Hosannah – Oh Save Us!
John 11:55-57, 12:1, 12-15; “And the Jews’ Passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”
12:1 “Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. 14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.”
Imagine yourself as one of those who went to Jerusalem for Passover, and watching Jesus ride into town on a donkey. Mark 11:7-11;
“And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. 8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strewed them in the way. 9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. 11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.”
For a moment today just stop – take a moment– think about the scene, and what was taking place in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago.
Zechariah 9:9 was being fulfilled right before your very eyes…
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”
Jesus entered the “Gate of Mercy” (also known as the Golden Gate) upon His arrival into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Matthew 21:1-11 tells us of the disciples going to fetch the donkey, and the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem.
The significance of riding upon a donkey needs a quick look. Being a Westerner in the twenty-first century can make it easy to lose, or overlook the nuances of what God is telling us in this passage. When we stop to investigate the scripture it reveals to us why people reacted the way they did at that time, and brings us a richer understanding of the Lord.
First, let’s take notice of Jesus’ demeanor. While people were shouting hosannas, Jesus sat on the colt in soberness while riding into the City of David. He wasn’t pumping his fists in victory as a politician might do with a triumphal win. Rather, Jesus led the procession of people following Him over the road the Good Samaritan took from Jericho. This road overlooked the town of Bethany where He resurrected His friend Lazarus, and then He rode up into Jerusalem that sat on a hill.
Jesus went about doing what His Father had instructed Him to do. Upon a donkey, He rode into Jerusalem and wept…
Luke 19:41-44; “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
Jesus’ tears were a foretelling of what awaited the city. In less than three short decades, the destruction of the temple would take place, along with the slaughter of thousands of Israelites with the Jewish uprising in 70 AD.
At the time Jesus rode into Jerusalem donkeys were domesticated, and used as a beast of burden. They were ridden by nonmilitary personnel (Numbers 22:21, Judges 10:4, 1 Samuel 25:20), and as the Lord shows us in scripture, were also ridden upon by Israel’s kings (2 Sam 18:9; 19:26). We even see Solomon riding upon a colt when his father David commissioned him as king of Israel (1 Kings 1:32-40).
The word colt in the Greek is polos, meaning young. Anything could be a colt, even a turtle. The word was used to describe the age of an animal, not the animal itself. The donkey (hupozugion in Greek) Jesus wanted, in addition to being young, also needed to be unused. The donkey was to be set apart, consecrated, for a specific use, which in this case was to be for the Master.
Notice the reaction of the owner of the donkey when the disciples told them it was for the Master. Mark 11:4-6 reveals no one said a word. This tells us they knew. By the time the disciples had gone into town to retrieve the colt, Jesus was well known. Everyone in the region had heard of Lazarus’ resurrection, and the multiple healings He had performed.
“And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? 6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.”
The symbolism of the cloaks shant be lost either when we read of the disciples’ actions in placing their cloaks upon the donkey, and the crowd placing their cloaks on the road.
“And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. 36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.”
Placing a cloak on the pathway of someone entering an area or even a home was a way to bring special honor to that person. 2 Kings 9:13 reminds us of when the people laid their garments on the bare steps for King Jehu.
“Then they hasted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs, and blew with trumpets, saying, Jehu is king.”
While some were placing their cloaks on the pathway, Mark 11:8 tells us still others were placing palm branches on the ground for his entry.
“And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.”
In the Greco-Roman tradition of the time, palm branches were waved as the triumphant victor of a battle rode into a village or province, or they served simply to signify a victory in a court case.
At this time of year, the city and roads were clogged to the breaking point with visitors arriving from all over to celebrate the Holy Feast Days where all three fell within a one week period of time; Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of the Firstfruits. They referred to this week as the Passover Feast.
Attendance at the seven annual feasts was prescribed by the Lord in the Laws of the Sinai Covenant, found in the following chapters; Exodus 12, Leviticus 23 and Numbers 23 and attendance was expected.
Deuteronomy 16:16; “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty.”
The 10th of Nisan (also known as Abib/Aviv), fell on a Sunday (we refer to this as Palm Sunday). It’s on this day male lambs or kids, are chosen for the Passover sacrifice which is seen in Exodus 23:3-6;
“Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.”
It’s on this day, Jesus rode into the City of David atop the unused donkey as throngs of people had gathered to attend the required Passover Feast, just as they had been doing since the days of Moses some 1,200-1.400 years earlier. After the perfect lambs were chosen, they were then set aside for the sacrifice that would take place four days later.
How many people were in attendance is unknown, but according to Josephus, the Passover Feasts of 65 AD saw as many as 3,000,000 Israelites who had made the pilgrimage. The year of Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem, notes the Jewish Virtual Library, saw crowds like they’d never seen before.
“As far as can be ascertained, the Passover festival was kept throughout the period of the Second Temple. Josephus records contemporary Passover celebrations in which he estimates that the participants who gathered in Jerusalem to perform the sacrifice in the year 65 C.E., were “not less than three millions” (Jos., Wars, 2:280). The Talmud (Pes. 64b) similarly records: “King Agrippa once wished to take a census of the hosts of Israel. He said to the high priest, ‘Cast your eyes on the Passover offerings.’ He took a kidney from each, and 600,000 pairs of kidneys were found there, twice as many as those who departed from Egypt, excluding those who were unclean and those who were on a distant journey; and there was not a single paschal lamb for which more than ten people had not registered; and they called it: ‘The Passover of the dense throngs.'” Allowing for hyperbole, the account of immense crowds assembled to offer the paschal lamb cannot be too far from historical reality.”
Imagine the crowds…no less than 600,000 families attended the Passover Feast with a lamb being slain for each family of ten or more. Was it a coincidence the Passover Feast saw such an attendance? Yeah, probably not…
As Jesus approached the city, the crowds (also referred to as disciples, meaning those who believed) became larger and the sound of cheering intensified. People began singing praises from Psalm 118:25 as we see in Luke 19:37-38;
“And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.”
And as if on cue, the Pharisees sarcastically stopped Him to ask if He was going to correct those who cheered Him on, but Jesus told them if the people weren’t singing His praise, the stones would – Luke 19:40-41;
“And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
Sadly for many who attended, their thoughts of what Jesus represented as a King wouldn’t be what they were looking for, as we see by the end of the week those same people were yelling for His crucifixion.
Remember, the Jewish day always began at sundown, so tomorrow we’ll be looking at when Jesus overturned the tables at the temple and the rest of His activities for Monday, and the rest of the week.
I so wanted for a small introduction of what happened on Palm Sunday to be readily available for the Mormons to read. I’ve listed short excerpts from His word in hopes of prompting them to investigate further.
The first time I heard of Palm Sunday was the day I got saved – Palm Sunday 1993. As I walked into the small sanctuary of the church I’d begin my Christian life, I noticed what I thought was an odd site. Palm branches littered the floor up and down the aisles of the worship center, and all I could think of was “why would they bring in filthy tree branches to trash their carpeting?” I had no idea what the significance was of this all important day. Within the hour I found myself kneeling upon one of those branches someone had placed on the floor earlier that day!
I pray each and every Mormon will come to know the Jesus I discovered twenty years ago. I pray they’ll see how everything God does is with a determined purpose always pointing us to salvation in His Son! Haven’t you noticed God never throws in something totally random? Everything He does and says, has a deep theological meaning attached.
In these things we can find solace and peace for our weary selves. It’s only after you’ve come to the end of yourself that you realize, and appreciate just what He’s provided in His Son.
May you have a blessed season and day today, as you reflect upon the things He’s provided and preserved for us – all these years later. It’s simply amazing!
With Love in Christ;