Episode 117 - Sunday: The “Triumphal" Entry, part 2
Hey I’m Josh Hawkins, welcome to episode 117 of Opening Up the Gospels. In the last episode we started looking at the events of Passion Week, the final week of Jesus’ life before His crucifixion at the Passover in 29AD. We began with what many have called “the triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem on Sunday. All four Gospels narrate this scene, and we discovered a few significant things: first, that Jesus sent two disciples away to bring Him a donkey on which no one had yet sat. This is what He rode for perhaps a couple of miles as He left Bethany and then came to Jerusalem. Second, the crowds who were lauding Jesus affirmed Him as the promised king of Israel, the son of David, the long expected ruler who would restore Jerusalem and bring all of God’s promises to pass. They may have been sincere, but their enthusiasm was shallow and misguided. And third, we looked at the difference between the crowds on Sunday versus the crowds on Friday, the morning when He is crucified. I talked about how the Sunday crowd was comprised of people who had followed Jesus from Jericho and Bethany as well as those who had already arrived for the feast and came out of Jerusalem to see Jesus on account of His raising of Lazarus from the dead. Then the crowd on Friday, the ones who would shout “crucify Him! crucify Him!” was comprised of those who lived in Jerusalem as well as the Pharisees and other Jewish authorities who had hated Jesus for the past couple of years. There was no great turning of sentiment toward Jesus that happened in Jerusalem that week. And finally, I mentioned how the label “triumphal entry” really is a bit of a misnomer because Jesus wasn’t really entering the city in some sort of triumphal victory at all. He was there to be crucified. His triumphal entry certainly will certainly come on a real day in the future, however, when He defeats Israel’s enemies, establishes His everlasting kingdom of righteousness, and restores all creation as the Law and the Prophets have declared. Now there’s still more to talk about from this scene on Sunday, so let’s get back into the Gospels, starting with Luke 19:
"And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”"
(Luke 19:41–44 ESV)
Luke says that Jesus draws near Jerusalem, and when He saw it, He wept over it. Before we too quickly look over this verse, let me paint a bit of a picture for you. The path to Jerusalem from the east was not a wide, paved roadway. The terrain was rocky, narrow, and winding, and the Mount of Olives (which is probably more like what we would call a large hill) is what blocks the view of Jerusalem on the approach. Olive trees and fig trees dot the landscape and line the path. Check out this short quote from Alfred Edersheim in his book on the life of Christ:
"Gradually the long procession swept up and over the ridge where first begins ‘the descent of the Mount of Olives’ towards Jerusalem. At this point the first view is caught of the southeastern corner of the City. The Temple and the more northern portions are hid by the slope of Olivet on the right; what is seen is only Mount Zion…at that time it rose, terrace upon terrace, from the Palace of the Macabees and that of the High-Priest, a very city of palaces, till the eye rested in the summit on that castle, city, and palace, with its frowning towers and magnificent gardens, the royal abode of Herod, supposed to occupy the very seat of the Palace of David.”
Imagine the crowds - the pilgrims from all over following, and the crowds from Jerusalem coming out to see Jesus. They all want to get closer and just get a glimpse of Him, having heard so many astonishing things about Him. The path dips and rises once again up to a ridge where in an instant the entire city of Jerusalem just bursts into view. And it was probably here where Jesus’ outward demeanor changes almost instantly. Think about it - the crowds are festive, they are throwing down their cloaks and waving palm branches, shouting with excitement. Then all of a sudden, Jesus is doubled over on top of the donkey, weeping after He sees Jerusalem for the first time on this journey. Now the Greek word Luke uses here for “wept” is very different from the Greek word John’s gospel uses in John 11:35 when Jesus wept in front of Mary and Martha because of the death of Lazarus. In John, the word used can mean that tears welled up in the eyes and it implies a gentle sobbing. But in Luke, the word used is closer to a wailing or a loud lamentation. Now what must the pilgrims have been thinking as Jesus begins heaving with lamentation? How long did it take for a hush to settle over the crowds until they could only stare at Jesus in awkward silence? Jesus would be the one to break it, pulling Himself up, showing His tear-covered face and swollen eyes to them, and saying that the city of Jerusalem would soon be surrounded on every side and reduced to rubble because they did not rightly respond to God’s direct appeal to them to bear the fruits of repentance.
Now the judgment that Jesus pronounces on Jerusalem here is not novel or revolutionary. In fact, it’s exactly what the prophets have been saying to Israel. Why will disaster come upon them? Because God had made a covenant with them at Mount Sinai, and He is being faithful to that covenant. According to Deuteronomy 28, the blessings of the covenant were contingent upon their obedience, and the curses would be the result of their disobedience. Look at what Deuteronomy 28 says:
"“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God… The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you… And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you… But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you... The Lord will make the pestilence stick to you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it… The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies... The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young… They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land… And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known."
(Deuteronomy 28:1–68 ESV)
There is so much in Deuteronomy 28 and the surrounding chapters that explains pretty much all of Israel’s history and God’s dealings with the nation. Jesus is pronouncing judgment upon Jerusalem, and in about 40 years from this moment, in 70AD, His words would come to pass when the Roman armies would siege the city and destroy the Temple. And to this day, the curses of the covenant remain upon them. Moses and the prophets describe an even greater trial ahead for the people of Israel, a greater scattering and final shattering of their power that will culminate in their repentance. Then and only then will the humble king who rode on a donkey to the Mount of Olives return on a white horse to split that same mountain in two, defeat His enemies, restore the nation, and enact all of God’s promises.
Now Jesus would have entered the city from the east, since the Mount of Olives and Bethany was to the east, and thus would have likely entered in through the Susa Gate on the eastern wall, which opened directly into the Temple courts. It would have been later in the day at this point. Mark’s Gospel tells us a little more:
"And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve."
(Mark 11:11 ESV)
So Jesus went into the Temple and looked around at everything. Now I don’t think we should understand this as Jesus just going in to hang out with the people or just see the marble and gold in the Temple. I believe there’s far more than just simple curiosity going on here. Remember, almost two years ago to the day, Jesus had come into the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out those who sold animals. We looked at that event from John 2 back in Episode 49. And this Passover feast in 29AD is the first one He has been to since the beginning of His public ministry, because as I’ve talked about back in Episode 79, He didn’t attend the Feast in Jerusalem in 28AD. So I believe Jesus is coming into the Temple to see if anything had changed - to see if the people there had actually borne the fruits of repentance. So this “looking around at everything” is a careful searching, examining, and judging. Had the Temple system and the leadership changed at all? Was there any evidence of repentance? Unfortunately there was none. Jesus spoke a parable back in Luke 13 that is applicable here:
"And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”"
(Luke 13:6–9 ESV)
This parable will be significant as we look at the next scene the Gospels record for us, which is the cursing of the fig tree on the way back into Jerusalem on Monday morning. As Jesus returns to Bethany for the night with still slightly puffy eyes and tear-stained clothes, what was going through His mind and heart? What must the disciples have been thinking? Jesus knew what was about to happen to Him in a few days, and still would yet return to try and appeal again to the people. We’ll continue looking at Passion Week in the next episode, so be sure to come back then. In the meantime, you can find all past episodes in this series on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, see you next time.