Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday- the Sunday before Jesus arose from the dead. This is the day that He entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey and the people cried Hosanna.
Before entering into the city of Jerusalem, Jesus had been staying in the small village of Bethany, which was located about 2 miles from Jerusalem, on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. (The Mount of Olives directly faces the city of Jerusalem. Below is an aeriel view of the modern day Mount of Olives and Jerusalem. The temple mount, where the Dome of the Rock is located today, can be seen directly north of the Mt of Olives in the picture.
Jesus often stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus while He was visiting Bethany. (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44; 12:1-3). We know from Scripture that Mary anointed Jesus after He had arrived in Bethany on Friday or Saturday before His triumphal entry (John 12:2-8). It is very plausible that Jesus and His disciples stayed with the family during this time.
According to John 12:12, large crowds had come to Israel for the Passover feast. According to the Old Testament law, all males in Israel were required to travel to Jerusalem 3 times a year for feast- the feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. (Deut. 16:16). Therefore, there would have been a very large crowd in Jerusalem at the time of the events of Holy week. Men and families from all over the land were traveling to celebrate the Passover Feast in the Holy city.
Jesus traveled out of Bethany into the neighboring town of Bethphage, about one miles from the city of Jerusalem. It is here that He instructs two disciples to go into the village and there they would find a donkey and a colt tied up. The colt was to have never been ridden before. They were to bring them to Jesus, telling anyone who asked that the Lord needed them. The disciples did as they were instructed and Jesus mounted the colt and began to ride into the city.
It may seem strange that Jesus would request a donkey to enter the city on and why the crowds would react in such a triumphant fashion. It is interesting to note that although the donkey was a domesticated animal during the time used for work purposes, in the days of the Old Testament, the donkey was also considered a royal beast. It is interesting to note that according to rabbinic law, the king’s donkey should never been ridden by anyone else.
In 1 Kings 1:32-40, David has Solomon ride on David’s own mule to announce and anoint Solomon as the new king of Israel. In ancient Near Eastern text, we find similar examples of donkeys being used in ceremonial entries and as an act of kingship. As Jesus enters into the city on the back of a donkey, He is announcing Himself as the Messiah, the Son of David, the eternal King. Zechariah 9:9, is quoted in Matthew and John as having been fulfilled by Jesus’ entry into the city on a donkey. The prophecy states, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.”
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is triumphal because of the implication it has. He was announcing that He was the King- and the people, who had heard of His many miracles, were receiving Him as such by waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the ground before Him. The waving of palm branches was symbolic of victory over one’s enemies. The laying down of their cloaks represented their submission to Him as King. (2 Kings 9:13). They shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David”. Hosanna is a Hebrew word meaning “O Save or Save us”. By using the term “Son of David”, they were recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah who is called by the same name. The crowds understood that Jesus was announcing Himself as king, but He wouldn’t be the king they were expecting or wanting. The people wanted a warrior king, a Messiah who would save them from the Roman influence on the country, who would protect their nation. Little did they know or understand that Jesus was the King of kings and the Savior of all mankind. In just a few short days, these same people would no longer be crying out to their Messiah, but crying to crucify Him.
Below are some photos of the Palm Sunday road, the one on which Jesus rode into the city on the back of a donkey.
In the picture below (not my picture), the wall that runs diagonally across is the Palm Sunday road. This photo shows the road going down from the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley, and the road would then go up into the city of Jerusalem (where the photo is taken from).
Click on photo above for source
Luke 19:41 tells us that as Jesus drew near to the city, He wept over it. He knew that there would come a day when the city would be destroyed. Below is a picture of the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, where Jesus would have seen the city from.
What love His tears show for this city and for His people.
After entering into the city, Jesus went into the temple and looked around at everything (Mark 11:11) We do not know exactly what He did, but it was already getting late and He and His disciples went back to Bethany for the night.
Tomorrow I will share about what Jesus did the following Monday and Tuesday after His triumphal entry. I hope the description and pictures today helped you to more fully understand and appreciate the significance of Palm Sunday. It is my prayer that you will continue to prepare your heart for Easter as we celebrate together the death, burial and resurrection of our Eternal King.