“Is this you?” I must admit, I was puzzled by the question and asked for clarification. “Is this you?” the clerk asked a second time as she held out my credit card to me. The lightbulb finally lit up and I realized what she was asking.
Five years ago, I lost all of my hair due to illness and it never returned. I am completely bald down to my eyebrows and eyelashes. However, the picture on the back of the credit card showed me with hair. It had to be at least 6-7 years old. My credentials didn’t match my identity.
Prior to his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus predicted his death for the third time (Mark 10:32-34), taught that greatness is based on service (10:35-45), and gave sight and salvation to the blind (10:46-52). Now, as he enters the city, Jesus presents further credentials as to his identity. Some recognize and acknowledge him, some resist him, and others ignore him completely. All are faced with the question, “Who is Jesus?”
Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is one of the few events recorded by all four of the gospel writers (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19). Weaving the four accounts together provides us with a unique chronological perspective of what took place that day.
Jesus makes preparations for his entrance into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-3, 6, 7a; Mark 11:1-7a; Luke 19:28-35a; John 12: 2, 12). Some people have the idea that Jesus was a victim of circumstance. He got caught up in the celebration and was swept away by the emotion of the people. Contrary to that opinion, we see that Jesus was establishing his credentials. He demonstrated his omniscience by knowing details about the donkeys. He showed his authority by saying, “The Lord has need of them.” He sets the stage for a public display for the first time in his ministry. Through all the events of the day, Jesus revealed that he was in control.
Jesus starts riding toward Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4, 5, 7; Mark 11:7b; Luke 10:35b; John 12: 14, 15). As Jesus mounted the donkey and rode into Jerusalem, he fulfilled the prophecy about how the Messiah would enter Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9). If we were in charge, we would have scheduled a ticker tape parade with a stretch limo or at least a majestic war horse. But a donkey? What we don’t realize is the kings of Israel rode a horse in times of war and a donkey in times of peace. Riding a donkey revealed Jesus as the king who brings peace.
People accompanying Jesus from Bethany spread their outer garments on the path, while others cut branches from the trees to help pave the way (Matthew 21:8; Mark 11:8; Luke 19:36). This was the first-century version of the red carpet treatment.
Pilgrims already in Jerusalem who had heard about the raising of Lazarus join in the celebration (John 12:1, 12, 13a; 18). During the Passover celebration, the population of Jerusalem swelled to 4-5 times the normal size. Estimates range as high as 2 million people who may have been present. Among the crowds were people who had already arrived, those who were traveling with Jesus, and people who had heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
As the two groups meet, the enthusiasm mounts (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9, 10; Luke 19:37, 38; John 12:13b). As people climbed the road into Jerusalem for the Passover, they traditionally sang the psalms of ascent (Psalms 113-118). Now they add high praise for the Messiah, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus does not correct them but rather accepts their worship.
The excitement reaches a climax as those who had seen the resurrection of Lazarus tell the story (John 12:17). People cannot stop talking about what they have seen Jesus do.
Beside themselves with envy, the Pharisees appeal to Jesus to stop the celebration (Luke 19:39, 40). The praise police show up and demand that Jesus stop the parade and silence the people. Jesus answers by saying that creation itself will shout his praise if the crowds are silenced. Which do you prefer, praise from people or praise from rocks?
Upon seeing Jerusalem, Jesus weeps for the city (Luke 19:41‑44). Jesus is overcome with emotion and weeps for Jerusalem. The Jews had misread the calendar laid out in Daniel’s 70 weeks which showed when the Messiah would arrive. Jesus knew that the people’s praise would turn into scorn and they would cry for his death in a few short days. Jesus knew prophecy that said that in a few short years, Jerusalem itself would be destroyed. No wonder he wept!
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the entire city is stirred (Matthew 21:10, 11; Mark 11:11). The crowds are confronted with the question, “Who is Jesus?” Some view him as the Messiah while others believe he is a prophet. Throughout his ministry in general and this day in particular, Jesus demonstrated his credentials. He is the suffering servant of Isaiah. He has the power over sickness and death. He knows all. He is Lord of all. He fulfills prophecy. He is the King who brings peace. He accepts worship. He is compassionate and caring.
Jesus is the Sovereign King who brings salvation.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 30, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.