Summary: When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in the last week of His life he was greeted with cheers, but He wept over the city because of their superficial beliefs and spiritual blindness. Learn the valuable personal lessons that apply to us today.
A Day of Cheers and Tears
By Dr. David O. Dykes
I turned 50 in January and someone in the church was kind enough to send me a revised list of hymns for the over-50 crowd:
1. “Precious Lord, Take my Hand, and Help Me Up”
2. “It is Well with my Soul; but my Knees Hurt”
3. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I have Seeing”
4. “Go Tell it on the Speed Bump”
5. “I Love to Tell the Same Story”
6. “Just a Slower Walk with Thee”
7. “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah, I’ve Forgotten where I Parked”
There were a couple of others, but I couldn’t remember them!
We sometimes forget Jesus never reached the human age of 50. After living in the flesh for only 33 years, He was crucified. In our passage today, we arrive at the final week in Jesus’ human life. It begins on Sunday with what is often called Palm Sunday. It was the day of cheers and tears. Let’s read about it beginning in Luke 19:28:
After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone ask you, ‘why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘the Lord needs it.’”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had old them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “the Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118) “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
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.”
On that day there was a joyful parade as Jesus entered the city–then He stopped and wept. Let’s examine both aspects of this day of cheers and tears:
I. THE CHEERS OF THE CROWD
Everyone loves a parade. Around the 4th of July our choir sings: “We need a parade, we need Old Glory flying high. We need a parade, confetti fallin’ from the sky!” Whether it’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or the Rose Bowl Parade, or the Tyler Rose Festival parade, there’s just something exciting about a procession on display with floats, marching bands, and clowns! When Jesus entered Jerusalem to die, there was a parade, too. This took place during the Passover season when the population of Jerusalem swelled from about 30,000 to almost 200,000. In this act Jesus was fulfilling prophecy, and previewing future prophecy that still hasn’t been fulfilled.
1. PAST: Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble King
When a conquering king entered a city after a time of warfare, he would ride on a horse or something even more impressive. History tells us Julius Caesar returned to Rome in 45 B.C. in a golden chariot harnessed to 40 elephants! But whenever a king entered a city on a donkey it was a sign he was coming in peace.
As you can see from this picture, people were celebrating by laying their garments in front of Jesus–that’s like rolling out the red carpet. John tells us they were waving Palm branches as well; that’s why it’s called Palm Sunday. Jesus was intentionally fulfilling the scripture God had given through the prophet Zechariah 500 years earlier. The Bible says, “Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
Four generations earlier, Judas Maccabees, who was called “the Hammer” rallied an army of Jewish men to fight against the Syrians who occupied Jerusalem. In 163 B.C. he entered Jerusalem riding on a massive stallion, and the people shouted and waved palm branches and cheered, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” They cleaned out the Temple, burned incense, offered sacrifices, and lit a huge menorah that burned for eight days. Judas was their hero–and many thought he was the Jewish Messiah. To this day our Jewish friends celebrate 8 days of the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. Not long afterwards, Judas was killed in battle, buried, and that was the end of the Hammer.