On his last Sabbath while his followers were sleeping soundly, Jesus got up as dawn was breaking. The eastern sky glowed with purple, crimson, and yellow. He silently left them to their dreams and climbed up the Mount of Olives to be alone with the Father.
His Fathers world had changed since he walked on his lonely explorations around Nazareth, listening to the birds sing and watching the lilies of the field open as they beckoned insects to enter. That time of innocence had passed. He was about to complete his Fathers work in Jerusalem and return to heaven so that the Holy Spirit may indwell all the followers who truly understood who he was and believed in him. He prayed for all those who had come into his life and became his friends. His last week before the cross was upon him, and he prayed for the strength to endure it as the Son of Man.
Just as the sun began to rise and reveal the top of the golden temple, he sat down on a rock at the top, looking westward toward the great city. It looked so peaceful, contrary to the turmoil that was about to take place. He remembered when he first saw it as a boy of twelve. How innocent it looked; but what corruption lay underneath its holy temple. Smoke from the morning sacrifice now began to rise above the altar. Even with all those animal sacrifices throughout the ages, his own people could not connect them with the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. So soon would their Lords Messiah be put to death, and later their whole temple destroyed and Israel scattered.
He put his head into his hands and began to weep, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that murders the prophets and stones Gods messengers! How often I have longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings; but you would not let me. Then he raised his head and pointed, Look! There is your Temple, forsaken by God. You will not see me until the time comes when you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
The sun rose higher, bathing the entire city in golden light. The sleeping city awakened to celebrate the Sabbath and coming Passover. All around him, family groups were camped on hillsides, and streams of pilgrims were coming on the roads from the north and from Jericho. His time alone was over. The Savior got up and returned to his closest friends in Bethany for the remainder of the Sabbath.
Now it was Palm Sunday, first day of Passion Week. Time of the end had come. People had begun to gather at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus shortly after sunrise expecting to accompany their Lord and Messiah on his entry into the Holy City as King of the Jews and Heir of Davids royal line, with all of the symbolic and prophetic importance that attached to it. He would allow them this one moment of Messianic glory to fulfill all prophecy; yet, not as Israels human idea of its Messiah, but deeply and significantly expressive of his mission and work. Not in the proud triumph of war conquests, but in the meek rule of peace.
In the afternoon, Jesus and his followers came near the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. He sent Peter and John ahead with these instructions, Go into the village and you will see a donkey tied there with its colt that has never been ridden. Untie the colt and bring it here. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say The Lord needs it and will return it soon.
The two disciples entered the village and found the young donkey standing in the street, tied outside a house just as the Master had said. As they were untying it, the owners asked them, Why are you untying our colt?
Peter and John simply replied, The Lord needs it and will return it soon. As predicted, the owners of the colt understood their purpose and granted its use for the solemn entry into the city. Then the apostles brought the young donkey to Jesus and threw their garments over it in the form of a saddle, and made a bridle of rope. He sat on it; and even though it had never been ridden, the animal submitted perfectly to its rider, fulfilling prophecy of Scripture:
Do not be afraid, people of Israel.
Here is your King,
who comes to you in gentleness,
riding on a donkey,
on the foal of a beast of burden.
News spread rapidly throughout the countryside that Messiah was on his way to Jerusalem. More people joined the procession as they reached the place where the road started down from the Mount of Olives. Breathtaking beauty of the city momentarily stilled the clamor of the crowd.
In the silence, only one voice was heard, torn by anguish almost beyond bearing, I wish that even today you would find the way of peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you have rejected the opportunity God offered you. Jesus voice broke on the last word and he turned his eyes away, reaching blindly for the rope as he started his donkey moving again.
When he started riding down the hill, his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. Pilgrims who had camped on the hillsides joined them and their numbers increased. Two streams of huge crowds met outside the cityone coming from Bethany and surrounding hillsides, and another pouring through Jerusalems gates. They began waiving palm branches with hosanna shouts of welcome. Some stretched their cloaks along the rough path to form a momentary carpet as Jesus approached; others cut down branches from trees and gardens through which they passed and strewed them as crude matting in front of him while they joined the procession. He was in the center of the multitude and soon the welcoming praise rose to a much higher pitch:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Peace and glory in highest heaven!
The Twelve walked near the Lord almost as in a dream, seemingly dazzled by a brilliant light around a succession of partially understood surprises. But all their doubts and fears about Christs previous warnings of his death were swept away by his actions and the tide of the crowd. The prophet of Nazareth, whose actions now firmly declared him the Messiah, was boldly coming into Jerusalem.
In the multitude coming from the city, most were stranger pilgrims. They asked, Who is this?
The crowds shouted back, It is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee! Fire leapt from heart to heart. Here was the promised Son of Davidthe kingdom was at hand! Old and new Davidic praise merged in their acclamations, and Christ was given more than the ordinary pilgrim welcome.
The Pharisees who had mingled with the crowd turned to one another with angry frowns. One of them made a desperate appeal to the Master to rebuke his followers zeal, Teacher, restrain your disciples!
Jesus had been outwardly silent among this enthusiastic crowd, although deeply moved inwardly. But he could be silent no longer. With a touch of quick and righteous indignation, he called back, If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would shout aloud!
Into the Temple
The excitable fickle populace streamed around him through the city gates, through the narrow streets, and up the Temple mount. Everywhere the tramp of their feet and the shout of their acclamations brought men, women, and children into the streets and on the housetops.
But Christ did not publicly announce himself as Messiah and King, even though he had every right and the people were expecting it. Instead, he went inside the Temple on the Porch of Solomon where he always taught. With rapt attention the multitude hung entranced on his words, astonished by those new and blessed truths. As he spoke, poor sufferersblind and lameflocked in from the porches and Temple mount to get healing of body and soul. He healed them all while the leading priests and teachers of the law watched; his actions spoke louder than words. The Pharisees wondered what he would do next.
Nearby, a group of little children was listening to one of the rabbis. When they saw Jesus, they left the rabbi and flocked around their true Shepherd. The young ones looked in rapt wonderment and enthusiasm to the Godlike face of the Christ and then on those healed sufferers. In their simple understanding they, too, took up the echoes of welcome, Hosanna to the Son of David! It rang throughout the courts and porches of the Temple.
Some of the chief priests faces turned red with anger when they heard the childrens adoration. Such an act was an affront to their priests and rabbis. Once more in their impotent anger they sought to silence the voices of the young, Do you hear what these children are saying?
The Savior reprimanded them, Yes, I heard. Have you not read the Scriptures? For they say, You have taught children and infants to give you praise. These childrens voices were angels echoes of the far-off praises of heaven. Not from the great, wise, and learned; but from out of the mouth of babes has he perfected praise. This is the music of the Gospel.
The Pharisees said to each other, We are getting nowhere. Look, the whole world has gone after him!
To the excited multitude, this seemed a day of triumph and the establishment of a political Messianic kingdom on earth; but it was truly an introduction of another kingdom in which the King was the Prince of Peace. His disciples did not realize this was a fulfillment of prophecy until the time Jesus entered into his glory. Only then did they remember that these very Scriptures had come true before their eyes. However, the anger and jealousy of the Pharisees proved they understood it, and watched for opportunity for revenge.
At days end, the Son of God alone was silent among the excited multitude. He looked around upon all things to view the form of worship he was about to replace. Now the shadows of evening were creeping up, and once more he wearily returned with the Twelve to the shelter and rest of Bethany.