THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE:
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON PALM SUNDAY?
“The following day Jesus set out for Jerusalem. Hearing that He was at Bethany, a great crowd had come from Jerusalem to meet Him. They were attracted also by the prospect of seeing Lazarus, whom Jesus had brought back to life. The priests and Pharisees, on the other hand, were angry at His growing fame and the admiration of the people for Him. They were strengthened in their resolve to put Him to death. Indeed they were determined also to put Lazarus to death.
JESUS’ ENEMIES WERE ANGRY AT HIS GROWING FAME
It was the intention of Jesus to enter Jerusalem as the Messias. He wished to fulfil the prophecy of Zacharias [Zechariah], who had foretold that the Messias would enter Jerusalem seated upon an ass. Unwilling, perhaps, to endanger His friends at Bethany, He did not ask them for the animal upon which He would enter the Holy City. Instead, when He drew near to Bethpage, He told His disciples to enter the village and to bring to Him the ass and her colt which they would find there.
THE PROPHECY OF ZACHARIAS WAS TO BE FULFILLED
When the disciples returned with the ass and her colt, some of those present spread their cloaks over the colt. Jesus then mounted and started for Jerusalem. The people, apparently accepting Him as the Messiah, did what they could to make His entrance into the city a royal procession. Some spread their cloaks on the ground before Him. Others stripped branches from the trees along the way and spread them on the road before Him. Filled with enthusiasm they shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest!’ (Matthew 21:9).
‘HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!’
Some of the Pharisees, who had come to watch Him, objected to the behaviour of the crowd. They would not accept Jesus as the Messias, nor did they wish the people to do so. ‘Master,’ they said to Him, ‘rebuke thy disciples’ (Luke 19:39). But Jesus, knowing that the time had come for Him to accomplish His mission, insisted upon being acclaimed as the Messias. ‘I tell you,’ He said to the Pharisees, ‘that if these keep silence, the stones will cry out’ (Luke 19:40). Up to this moment Jesus had accepted the title of Messias only from His most intimate disciples. But, on this day, the first Palm Sunday, He allowed the people to hail Him as the Son of David, the Messias Who comes in the name of the Lord.
HE IS COMING TO FULFIL GOD’S PLAN FOR THE SALVATION OF MANKIND
The occasion is a solemn one. Jesus, the Messias, the Anointed One of God, is about to enter Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. He is coming to fulfil God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Though His disciples and the people are hailing Him as a King He alone realises fully that His kingdom is not a temporal, earthly kingdom, but a spiritual and eternal kingdom. And, in spite of His warnings to His disciples, He alone accepts the fact that His kingdom will be established, not by a triumphant revolt against the power of the Roman Empire but by his own suffering and death.
JESUS FORESEES JERUSALEM’S DOOM
Thus, when Jesus comes within sight of Jerusalem He is overwhelmed with sorrow at the thought that God’s Holy City will reject Him, refusing to acknowledge Him as the Messias, as, in fact, the very Son of God. He weeps over the city, and in His anguish He says to it, ‘If thou hadst known, in this thy day, even thou, the things that are for thy peace! But now they are hidden from thy eyes’ (Luke 19:42).
‘SEEKING ONLY WORLDLY GLORY’
Jerusalem will have none of His spiritual kingdom. It will seek only earthly glory. It will waste its strength and its hope in a futile attempt to oust the Romans from Palestine. Foreseeing its doom, Jesus prophesies to it, ‘For days will come upon thee when thy enemies will throw up a rampart about thee and shut thee in on every side, and will dash thee also to the ground and thy children within thee, and will not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation’ (Luke 19:43-44).
JESUS’ WORDS WERE HEARD BY BOTH JEWS AND REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GENTILES
Jesus then continued on His way to the city. In Jerusalem He went to the Temple. There, towards evening, the people gathered to listen to Him. In view of His triumphal entrance into the city as the Messias, the people were, no doubt, expecting either a miraculous sign of His power or some announcement about His plans. Jesus took the occasion to tell them how His work for mankind was to be accomplished. Some Gentiles were present with the Jews who had come to worship on the feast. Thus the words of Jesus were heard not only by His Chosen People but also by representatives of the Gentile world.
‘UNLESS A GRAIN OF WHEAT FALLS INTO THE GROUND AND DIES…
‘The hour has come,’ He said, ‘for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. He who loves His life, loses it; and he who hates his life in this world, keeps it unto life everlasting. If anyone serves me, let him follow me; and where I am there also shall my servant be. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him’ (John 12:23-26).
Jesus compares Himself to a grain of wheat. As the grain must die in order to give life to the fruit, so also Jesus must die in order to give life to men. The life of which He speaks is not this present life of the body, but eternal life. Those who prize only the present life of their bodies must inevitably lose that life, and lose, besides, the eternal life with the Father in heaven which Jesus has come to give men. But those who prefer eternal life to the life of the body shall enjoy eternal life with the Father in heaven. Jesus must die to give eternal life to men. Those who would serve Him must follow His example. They, too, must be prepared to give up the life of the body for eternal life.
‘AN ANGEL HAS SPOKEN TO HIM’
Jesus is truly Man. The prospect of death is disturbing to Him. And so He adds, ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour! No, this is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify thy name!’ Even though the thought of His own death is naturally repugnant to Him, Jesus will not ask His Father to spare Him. In fact, His whole life has led up to this conclusion. By His death God will glorify His name.
When Jesus had spoken these words, the voice of His Father in heaven was heard, saying, ‘I have both glorified it; and I will glorify it again’ (John 12:28). Some of those present thought they had heard thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Not for me did this voice come, but for you’ (John 12:30). Then He told them that God’s judgment of the world was about to be accomplished. ‘Now is the judgment of the world; now will the prince of the world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself’ (John 12:31-32).
THROUGH SIN THE DEVIL HAD BECOME THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD
Through sin the devil had become the prince of this world. But now judgment was about to be executed against him, and he would be cast out of the world. God’s promise to the devil, and to Adam and Eve, was about to be fulfilled. The seed of the woman, Jesus Himself, was about to crush the devil. And, strangely, He would overcome the devil by His death. Jesus would be lifted up from the earth on a cross, He would be crucified.
JESUS HIMSELF WAS ABOUT TO CRUSH THE DEVIL
The crowd had expected Jesus to announce His plan for their redemption. But they had expected Him to forecast some design to expel the Romans and establish an earthly kingdom among the Chosen People. But, instead of an earthly victory, Jesus spoke of a spiritual victory; instead of the Romans, He spoke of the devil, the evil spirit who ruled the empire of sin and death. Jesus would overcome the empire of sin and death.
JESUS WOULD OVERCOME THE EMPIRE OF SIN AND DEATH
The crowd still clung to its hope for a political Messias. ‘We have heard from the Law,’ they objected, ‘that the Christ abides forever. And how canst thou say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?’ (John 12:34).
THEY HAD FORGOTTEN ISAIAH’S DETAILED AND EXTENSIVE PROPHECY OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT
The idea of a suffering Messias, a dying Messias was not pleasing to them. They had forgotten the Isaian prophecy of the Servant of Jahweh who would die for His people; or they were unable to reconcile this prophecy with their dreams of political liberation and power. And the Son of Man to them was not someone who was lifted up from the earth on a cross but rather a majestic figure who would come to them seated on the clouds of heaven.
Jesus, knowing their blindness, made one more plea for their belief in Himself. ‘Yet a little while the light is among you,’ He said. ‘Walk while you have the light, that darkness may not overtake you. He who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light’ (John 12:35-36).
IF PEOPLE BELIEVED IN HIM THEY WOULD BECOME SONS OF LIGHT
The light of which Jesus spoke was Himself. If they would believe in Him, they would become sons of light, with the power to see in Him the fulfilment of the predictions of their ancient prophets. With the divine light of faith they would see that God’s plan for mankind was accomplished by the death of the Messias.
NOT ACCEPTABLE TO HIS OWN PEOPLE
But the crowd, which had been so enthusiastic earlier in the day, was unwilling to give such faith to Jesus. Disappointed, Jesus left them and retired to Bethany for the night. Jesus had come to Jerusalem to give His life as a ransom for men, as a payment for the penalty of sin. But the prize, freedom from sin, was not acceptable to His own people.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959