day of Nisan, the day when God commanded the Jews to select the Passover lamb. Then for three days they were to carefully inspect it to make sure it had no spot or blemish that would prevent it from being used in the Passover celebration on the 14th. (Exodus 12:3,6). Over the next three days Jesus would be subjected to the most intense scrutiny of His ministry as the Jewish leadership tried to find some proof against Him.
Matthew and Luke take us right into their accounts of the Temple clearing, leaving the impression that it might have happened on on that first Palm Sunday. But Mark makes it clear that when Jesus finally entered Jerusalem He went to the Temple and looked around at everything, but since it was late He took the disciples and went back to Bethany where they were staying (Mark 11:11).
Clearing The Temple. Monday 11 Nisan
In the morning Jesus left Bethany in the company of His disciples. He was hungry and seeing a fig tree went to pick some its fruit, but there was none. He cursed the tree saying, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again” (Mark 11:14). Much has been made of this, the only negative miracle Jesus ever performed. Some scholars see it as a prophecy that Israel would soon wither and die, never again bearing fruit for the Kingdom. History has given evidence supporting the validity of their interpretation.
Upon reaching Jerusalem, the Lord headed straight for the Temple and when He got there He began driving out those who were buying and selling, overturning the tables of the money changers. He said to them, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7), but you have turned it into a den of robbers (Jere. 7:11).”
He was referring to the fact that the pilgrims who traveled a great distance found it safer to buy animals for their sacrifices in Jerusalem than try and bring them from home. The priests would only accept Temple coinage in payment for these animals and for offerings the people made. Some say they charged exorbitant prices for the animals and also maintained an unfavorable exchange rate for foreign currency. Most likely, this is what prompted the Lord’s accusation.
Word that Jesus was at the Temple spread quickly. The blind and lame came to Him and He healed them. The children who had also gathered around began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, a Messianic reference. The chief priests and teachers of the Law were indignant but Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’ (Psalm 8:2)? Then He left the city and returned to Bethany. (Matt. 21:14-17)
A Long Day Of Teaching And Confrontation. Tuesday 12 Nisan
The next morning Jesus set out early for the Temple. After being challenged by the Pharisees again, He launched into a series of parables. A parable is a fictional story placed in an Earthly context that’s designed to convey a Heavenly truth. Every character or event is symbolic of something else. Understanding what they symbolize helps us discover the Heavenly truth.
He began with the parable of the 2 sons, one obedient and other not. One son said he would obey then didn’t. He represents the Pharisees. The other son said he would not obey but then did. He represents the tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him” (Matt. 21:28-32).
Then came the Parable of the Tenants. It’s about a landowner (God) who rented his vineyard (His Land) to tenants (Israel). But when harvest time came they refused to give him his share of the fruit (the salvation of mankind). They killed the servants he sent (prophets) and even killed his son (Jesus) in an effort to keep everything for themselves. Jesus asked them what they thought the landowner should do to them when he returns. They said he should bring them to a wretched end and rent his vineyard to other tenants who will give him his share. Jesus agreed and said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit”
The chief priests and Pharisees understood that Jesus was talking about them (Matt. 21:33-46).
In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, which came next, Jesus spoke of the invited guests refusing to attend a banquet celebrating the marriage of a king’s son. The banquet represents the Kingdom, the King is God, His Son is Jesus, and the invited guests are Israel. Enraged, the king sent his army and burned their city (Jerusalem). Then, as the time for the banquet approached he sent his servants to collect anyone they could find to attend as his guests. At the banquet the king found a guest who was not properly attired and had him ejected. (Matt. 22:1-14)
Many Christians have misinterpreted this group of guests as representing the Church. But the Church is the bride, not a random group of last minute guests. And the guest ejected from the wedding is not a back sliding believer. Clothing is symbolic of righteousness and our righteousness is by faith (Romans 3:21-22), not by works. The last minute guests are Tribulation Survivors, and the ejected guest is an unbeliever trying to gain entrance to the Kingdom in his own righteousness, which is woefully inadequate.
At the time of the 2nd Coming Jesus will gather all Tribulation survivors together. Believers will be clothed in the righteousness of the Lord and ushered into the Kingdom, while unbelievers will be escorted off the planet to eternal punishment.
In an effort to trap Him, the Pharisees asked Him if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. Responding with a question of His own, Jesus took a coin and asked them whose portrait and inscription were on the coin. When they said it was Caesar’s Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. They were amazed at His answers so they left Him and went away (Matt. 22:15-22).
Then another group, Sadducees this time, asked Jesus about marriage in the resurrection. Sadducees didn’t believe in a resurrection but told Jesus a story of a woman who sequentially married seven brothers, each marriage following the death of the preceding brother. It was an outlandish exaggeration of the law of leverite marriage, which provided that the brother of a deceased Israelite marry his brother’s widow and have a child with her to produce an heir for the dead brother’s inheritance (Deut. 25:5-6).
Jesus accused them of not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God. In the resurrection there will be no marriage. Then He attacked their denial of the resurrection. He reminded them that in the Book of Moses (the Torah) God called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “He is not the God of the dead but of the Living,” He said. The people listening were astonished at His answers (Matt. 22:23-33)
Then they asked Him which of the commandments is the most important. He replied, quoting Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
The first 4 commandments explain how we are to love the Lord, and the last 6 tell us how to love one another. Together they summarize all of God’s word.
Then He asked the Pharisees a question.
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
“‘The LORD said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”’ (Psalm 110:1)
If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.(Matt. 22:42-46)
His examination was complete. They had found no fault in Him. He was qualified to be the Passover Lamb.
Now It’s My Turn
Having defended Himself against all their tricks and traps, the Lord now went on the offensive with a scathing indictment of their religious practices. It was pay back time for all the resistance they’d shown, all the criticism they’d leveled at him. He called them hypocrites and told the people to obey what they say but not to do what they do. He said all their actions are just for show to make themselves look pious and important. Not only would they not enter the Kingdom, but they prevented others from entering as well. He called them false teachers and blind guides, saying they were obsessed with little things but neglected the more important matters of the Law. He said they were like white washed tombs, all clean on the outside but full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. He called them snakes, a brood of vipers (seed of the serpent) and held them responsible for the blood of all the prophets their predecessors had killed (Matt. 23:1-36).
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” He cried, “You who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matt. 23:37-39)
Then He left the Temple and walked out of the city. But His day was not over. On the way back to Bethany the Lord gave 4 of His disciples a critical lesson on End Times prophecy. We’ll pick it up there next time.