The Last Time Jesus Goes to Jerusalem
John shifted the scene from a quiet dinner in Bethany to a noisy public parade in Jerusalem. All four Gospels record this event and their accounts should be compared. This was the only “public demonstration” that our Lord allowed while He was ministering on earth.
His purpose was to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy (Zech. 9:9). The result was a growing animosity on the part of the religious leaders, leading eventually to the crucifixion of the Savior.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the Passover Festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a donkey and rode on it, just as the scripture says,
“Do not be afraid, city of Zion!
Here comes your king,
riding on a young donkey.”
His disciples did not understand this at the time; but when Jesus had been raised to glory, they remembered that the scripture said this about him and that they had done this for him.
The people who had been with Jesus when he called Lazarus out of the grave and raised him from death had reported what had happened. That was why the crowd met him—because they heard that he had performed this miracle.
John 12:12-18 (GNT)
There were three different groups in the crowd that day:
- The Passover visitors from outside Judea (John 12:12, 18);
- The local people who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus (John 12:17); and
- The religious leaders who were greatly concerned about what Jesus might do at the feast (John 12:19).
At each of the different feasts, the people were in keen expectation, wondering if Jesus would be there and what He would do. It looked as though Jesus was actually seeking to incite a revolution and establish Himself as King, but that was not what He had in mind.
What did this event mean to Jesus?
For one thing, it was a part of His obedience to the Father’s will. The Prophet Zechariah (Zech. 9:9) prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in that manner, and He fulfilled the prophecy.
Certainly Jesus was openly announcing to the people that He indeed is the King of Israel (John 1:49), the promised Messiah. No doubt many of the pilgrims hoped that now He would defeat the Romans and set the nation of Israel free.
What did this demonstration mean to the Romans?
Nothing is recorded about the Roman viewpoint, but it is certain that they kept a close watch that day. During the annual Passover feast, it was not uncommon for some of the Jewish nationalists to try to arouse the people; and perhaps they thought this parade was that kind of an event. I imagine that some of the Roman soldiers must have smiled at the “Triumphal Entry,” because it was nothing like their own “Roman triumph” celebrations in the city of Rome.
Whenever a Roman general was victorious on foreign soil, killing at least 5,000 of the enemy, and gaining new territory, he was given a “Roman triumph” when he returned to the city.
What did the “Triumphal Entry” mean to the people of Israel?
The pilgrims welcomed Jesus, spread their garments before Him, and waved palm branches as symbols of peace and victory (Rev. 7:9). They quoted from Psalm 118:26, which is a messianic psalm; and they proclaimed Him the “King of Israel.” But while they were doing this, Jesus was weeping! (Luke 19:37-44)
The name Jerusalem means “city of peace” or “foundation of peace”; and the people were hoping that Jesus would bring them the peace that they needed. However, He wept because He saw what lay ahead of the nation—war, suffering, destruction, and a scattered people.
At His birth, the angels announced “peace on earth” (Luke 2:13-14); but in His ministry Jesus announced “war on earth” (Luke 12:51). It is significant that the crowds shouted “peace in heaven” (Luke 19:38), because that is the only place where there is peace today!
The nation had wasted its opportunities; their leaders did not know the time of God’s visitation. They were ignorant of their own Scriptures. The next time Israel sees the King, the scene will be radically different! (Rev. 19:11) He will come in glory, not in humility; and the armies of heaven will accompany Him. It will be a scene of victory as He comes to defeat His enemies and establish His kingdom.
It is a repeated theme in Scripture that there can be no glory unless first there is suffering. Jesus knew that He must die on the cross before He could enter into His glory (Luke 24:26).
The Jewish theologians were not clear in their minds concerning the sufferings of the Messiah and the glorious kingdom that the prophets announced. Some teachers held that there were two Messiahs, one who would suffer and one who would reign. Even our Lord’s own disciples were not clear as to what was going on (see John 11:16).
How did the Jewish leaders respond to the “Triumphal Entry” of the Lord?
As they watched the great crowd gather and honor Jesus, the Pharisees were quite sure that Jesus had won the day. They were anticipating some kind of general revolt during the Passover season.
Perhaps Jesus would perform a great miracle and in that way capture the minds and hearts of the restless people. How little they really understood the mind and heart of the Master! What they did not realize was that Jesus was “forcing their hand” so that the Sanhedrin would act during the feast. The Lamb of God had to give His life when the Passover lambs were being slain.
The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, we are not succeeding at all! Look, the whole world is following him!”
John 12:19 (GNT)
The statement, “Look, the whole world is following him!” was both an exaggeration and a prophecy.
But from the Pharisees’ perspective, it looked like everyone was coming to believe that Jesus was the Christ. This put pressure on them to do something quickly before it got any worse. Things were coming to a head.
|Be Alive (John 1-12): Get to Know the Living Savior – eBook
By David C. Cook
In BE ALIVE, Dr. Wiersbe presents the basic teachings of the first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel and urges readers to approach its truths with the hearts and minds of worshipers.He teaches how no other gospel paints such a vivid picture of Jesus as the Son of God. Through miracles, parables, and relationships, Jesus shows how He is the fulfillment of God’s promises of old.Questions for personal reflection and group discussion are included at the end of each chapter.