FLOWER MOUND, Tx., March 12, 2012— Bright sun rays pierced Palestinian skies and illuminated the glorious Herodian temple and its courtyards. Excitement was in the air as the news spread from the small village of Bethany to Bethphage that the one being called “the Messiah” was about to enter Jerusalem.
It was Monday March 30, 33 AD. Prophets had spoken of such a day, the Psalmist sang of it, and the Messiah was to fulfill it. No greater day could be anticipated. Some celebrated it as a triumphal entry others mourned it as the tragic end of great promise.
The faithful began to collect palm branches for the occasion. A young girl, Ruth took great pride in stripping the Palm branches from the nearby trees. For her the occasion marked a special significance for her people. She pondered the event and recalled her grandmother’s stories about the days when the Jewish kings of the Hasmonian period ruled their beloved Israel and they remembered the joy of a period of independence and self-government.
Now the hated Romans were in control, but the Messiah would soon overthrow them and once again God’s chosen would rule Judea. “The palm branch symbolized this glorious period,” Grandma used to say with pride in her low soft-like voice. Now little Ruth began to gently swing the branches back and forth as if singing with the early morning breeze.
While the day was pleasant with expectations swelling, no one could imagine that within a few hours the occasion would turn ugly. Jesus had recently brought forth Lazarus from among the dead and the incensed Pharisees had issued an arrest warrant. Six days before Passover, Jesus returned to the small village of Bethany where the resurrected Lazarus and family made their home. This warm and loving home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus became Jesus’ rallying point for the annual Passover.
The “Triumphal Entry,” (Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:28-40) celebrated in the Christian world on Palm Sunday, may have actually taken place on Monday. This event was the official presentation of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem sets up a final confrontation with the Jewish leadership of Israel. It was time for the people to make a choice—Jesus or Rome!
As the disciples reached Bethphage, just east of Jerusalem, Jesus motioned to John and Peter to step forward for an errand. Jesus’ choice of these two seemed to suggest they were the most trusted. An honor they relished. But then Jesus gave them some unusual instructions. They were to find an unbroken donkey for him to ride into Jerusalem. They were somewhat stunned and queried among themselves, “What a peculiar request! Can’t he enter Jerusalem in a more dignified and powerful way than on the back of a donkey?
They suddenly remembered that Jesus’ had taught them about a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 that said the Messiah would enter the city in just such a manner.
To mark the important event, enthusiastic followers lay a carpet of garments and palm branches before him. At this point the crowd recognized his messianic office and anticipated what they thought would be the inauguration of their king. The irony is that Jesus came into Jerusalem on a common beast of burden not as a triumphant king with great pomp and circumstances. This king was different.
Mary and Martha had spent the last couple of days cleaning the house, purchasing supplies, and preparing for their friend and the leader of the disciples who would be spending a few days with them in Bethany.
Jesus’ last week officially began at Bethphage on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. Bethphage was the outer limits of the city and today the Franciscan Chapel commemorates the site. From here Jesus climbed upon the back of a donkey and began his final trip into his beloved Jerusalem. His short trip led him over the Mount of Olives, down the Kidron Valley, entering the city, perhaps through a gate near the Spring of Siloam, up the steps near the modern St. Peter in Gallicantu Church and into the walled city of Jerusalem.
The rest of the Passion Week is filled with events that consume more space than any of the other events recorded in the Gospel accounts. The basis of Christianity rests firmly on the outcomes of these momentous events. The intrigue, the plots, the mysteries, and suspense fill the pages of Scripture like a well-written novel. This historical event however, ends in the payment of sin and the reconciliation of sinners to a just and holy God.
While the plot continues to be played out in the 21st century, the last episode in this story has been scripted for an undetermined and final “reality show” of the season—a future fulfillment.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.