Friday, April 03, 2009


What did the Romans think of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem? The Roman officers and soldiers would have been out and around the city making their presence known. Thousands upon thousands of pilgrims had come and were overcrowding Jerusalem. There was always an anti-Rome whiff in the air when the crowds arrived for feasts. Although the gospels don’t say anything about a Roman impression of Jesus’ arrival, they surely witnessed it. There may have been some of the officers or soldiers who had been in Rome and seen the triumphant return of victorious generals or emperors. They would have seen the glorious parades of legionnaires marching into the city with their armor and uniforms and weapons. They would have seen the royal carpet laid out through the entire city and the commanding general riding upon a great warhorse or in a golden chariot. All the nobility of Rome would have turned out to welcome the conquering hero.

But who is this? It might have appeared somewhat comical to the Romans to see a man riding on a donkey with mobs of children and common people escorting him. Their branches and clothing provided a very poor replica of the royal carpet. The man on the donkey must be someone of some importance to the Jews but he obviously wouldn’t make much of an impact on the world. Even if some of them had heard of Jesus and knew he was the one on the donkey, they just knew he was someone who was causing a stir among the Jews. They had no idea who Jesus was!

What about the political leaders of the Jews? Who did the chief priests and the teachers of the law think Jesus was on this day of his triumphant entry? These men were Sadducees. They had developed a kind of working relationship with Rome. They had their power over the people. They had rather comfortable lives. The Jewish people looked up to them and respected them. They had been trying to find a way arrest Jesus for quite awhile. He was upsetting the balance of life in Jerusalem and putting their livelihoods at risk. They did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. They didn’t even believe he was a prophet. They thought he was a deceiver, a false Messiah. After his entry into Jerusalem Jesus made his way to the temple where he healed the blind and lame. Children were still shouting praises at him. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were indignant but Jesus only said, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Matthew 21:15, 16). The political leaders of the Jews wanted to kill Jesus.

But what about their religious leaders? What about the Pharisees? Who did they think Jesus was? We know that at least one of the Pharisees, Nicodemus, had come to believe in Jesus. Apparently, Nicodemus was in the vast minority. The Pharisees were always trying to entrap Jesus with their obscure theological questions. They were trying to find a way to prove he wasn’t the Messiah. He simply did not fit their interpretation of the Messiah. Ultimately, they even joined forces with their opponents, the Sadducees, to try to stop Jesus by calling a meeting of the Sanhedrin. They had received eye-witness reports of Jesus’ raising Lazarus and things had reached a critical point. They decided Jesus had to die and began plotting to kill him (John 11:45-53).

Who did the crowds think Jesus was? They had heard Jesus teach and they had witnessed his miracles, even the raising of Lazarus. On that triumphant day they shouted all kinds of things that would make us think they had finally figured out Jesus was the Messiah. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Blessed is the king of Israel!” In spite of all this, it becomes clear that they had a mistaken impression of who Jesus was. They had it partly right. He was the Son of David. He had come in the name of the Lord. He was the king of Israel. But they clearly expected him to come and set up his kingdom in Jerusalem right then! They had no concept of a suffering savior. They had no clue about the spiritual nature of the kingdom. And when they answered the question, “Who is this?” they said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).

Then surely Jesus’ own disciples understood who he was! Surely they recognized the true significance of this triumphant passage into Jerusalem! But they had questions about Jesus too! There was that night on the Sea of Galilee when the terrible storm came up. Just when they feared they were going to drown Jesus rose from sleeping in the stern and calmed the wind and the waves. Then the terrified disciples asked, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41) Didn’t they recognize the fulfillment of prophecy that day? “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). But John tells us that even his disciples did not understand that these things were written about Jesus until after the resurrection! The questions they ask later show that they too were expecting Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom!


At 5:55 AM, Blogger Doulos Christou said...

Great question, David! It's amazing to me that everyone missed the significance of who Jesus was - until it was revealed to them. And when it was, nothing stopped them in their desire to share the truth.

Gives me understanding about the blindness of those around me who still don't understand, passion to share and confidence that the Father is still revealing His son to a clueless world!

At 7:56 AM, Blogger donsands said...

Great post Dave.

Jesus came to save us from our sin. And we don't think our sin is that big of a deal to God. And so we believe if we live a half way decent life, then God will let us in. In that case the Cross is in vain.

The world, and the Church need to see all ain as exceedingly sinful and evil. That's the fisrt step for revival. And then the Cross will shine so much more glorious. Christ's death truly is infinite glory.

"..let us nevertheless settle it firmly in our minds that sin is 'the abominable thing that God hateth'" -JC Ryle

Have a blessed Good Friday and Easter season Dave.

At 6:29 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Thanks Wes and donsands! Your comments are excellent and edifying!


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