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Reading through the Gospels #157


Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19

All four of the gospels

See index to the 2023 Lenten study

The story in John 12:1 tells us it took place 6 days before the Passover, and then 12:12 tells us he is arriving for this feast, the feast of unleavened bread which is associated with Passover.  The people came to Jerusalem with lambs because Jewish law required that the Passover lamb live with the family for at least three days before sacrifice (Exodus 12:3-6). When Jesus came and went into Jerusalem, lambs for sacrifice may have surrounded Him as everyone else was walking into town with their lamb. Jesus did not bring a lamb because He Himself was the Lamb of God. Passover, also called Pesach is a major Jewish holiday that celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites escape from slavery in Egypt. The story of Passover is in Exodus 12. Verses 12:13-14 " The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast." 

(Do an internet search for a map for Jerusalem, Bethphage, and Bethany)

Jesus and his disciples were at the Mount of Olives about to arrive at Jerusalem. Bethphage and Bethany are both on the Mount of Olives, being close to each other. Bethany is where Jesus stayed before entering Jerusalem. Bethphage (according to Matthew) was where Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead of Him to get a colt (Mark) or donkey (John) that was tied up and had never been ridden. Now how did He know that colt would be there? Oh right! He's God! Jesus also knew that someone would ask why they were untying the colt and, sure enough, it happened just as He said, with the disciples explaining that Jesus, Lord, needed it. The other thought is that Jesus prearranged with this person to have the colt there.

The use of a colt or a donkey fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!” (John) "“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” (Matthew)

Zechariah 9:9  "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Zechariah repeated the description of the animal in that it was not just a donkey, but it was a colt, and not just a colt, but a foal of a donkey. This seems to indicate that this donkey was purebred and fit for royalty.  A mule is half horse (mom) and half donkey (dad), so that would not have been a fitting animal for a king. A "colt" is an uncastrated male and less than four years old, also indicating it is whole and fit for a king. A "foal" could be either sex and young, but here it is used to specify the mother was a donkey and not a horse.

Jesus was humble. Jesus was lowly. He could have walked into Jerusalem just as He had been walking, but that would not have fulfilled prophesy or made the statement that He was King. He did not come riding into the city on a great stallion like a victorious king followed by all of his captives and spoils of war and armies of men. Jesus was a different kind of king. John 12:16 indicates that the disciples did not understand until the people started shouting and glorifying Jesus and then they remembered the scripture and could see it being fulfilled before their own eyes. I too love understanding that Jesus was being glorified as the King of Kings entering on a humble donkey. We call this event the "triumphal entry," but Jesus had not yet been victorious, yet it was to come. However, it was very much like a king who rode into town after winning a battle or a war.

He did not need to show off on a stately high horse, but instead He was who He is and allowed that to speak to the people. Jesus had fed many with only two fish and a loaf of bread. Jesus had healed many. Jesus had cast out demons. Jesus had raised people from the dead. Jesus did not need to make Himself into something more important as the people already had witnessed how important He was through His actions. John 12:17-18 specifically says that the crowds who witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead were continuing to witness about what they had seen and that these crowds were those who heard about that witness. They must have believed what they heard about Jesus. The One who could raise someone from the dead could certainly save them from the rule of Caesar, a cruel and oppressive leader. Now that would have been someone to shout about. Now that would be someone to get behind and support! If there was someone today that I thought could miraculously cure the hunger and sickness around the whole world, I'd be cheering for Him too!

The two disciples brought the colt to Jesus and they both threw their cloaks onto the colt. The cloaks were tunics worn over the other clothes. Cloaks were long down to the ankles so they were big pieces of fabric that covered a large area. Jesus got on the colt and then other people began throwing their cloaks on the ground in front of Jesus. Then people began throwing leafy branches they had cut from the fields. Today we use palm branches for those leafy branches and we call this day Palm Sunday. This seems to be a moment of change as Jesus spent much of his life being rejected and now he was accepted by a huge crowd lining the streets like a long parade. There were those that still rejected Him, but the numbers of those accepting Him were growing. Kings and queens have the red carpet rolled out before them, but Jesus had a carpet of cloaks and leafy branches. Jesus often discouraged public displays celebrating Him, but now was the time to let it happen as Jesus knew what the coming days held.

Jesus was surrounded as there were people going before Him and people following after Him as He rode the colt into town. The people shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”(Mark) We often repeat this phrase, but leave out the middle sentence. I wonder why we do that nowadays. Or “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew) Or "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John) 

The people were repeating Psalm 118:25-26 "Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD."

Hosanna in Hebrew phrase means "Please save us." Hosanna is a plea for God to save us. “Hosanna! Save me!” The people wanted to be saved from trials and afflictions, such as hunger, sickness, and oppression as they had seen Jesus's miracles do these things, but they did not understand that Jesus had come to save them from their sins as the Lamb of God.

[Psalm 106:1a says, "Praise the Lord!" Alleluia could also be put in that sentence as "Praise" and "Alleluia" are the same in Hebrew. "Praise the Lord" and "Hallelujah" actually mean "Flash Forth the Name of Yahweh!" This makes us think of sudden bursts of lightening, energy, and power that is found in the name of God. Genesis 1:3 describes the creating of light, "And God said, Let there by light," and there was light. The word for "let there by" is Yahweh! He uses His own name to flash forth the creation of the world. It's a fantastic picture. --From Visual Faith Ministry Life to Death, Death to Life, Jesus's Journey for My Life" by Carolyn Bira]

Maps today show the temple to be the first thing you come to when entering Jerusalem from Bethphage, so the entire route was outside the city. Yet by the end of the route, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” and the reply was "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee." (Matthew) I can just imagine people busy about their home or work suddenly becoming aware of the noise of the crowds and inquiring what was going on. Not just half the city nearby, but the whole city of Jerusalem knew who Jesus was after His ride on a donkey.

John 12:19 lets us know that the Pharisees were also in the crowds and said to each other “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” The enemies of Jesus were certainly frustrated that His following was growing. There was no hiding from the enemy. Luke 19:39-40 says, "And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  The Pharisees did not like the shouting crowds and wanted Jesus to tell them to be quiet. Jesus replies that if he would quiet the people, the His creation would shout out praises. No one can stop the praises to Jesus.

In Luke 41-44, we read a bit that is not in the other Gospels in that when Jesus was almost to the city, he wept over it. I can envision Jesus on the donkey with crowds of people praising Him, and yet he is focused and crying over the City. Then he spoke out loud. Did the people keep shouting or was there a hush to listen to Him? Jesus seems to be speaking to the Pharisees and those that did not see the peace that He was bringing. Then Jesus shared a prophecy of destruction and of what was to come for the City of Jerusalem.

When Jesus arrive in Jerusalem He went to the temple. He looked around at everything and then He and the twelve disciples went back to Bethany. (Mark)

Copyright Cheryl Rutledge-Brennecke
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