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Cover image via LDS.org.
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the Sunday before the Savior’s crucifixion and resurrection––Palm Sunday––is a time in our beloved Savior’s life that marks the beginning of his last week in mortality. Even though it is a triumphant entry indeed, filled with tremendous fervor and rejoicing, it is also a time of great sadness for the Lord.
As Jesus approaches Jerusalem he wept over the city, its wickedness and the travail and destruction that would soon come upon it. The apostle John tells us that Jesus became troubled and prayed:
“Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven …The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him” (John 12:27-29).
It is the Sunday before Passover when all paschal lambs are being brought into Jerusalem from the fields of Bethlehem for sacrifice. How fitting that Jesus, the Perfect Lamb, also birthed in Bethlehem and possibly watched over by some of the same shepherds that now deliver these lambs, enters into Jerusalem that very same day.
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem cannot be fully comprehended by our mortal minds, but it was planned and carried out with full intent and purpose by the Lord. By now Jesus and his many miracles were well known, all in fulfillment of Messianic prophecies and to bear witness of his Divinity.
According to Elder James E. Talmage “The occasion of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was no accidental or fortuitous happening. He knew well beforehand what he wanted to have happen and what he would do. It was no meaningless pageant; but the actual advent of the King of Kings into His royal city. He now, with full public acceptance of the nation’s homage and rejoicing, proclaimed his acceptance of both Kingly and Messianic titles” (James E. Talmage, Jesus The Christ, p. 480).
There are six happenings in Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem that are rich in Messianic symbolism and prophecy. Each plays a part in witnessing Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah.
1. Jesus sends two of his disciples to bring him a donkey.
Luke tells us that straight away as Jesus entered the Mount of Olives, he tells two of his disciples “Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither” (Luke 19:29-34).
So one might ask what significance does this request from Jesus have as a witness that he is the promised Messiah? The answer comes from one of the earliest Messianic prophecies found in Genesis.
“Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes” (Genesis 49:11).
For the Jews who were longing for the Messiah and constantly studying every Messianic prophecy, the never ridden tethered colt would hold great significance. Especially for the two unnamed disciples that were on the Lord’s errand.
2. Entering Jerusalem on a donkey.
By riding this colt into Jerusalem Jesus was presenting himself as the promised Messiah who they had been waiting for, as prophesied by Zechariah.
“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” (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus also deliberately planned his entry into Jerusalem after King Solomon’s royal entry into Jerusalem––from the Mount of Olives and on The Kings Mule. By riding in on a donkey, amidst the shouts of praise and jubilation of the people, Jesus is proclaiming––to all of Israel––he is King of Judah, the prophesied heir to the throne through the Davidic line. This is evidenced by the crowds referring to Jesus as ‘Son of David’ a title that only belonged to King Solomon and the prophesied Messiah (see 1 Kings1:33; James E. Talmadge, Jesus The Christ p. 478)!
Lastly, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey proclaimed he came in peace as opposed to Rome’s grand display and parade of magnificent horse driven chariots at the beginning of every Jewish festival. A deliberate display of power meant to subdue and oppress the Jews.
It is interesting to note that the same people who praised and honored him as the long awaited Messiah, would later reject him and call for his crucifixion because he didn’t suddenly turn into this powerful deliverer and military leader; even though he entered Jerusalem on a donkey, symbolic of establishing a kingdom of peace.
3. The Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives was more than just some random or convenient place Jesus chose to begin his descent into Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives held well known Messianic implications. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel wrote about a vision he had where he saw the glory of the Lord coming to Jerusalem from the East, entering Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The prophet Zechariah also prophesied about the coming of the Messiah … “And on that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” ( Ezekiel 43:11; Zechariah 14:4).
Now we can better understand why such large and raucous crowds gathered around Jesus as he made his descent from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. The people knew from prophecy that when the Messiah came He would come from the Mount of Olives riding a donkey! So it was not coincidental that Jesus began His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem from the East at this very location.
4. The praises of the people
In the gospel’s accounts of this event we read that as Jesus traveled the road that goes down from the Mount of Olives unto Jerusalem, a very great multitude began to gather around Jesus, singing and dancing, spreading clothing and branches of myrtle and palm fronds before him.
Great shouts of praise resounded across the Kidron Valley “Hosanna, Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest … Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest” (see Matthew 21:1-9, Luke 19:37-38, John 12:12-13)!
These shouts of praising God should ring familiar and bring to mind the beautiful account found in Luke 2 of the “multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
All of the prophetic chants and praise calling Jesus “Son of David … Lord and King” is further evidence that the people believed Jesus was the promised Messiah; for these were sacred titles reserved only for the Messiah.
As this jubilant and boisterous parade approached Jerusalem, declarations of honor and glory fell upon the ears of jealous leaders who were threatened by the potential power of Jesus and his followers. The adulation of Jesus was so great that the Pharisees declared “… behold the world is gone after him” (John 12:19).
5. The spreading of clothes and palm fronds in Jesus’ path.
A detailed account of people spreading clothing under the feet of a King, is recorded in the Old Testament when Elisha the prophet anointed Jehu as King of Israel. We read: “They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, Jehu is king!” Thus indicating their willingness to bow before the King and yield all that they had to him and his rule. Likewise is the case at the royal anointing and coronation of King Solomon (see 1 Kings 1:28-53; 2 Kings 9:13).
Therefore the crowds spreading clothing and palm fronds before Jesus was deeply rooted in Israel’s history in the coronation of a King; symbolic of honor, submission and willingness to bow before him and yield up their possessions to him and his rule.
Thus this gesture from the people is evidence they accepted Jesus as King!
6. Jesus enters Jerusalem and the temple by way of Sheep’s Gate.
This last event is actually unsubstantiated but one that I feel is worth considering.
Jewish historians record that the passover lambs were brought into Jerusalem from the fields of Bethlehem to the south, then through the north-east gate of the city, by the pool of Bethesda, called “Sheep’s Gate.” This was the gate for the sheep and lambs that were to be used for temple sacrifice entered.
It is in Nehemiah, Chapter 3, where we learn bout the sheep’s gate; that it was actually doors that were built by the high priests and sanctified for a holy purpose. Then in John 10:7-9 we find Jesus referring to himself as “the door of the sheep” by which if any man enter he shall be saved and shall find pasture.
The fact that the road Jesus traveled from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem led to Sheep’s Gate, and considering all the symbolism discussed regarding Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem; I don’t think it is too far afield to assume the Savior, The Lamb of God, entered the holy temple grounds via Sheep’s Gate, then into the temple where we know he concluded his journey for the day (see Mark 11:11).
I can easily imagine the Savior entering in those beautifully carved, sanctified doors, perhaps even with the lambs as they were being herded through. Jesus walking with them, the Good Shepherd who giveth his life for the sheep, cradling in his loving arms a lamb or two. Knowing that soon He would be the Ultimate Sacrifice … The Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world! My heart is filled with overwhelming love and gratitude as I ponder all of this.