28 – After Jesus had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 – As He approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying to them,
30 – “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.
31 – If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 – Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as He had told them.
33 – As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 – They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 – They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.
36 – As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 – When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives,
—the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 – “Blessed is the King Who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 – Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”
40 – “I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41 – As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it,
42 – and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
43 – 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.
44 – They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
45 – When Jesus entered the temple courts, He began to drive out those who were selling.
46 – “It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer;’ but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
47 – Every day He was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill Him.
48 – Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on His words.
About 60 years ago CBS tried a new format for one of their television shows. Here’s how it worked. Each week CBS turned their entire studio into an imaginary TIME MACHINE to take listeners back in in the distant past so they could “witness” historical events. The anchor of the show was a familiar broadcaster in my day. His name was Walter Cronkite and the show was entitled, “YOU ARE THERE!”
The first telecast was in 1953. It was a re-enaction of the Hindenburg disaster which happened on May 6, 1937. In subsequent episodes the series focused on similar key events in world history—portrayed in dramatic recreations. Each show would begin with Walter Cronkite sitting at his familiar anchor desk in New York City and he would give a few words on what was about to happen. An announcer would then give the date and the event, followed by this loud and boldy-spoken sentence—say it with me: “YOU ARE THERE.” Then CBS News Reporters in modern-day suits would comment on the action and interview the protagonist of each of event.
Several famous stars had roles in this early TV show.
- James Caan played Robert Ford in “The Capture of Jesse James.”
- Paul Newman played Brutus in “The Assassination of Julius Caesar.”
- Joanne Woodward—who would be Newman’s wife for over 50 years—had a big part in “The Oklahoma Land Rush”
Every week, at the end of the program after Cronkite summarized what had happened, he would say the same thing. In fact, watch as we see how he ended the show:
Well, during this year’s HOLY WEEK I’d like us to embrace a similar format in the sermon portion of our services. I want us to use—not the comments of Cronkite—but rather those of first century people who actually WERE there—to take us back in time to that first Holy Week. I’m talking about the writers of the four Gospels—men who used a third of their written accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry to report on the events of that final week. With the help of their God’s inspired reporting I want us to step back in time 2,000 years so that we can be reminded what happened on those days. To borrow from Cronkite—I’m referring to those eight days UN-like any other days, filled with events that have altered and illuminated our times MORE THAN ANY OTHER. The idea is that we will feel like we were there—in the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Ready—okay—let’s head back to 33A.D—to the city of Jerusalem. Jesus has just completed three years of teaching and healing. Crowds—multitudes of people—followed Him wherever He went. He arrived at a suburb of Jerusalem—the village of Bethany—which is just two miles east of the city—six days before the Passover. According to the Gospel writers, Jesus stayed at the home of three dear friends: Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. This was a good choice for lodgings for two reasons. First, all of Jerusalem was packed with Jews coming to celebrate the Passover. Hundreds of thousands of them came from all over the world. Think of it.
When Jesus first came into this world the inns of BETHLEHEM were all full with no vacancies and ironically the same could be said about the inns in JERUSALEM that final week—so, it was wise indeed to stay in Bethany.
A second reason I think Jesus decided to stay where He did is because He knew what lay ahead. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus had been His friends for years. The comfortable nature of old friendships like theirs—friendships we studied just a few weeks back—was just what He needed as He drew nearer to the cross. In their home He would be able to enjoy the sustaining power of good meals shared with good friends—CLOSE friends.
Okay—that’s the setting.
That Sunday—the FIRST Palm Sunday—Jesus had His disciples borrow a donkey—a young colt—one that had never been ridden. Ironically, this animal that had never carried a burden—was carrying the Man Who would bare on His body the full weight of all the sins of all mankind.
As Jesus begins his entry down the two-mile road that would eventually lead up into the heart of the city the people present recognize Him. They know of His ministry. They know of His healing power. As Luke reports, “the whole began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.” Others had heard of these miracles from eye-witnesses.
If we actually had a reporter on the scene with a mike you might hear them say: “Hey—that’s the prophet from Nazareth—Jesus! It’s Him! He just healed two people who were blind! He raised Lazarus—that guy from Bethany—raised him from the dead! And—HEY! He’s on a donkey just like the prophet Zechariah said the Messiah would ride! Remember the text? ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet He is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.’ This is it! He’s the Messiah!”
Well, word spreads quickly. It’s like a match dropped in dry leaves. The entire city turns out to welcome Jesus. His humble entry into the city turns into the first century version of a ticker tape parade. The people welcome Him as they would a conquering king—they lay their coats in the road as sort of a crude red carpet, and wave leafy palm branches—as He passes shouting,
“Blessed is the King Who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!”
Okay—if we could somehow transport modern reporters back to that day along with their camera crew—what would we see?
(1) First, we could see WHO Jesus was—and is.
We would agree that the crowd was correct in their proclamations. Jesus was—IS—the long-awaited Messiah.
One reason we’d say this is because the mode of transportation Jesus was a blatant and unambiguous statement to the world—a claim that He was indeed the only Son of God—sent to usher in His eternal kingdom.
An on the scene reporter might say, “Folks, up until this point Jesus has always AVOIDED public acclaim—but not anymore. No—now He is EMBRACING it. Folks, Jesus is at the FRONT of this ‘Easter Parade.’
He’d go on to tell us that this was indeed a first for Jesus. Nowhere else do we find him at the head of the multitude:
- not when He descended the mountain after the Sermon on the Mount
- not as He left Capernaum
- not as he entered the village of Nain.
Before this day Jesus chose to be SURROUNDED by people rather than OUT IN FRONT—but not today. No—if we were standing there on the first Palm Sunday, we would see that Jesus set the pace because He knew the significance of this event.
But that’s not the only way we could SEE and KNOW Who Jesus was and is. Any reporter worth his microphone would point out that in His birth, life, death, and resurrection Jesus fulfilled not just this prophecy from Zechariah—but EVERY SINGLE ONE of the 456 Messianic prophecies found in the OT. Through His prophets God made sure that we would be able to know exactly who the real Messiah is.
In effect, He gave us a “prophetic DNA strand” and said, “When you find the one Individual in history Who matches all these prophecies then you will know beyond a doubt that you have found the Messiah Who will be your Savior.” It’s like an episode of DATELINE—where the police find their killer by matching his DNA to the victim. That matching removes all doubt.
Now—any skeptics present that day might say, “Well anyone could fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy. All you need is a donkey.” I’d disagree because you might find a donkey—but you wouldn’t find a crowd to welcome you the way the miracle-working Jesus was welcomed—but for the sake of argument I’ll give you that one. However—the other messianic prophecies were things that Jesus never could have prearranged. For instance, Jesus could not have arranged in advance where He was going to be born! The Prophet Micah foretold that He would be born in Bethlehem in 700BC. Jesus couldn’t have arranged in advance His intricate ancestry or that He was going to be able to work great miracles of healing that were done in front of eyewitnesses—or that He was going to be betrayed for a specific amount of money, or how He was going to be put to death. By the way, the prophecies about the Crucifixion were written before crucifixion even was invented as a way of executing people. And another thing: Jesus couldn’t have arranged that His bones would remain unbroken—as was the custom of the Romans when it came to this form of execution. There were two people crucified with Jesus—one on either side. The Roman soldiers broke the legs of those two in order to hasten their death. But since, thanks to the spear through His heart it was obvious He was already dead they didn’t break the bones of Jesus, and that was a fulfillment of prophecy. Speaking of that spear—that was ANOTHER prophecy Jesus couldn’t have arranged. He couldn’t have arranged that the soldiers would cast lots for his clothing—another prophecy. It goes on and on and on—hundreds of events predicted at least half of a millennium before Jesus even was born.
In fact, if you were doing a “YOU ARE THERE” TV show about Holy Week you could call that episode: “Easter B.C.” because of all the prophecies given hundreds of years before Christ. Well, when you put all of these prophecies together, you see that there is no way they could have been fulfilled by intent—or by ACCIDENT. The odds against it are too great.
Speaking of odds—this week I read about this man: David Greenglass. He was a traitor in World War II who gave atomic secrets to the Soviet Union and then fled to Mexico after the war. His conspirators arranged to help him escape by planning a meeting with the secretary of the Soviet ambassador in Mexico City. Of course, proper identification for both parties became vital. Greenglass was to identify himself with six prearranged signs. These instructions had been given to both the secretary and Greenglass so there would be no possibility of making a mistake. The signs were:
- Once in Mexico City, Greenglass was to write a note to the secretary, signing his name as ‘‘I. Jackson.”
- After three days he was to go to the Plaza de Colon in Mexico City.
- He was then to stand before the statue of Columbus
- Next, he was to place his middle finger in a guide book.
- When he was approached, he was to say it was a magnificent statue
- —and that he was from Oklahoma.
Only then was the secretary to then give him a passport. The six prearranged signs worked. Why? With six identifying characteristics, it was impossible for the secretary not to identify Greenglass as the proper contact.
Well, Jesus didn’t fulfil six pre-arranged identifying characteristics—but FOUR HUNDRED fifty-six! So—there is no doubt—Jesus was and is the Messiah!
Here’s something else we would see as, if we were there.
(2) We would see WHAT Jesus was—and is—LIKE.
I say this because, as Luke reports, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day, He did a very odd thing. He cried. Some scholars say a better word would be “wailed.” Imagine with me for a moment how a modern broadcaster on the scene would report this. He’d say something like,
“I’m right here on the scene. Jesus is riding right by me—and wait. Wait—He’s doing something odd. He’s CRYING! Tears are flowing down His face? What’s up with that? Jesus is being proclaimed as the long-awaited Messiah of God! Why is He crying?! Back to you Chet.”
This WAS odd—I mean, kings don’t cry in public. Do you remember how Joseph who had been made second only to the Pharaoh left the room so he could weep in private—not in the presence of his brothers. Why as Jesus crying, weeping, wailing? And why in public? Before I answer this question I want to remind you that one of the most prominent portraits of God throughout the Bible is that of a king.
- Psalm 10:16 says, “The Lord is King forever and ever.”
- Psalm 47:7 says, “He is the King of all the earth.”
- Psalm 89:18 proclaims, “The Holy One of Israel is our King.”
And—from the very beginning of His life, Jesus is addressed as a king. Remember?
- Referring to Jesus, the angelic messengers announced to Mary: “The Lord shall give unto Him the THRONE of His father David: And He shall REIGN over the house of Jacob forever.” (Luke 1:32-33)
- A couple years later the wise men came to visit the Christ child with the question, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2)
- In His very first message Jesus proclaimed, “The KINGDOM of Heaven is near!”(Matthew 4:17)
- Even the penitent thief on the cross realized that he hung next to royalty for he said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
So, borrowing from the wording of Revelation 19:16, we know that on that first Palm Sunday, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” rode into town.
Well why would this King weep? As I inferred, kings of that day didn’t do that in public. And that’s where we find our answer. You see, Jesus is not like earthly kings. So, as He rode through the crowds waving palm branches and shouting His praises, instead of smiling and giving a typical “royalty wave,” He wept. He wept because HIS heart was broken by what He saw in the hearts of THOSE PEOPLE. He knew they had already rejected Him and the blessings He had come to bring. He knew that in just five days their cheers would turn into demands for His death.
Do you remember Jesus’ words from our text? Look at them again. Luke 19:41-44 says, “And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known IN THIS DAY, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you and surround you and hem you in on every side—and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Do you wonder what Jesus meant by the phrase, “in this day?” Well, to answer we need to look at one of those 456 Messianic prophecies. You see, 500 years earlier an angel appeared to the prophet Daniel and told him of certain dramatic events to be marked off on God’s timetable—events that would affect Israel directly and the surrounding nations indirectly. They would all occur in what is now known as the seventy weeks or 490 years (Daniel 9:24-27). The first week would start with the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem under the decree of the Persian King Artaxerxes, which was done on March 28, 445B.C. Over the next sixty-nine weeks or 483 years, Jerusalem would be restored and rebuilt until the Messiah would come. In Daniel’s great prophecy of the 70 weeks, God had revealed the specific time—down to the EXACT DAY in which the Messiah would be presented to the nation Israel. Although on that first Palm Sunday the nation was unmindful of the divine timetable—Jesus was obviously conscious that this day in which He made His entry into Jerusalem was the specific day foretold by Daniel. He knew everything was right on schedule—to the day. But they didn’t—or WOULDN’T—see this.
And Jesus knew that because of they wouldn’t—because they rejected Him—they would experience God’s judgement. This is what Jesus was talking about. He was weeping and saying, “Even now if you would open your eyes and repent and respond—it’s not too late!” But He knew they wouldn’t do that—and that because they wouldn’t in 37 years the clock would run out when, under the Roman General Titus in 70 A.D., the city would be destroyed. Here’s a picture of that horrible day.
We sigh and think they should have seen. They should known! It was right there for them to read in the book of Daniel. How could they be so blind! But—we do the same thing. We know what God would have us do. It’s right here in His book! But still we disobey Him and face the inevitable painful consequences of our sin.
And let me just pause and remind you that Jesus’ reaction not only tells us what HE is like—but what God is like—because He was GOD BECOME FLESH. I mean, the best way to understand God is to understand Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” By literally coming down to our level, Jesus gave us a window to look through and understand the heart of our Creator. Jesus showed us that God doesn’t sit in Heaven and gloat over our foolishness. He doesn’t think, “Well, they deserve the pain they are experiencing! The fools!” No—that day Jesus showed us that God weeps over our sin. Palm Sunday shows us that God is not a ruler Who is remote and insensitive like many earthly rulers. No, on that day Jesus helped us to see that God is more like a loving parent Who is crazy about His kids. Even though He has a universe to run—planets to keep balanced and presidents and kings to watch over—God still is concerned about our individual lives.
I mean, God not only knows—He also CARES that we have to deal with grouchy bosses and flat tires and broken dishes and late flights and toothaches and crashed hard drives. He weeps with us when we face financial crises and scary medical diagnoses. God is a King—THE King—Who is moved by our problems—even when our problems stem from our willful disobedience of His loving laws. Referring to this Isaiah 63:9 says, “In their distress [GOD] too was distressed.”
Let me put it this way. God not only knows your sorrows. He can taste their bitterness in His own mouth. I’m saying that on Palm Sunday, Jesus helped us to see that we matter to this King! We are precious to Him. He highly values EACH of us—more than anything else in all creation.
In fact, while we’re “travelling through time” go back further with me. Go back to the dawn of creation. They way to GO back is to TURN back in your Bibles. The book of Genesis records the fact that after God made the world and the plants and the animals—He saw that it was GOOD. But when He made man and woman—He said that they were VERY good!
When I read of God using those two words in response to man’s creation I can’t help but think of a human parent in the delivery room—rejoicing over the birth of his children. Do you know what I’m talking about parents? Do you remember the joy you felt when you first laid eyes on that little one? I do! My response was to jump up and down! But that’s nothing compared to God.
Zephaniah 3:17 says God COMPOSES SONGS to reflect His joyous love for each of us. If you doubt me on this turn to that text. Better yet listen as I read: “God will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing!” How does that make you feel? Think of it. God’s great love prompts Him to write songs about you and me!
No wonder Jesus—God in the flesh—WEPT. He knew what the children He loved so much would face! My point is that the King Who came to town that first Psalm Sunday watches you every day of your life. You are more important to Him than anything in the universe. God desperately loves us—and because of that love, this all-powerful, invincible King makes Himself vulnerable. He allows Himself to be moved by our lives. Every one of our attitudes and actions affects God. When we disobey Him, we not only break a rule—we break His heart. When we sin, we don’t just commit an infraction. No—we shake our fists at Someone Who has extended bloody, nail-punctured hands to save us.
And that of course is exactly what happened. Our King Jesus hung in agony on the cross out of love for you and for me…because God is a king Who would rather die than live without His subjects. Philip Yancey writes, “In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get His family back. Jesus embodies the promise of a God Who will go to any length to win us back.”
This leads us to something else we can see as we go back there and look at what happened on that first Palm Sunday.
(3) We would see what JESUS came to DO.
Now—at this point our “on-the-scene commentators” would ask the cameras to pan up to the Antonia Fortress. As you can see in this picture, t was an impressive building—fourteen stories high—and it stood right next to the Temple. Six hundred Roman soldiers were on duty there all the time—many more during the Passover—looking down on the Temple from those high walls.
And—I’m sure the crowds welcoming Jesus—expected Him to march up to the gates and with His miraculous power turn them into splinters. Then He’d go inside and destroy the Roman force with a word.
I can imagine a commentator saying, “I’ve interviewed several onlookers and I can report that this crowd can’t wait to see what happens when Jesus rides into Jerusalem. They’ve told me things like, “The Messiah will judge the ungodly which means He will finally remove the pagan Romans from power. He will ride right up to the Antonia, force His way into their fortress—the very heart of the ungodly— and then He will drive them out. After that our glorious temple will finally be free and cleansed from the ungodly.” Then the commentator would say, “But wait—Jesus isn’t going to the fortress. No—He’s turned into the temple. I don’t understand. He didn’t go to the Roman fortress, the heart of the enemy occupation. He didn’t go to the barracks to drive out the ungodly. Folks, Jesus has gone to the temple, the heart of the Jewish religion. And—wait—what’s He doing? He’s driving out the money-changers and the sellers of sacrificial animals. He’s turning over tables, Coins and cattle are everywhere! This is amazing folks! You’ve got to see it to believe it!”
Now—let me stop and remind you why all those money changers and animal sellers were there. The Law of Moses commanded that every male of Israel must redeem his soul by giving half a shekel as a temple tax. The Jews couldn’t bring their Roman or Greek coins into the temple, because such coins had pagan images on them that are blasphemous. Those coins didn’t belong in the Temple. So, there was a currency exchange—a money-changer. This service wasn’t free—there was an exchange fee that went into the temple coffers—except for a percentage that went directly into the pockets of the high priest’s family.
The Law of Moses also required the people of God to offer animal sacrifices. If they had traveled a long way to come for Passover, they weren’t going to bring their animals with them. If they did—it would never be judged as good enough. So—they would just bring some money and buy an approved animal for their offering after they got to Jerusalem. Prices were a little high, but they could get a bull or lamb or a pair of birds in a wicker basket—whatever was needed. Again—much of the profits from this business went to the High Priest.
Now, these money changers and animal sellers used to be outside the temple—out in the Kidron Valley. But when Caiaphas became high priest, he let them move into the temple courtyard. It was much more convenient for him—I mean the people—that way. Well, as the Jewish people had prayed for years, the Messiah did come at Passover to judge the ungodly. But to their shock, he confronted Jewish ungodliness and sin instead of that of the Romans. With His actions Jesus was in essence asking, “Who’s violating the temple more—the Roman soldiers who stand looking down from the ramparts—or the high priest and the temple bankers who are making money off of every poor person who comes to pray? And speaking of praying—who can talk to God with all that noise?! By using the temple courts in this way these religious Jews are undercutting the very reason the temple exists. They are keeping poor people from worshiping.”
By the way, Jesus’ surprising actions fulfilled another Messianic Prophecy. I’m referring to Amos who said, “Why do you people long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
The point here is that Jesus came to deal with SIN—and sin is found in every heart. Sin is not just found in the speck in your neighbor’s eye—it’s found in that log that is in your own.
At this point a GOOD commentator would say that Jesus came not just to show us Who He is—but Who He is not. The people expected a Lion of War—He came as the Lamb of God. He came not so sit on the throne in Jerusalem or Rome—but on the throne of Your heart—my heart. He came not to live—but to die—to die in our place. Jesus rode down that steep hillside and then up into Jerusalem knowing the cross was on the other side—the cross where He would take our sin on Himself.
St. Jerome was one of the early Church Fathers. He is best known for his translation of the Bible from Greek into Latin. In fact, Jerome’s translation, known as the Vulgate, served as the official Bible of the church for about a thousand years. Tradition says he translated the Vulgate from the same cave/stable where Jesus’ was born. It is said that near the end of his life, Jerome had a dream. In the dream, Jesus appeared to him. Jerome was so overwhelmed by the appearance of Jesus that he felt he just had to give Him something, so he got some money and offered it, saying “Here! This is yours.” Jesus said, “I don’t want it.” Jerome brought some more possessions. But Jesus said, “I don’t want them either.” And Jerome said, “If there is anything in the world that I can give You, tell me what it is. Tell me! What do You want? What do You want me to give You?” He said he dreamed that Jesus looked at him and said this: “Give me your sin. That’s what I came for.” Jerome’s dream wasn’t just a dream. It was real—because that’s why Jesus came into Jerusalem that day. He came to take away our sin.