28 After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. 37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Once again, we’re entering the Passion Week. This one week gets significant attention from all of the gospel writers. It is the week that would change history and the Roman Empire. It is the culmination of the gospel story. We’ve seen Jesus spending His life helping people, doing what He could to lift them up from disease, guilt, circumstances, demons and madness, their search for meaning. The Passion Week represents the final gift of the Lord to humanity: Life. His life, His death, His resurrection was to be a collective gift to mankind. Through His death, He would atone for the sins of the world. Through His resurrection, He would triumph over the consequences that came with that sin: death.
We begin this week, with Jesus and the disciples approaching Jerusalem. He is, as it were, in the suburbs of the great city. He would be staying with His friend Lazarus. This isn’t a surprise. At the time, every Jew who was able to do so, had to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. The city proper would be packed. The suburbs would also likely be filled with travelers from near and distant parts of the Roman Empire. It would make sense to stay with a friend who had a house nearby.
So here He is with the disciples and the Lord gives them some unusual instructions. Head on into the next village and take the young donkey you find there. If anyone stops you, tell them “The Lord has need of it” and they’ll let you go.
Now, religious as that society was, they weren’t naïve bumpkins. Someone tries to take your stuff and claims that God has need of it, you’re still calling the cops. So God either moves the hearts of the owners to trust the disciples or perhaps, the owners knew Jesus or had been helped by Him in the past. Regardless, the disciples find the donkey and handle the owners exactly as Jesus said they would.
They return with the colt and Jesus rides up into Jerusalem. Now, the crowds were in a Messianic expectation and here was Jesus, who was thought to be a mighty prophet, riding into Jerusalem as a king. The crowds respond by putting their coats on the road in front of Him. They begin to praise God and they quote part of a Messianic verse. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Others cry out, “Save us!”
The Pharisees and priests are taken aback. This is a disturbance that, if unchecked, would surely come to the attention of the Romans. If the people got out of hand and decided to follow this Jesus into battle, things would get ugly. The Romans might crack down on them. They might lose their position. They might lose their religious freedom. They hurry to Jesus and demand that He stop His followers from encouraging these Messianic expectations. Christ simply responds that if His disciples stopped their proclamations, that the Earth itself would testify on His behalf. The rocks would cry out in praise.
There are some who try to tie in this statement as a fulfillment of part of the 70 weeks prophesy from Daniel. They may be right, but it does take a bit of math creativity and makes an assumption of a 1 AD/1 BC birth date for Christ, so who knows. Point being that Jesus’ statement isn’t necessarily reflective of some prophetic fulfillment, but is a statement He is making. He is the Messiah as promised. To deny that would be against His nature and should He attempt to silence the truth, the universe itself would cry out.
This is the high point of the week. The Lord is claiming His kingship. The crowds acknowledge the truth of His claim. The promised Davidic King has finally appeared. Salvation is at hand.
But things are not right. As Jesus approaches the city, He weeps. The King is sorrowful, not joyful. He cries over the city. He knows the city will not accept His claim. And He sees what will happen to it. They will accept another. Another who will do all that the Pharisees and priests fear from the Lord. Those men will stir up the crowds with false promises. They will lead an armed revolt against Rome. They will claim Divine favor to do so. And they will be beaten. Slaughtered. The city will be a home to the dead, the starving, and the diseased as the siege continues. The city will be burned, the Temple utterly destroyed, the survivors sold into slavery or crucified as examples to others.
The King had come to bring life. The city would choose its own death instead.
So at the start of the Passion Week, as His true nature is proclaimed, the mood is a somber one and an indication that this week will not turn out at all like the disciples thought it would.