The day after the party at Simon the Leper’s house, crowds from Jerusalem showed up as word reached them that Jesus was in Bethany. What was interesting was that as many came to see Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead, as to see Jesus. When word got back to the chief priests about the multitude who were openly confessing their faith in Jesus as the Messiah after hearing about and seeing Lazarus, they were so infuriated that they began making plans to kill Lazarus as well as the Nazarene.
The next morning Jesus announced to his disciples that He was going to Jerusalem. His followers knew that was His plan all along, but none of them liked the idea.
“Lord, wear a disguise when You enter the city,” Rock said.
“Yes,” agreed Matthew, “and we should slip around to the West Gate and enter there.”
“Good idea,” agreed Simon, “that way maybe we can get You in without anyone knowing.”
“Moshe!” Jesus called, and a young man came running up. He was a relative of Lazarus and was also a devoted follower of the Teacher.
“Yes, Lord?” he asked eagerly.
“Run ahead of me to Jerusalem,” Jesus ordered. “Follow the main road and proclaim to everyone you meet that I am headed into the city. Tell them that I am coming in the name of the Lord.” At these words all of the disciples groaned. Judas sneered at Jesus from the back of the group and slowly shook his head.
Ignoring the plans and pleas of His followers, Jesus began walking determinedly toward Jerusalem. As the people of Bethany saw the Teacher leaving, they streamed out of their homes and shops and surrounded him. Many had witnessed the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and loudly cheered and praised the Lord as they walked.
Bethany was located on the east side of the Mount of Olives. As they reached the top of the hill, not only was the beautiful city of Jerusalem suddenly visible, but the small village of Bethphage could be seen half way down the slope in front of them.
Pointing at the small town, Jesus instructed Rock and John to go ahead of Him. “As soon as you enter, you will find a colt tied there. Untie it and bring it here to Me.”
“Won’t the owners think we’re stealing it?” John asked.
“Tell them that the Lord needs it and will send it back when He’s done.”
Hurrying to accomplish their task, the disciples found the colt just as the Teacher had said.
The owners did indeed confront the disciples, but when they responded with Jesus’s words, the owner gave them permission but with a warning. “If the Teacher needs the colt, then He can use it, but you need to know that this animal has never been ridden.”
“He’s not broken to ride?” Rock asked in shock.
“Not at all,” the owner returned, “and, in fact, he’s really hard to deal with. That’s why we had him tied up. We were trying to break him to the halter, but he constantly fights it. Good luck.”
Reluctantly the two disciples pulled and pushed the balking colt back to Jesus. Remarkably, as soon as the animal saw the Teacher, it walked right up to Him. Rock and John looked at each other in amazement, then quickly took off their outer robes and threw them across the back of the beast. As Jesus mounted, the colt stood perfectly still, and at a word from the Teacher, it started toward Jerusalem.
Moshe had done his job. People were streaming out of the city holding palm branches and lining the road leading to the eastern gate, also known as the Beautiful Gate or the King’s Gate.
“HE RAISES THE DEAD!” someone shouted from the crowd walking with Jesus.
“HE GIVES SIGHT TO THE BLIND!” cried another.
“AND MAKES THE LAME WALK!” someone added.
“BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” Moshe shouted over the others. “ISREAL, BEHOLD YOUR KING!”
When the crowd heard all these praises, shouts of “OH SAVE”(*) rang out from many voices, and people laid the palm branches and even their robes on the road for Jesus’s donkey to step on.
As the teacher from Nazareth rode through the King’s Gate, the cheering from the huge crowd grew even louder. The chief priests and some of the leaders of the Pharisees stood on a balcony watching.
“Do you see that?” one of the Pharisees said to Caiaphas as they watched Jesus’s triumphant entry into the city. “Your plans are doing no good at all! Look, the whole world has gone after him!”
“He rode into town on a donkey, Nicodemas! Now that’s really going to intimidate the Romans, don’t you think?” Joseph of Arimathea said in frustration as he paced back and forth in the scholar’s study. “Jesus even had this massive crowd with Him. He could have led His army straight into Jerusalem and kicked our oppressors out! But do you know what kind of weapons His ‘army’ carried? They were carrying palm branches! Seriously, if Jesus really was the king we’ve been hoping for, He would have made a much more powerful entrance! You know He would have! A donkey, for goodness sake! It’s embarrassing! King David and King Solomon at least rode mules!”
The whole time his friend talked, Nicodemas searched for something in a small scroll.
“Are you even listening to me?” Joseph asked again.
“Yes, I am,” the scholar returned, “and I think I have your answer. As you were speaking, I remembered something I had read in the scroll of the prophet Zechariah, and I just found it. Listen to this: ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
“WHAT?” Joseph gasped. “IT WAS PROPHESIED?”
“We must be careful, my friend,” Nicodemas returned. “Our preconceived ideas about the Messiah, or even our thoughts of what we want Him to be like, can blind us to Who He really is.”
When Jesus neared the temple, He dismounted and instructed Rock and John to return the colt. As they pulled and pushed the again balking donkey back to its owners, a small group of men approached Phillip.
“Excuse us, sir,” one of the men said, “but aren’t you with the Teacher Jesus?”
Phillip turned to face them and was surprised at being addressed by the foreigners. At first he thought they were Romans, but then he recognized the embroidered togas and realized that they were Greeks.
“I am,” Phillip returned suspiciously. “What do you want?”
“We have traveled all the way to Jerusalem to worship in your temple. In the short time that we have been here, we have heard many stories about your master, and we would like to meet Him.”
“Greeks?” Phillip mumbled to himself as he thought about the request. His first impulse was to send them away, but then he remembered the rebuke he and the other disciples had received when trying to keep children away from Jesus.
Finally he responded, “I will see.”
Not sure what to do, Phillip grabbed Andrew by the coat sleeve and explained the situation. With a shrug Andrew answered, “Well, let’s see if the Teacher wants to talk with them.”
Andrew called to Jesus as He was starting up the steps that led to the temple. He stopped and turned to face the disciple.
“Teacher, these Greeks are here wanting to speak with You,” Andrew said and immediately regretted it. He had never seen such intensity in his Master’s eyes before. Some profound concern rested on the Teacher at this moment.
Jesus turned His attention from Andrew and Phillip to the other disciples and the large crowd of followers around Him. Finally His gaze rested on the group of foreigners who were looking eagerly at Him.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified!” Jesus announced to all of them. In response to all of the questioning looks, Jesus answered, “I’m telling you the truth—the absolute truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it will produce a whole lot more.” Jesus saw more questioning looks.
“The person who loves his life in this world will wind up losing it,” the Teacher spoke again. “But the person who is willing to give up his life in this world to follow Me will keep it and end up with the highest and best life they could ever imagine. The life they will receive will last forever.” The disciples nodded their heads as they began to comprehend.
“If anyone wants to serve Me,” Jesus responded, “they need to follow Me, and go where I go, doing what I do. The person who does that will not just be serving Me, they will be serving My father also, and He will honor them.”
Smiles and happy nods were seen from many in the crowd at these words, but as they looked at Jesus, they saw a look of sorrow appear on His face.
“What’s wrong, Teacher?” Thomas asked when he saw the Lord’s sadness.
Jesus looked from his disciple to the rest of the people and then to the city of Jerusalem spreading out around Him. “I’m troubled,” He said loudly enough for all to hear. “I’m troubled about what’s coming. But what should I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No way! NO WAY! This is the very reason I came to this hour!”
With a determined sigh Jesus looked up into heaven and shouted, “FATHER, GLORIFY YOUR NAME!”
Suddenly a thunderous voice broke from the sky, “I HAVE GLORIFIED IT, AND I WILL DO IT AGAIN!”
“What was that?” more than one in the crowd asked.
“It…it…was an angel!” someone else cried. “An angel spoke to Him!”
Seeing the terrified looks on their faces, Jesus cried out, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for yours!
“An amazing thing is happening!” Jesus continued. “Judgment from God has come on this world!”
“What does that mean?” James asked with concern.
“It’s a good thing, James,” Jesus answered loudly. “It’s a very good thing! It means that the ruler of this world, the great enemy, shall finally be cast out! To do this, as I have said, I must be lifted up. But that’s good too, because when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” As Jesus said these last words, He stretched out His hand in a sweeping gesture toward all of those in the crowd, stopping when his hand was extended toward the small group of Greeks.
By Alan W. Harris
(Inspired by John 12:12-33)
* “Oh Save” is the literal translation of the word “Hosanna” and it is a term of adoration proclaimed to a king or honored ruler.