Saturday, April 7, 2012

What God Taught Me on Palm Sunday

"These things understood not His disciples at the first; but when Jesus was glorified,” that is, when He had manifested the power of His resurrection, “then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and they had done these things unto Him,” that is, they did nothing else but what had been written concerning Him. In short, mentally comparing with the contents of Scripture what was accomplished both prior to and in the course of our Lord’s passion, they found this also therein, that it was in accordance with the utterance of the prophets that He sat on an ass’s colt. Augustine – NPNF 01:07:51

Spiritual insights don’t always come suddenly –nor, for that matter, as quickly, and with as much certainty, as they should.

Or as we’d like.

Nor are they “proprietary” – not since the days of the New Testament gang – and so we trun to things that others have said or written, to jog our consciousness when we want to say something lasting and memorable to our audience. That is why God gave us commentaries. [smiley face goes here]

Edersheim: “…if proof were required of the more sober, and, may we not add, rational view here advocated, it would be found in this, that not till after His Resurrection did even His own disciples understand the significance of the whole scene which they had witnessed, and in which they had borne such a part.”
And so last Saturday when I sat down at my electronic “pad and pencil” and started to write this homily, thinking about where I wanted to take it led me to blow the dust of some of my old commentaries.

Okay, that’s not what happened. Actually, I have a lot of different commentaries in an application called The Sword Project, sitting on my desktop … so the commentary opening thing was relatively dust-free. I also used the search tools from Blueletter Bible, on my web site.

Shameless plug!

In any event, several interesting things caught my attention, in preparing this homily; some of them perspectives on what we generally call “Christ’s Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem, on the Sunday before Easter.

1. The Chronology: (AD 30 )

Almost from the beginning of my Ministry, when I first discovered and read The Life and Times Of Jesus The Messiah by Alfred Edersheim, I have relied in it as a source of narrative discourse on the subject. It wasn’t until this year that I gave any deep thought about when this so-called “Passion Week” happened. Edersheim and many others put the event in 29 A.D.; but this week I read some interesting commentary by yet another person named Johnson – from around the same time as Edersheim – who dates this at A. D. 30.

It’s not important, theologically; but when I considered the dates in Johnson’s timetable, below, I found it interesting that (1) Johnson’s dates align with our calendar, this year (as do Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown’s) ; and (2) this is one of the few years – since our celebrations never occur on any other day than Sunday – that the dates for Maundy Thursday/Good Friday correspond exactly to the dates for the Jewish Passover.

1 co. 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

B. W. Johnson: The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)

There is a difference of opinion among scholars whether he arrived at Bethany on the evening of the Sabbath day or the day before. It is well to admit that there is much disagreement concerning the exact date of several of the momentous events of the week, extending from the arrival of the Lord in Bethany until his resurrection. Even the "six days before the passover" has been variously interpreted by the commentators. Andrews, whose chronology I have usually followed, and who is one of the best of authorities on chronological questions, adopts Friday as the date of the arrival at Bethany, and supposes that the Lord left Jericho, eighteen miles from Jerusalem, in the morning, reaching Bethany about sunset, and stopped with his apostles over the Sabbath. In the evening of the next day, the Sabbath, the feast was made at the house of Simon the leper. The events of this most wonderful week in the history of the world are tabulated as follows (Please forgive the white space. It's somethijng with the blogger code):


Nisan 9.

March 31.

Supper at Bethany.


Nisan 10.

April 1.

Entry into Jerusalem.


Nisan 11.

April 2.

Second cleansing of the temple.


Nisan 12.

April 3.

Last visit to the temple.The prophecy of Matthew, chapter XXIV.


Nisan 13.

April 4.

Savior resting at Bethany.


Nisan 14.

April 6.

The Savior eats the Passover; the Lord's Supper instituted.


Nisan 15.

April 6.

The Lord crucified. The Jews eat the Passover.


Nisan 16.

April 7.

The Lord in the tomb.


Nisan 17.

April 8.

The Resurrection.

“While I am sensible that there are certain difficulties in this arrangement [184] I believe that there are fewer than are presented by any other scheme and I shall follow it, not as certain, but as supported by the best authorities and most probable. Reasons will be given, under different heads, for the date assigned to the events considered.

“The arrival in Bethany is placed by John "six days before the Passover" (12:1). Assuming that the public entry into Jerusalem took place on the Sunday, and that the 14th of Nisan fell on the following Thursday, this would lead to the arrival being placed on the Friday or Saturday preceding, according to the mode of reckoning. It is in the highest degree unlikely that Jesus would journey from Jericho on the Jewish Sabbath; hence He may be supposed to have arrived on the Friday evening. The supper at which the anointing by Mary took place would be on the Saturday (Sabbath) evening. Matthew and Mark connect it with events two days before the Passover (Mt 26:2; Mr 14:1), but parenthetically, in a way which leaves the other order open.”
Exodus 12:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying , 2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying , In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

At the beginning of the passage, where John describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, I found this commentary, from Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown:
“John 12:12. On the next day--the Lord's day, or Sunday (see on JF & B for Joh 12:1); the tenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, on which the paschal lamb was set apart to be "kept up until the fourteenth day of the same month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel were to kill it in the evening" ( Exd 12:3, 6 ). Even so, from the day of this solemn entry into Jerusalem, "Christ our Passover" was virtually set apart to be "sacrificed for us"

Reading this in JF & B, my thoughts reflected back to John 1:29 and 36, where the Baptist exclaimed, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith , Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” and now that unblemished Lamb is making His way for the last time into Jerusalem. It would take a whole new homily to exegete John’s exclamation; but for now I suppose it is sufficient to confine our remarks to what has been said by these commentators, above.

2. The zeal of the people to see Him

12:9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death ; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away , and believed on Jesus. 12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried , Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord …20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying , Sir, we would see Jesus,

John, perhaps more than either of the other Gospels, lays bare the prophetic aspects of Jesus’ Ministry, and simultaneously compels his readers to see the fulfillment of God’s Word in Christ. We simply need to find our way the scriptures to grasp John’s voice as he tells us that in Jesus the Messianic prophecies happen exactly as they were spoken.


It is a phonetic combination of the Hebrew words ‘yasha’ /יָשַׁע to save, be saved, be delivered/ and ‘na’ /נָא to pray/; as expressed in the call-and-response passage at Psalm 118:25-26: “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity . Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD”

We see a convergence of people from divergent and unrelated places: the locals who had heard aout His miracle in raising Lazarus; the pilgrims who were in Jerusalem to attend the Passover; and the Gentiles from Philip’s hometown – the latter would have been enjoined from following Jesus into the Temple, and so seized upon their opportunity to meet Him along the way, All of these having heard the news that Jesus would come determined themselves to be there, when He did.

The shouts from the Jewish crowd reflected the certainty from some that He was indeed the Messiah – the promised King who would deliver them from the oppressive Roman rule – and perhaps the tentative excitement of yet another part of the group who were not necessarily convinced that Jesus was “the One,” but told themselves there’d be nothing to lose in shouting “Save us … long live the King!”

But there is something that even the most zealous follower in the crowd that day hadn’t considered – nor heard, in the many times that Jesus had Himself warned. Augustine, I think puts it most succinctly:

“What a cross of mental suffering must the Jewish rulers have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King! But what honor was it to the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship over Israel was not for the purpose of exacting tribute, of putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, of subduing His enemies by open warfare; but He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, and hope, and love were centred in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews, is in the heavens the Lord of angels.” OpCit, Tract. 51.4

3. His triumphal entry

Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it was written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him (Jhn 12:14-16).

“Christ's public Entry into Jerusalem seems so altogether different from - we had almost said, inconsistent with - His previous mode of appearance.

“When we brush aside all the trafficking and bargaining over words, that constitutes so much of modern criticism, which in its care over the lesson so often loses the spirit, there can, at least, be no question that this prophecy was intended to introduce, in contrast to earthly warfare and kingly triumph, another Kingdom, of which the just King would be the Prince of Peace, Who was meek and lowly in His Advent, Who would speak peace to the heathen, and Whose sway would yet extend to earth's utmost bounds.” Edersheim Book V.2

4. The Disciples

Lastly – only because there is so much more in the few verses we are considering here than could fit in a reasonably short commentary – there is John’s confession that even for those who had the privilege to be closest to our Lord, spiritual insights didn’t always come suddenly –nor, for that matter, as quickly, and with as much certainty, as they should.

Or as they would have liked.

I think Chuck Smith, says it beautifully:

“Now, John is very honest and very frank here. He said, "You know, we didn't think about it until after He was glorified, and then we thought, 'Oh, wow, remember how we waved the palm branches and He was riding on a donkey? Isn't that what Zachariah said? "Rejoice greatly, O daughters of Jerusalem, behold thy King cometh unto thee, but he is lowly, he is sitting on a donkey, the foal of an ass." Wow!'"

“In other words, he is saying, "We weren't trying to deliberately set the stage. We didn't say, 'Now what does the Bible say is supposed to have next? Let's work it out this way.'" It wasn't a deliberate conspiracy to set the stage. It was something they just did, and afterwards they realized, "Wow! We were fulfilling prophecy." And the realization came, but not until after Jesus was glorified. So it wasn't a deliberately staged event as far as the disciples were concerned.”

Looking back now I admit that preparing this short homily has been a humbling experience, insofar as it reminds me that, even after nearly forty years in Ministry, there is still much that God wants to tel me from His Word. I was certain that I would be able to put some heartfelt words on this blog, in time for Palm Sunday; but it has taken almost a week for God to give me the complete message. And even in that I am aware that there is so very much more that could have been said. Maybe God is saying that’s a message for next year.

Apostolic Blessingss to you, in the Name of our Christ!

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