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Jesus triumphal entry to the city of Jerusalem was a carefully orchestrated messianic act. The Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah had foretold the coming of the King of Israel and the way He would accomplish this. In the fulfillment of the prophecy, Jesus made the triumphal entry on the first day of the week and many people accompanied Him.
Amidst the loud voices of praises to God, some Pharisees stood on the sidelines and criticized the multitude for their jubilant procession. However, Christ took sides with the crowd and reproved the accusers.
And, sorrow was suddenly seen on the countenance of Jesus as He wept over the city of Jerusalem because of its rejection of the word of God. As a result, Christ foretold the imminent destruction of the beautiful and unholy city since it failed to acknowledge the day of Messiah’s visitation.
Half a millennium before the coming of Christ, the prophet Zechariah predicted the coming of the King of Israel: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Zech. 9:9.
The fulfillment of this prophecy was imminent as the One who had declined many times to be bestowed with royal honours made his way to the city of Jerusalem as the promised inheritor of King David’s throne. Jesus made the triumphal entry into the city on the first day of the week and many people who were with Him at Bethany accompanied him.
It was during the Passover; thus, several people attending the feast joined the jubilant procession to witness His reception.1 Amidst loud voices of praises to God and references to the new kingdom of David, all worked out as carefully orchestrated as Christ made the triumphal entry to the city.
The disciples get the colt
The hope of the multitude concerning the coming kingdom was again coming out alive. All nature looked as if it was filled with astounding joy. The trees were covered with luxuriance. And, their blossoming seemed to fill the air with a sweet scent.
The people who thronged the triumphal entry were animated with joy and gladness of heart. With the intention of riding into the ancient city as its King, Christ had sent two of disciples to go and get Him an ass together with its colt. 2
At His birth, Christ had relied on the kindness of strangers; the manger at Bethlehem whereby he laid was a borrowed place of rest, and now, although He had authority over all the creation, he relied on the courtesy of a stranger to enable Him enter Jerusalem triumphantly. Nonetheless, the careful orchestration of this event was evident, even in the minute instructions given to fulfill the task.
As the Saviour predicted, the request, “The Lord needs them,” (Luke 19:34), was gladly approved. Bock notes, “the tradition of angarı́a can explain the ease with which this is achieved. It is possible that the person is a friend or that the expression would be sufficient to allow them to take the animal. In either case, the remark demonstrates Jesus’ control over events”. 3
Christ planed for all the unseen events. Further, Christ showed total knowledge in this instance. This is because He gave the disciples exact details concerning the whereabouts of the animal, its tied-up condition, the fact that no man had ever used it, and the method they were to use in obtaining it.
Christ selected for His use an animal that no one had ever employed for service. Upon getting the colt, the messengers, with eagerness of heart, spread their clothes on it, and made the Lord to sit on it. Before this, the Saviour had always preferred to make His journeys on foot. Thus, the multitude wondered at first at the decision of their Master to ride on the beast.
Nonetheless, hope was brightening in the hearts of the disciples and their expectations rose to the highest pitch.4 The cheerful idea that Christ was nearing the ancient city of Jerusalem, declare Himself as the heir of David’s throne, and affirm His royal power, glowed the expectations of everyone in the procession.
It is important to note that the Saviour was upholding the Jewish tradition intended for a royal entry. The beast He used for the triumphal entry was that used by the kings of Israel for travelling in times of peace. For example, Jair, the Judge, had thirty sons who rod on donkeys (Judges 10:4), Ahithopel rode on a donkey (2 Samuel 17:23), and Mephibosheth, the royal prince, came to David riding on a donkey (2 Samuel 19:26).
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This was contrary to the fact that kings travelled upon horses in times of war in the Middle East. Thus, the action of Christ of riding on a donkey symbolized that he was not the warrior figure that the multitude anticipated, but the Prince of Peace, and, worth mentioning, no one saw it that way then, even His disciples who were supposed to be conversant with this.
The thoughts of the people were clouded with a type of mass hysteria and they looked at Jesus as the Messiah of their own making, not the One whom God had sent.
More so, prophecy had predicted that the Messiah would “ride upon an ass, and upon a colt of an ass” (Zech. 9:9). Immediately he had sat on the animal, the air was filled with praises as the multitude praised God in loud voices for all the great things they had witnessed. The people acknowledged Him as the Messiah, their King, and the Saviour now allowed honour that he had never before consented to.
The multitude thought that this was an evidence that their joyous expectations were about to be fulfilled by His being declared to be the new King of Israel. In addition, in the Old Testament, Jerusalem was viewed as the city of Israel’s kings. After King David had established his throne there, subsequent kings followed this tradition. Thus, the crowd viewed Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem as a symbol that he was going to establish his throne there.
The multitude’s messianic praises
The people were persuaded that the time of their liberation from the oppressive rule by the Romans had come. In thoughts, they saw the foreign rule destroyed and their country once more attain self-rule that had been robbed from them. The multitude was joyous and full of excitement.
And, they competed with each other in hailing Him as Messiah, their King. Even though the multitude did not exhibit outward pageantry and magnificence, they revered the Saviour in their joyous hearts. Even though they could not present Him with expensive gifts, they spread their cloaks on the road for Him to step on.5
The act of spreading the garments on the road is exemplified from the Old Testament account in which the people spread their outer garments on the road and proclaimed Jehu to be the king of Israel (2 Kings 9:13). More over, they also placed leafy tree branches and palm on the Saviour’s road to the ancient city of Jerusalem.
As much as the demonstration could not meet royal standards, they used palm branches as the nature’s symbol of victory and waved them in the air with deafening praises of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Jehovah” (Psalms 118:26).
There are minute wording differences in the depiction of the event in the four Gospel accounts. Mathew’s account of the triumphal entry depicts the royal entry of Christ into the city. Contrary to Mark’s account, the procession has a greater association to Christ’s link to the Davidic line as the people shout “Hossanna to the son of David” (Matthew 21:9).
However, Matthew fails to depict that Jesus’ entry into the city was triumphant and stresses the humble arrival of the Davidic king into the city. Mark’s account of the event follows Mathew’s, enhancing the royal entry of the son of David into the city. Mark’s narration of the event fails to fulfill any Jewish nationalistic hopes; however, he depicts Jesus as bringing judgment upon the unfruitful house of Israel.
As with the previous accounts, Luke’s narrative of the event brings greater prominence to Christ’s royal dignity and the nature of the entry into the city. According to the Third Gospel, Christ’s entry into the city is to lay claim on his Temple, cleansing it for His purposes. Jesus coming, thus, is not as an earthly king, but it is similar to a divine visitation of the Lord (Luke19: 43-44).
A study of the Fourth Gospel reveals significant differences that give an indication of an independent tradition of the same event.
The procession in the Johannine account does not shout praises along the way (Mark 11:8–10; Matthew 21:8–9; Luke 19:36–38), but Jesus is received by a reception party from the city that has come for a cordial reception of the Messiah into the city (John 12:12–14). In addition, instead of strewing the branches on the pathway of Christ, the well-wishers hold them in their hands (John 12:13).
William Barclay comments on this Psalm that it was the last psalm of the group (113-118) referred to as Hallel, meaning Praise God, so the chant was a praising psalm. He says, “They were part of the first memory work every Jewish boy had to do; they were sung often at great acts of praise and thanksgiving in the Temple; they were an integral part of the Passover ritual”.6
In addition, this was evidently the victor’s psalm. For example, over a century before the triumphal entry, the Israelites had sung this psalm in jubilation when they acknowledged the victory of Simon Maccabeus in war against their enemies. Maccabeus had defeated Acra and taken it from the Syrians; hence, this was the cause of jubilation.
Therefore, it is evident that when the multitude sang this psalm, they had the hope that Christ was the Conqueror and the one who could redeem them from their enemies.7
Additionally, it is evident that they perceived Him to be God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, who was meant to sweep their long delayed triumph over Rome and the whole world. 8To the multitude, they were just waiting for the alarm to be sounded so that they could claim their victory.
As the disciples continued with their demonstration, other people who had heard of Christ’s coming to the capital hurried to be part of jubilant throng. Onlookers were continually intermingling with the procession and inquiring about what was happening as well as the meaning of the orchestrated commotion.
Most of them had heard of Christ and they hoped that He would go to the capital; however, they were astonished at the changes that had taken place because He had thwarted all previous efforts to crown Him the King of Israel. More over, the onlookers were amazed at the loud acclamations since heretofore He had made it clear that His kingdom does not belong to this world.
However, the inquiries of the spectators are silenced by loud voices of victory. As the people afar off echoed shouts of triumph, crowds from Jerusalem joined the demonstration who greeted Him with the waving of palm branches and rent praises to God in the air.
From the large number of people assembled to attend the Passover, many went forth to pay homage to Christ. And, as the priests called the people for the service just before dusk, not many came forth, making the leaders to start becoming suspicious of the activities of Jesus.
During His ministry, Christ had not allowed such a procession to take place and he plainly foresaw that the result of this would lead him to the cross. Nonetheless, He had intended to present Himself in public as the Messiah and thus call to the attention of everyone the sacrifice that was to end his earthly ministry.
When the Jews were gathering at Jerusalem to mark the Passover, Jesus, the antitypical Lamb, willingly set Himself apart to be sacrificed so that the events, which came before His death at the cross should be a subject of great thought and duty so as to call attention to the great sacrifice itself.9
Following such a jubilant procession in His entry to the ancient city, the attention of everyone would be called to His quick advancements that would mark the end of his mission on earth.
The happenings of this great demonstration would be the subject of discussion, as many would seek to find their relation to His trial and death.10 As many would remember Christ, they would be led to study the scriptures. Thus, they would be persuaded that indeed Jesus was the Messiah. As a result, many would be converted to the faith all over the world.
Never before had such a victorious demonstration taken place in any part of the globe.11 The shouts echoed and re-echoed from hill to hill and from valley to valley as the multitude sang, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” (Luke 19:38).
The triumphal procession had never been like that of the world’s prominent victors as no trophies of kingly bravery were present at the scene. However, about the Coming One were the magnificent trophies of His relentless toils of love for the wickedness of the world.12
Captives he had rescued from the evil one’s power, the blind who could now see, the dumb who were now shouting hosannas, the cripples who were now walking, the lepers whom He had cleansed from their deadly ailments, and even those He had rescued from the hold of death, were present in the procession.
The Pharisees’ criticism
In the background of the procession, Pharisees were present. As they were filled with jealousy and hatred, they searched for ways of making the popular feeling to be without meaning. Thus, they employed their authority to stop the multitude from shouting jubilant praises. However, their pleas and intimidations turned on deaf ears and served only to increase the excitement of the crowd.
The Jewish authorities feared that the many people who were present in the procession would make Jesus the king of Israel. As the final option, they made their way through the multitude and to where Christ was to beseech Him. They said, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” (Luke 19:39).
They maintained that such noisy processions were not allowed the Roman government and would only serve to bring them more penalties. However, the reply of the Saviour silenced them, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).
The scene of the jubilant demonstration was divinely orchestrated.13 The prophet of God had predicted it. Thus, man did not have any power to prevent God’s own appointing from taking place. If the people had fallen short of fulfilling this purpose, God could have passed the privilege to the inanimate objects. To accomplish His purpose, they would have hailed His Son with praises of joy.
Further, the Jewish authorities’ criticism of the praises depicts that nothing has changed. 14They have still declined to acknowledge that God sent Christ and that He is the Messiah. The Pharisees’ objection is but the initial of their several actions to thwart the mission of Jesus and ultimately kill Him.
Jesus weeping over the city
As soon as the demonstration arrived at the peak of the hill, a sudden change was seen on the face of the Messiah. Before they were to descend to Jerusalem, His sudden change of countenance summoned the demonstration to stop. The westering sun clearly revealed the glory of the ancient city of Jerusalem.
The multitude was attracted at the grandeur of the temple, which had been their pride and glory as a nation. As the Saviour looked at the magnificence of the temple, the people stared at Him with the expectation of seeing on His face the same appreciation they themselves were feeling concerning the sudden sight of beauty before them.
However, they were shocked and dissatisfied when they observed the Saviour’s eyes filled with an agony of tears.15 The multitude was astonished at this sight of the Messiah, whom they were welcoming to the magnificent city to be crowned king. They expected He was about to start His reign, but the sudden sorrow in the midst of the scene of rejoicing made them to be spellbound. 16
The tears of Christ were not in expectation of His own death at the cross, but the sight of Israel’s utter rejection of their Redeemer pierced the heart of the Son of God. The Saviour’s agony was not selfish. The Jews had scorned His love. They declined to accept His teachings even the mighty miracles He performed did nothing to make them change their ways.17
Jesus saw that the people were in guilt of forsaking their day of visitation. Heretofore, the Jews were a favoured people. The temple of the Lord, where He dwelt, was present amongst them. For more than a thousand years, the temple had been used for uttering the messages of God, offering animal sacrifices for sin, and holding ceremonies. However, the culmination of all these was imminent.
Amidst, the sorrow He felt for the doomed city of Jerusalem, Jesus exclaimed, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…(Luke 19: 42).
Christ’s weeping of the impending doom of Jerusalem was similar to the one that Prophet Jeremiah gave concerning the approaching exile of the Israelites to Babylon (Jeremiah 6:6-20) or Prophet Isaiah’s proclamation of the looming destruction of the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 29: 1-3).
Christ weeping depicts that the results of denouncing God’s word is a national judgment; when God strives for peace and His conditions are denounced, judgment is unavoidable.18 If Israel had acknowledged the gift God’s beloved Son, Jesus could not have pronounced the impending doom that was awaiting the glorious city.
If the Israelites had accepted the Messenger from above and listened to His reproves, they might have been healed of their grievous malady, set free from bondage, and became the world’s diadem of glory.19 However, the doomed people rejected God’s last massage for them; thus, their misery was forthcoming.
Jesus was sent to liberate the people of Israel. However, Pharisaical arrogance, insincerity, covetousness, and hatred had thwarted His efforts of fulfilling His mission.20 Christ was aware of the dreadful retribution that would be visited upon the doomed city:
“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 not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you (Luke 19: 43-44).
Thus, in anticipation of the desolation that was awaiting Jerusalem because of refusing His salvation, Christ wept over the beloved city. The beautiful and unholy city had ignored God’s warnings, ridiculed His mercies, and was about to put His son to death. As a father weeps over a disobedient child, Christ was moved by the increasing wickedness of the city that would forever shut the grace of God from it.
As the procession advanced, the authorities in Jerusalem received the message that Christ was nearing the city. However, they feel no urge to welcome the Messiah, and in fear, they moved out with the expectation of using their authority to disperse the multitude.
In Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, he drew near the ancient city in a carefully orchestrated manner. He asks two of His get a beast for Him so that he could ride on it as he approached the city. Jesus got into Jerusalem to the eschatological shouts of the people. The multitude sang praises signifying God’s power seen through His son. More over, they acknowledged that Christ came as a king in the name of the Lord.
The behaviour of the people depicted the accomplishment of the national craving for salvation, often seen during the Passover. As the jubilant procession was advancing, some Jewish authorities stood on the sidelines and criticized the followers of Christ for their noisy demonstration.
However, Christ approved the messianic praise he was receiving and commented that if they were to stop, then stones would take up the refrain of praise to fulfill the purpose of God.
Despite Christ’s attempts to deliver God’s messages, He was rejected; thus, He wept over the doom that was awaiting the glorious city of Jerusalem.
Christ, talking on behalf of God, noted that he wished to assemble the Israelites under His wing, a depiction of concern and protection; however, His people chose to go it alone and rejected God’s messages. As a result, Jesus prophesied that the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in total as they missed the Messiah’s visitation.
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1 Isaac Williams, The Gospel narrative of the Holy Week, harmonized, (London: Ravington, 1843), 13-24.
2 Jarid Miller, Yahshua, the man Behind the Glory (New York: Xlibris Corporation, 2010), 99-100.
3 Darrell Bock. Luke 9:51-24:53 (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996)
4 David, Padfield, ‘Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem’ In The Church of Christ in Zion, Illinois.
5 L. Losie. Triumphal Entry,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (eds. Green, McKnight & Marshall; Leceister: IVP, 1992), 854-859.
6 William Barclay. The Gospel of John (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 132-136.
7 John Rice. The Son of God (Murfreesboro, Tenn.: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1976), 245-250.
8 Markus Bockmuehl. This Jesus: martyr, Lord, Messiah (London; New York, NY: T & T Clark International, 2004), 90-92.
9 William Hanna, The Passion week (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1866.). 3-20.
10 Brent Kinman, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem : in the context of Lukan theology and the politics of his day (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 159-161.
11 Joel Graves, Gathering over Jerusalem (New York: Xulon Press, 2003), 51-52.
12 August Neander, The life of Jesus Christ : in its historical connexion and historical development (New York : Harper, 1851), 355-360.
13 Robert Stein, H. Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP, 1996).
14 Douglas Buckwalter, The character and purpose of Luke’s Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996), 108-111.
15 Tom Malone, With Jesus after sinners (New York: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1966), 147-148.
16 Evans Craig A, Mark 8:27-16:20 (WBC; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001).
17 Douglas Redford, The life and ministry of Jesus: the Gospels (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Pub., 2007), 239-242.
18 George Clark, A new harmony of the four Gospels in English… (New York, S.W. Green, 1870), 290-294.
19 Anselm Grun, Through the year with Jesus (New York: Continuum, 2004), 101-106.
20 Robert Deffinbaugh, That you might believe: a study of the Gospel of John (Dallas, Tex.: Biblical Studies Press, 2002), 370-373.