10 Nisan, Palm Sunday
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33)
The time had come for the Lord to make His official appearance in Jerusalem. Having spent the bulk of His ministry in and around the Galilee, He now set His sights on the Holy City for what He knew would be His final showdown with the religious leaders. It was a long walk and would require most of the 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)
As they came to the twin villages of Bethpage and Bethany on the eastern slope of the Mt. Of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples ahead to fetch the donkey He knew would be waiting there, and as He crested the Mt. Of Olives He saw the beautiful city spread before Him. Large crowds were arriving for the Passover and many of them had already heard that He had raised Lazarus from the grave. Surely this was the long awaited Messiah. Some spread their cloaks on the road while others cut palm branches and laid them in front of Him as He rode down the western slope, across the Kidron valley, and into the city. There were large joyful crowds both in front of and behind Him spontaneously shouting the portion of Psalm 118 that was reserved for the entrance of the Messiah into the city.
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)
A contingent of the ever present Pharisees was there, and some of them instructed Jesus to rebuke His followers. If Jesus was not the Messiah, and they didn’t think He was, the crowds were committing blasphemy.
“I tell you,” He replied, “If they keep quiet the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
It was 483 years from the day Persian King Artaxerxes had issued the decree authorizing the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem after the 70 year Babylonian captivity (Nehemiah 2:1-10). It was the day ordained in history for the Messiah King to officially present Himself to Israel (Daniel 9:25), and instead of rebuking His disciples He rebuked the Pharisees for not knowing this.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)
It was also the 10th day of Nisan, the day when God commanded the Jews to select the Passover lamb. Then for three days they were to carefully inspect it to make sure it had no spot or blemish that would prevent it from being used in the Passover celebration on the 14th. (Exodus 12:3,6). Over the next three days Jesus would be subjected to the most intense scrutiny of His ministry as the Jewish leadership tried to find some proof against Him.
Matthew and Luke take us right into their accounts of the Temple clearing, leaving the impression that it might have happened on that first Palm Sunday. But Mark makes it clear that when Jesus finally entered Jerusalem, He went to the Temple and looked around at everything, but since it was late He took the disciples and went back to Bethany where they were staying (Mark 11:11).