What Jesus Did on Palm Sunday
Luke 19:28-44 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?’ tell him, ‘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 Then he entered the temple area and began driving 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.
Our Palm Sunday text shows a shift, a change in Jesus’ approach. Up until this time, Jesus had sort of traveled about almost trying NOT to draw attention to Himself, but on this Sunday as He rode into Jerusalem, Jesus seemed to be very comfortable with the public nature of His following. The scene unfolded in very dramatic fashion as first I see in our text:
- Jesus commanded and controlled the happenings.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Jesus was always in control of His attitude and actions, but previously, all throughout His ministry, He was responding to needs, answering questions, healing the sick, and calming storms. In other words, His actions seemed to be in response to what was happening around Him.
In the Palm Sunday narrative, Jesus wasn’t responding to happenings, He was making things happen. He chose the time of His entrance. It coincided with the time that countless crowds of people would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, commemorating when God delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and helped them escape the death angel that had been sent as judgment against Pharaoh and his land. People were looking for another Moses to lead them out of Roman oppression.
He chose the place of His entrance. Read verse 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, What is the significance of the Mount of Olives? Why does Luke mention it?
(The following is an excerpt of a message from (http://www.rayfowler.org/sermons/the-road-to-jerusalem/the-triumphal-entry-into-jerusalem/)
The Mount of Olives was more than just a geographical marker. The Mount of Olives had Messianic implications. When Ezekiel in the Old Testament prophesied to the Jewish exiles who were held captive in Babylon, he prophesied about the restoration of Israel to the land even as he beheld in a vision the glory of the Lord departing from the temple and then from Jerusalem. We read in Ezekiel 11:23: “The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.” (Ezekiel 11:23) This was the Mount of Olives. It marked the departure of God’s glory from Jerusalem. Later in Ezekiel’s vision he sees the glory of the Lord returning to Jerusalem from the east (Ezekiel 43:1), implying that God’s glory would re-enter Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives even as it had left.
Zechariah was another Old Testament prophet. He prophesied to the group of exiles who returned to Jerusalem after the exile was over and encouraged them in the rebuilding of the temple. In the final chapter of his vision he foretells the Day of the Lord when the Lord will return to fight for his people. We read in Zechariah 14:4: “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.” (Zechariah 14:4)
And so the people expected that when Messiah came to deliver them, he would come from the Mount of Olives. It was no accident that Jesus began his entry into Jerusalem from the east at this very location. He was intentionally, deliberately presenting himself as Messiah.
Jesus sent two of His disciples into a village and told them to look for a young donkey that would be tied up. They were to bring it to Jesus. Jesus knew exactly how He wanted to enter Jerusalem. He was intentional about His entrance. Why? Because it was part of a plan.
We understand from Scripture that it was important, necessary, vital that Jesus would ride a donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy that had been written almost 600 years earlier. Yes, it was predicted through a prophetic word in Zechariah 9:9 that the Messiah-King would absolutely enter Jerusalem on a donkey. The prophesy also said Jesus would bring salvation to His people.
What about the fact that Luke tells us the donkey would be tied up? Why would that little detail be worth recalling? Prophecy about Jesus’ Messianic Mission was spoken long before the time of the official prophets. In Genesis 49:10-11, the Patriarch Jacob, grandson of Abraham, as he was dying, gathered his sons to him and spoke prophetic words over them and their descendants. One of those prophecies was a Palm Sunday prophecy about one of the descendants of the Tribe of Judah! Who descended from the Tribe of Judah? Jesus, right? Here is the text from Genesis 49:10-11: 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. 11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.
This wasn’t the normal entrance of a king into a city. No earthly conquering king would have been seen riding a lowly donkey. They would have come with a big entourage and several stallions. They wouldn’t have been riding lowly donkeys. Jesus didn’t exactly look very kingly. Jesus was not only fulfilling Scripture, but He was making a statement. He was no ordinary King. He wasn’t an earthly King. He wasn’t like the other kings who had strode into Jerusalem. He wasn’t the King they expected, but He was the King they needed!
I wonder if the Roman officials got a kick out of the whole thing. I wonder if they just dismissed the tens of thousands of people who were flocking to Jesus. I wonder if they thought it was hysterical that a man riding a donkey would be hailed as a king. After all, horses were military animals. They were the kind of thing a king would ride. Donkeys were a symbol of humility and peace. What kind of king could Jesus even be? It didn’t matter what they thought. Jesus had come to make a statement. Jesus had come to fulfill a mission, and whether they could accept it or not, Jesus had come to be in charge. Even the events of the next five days where Jesus was betrayed by a friend, poorly treated, set up for crimes He did not commit, and brutally crucified, even those moments, if you read them from a prophetic point of view, reveal Jesus was never a victim. He was in charge of everything that was happening, and it was happening exactly according to the plan that had been foretold hundreds and hundreds of years before. Just the fulfillment of prophecy on Palm Sunday is incredibly powerful.
Adrian Rogers illustrates in one of his sermons “the probability of 1 man fulfilling just 8 of the prophecies referring to the Messiah is 1 in 100 Trillion.” To further illustrate he said, “Suppose we take 100 trillion silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They would cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.” By the way, that is just the possibility of one man fulfilling 8 prophecies. Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies the first time He came, and we see it happening again on Palm Sunday.
Notice one more thing before we move on. Jesus titled Himself on Palm Sunday. He caleld Himself, “Lord.” He instructed His disciples that if anyone tried to stop them or say, “Hey, man, what are you doing with my donkey?” or something to that effect 🙂 they were to say, “The Lord needs it.” “Lord” was absolutely a reference to Jesus’ messianic identity. Another one of those Messianic Psalms is Psalm 110 which begins with these words: “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Psalm 110:1. In Luke 20, just one chapter after our text, Jesus referred to Psalm 110:1 when He engaged the Pharisees concerning the very title, “Lord.” (See Luke 20:41-44)
- Jesus corrected the clerics, not the crowd.
Just like there has been today, there was a whole lot of praising going on that day. There were physical acts of praise as people threw their cloaks down on the road to make a special entryway for Jesus and as they waved palm branches to welcome Jesus. (I should point out that Luke’s Gospel doesn’t mention the palm branches, but the other three gospel writers do, so they were definitely part of the celebration. Palm branches were waved whenever there was a great military victory.
The cloaks on the road business was simply a sign of respect for a king. If you read II Kings 9:13 you will read that after Elisha the prophet anointed King Jehu, people took their cloaks and spread them out in front of him to walk on. It was a sign of a willingness to submit to a king’s reign.
There were audible acts of praise as people shouted in loud voices. Their praise pointed to the mission of Jesus. In their praises they spoke of a king. They talked about peace. They sang of God’s glory. Pretty cool is the striking similarity between the message the angels heralded at Jesus’ birth and the message the people were shouting in praise of Him that day.
And the content of their praise also connected back to Psalm 118 which is referred to as a Messianic Psalm. By reciting those very words the crowd gathered there was basically hailing Jesus as the promised Messiah. That didn’t sit well with the religious leaders, the Pharisees. They weren’t ready to give up their position or authority to any Messiah. They told Jesus to tell the people to pipe down and to turn off their praise.
Jesus wouldn’t have it. He corrected the Pharisees, the religious clerics of the day. While at other times He tried to stay incognito, while at other times He asked people to keep their miracles a sort of secret, while at other times Jesus tried to slip into the shadows, today wasn’t that kind of day. This was a dramatic change for Jesus as Jesus was calling all the shots and was deliberately declaring Who He was. The fact that Jesus didn’t rebuke them was further proof that He WAS the Messiah. Here is the thing: Jesus wasn’t going to correct people for doing something right! He WAS worthy of praise. He IS worthy of praise, and on the Palm Sunday He was receiving the praise that was due Him.
- Jesus cried over those who didn’t recognize Him for who He was.
Verse 41 tells us Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. What do you think went through people’s minds as they saw Jesus being honored in the midst of this festive celebration and then they saw Him cry. Wouldn’t that have seemed strange? Would people have questioned why someone who was being so lauded and praised could all of the sudden be so sad? It was as if in that moment that Jesus was reminded there would be those who would never receive Him. In spite of their recognition, in spite of their praise in a moment in time, in spite of the power He had displayed and the miracles that had been witnessed, He would go to the cross for a whole mess of people who would never be redeemed. He was weeping over lost souls; not only the souls in Jerusalem, but I have to believe He was weeping over the souls through the ages that would be lost forever.
He also saw the future when Jerusalem would be destroyed by Rome in AD 70. It would be leveled as a judgment against His own people who received Him not. How could people shout “Hosanna!” one day and “Crucify!” the next? It’s because they wanted a certain kind of King. The wanted relief from Rome. Jesus never would be a political or earthly king. His Kingdom isn’t of this world. Many wanted earthly prosperity. Jesus didn’t come to make life easy. He came to help us through the tough times by allowing us to be in relationship with Him. Jesus didn’t come to overthrow Rome and occupy Jerusalem. He came to overthrow sin and occupy our hearts. Jesus wept for those who couldn’t see beyond their earthly experience and selfish desires. Does Jesus weep for you?
- Jesus cleaned house.
Jesus wasn’t too happy with the happenings at the temple. Look again at verse 45: 45 Then he entered the temple area and began driving 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.'”
The clergy of the day had turned the place of worship into a place where they could cheat people and pursue personal gain. That’s bad, right? When the clergy aren’t concerned about the things of God, but are using the things of God for the things of the world? That is a big problem, and is one we see at work in our world today in many settings.
Here is the fundamental problem: The religious leaders had set themselves up as the authority. When that happened, they could do as they pleased, or so they thought. You see, people were supposed to find the best sheep from their flocks to bring to Jerusalem to sacrifice as an offering for their sin as they would worship the Lord during passover. However, greedy priests would lie and tell the people that their lambs weren’t worthy of sacrifice and that they might buy a sheep at the temple. Of course, they sold poor quality sheep to the people for more money than they should have.
They also set up a money changing station and were requiring people to use a special temple currency to buy the things that they were selling in the temple. Priests would add fees to change the people’s money from their regular currency into the temple money and would cheat them in that process as well.
Their money-making schemes that surrounded the offering of the sacrifices were taking place in the Court of Gentiles, the part of the temple reserved for non-Jewish people to be able to participate. So, not only were they robbing the Jews and taking advantage of them, they were also infringing on the worship of the Gentiles. The Jews were to have been a light to the Gentiles, and through religious manipulation and extortion they were taking advantage of and marginalizing them. Instead of praying for people they were preying on people! There was nothing right about what was going on there.
And just as Jesus had taken a commanding position before He went to Jerusalem, we see here that He is still in command mode as He takes on the corruption in the Temple. He said, “My house is supposed to be a House of Prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Rev. Campbell Morgan reminds us that a “den of robbers” is a place where thieves run to hide after they have committed their wicked deeds. The religious leaders were using the services of the holy temple to cover up their sins. It’s almost as if they believed that if their deceitful practices were being “done in church” or “done in the name of religion” that they wouldn’t be found out. What does God say about sin? Numbers 32:23 tells us our sin will always be exposed. God will not be mocked. God will not be misrepresented. God will not tolerate wickedness by people who claim to have spiritual authority.
Do you realize this is the second time Jesus cleansed the Temple? The first cleansing took place after His first miracle where He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. So at the beginning of His ministry the temple was cleansed and three years later at the end of His ministry, almost like bookends the temple was cleansed. Was Jesus making a statement about the hearts of people and the need for God’s ongoing cleansing in our own personal temples?
Verse 48 tells us that the people were hanging on His words. Do we hang on Jesus’ every Word? Do we respect His authority? Do we give Him our praise? Does He have our hearts and lives? Do we recognize Him for Who He really is?
Jesus was exercising His authority, and His actions had great weight which further infuriated the chief priests and teachers of the law, so much so that they were looking for a way to kill Jesus. People who live for themselves and the things of this world will always be threatened and angered when Jesus challenges their status quo and their self-made kingdoms.
Not everyone in that Palm Sunday crowd became the cast for the “Crucify Him” crowd, but some did. Jesus isn’t always a convenient presence in people’s lives. Some people don’t like it when He exercises His authority, and they look for ways to remove Him so they can live as they please and don’t have to deal with things like repentance and cleansing.
Most of what Jesus did on on Palm Sunday, He wants to do today. In fact, He wants to do it right now. He wants to take charge of your life and mine. He wants to give specific direction to us regarding His will. He wants to accept our praise. He wants to cleanse us in the temple of our souls and make sure His Spirit is honored in every part of our lives. The only thing He wouldn’t want to do is weep over your eternal destiny, to mourn over your desire to stay in your sin rather than to seek the peace, joy and relationship with God that comes through our Savior Jesus Christ.