When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the Sunday before his execution he rode in as a conquering king. Approaching from the Mount of Olives he would have seen the temple and the city spread out before him. Even today that is an awe-inspiring view.
Jesus was riding on the colt of a donkey when he entered Jerusalem. Although that might seem almost demeaning to us today when we compare a donkey to a magnificent horse, there was symbolism in riding a donkey. A donkey was what a king would ride (see 2 Samuel 16) while a horse was what a warrior would ride. This symbolism wasn’t lost on those who accompanied Jesus.
“As he approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” (Luke 19:37-38 NET)
Why such rejoicing? Why the quoting of Psalm 118:26? Why the praising of God as Jesus came into Jerusalem? In Jesus the people saw hope. Some recognised that he was the promised Messiah. Although they may not have had a good understanding of the Messiah, they did understand that the Messiah brought hope – although what he was bringing was even greater than they realised.
“Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. They will demolish you—you and your children within your walls—and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’” (Luke 19:41-44 NET)
Yes, with the arrival of the Messiah there was hope for a better future. But Jesus realised that most would not accept him. He realised that in less than a week many who were praising God would be calling for his execution. He knew that their rejection of him, their rejection of the Messiah, would lead to the destruction of the city by the Romans forty years later. Why was this going to happen? “Because you did not recognise the time of your visitation from God.” This would happen because they rejected him as the Messiah. They would reject their hope.
As we look back on this event that took place almost two thousand years ago we should reflect on ourselves. Do we realise the hope that we have because Jesus was executed? The hope we have is not because of the manner of his death but because of the reason he died. He didn’t die for anything wrong he had committed. He died for the sins we commit. His death gives us forgiveness and with it hope.
His death provided forgiveness; his resurrection cements our hope. It was his coming back from the death that proved that he was “the Son-of-God-in-power” (Romans 1:2-4). His conquering death gives us assurance that we have something far better to look forward to after this life.
Yes, we mourn over the condition of the world. We mourn over lost days because of this global pandemic. But we look forward to something far better, to an eternity without the threat of disease or sin. Because of Jesus we have hope.
Photo by Jon Galloway, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, January 2018
Readings for next week: Luke 17-21