Every gospel tells of Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, showing its importance in the life and ministry of the Messiah. Sadly, our children often only view it as an opportunity to make palm branches out of construction paper in Sunday school. More sadly, “worshipers” of Jesus view it only as a religious ritual that they think makes them right with God.
What really happened and why did it? What was going on? What was the point? What did it mean?
When Jesus entered Jerusalem six days before he was crucified, he consciously knew he was the King of Israel and that Israel would reject him.
The reason each gospel writer includes this event from Jesus’ life is to show that Jesus of Nazareth was no ordinary man—he was the Messiah, the King of Israel. That is who was crucified six days later. Jesus of Nazareth Is the Messiah.
Luke’s account of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem gives three important aspects of Jesus the Messiah:
Jesus Perfectly Fulfilled Every Messianic Prophecy, 19:29-35
When Jesus came from Bethany he knew exactly who he was—he had no identity crisis. Earlier he said “the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).
Because he knew who he was, he knew what Scripture had prophesied of him in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
To us this seems incredible—why the foal of a donkey??? If Jesus is really going to make a grand appearance as the King or Israel, get something more impressive! However, in that culture that is exactly what He did! It meant more to the crowd than a stretch limo would today. In OT times, the donkey was the mount of princes (cf. Judg 10:4; 12:14). Particularly with David and his sons, the donkey was the animal this royal family used (2 Sam 18:9; 13:29; 1 King 1:33).
Jesus’ particular, specific choice of this mount shows he understood who he was—the descendant of David. It also shows that Jesus the Messiah, the King of Israel, publicly makes his claim to the throne of David as he entered Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. He is the chosen Son of David to sit on David’s throne (1 King 1:33, 44), the one of whom the prophets had spoken (Zech 9:9)
Because Jesus was the Messiah, the King of Israel, he knew exactly what was required and expected of him and thus fulfilled every prophecy and expectation to a “T”—even what he rode on. Did others recognize this? This passage also shows that
Jesus Was Received As The Messiah, 19:36-40
Prior to this, some 483 years, Daniel the prophet gave the precise date on which the Messiah would come to Jerusalem (Dan 9:24-26). Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on this day was the fulfillment of that prediction. How people responded to Jesus’ entrance would indicate whether they recognized this also. What did they do? Did they recognize who this was?
As Jesus approached Jerusalem, the crowd spread their coats on the road, in essence rolling out the red carpet for him (Luke 19:36). Spreading coats on the road showed honor for royalty (cf. 2 Kings 9:13). In their culture, it was the custom to lay costly rugs before the feet of kings. Consider for example the vast difference between the entrance of the Queen of England and her butler! Everyone knows who the queen is by the procession, pomp, and entourage. What precedes the butler’s entrance? 🙂
The other gospel writers also tell that the crowd cut palm branches and laid them in front of Jesus. Palm branches signified victory and prosperity (cf. Lev 23:38-40), and for some time in Israel the palm branch was the national symbol of their hope and expectation that the Messiah would come and liberate them from foreign, idolatrous oppression.
Luke also tells us that the crowd praised God “for all the miracles they had seen” (19:37). One particular recent miracle of Jesus’ was raising Lazarus from the dead. John 12:17-18 tells us “so the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.”
The Jews in anticipation of the Messiah would often quote and sing Psalm 118. Note 118:25-26—“O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.”
Note from Luke 19:37-38 what the crowd said when Jesus entered Jerusalem as they spread their coats and palm branches before him—their words makes it clear that they recognized who Jesus was, the Messiah, the King of Israel. From all these actions it looks like the people understood what was going on!
Throughout Jesus’ career, the Pharisees opposed him. Thus, when they saw the crowd’s activity and Jesus’ apparent agreement with it, they did not like it (v. 39)! The Pharisees knew exactly what was going on with the garments, palm branches, and “Hosannas”—Jesus was clearly identifying himself as the Messiah, and Jesus’ did not disagree with their assessment one bit (19:40).
How did Jesus respond to all this?
Jesus as the Messiah Recognized the Crowd’s Insincerity, 19:41-44
Sadly, despite Jesus’ clear fulfillment of every prophecy that showed him to be the Messiah, and despite the words and actions of the crowd in apparent agreement with that, Jesus knew what was in their hearts (19:41-42). Jesus knew that in a matter of days the same crowd that praised him would condemn him. They rejected him as their Messiah because they refused to submit to who he was and what he taught.
Jesus foretold what their rejection of him would mean for them. In Luke 19:43 Jesus tells of Rome’s conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The soldiers surrounded the city and used embankments around the city to conquer it. In Luke 19:44 Jesus foretells how the Romans would demolish the city and kill its inhabitants. This judgment came because the nation failed to embrace Jesus as their Messiah.
What was so important and significant about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt? It proved publicly to everyone, beyond any doubt, who he was—the Messiah, the King of Israel, God incarnate.
What do you need to see from this passage? You need to believe that Jesus was not merely a “good man” or a “religious teacher”—he was God in the flesh. Your faith in him must be genuine—anyone can shout praise to God or make a profession of faith to Christ. You cannot expect any religious activity or ritual to make you right with God. Israel thought that way, and they received God’s judgment; don’t expect anything less!
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, April 1, 2007