Summary: The story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem as told by a businessman from Jerusalem who is thrust into the path of Jesus as He enters the city. A first person tale of Christ changing a life.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in unity with the Holy Spirit.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Yusef bar Shimon. You can call me Joseph the son of Simon. I’m a businessman in Jerusalem and I make garments from wool and linen. I want to tell you about a spectacular day in which I met a very special man who changed my life. If you could have been with me that day, you would know how wonderful He is.
But first let me tell you about the situation I found myself in. Being a businessman in Jerusalem at that time was difficult on the best days. There was so much civic unrest it was hard not to have sympathy for the prefect, Pontius Pilate. His job was to represent the emperor in Judea which mostly involved collecting taxes and keeping the peace. That was a very difficult job among a proud people that rejected the very idea of foreign rule over our land that God had given to us. For many of the Jews, paying taxes to Rome was treasonous. Before Pilate was appointed by Rome, there had been four other prefects in twenty years. Most of them were unable to handle the population. The prefects had to walk a tightrope between pleasing Rome by collecting the taxes they expected and not upsetting the people so much that they rioted. It didn’t help that the Romans could never seem to understand the Jewish faith.
The Romans had lots of gods that they worshiped and they could usually appease a conquered nation just by worshiping their gods and introducing them to the Roman gods. My people weren’t so easily pacified. We worship one God and only one God. We were not going to worship their false gods and they were not allowed to enter our Temple. But even our own people were not united except in our hatred for the Romans. The Pharisees saw themselves as the pious moral judges of society. They had an ongoing dispute with the Sadducees who were the elite priestly class and were happy to accommodate the Romans as long as they could retain their power as guardians of the Temple and collectors of the people’s tithes. The real trouble makers were the Zealots. They refused to accept Roman rule and were constantly trying to find ways to bring about a revolt. Thankfully for my business, most of the people were more sensible about it, recognizing that the Romans wouldn’t go away without shedding an awful lot of Jewish blood. It was a province that was always on edge. It seemed that open rebellion could break out with just the slightest provocation from the Romans.
It was tough to be a businessman in this situation. I once landed a large order for tunics and cloaks for the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. I thought this would really make my business grow. But when it became known that I was selling to the Roman military brigade, I lost the business of all those who sympathized with the Zealots and many of my customers who were Pharisees. It’s taken me a long time to rebuild my customer base. Because of this, I’ve learned to try hard not to offend anyone and that means not being aligned with anyone. I go to the Temple on the major holy days and I bring the required sacrifices, but I don’t get into the theological arguments between the Pharisees and Sadducees. And I try to avoid any political discussion at all. Politics and religion can be bad for business.
And that’s how I ended up in the situation I was in on that very special day - because I was clueless about what had been happening around us. I had a big order for some wool blankets and my supplier of wool was a week late with his shipment. So on this day, I decided I was going to have to go pay him a visit at his place in Bethany and see what was holding him up. He’d always been very reliable before. It was just a couple of miles away and I could be back early in the afternoon. But as I was heading out of the city gate, I saw that there were a lot more people than usual. Jerusalem was always packed with Jews from around the Empire at Passover, but today there were a lot more people and they didn’t seem to be trying to go anywhere. They were standing in the road and on the sides of the road. Some people were climbing the trees so they see over the crowd. Others were cutting palm branches and giving them to people in the crowd. I tried to elbow my way through the crowds but I wasn’t having any luck. It looked like the road was packed all the way down to the Kidron Valley leading to the Mount of Olives. There were thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people and all of them seemed to be expecting something or someone. This reminded me of the time when I was in Rome negotiating a contract when the emperor returned from a victorious war campaign. It seemed that the whole city came out to greet the emperor with shouts of Hail Caesar! Was a king coming to Jerusalem? But we didn’t have a king at this time. The emperor was unlikely to come to Judea and Pontius Pilate wouldn’t receive this kind of greeting.