14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
This week we are studying what is traditionally labeled "The Triumphal Entry" into Jerusalem. Many people study this on or around Palm Sunday, and it's very familiar to many of us.
I'd like to take a little bit different look at this. (Of course, you may have already looked at it in just this way, but humor me!)
First, what exactly is the scene here in Jerusalem? Let's imagine that we are in the old city, amidst the crowds of people, animals, and soldiers. We've come to celebrate the Feast of the Passover, right? The streets probably looked a lot like our present-day New Year's Eve crowds at Times Square.
The historians tell us that over two million people were involved in one way or another, in the great Passover celebration. We know that over a quarter of a million lambs were slaughtered at one Passover, and that each lamb represented an average of ten worshippers!
Thousands of people from all over the world were streaming into the city to observe the Feast, like one great, big Homecoming on the grounds. The housing and food to handle such crowds can scarcely be imagined.
It was a carnival-like atmosphere. But as they prepared to observe one of the most important feasts that the Jewish people celebrated all year, word came that Jesus was on His way into the city. Did you realize that although some events in Jesus' life are recorded in only one or two of the gospels, this event is noted in all four? I believe that this is all the more important for us to study!
The crowds begin to coalesce around Jesus as He rides into the city on the colt of a donkey; they begin to wave palm branches and shout their welcome to Him. But, what were they thinking? What were they really thinking?
We may see ourselves in these people before we are through.
I think that some of the people in this crowd are confused . . . check out this verse in Matthew:
When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked,
"Who can this be?" The crowd answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from
Nazareth in Galilee. (Matthew 21:10-11)
The confused people don't recognize Jesus for Who He truly is. Some of these are civilians, and some of them are soldiers. Let's look first at the soldiers' reaction to Jesus.
There were probably a large number of Roman soldiers who had been tasked with crowd control for this week of celebration, much like the increased presence of officers in a city when a large event is planned.
They may have been watching the movements of the crowds, anticipating yet another uprising from the zealots who typically used an event like this to stir up the people against the Romans. Maybe they were expecting some kind of a riot.
But then . . .
. . . there comes Jesus, riding on a donkey's colt.
I imagine that some of the Roman soldiers must have smiled at this, because it was nothing like the triumphal celebrations in Rome. It must have confused them to see multitudes of people making a fuss over one man on a donkey's colt.
You see, in Rome, when a general was victorious on a foreign campaign, and killed at least 5,000 of the enemy soldiers and perhaps garnered some new land for the empire, he was given a "Roman triumph" celebration on his return to the mother city. Kinda like the ticker tape parades that used to happen to honor an astronaut or politician, here in the United States, but it was much more splendiferous!
The general would ride into the city in a gold-covered chariot that gleamed in the sunshine as it was pulled by four white stallions. The warrior general would display his trophies, and the enemy leaders that he had captured would be paraded down the street in chains, behind the chariot. The emperor would honor the general and then the enemies would fight wild beasts to entertain the masses.
So, I bet that the Roman soldiers were a little confused, and may have smiled or laughed a little under their breath as they watched.
Isn't that how some people treat our Savior today? They are amused by stories about Him, and they laugh at the people who are committed to Him. How could sophisticated, smart people be so ignorant? What intelligent person would believe some of the things they say He did, they ask? Hmmph! Make blind people see, lame people walk. Walk on water. Raise someone from the dead? Who in their right minds would believe all these things? And so they laugh at us, the Christians who have faith in this Jesus.
Some others, civilians who were confused may not have been laughing, but they still don't recognize Jesus for Who He is. Just like some today, they see Him as a good man, or a prophet, or a very wise man. They don't understand God's plan for their lives. Some may even confess that Jesus is Lord, but they are not yet ready to surrender to Him -- we'll talk about them another day.
I hope you will have an opportunity to re-read this passage and join us again next time.