As we begin Holy Week for Christians, we look again at the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. For the Matthew, Mark, and Luke Gospels this was the first time the adult Jesus goes to the city. John has Jesus going several times. Jesus had been preaching in the country and small towns of Palestine. Here he is taking his ministry to the great Temple, the home office so to speak, of the Jewish faith.
For years the great Temple had been sending representatives to follow Jesus and the work he had been doing. This had led to several confrontations between the scribes and Pharisees that heard Jesus. Many had called him a Blasphemer. What was it exactly that frightened them so much that caused such accusations to be made? To understand Jesus and the motivations of the Temple representatives we must look at the culture and especially the Jewish faith as practiced during this time.
One of the instances of Jesus being called a blasphemer was when he forgave sins. Remember the Biblical story of Jesus approaching a blind man. He was asked who had sinned, was it the man or was it his parents. At that time when an illness had befallen a person it was viewed as God’s punishment for having committed a sin. If this man had been blind since childhood, the sin could have been committed by his parents. Jesus was forgiving sins with no authority from the Temple priests. In fact to gain forgiveness from the Temple priests a person would have to pay for the privilege. Jesus was doing the forgiving and even had some dramatic results with the healing of the person who was afflicted. This was even followed during Holy Week with Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers. Jesus was definitely an affront to those in authority at the Temple. He was even cutting into their profits.
There was also another concern that the priests had during the time of Passover that was being celebrated in Jerusalem that week. Jerusalem normally had about 40,000 inhabitants. During Passover that number increased to 200,000. In response to this the number of Roman military also increased. Any disruption that occurred during these times was quickly and often violently dealt with by the Romans. There was fear by the Jewish authorities concerning Jesus and what he would do.
So here comes Jesus entering the city on a white foal or rather donkey. This fulfilled an ancient prophecy of the Messiah entering the city. With the celebration and the honoring of his entry from so many people, as they laid down palm fronds and even some clothes in his path, the authorities grew more concerned. What would Jesus do this week with Jerusalem already a powder keg of numbers of people resenting the Roman involvement and suppression that they handed out all too easily? What would Jesus do to tweak the authority of the Temple even more than he had already had done in the country?
Palm Sunday is a very important day in the story of Jesus. It sets up the final week of His life and the miracle of Easter morning still to come.