Summary: On Palm Sunday, the people hailed Christ's entry into Jerusalem. But they were looking for a king and a prophet, and not also a priestly Christ, leading to dissapointment when Christ suffered and died.
On a spring afternoon, two thousand years ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. “Hosanna!” Amid shouts of praise to God and acclamation of His own dominion, he rode on. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Unswervingly, he proceeded the two miles from Bethany with the throng moving behind and before him. “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” Moving westward across the Mount of Olives, He looked out upon the east walls Jerusalem and the temple and the gate where he would enter. “Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk. 11:9,10). It was an hour’s journey, from Bethany to Jerusalem, and the crowd’s anticipation built with each passing milestone, until, at last, they entered the city.
Passing through the gate, Jesus and his company came to the temple itself. He went through its courts, traversed its perimeter and looking at everything, perceiving the people and their actions, observing the house of the Lord God Almighty. And then, at the height of suspense, what does Jesus do? Jesus and the twelve return to Bethany. He leaves. The crowds doubtless understood the need to find lodging, as it was late, and with the coming Passover there was electricity in the air that continued till the next day. But I would have been let down. Can you imagine? Ethel, why did we just walk one hour to Jerusalem just to see this Jesus parade around and then leave?
Why had the people swarmed around Jesus? What were the crowds looking for? We could simply say “Christ,” that is, “Messiah,” but what’s a Messiah? Who is this Anointed One?
Christ was a prophet. For nearly 400 years, since the final prophecy of Malachi, the voice of the Lord was conspicuously absent from Israel. But God promised through Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him” (Dt. 18:18). So Christ would be not merely a prophet, but the prophet, who would speak to God as Moses did: “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Dt. 34:10). Christ would restore intimate connection to God.
Christ also was political liberator. Judea was under Roman occupation. Although the Jews had some autonomy under the occupying authority, they were, in their minds, not free but under the power of pagan foreigners. The political Messiah would free God’s people from the rule of the enemy.
Christ was the son of David. The removal of the Roman Reich would leave a political vacuum. Christ would restore the kingdom of Israel and would thus need to be its rightful heir. God promised to David.
“The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him wit the rod of men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever” (2 Sa. 7:11b–16).
Messiah would have an everlasting kingdom, the perfection of his father David’s reign.
So then, the crowds, did they find what they were looking for in Jesus? Was Jesus prophet and king? The disciple’s response to Jesus’ inquiry, “Who do people say I am?” reveals part of the story. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, on of the prophets” (Mk. 8:27,28). The people from early in His ministry acknowledged Jesus as a prophet. Even after the crucifixion, the disciples on the road to Emmaus said of Jesus, “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (Lk. 24:19).
But the suffering and death of Jesus killed any faith that Jesus may have been the son of David, who would restore the kingdom of Israel. Isaiah’s prophecy must have been wrong:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders… He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Is. 9:6,7).
It’s impossible for Messiah to rule, since he died before he could establish the kingdom and pass it to his heir. And then there’s the matter of an heir. Jesus was unmarried and childless. If Messiah’s offspring were to continue to govern the realm—assuming that Jesus even had one—, He failed in that regard was well.