In the next 4 or 5 postings, I am going to look at Easter and just move aside for a short time from my normal Rapture, Prophecy, Eschatology, Current Events Postings. It has been on my mind to do these, and it has taken some time. We are going to begin with Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday, as it is called, is one of the most significant days in the church calendar for some churches, mainly those that pay attention to the ritual of a church program. It has always been a favorite of Sunday School lessons, and I still have memories of it 70 years back, with the artists’ impressions of Jesus riding on a donkey or colt and images of people in the crowd waving branches.
Yes, it is a captivating Sunday School Story, but what lies behind that event? It was not just a sudden impulse from some quarter but a lot more.
[A]. HOW IT WAS INITIATED
This event did not come from the people but from Jesus Himself. This is how it came about – Mark 11:1-2 “As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here.'” The Gospel of Matthew is almost identical but adds this, Matthew 21:2, “you will find a DONKEY tied there and a COLT with her. Untie THEM and bring THEM to Me.”
Jesus commissioned two of His disciples to go and collect a donkey AND a colt from a village that some suggest was Bethphage itself. The colt is a colt, young ass, foal. Jesus was to ride upon the foal, though it was accompanied by the mother, a detail which the other evangelists do not mention because I am certain their full attention is on the One who was mounted.
[B]. THE CAUTION THAT WAS GIVEN
Mark is the evangelist that gives the more complete account of collecting the two animals. This is how he described that event – Mark 11:3-6 “and if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.” They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. Some of the bystanders were saying to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission.”
In a sense, this is amusing, for you can imagine the thoughts of the bystanders: “Someone is making off with these animals – they are stealing them.” The Lord warned his disciples this COULD happen because He used, “IF anyone says to you…,” but the Lord knew it WOULD happen, so He told them what to say.
Don’t you think it is remarkable that the bystanders gave them permission simply because they heard from the disciples the words, “The Lord has need of it”? Well, it may be remarkable, but I really think the bystanders/the owner of those animals was a believer in Jesus. The disciples were to claim the right to use the beasts as for the service of a King, not to hire or ask permission. The matter was resolved straight away, best described in Matthew. Matthew 21:3 “and if anyone says something to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” It is Luke that says directly that it was the owners who gave permission.
Only Mark and Luke mention that no one had ever sat on that colt, one that had never been broken in, which makes it the more wonderful that Christ should choose to ride upon it and that it should quietly carry him.
[C]. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
The gospel writers all described this remarkable event that seemed to happen spontaneously, also the interaction from the crowd. They each mention certain aspects, but I have gathered them up. Here they are:
They put their garments on the colt, and He (Jesus) sat upon it.
They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their garments on them.
Most of the multitude spread their garments in the road.
Others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.
Some took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him.
Many spread their garments in the road.
Others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.
They threw their garments on the colt and put Jesus on it.
There is one misconception about this event that seems to have become entrenched. Nowhere in the gospel accounts does it say people were waving palm branches, but so many illustrations and descriptions have the waving of palm branches. It did not happen.
[D]. THE PROCESSION THROUGH THE STREETS
Matthew, which is the Gospel of the King, wrote this – Matthew 21:9 “The multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after, were crying out saying, ‘Hosanna to the SON OF DAVID. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” Throughout his gospel, Matthew portrays Jesus as the King of the Jews. He is the only one who mentions “The Son of David,” as the King would descend from David and sit on David’s throne, so he had to make that connection. One other reference connects with David – Mark 11:10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David…. Hosanna in the highest!” For the time being, though, Jesus sat on a donkey’s colt.
John is not that far different – John 12:13 “took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet Him, and began to cry out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.'”
Luke, however, mentions something else no one else does. Luke 19:38, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” All four evangelists mention the words used by the people – “who comes in the name of the Lord.” That was very significant, as Jesus came at the Father’s behest, and it was in the name of Jehovah. Luke is the only evangelist who uses these words, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This is an interesting touch, as it seems he did this to match what the angels said to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus – Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
The procession made its way to the Temple where Jesus cleansed it of the moneychangers, and there was an exchange with the Pharisees. Mark says that He entered Jerusalem and came into the Temple, and after looking all around, He departed for Bethany with the twelve since it was already late.
The Greek scholar F.B. Meyer says this of Hosanna and its meaning – [[ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστ.] “Grant blessing in the highest places (Luke 2:14), i.e., in the highest heaven (Ephesians 4:10), where Thy throne is fixed, and from which let it descend upon the Messiah. Speaking generally, the exclamation may be described as an outburst of enthusiasm expressing itself, in a free and impromptu manner, in language borrowed from the hymn for the feast of Tabernacles, Psalms 118.”]
[E]. IN ACCORDANCE WITH OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY
Whether the people realized it or not, they were shouting an Old Testament prophecy that was being fulfilled that very day. Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you. He is just and endowed with salvation; humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
That Zechariah verse has shades of a future return to Jerusalem at the Second Coming, but He won’t be humbled any longer when He comes then. He will return as the Mighty Warrior mounted on the white horse after having vanquished the enemy at Armageddon and coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Again, we have another reference in the Psalms that was fulfilled that day on the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Psalm 118:26 “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.”
Jesus entered Jerusalem in rejection and for the shame of the cross, but when He returns again, He enters through the gates of Jerusalem (Psalm 25), and the glorious King will be received by His repentant people in the following way – Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.”
[F]. NOW, WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE THAT DAY?
This is not an easy question to answer definitively because the word does not tell us what motive the people had in doing what they did.
I feed small peaceful doves in the afternoon, and about 20 of them come. I sit on the bottom steps and sprinkle seed, but the birds begin to come about two to four meters out and tend to wait there. They are waiting for one to make the move, and then they all follow. They hold back. I do wonder if the people who threw their clothes on the street and on the donkey and colt were just engaged in a herd mentality reaction once some began or if they had serious and good intentions. No doubt there were mixed reactions, and some of them there that day crying, “Hosannah,” were five days later calling out, “Crucify Him!”
Human beings can say words they do not understand, nor do they understand the implications of the words. It is like this new religion today. People mouth “climate change” but do not understand what they are saying, nor do they appreciate the sinister motive behind that movement.
I WANT TO SUGGEST A FEW GROUPS THERE ON PALM SUNDAY:
(a). The spectators only, those not interested one way or the other. Observation but non-participation.
(b). Those who were enemies of the Lord and probably included some Pharisees and chief priests. These types of people like to spy out the land.
(c). There would have been there those who were genuine believers and accepted Jesus as King of the Jews and were His followers. They could rejoice with honest hearts and voices. We would hope most of them were that way moved.
(d). Lastly, there were those, believers or otherwise, whose motives were more political, for they wanted a King installed who would deal with the Roman “invaders.” They saw the best prospects of that in Jesus. Their desire was not at all in devotion to the King.
People can get caught up in the moment with very little understanding, and that applied even to the disciples. There are these verses from John speaking about that day even as John penned it almost 70 years later – John 12:14-16 “Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion. Behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’ THESE THINGS HIS DISCIPLES DID NOT UNDERSTAND AT THE FIRST; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”
[G]. LOOKING MORE BEHIND THE SCENES
I mentioned that some wanted to install Jesus as King, the promised King and kingdom of the Old Testament, but it was a move in human strength. “But,” you might ask, “if the people had turned from their sin and accepted Jesus as Israel’s King, could not the kingdom have been set up right there and then?” An interesting question but a most emphatic “NO.”
Jesus is the rightful King of the Jews, and IF there was a national repentance when Jesus came, then in theory, the kingdom could have been established, but it would have bypassed the cross, and we know all the Old Testament teaching on the death of Christ and the necessity of His righteousness.
There was another reason why that would have been an impossibility. Jesus the Messiah HAD ALREADY been rejected by the nation. I would like to look into that.
John the Baptist came preaching “the gospel of the kingdom,” and he said – Matthew 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That gospel required repentance and confession of sin – Matthew 3:6 “and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.” The gospel of the kingdom is different from the gospel of grace we preach today. The gospel of the kingdom was about the coming King, coming to set up His kingdom, and that gospel will be preached again in the Tribulation as the repentant Jews await the Millennial Kingdom – Matthew 24:14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” (That end is the end of the age the disciples asked about in Matthew 24:3.)
Shortly after that, we read – Matthew 4:23 “Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”
After some time, and in the latter part of His ministry, Jesus stopped preaching the gospel of the kingdom after the revelation of the Church, and attention turned in another direction. It is recorded here – Matthew 16:21 “From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” That was such a shock to the disciples that Peter took Him aside and tried to argue about it.
Now, what caused that change of emphasis in ministry? It was this: Jesus knew that His message had been rejected, and He had not been accepted or received by the nation as King.
How do we know that? We must turn back to Matthew 12 to see what happened.
Carefully think of this account:
Matthew 12:1-4 “At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath through the grain fields, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath,’ but He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions – how he entered the house of God and they ate the consecrated bread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?'”
Jesus was making a comparison between David and Himself. The incident described was when David was fleeing for his life because he was the rightful king in Jerusalem but was rejected in a rebellion. Jesus was also the rightful King in rejection.
Because the people had rejected the rightful king, David, then the Law of Moses could be set aside because it, too, had been rejected. Jesus does the same, and it was lawful to pick and eat the grain on the Sabbath. It showed He had been rejected as King, and now before Him lay the cross.
Some wanted to take Jesus and make Him King, but the King had been rejected.
In the midst of national rejection, there were those on that Palm Sunday who devotedly honored the King and attached themselves to Him. God will always have a remnant who swim against the national tide. It was present in Jerusalem just prior to the crucifixion, and it certainly is present in our nations today as they sink further and further into wickedness.
Hosanna in the highest to Him who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna to Him our blessed Saviour who is worthy of all honor. Hosanna to Him who comes to Rapture us. Hosanna to Him who will return at the Second Coming mounted on a white horse of victory, who comes to set up His Kingdom in righteousness and peace. Glory to God in the highest!