PALM SUNDAY - JESUS' TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM
Matthew 21-22, Mark 11-12, Luke 19-20, John 12
It was a springtime Sunday in about the year 30 A.D. The holy city of Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims who had come for the annual Passover celebration.
Jesus had spent many months traveling through the towns and villages of Palestine. He preached about the kingdom of God and healed the sick wherever He went. Now the time had come for Him to claim His title as the Messiah - the Savior that God had promised to the Jewish people.
Jesus knew His mission was almost finished. As they traveled to Jerusalem, Jesus warned His disciples that He would soon be put to death, and after three days He would rise again.
As they came near Jerusalem, Jesus told two of His disciples to go into a nearby village and bring a donkey that would be waiting there. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. Crowds of people spread their coats on the ground in front of Him. Some waved branches of palm trees, a sign of victory. The people shouted,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord –
the King of Israel!
Only a king would be greeted this way (2 Kings 9:13), and the people wanted Jesus to be their king.
Most of the people did not understand what kind of king Jesus would be. They expected their Messiah to be a great political and military leader who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. But the kingdom of God is not of this world. It is a spiritual kingdom that is now growing in the hearts of people who put their faith and trust in God.
Jesus went to the temple once He got into Jerusalem, and He didn't like what He saw. This most holy of places had been turned into a marketplace. Merchants were selling animals for temple sacrifices. Money changers were exchanging the pilgrims' money for special coins used in the temple. Many of these people were cheating the pilgrims who came to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.
Jesus turned over the seats of the merchants and the tables of the money changers, scattering their coins. He told them all to leave. He made a whip of some cords and used it to drive out the animals. He said,
It is written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations', But you have made it a den of robbers!
Teaching and Healing
Jesus went to the temple every day. Blind people, crippled people and sick people came to Him, and He healed all of them. He told stories and parables to help people understand the kingdom of God and God's love for all people. The crowds of people who came to hear Him were spellbound.
A expert on the Jewish Law asked Jesus which of God's commandments was most important. Jesus replied,
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is just as important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the other commandments and the teachings of the prophets are based on these two.
Trust in God and Christian love (kindness and respect) for all people are the basis for everything Jesus taught us. These are the things that are really important in life.
Conflict with the Chief Priests and Elders
Not everyone was happy that Jesus was preaching at the temple every day. The chief priests and elders of the temple were angry and upset. The chief priests had given permission for merchants and money changers to use the outer courtyard of the temple, but Jesus had driven them out. They were afraid of a crackdown by Roman authorities because of the large crowds who followed Jesus. Worst of all, the people were putting their hopes and trust in Jesus. The temple officials felt their authority slipping away.
These temple officials came up with a plan to trap Jesus with His own words. They came to Jesus and demanded to know by what authority he was doing all these things. If Jesus said His authority was from God, they would accuse Him of blasphemy. If He did not claim authority from God, they could say He was just a crazy man.
But Jesus knew it was a trap. Instead of answering the question, He asked them another question: "Did the baptism of John come from heaven?" The temple officials realized this was also a trap. If they said "Yes", Jesus would say, "Then why didn't you believe him?" If they said "No" it would make the people angry because they believed John the Baptist was a prophet. So, they refused to answer.
As usual, Jesus had defeated his opponents at their own game! But the temple officials were even more angry and began to plot to have Jesus killed.
For the Jews, Jerusalem was the holy City of God. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, He fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9-10) and left little doubt that He was accepting the title of Messiah. Jesus was adored by the crowds of people who had come to Jerusalem for Passover.
But there was harsh conflict between Jesus and Jerusalem's religious leaders. They clashed on issues of prayer, holiness, life after death and paying taxes to the Romans. Above all, they clashed on the issue of Jesus' authority from God. These conflicts led to Jesus being crucified less than a week after entering Jerusalem.
Jesus did some of His most important preaching during this final week. He spoke of His second coming and told parables of the kingdom of God. Most of all He said we must put our total trust in God and put that trust into action with kindness for other people.
What Is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, is a celebration of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Some churches decorate with palms and distribute palm branches in memory of the greeting Jesus received from the pilgrims as He rode into Jerusalem.
Why Did Jesus Preach and Work His Miracles Among the Jews?
The people known as Hebrews, Israelites or Jews were God's chosen people. It was God's plan to bring salvation to the Jews first, then to the rest of the world through the Jews. Jesus was born a Jew and remained faithful to Judaism (the Jewish religion) throughout His earthly life. He worked and preached mainly among the Jews of Palestine, which is now the country of Israel.
Christianity began as a small sect of Judaism. It was only after many Gentiles (non-Jews) converted to Christianity that it emerged as a separate religion. God has not revoked His covenant with the Jews (Romans 11:25-29), but His salvation is now available to all people of the world.
What Does Messiah Mean?
Messiah comes from a Hebrew word meaning "the anointed one." In Old Testament times, important people like kings and priests were anointed with oil as a sign of their office. For hundreds of years, the Jews had expected God to send them a special king (Daniel 9:25-26, Isaiah 7:14-17, 11:1-9, Micah 5:2). Jesus avoided accepting the title Messiah until the very end because the people were expecting their Messiah to be a military and political leader instead of a spiritual leader. In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, christos means "anointed one", and that is where the word "Christ" comes from.