When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
The resurrection of Lazarus made Jesus a celebrity. When John said the crowd came to see Lazarus, this was not to give honor to Lazarus. But it was to see the astonishing power of Christ in Lazarus.
God’s power is clear in the resurrection of Lazarus. It is amazing the reaction the chief priests had to this display of God’s power. Rather than giving God glory, they tried to destroy the evidence of His grace. Blind rage filled their hearts. They were so filled with rage they did not hesitate to make war against God. They did not even see the futility of trying to kill a man raised from the dead.
The day after the banquet given in his honor, Jesus went to Jerusalem. Jesus entered the city riding on a donkey. The other Gospels give us more details about the donkey but John leaves it with the fact he was riding on a donkey.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem a large crowd gathered to welcome Him into the city. Imagine you were a Jew living at that time. You grew up hearing about the coming Messiah someday. Someday the Messiah will come, someday. You knew the prophecies about the Messiah. You knew he would come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, someday. You wake up this morning and that someday is today.
The excitement and energy had to be electric. Finally, today is the day. After all the years of being subject to foreign powers, Israel would be free. First, there were the Babylonians, then the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Today is the day all that changes. Today Israel’s king arrives.
Now imagine the disappointment when your expectation is not met. The Romans are not overthrown. Israel remains subject to foreign powers. No wonder the crowd turned on Jesus during His trial.
The crowd waved palm branches. In the first century, palm branches were the symbol of victory and peace. They used palm branches to recognize a king. They used palm branches to supplicate, in humility, the favor of a conqueror. But this crowd took the branches in gladness and received a new king.
As they waived the palm branches they shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” By shouting this they acknowledged Jesus as the Christ or Messiah.
The cry came from Psalm 118:25-26. “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The word Hosanna comes from two Hebrew words. It means Save us, I beseech you. It is probable this was a frequent prayer. As a result, this Psalm was familiar to them. Their expectations were clear. Rome was going down.
The Messianic expectations of the first century and today’s church are striking. In the first century, expected a physical kingdom. Today many evangelical churches preach the blessing of Christ are physical and financial. Neither the 1st century Jew or the 21st-century church preach the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God. Neither consider the spiritual real or, if real, important.
Think about how we pray. Our prayers are all for the physical present world. “Give me a raise.” “Make my boss easier to get along with.” “Heal my cold.” “Help me do well on my exam.” Most of our prayers are trivial. They are important to us at the time we pray them, but they are all centered on us and our physical world.
We are to desire the Kingdom of God with our whole heart. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Christ taught us to pray “Your Kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10) But few of us are earnest in that prayer.
John quotes the prophet Zechariah 9:9. “Fear Not…” Our minds are never at peace unless we know that Christ reigns in and among us. As we wait for Christ’s coming again we should remember these words. In time Zechariah was a long was away from Christ’s first advent. Yet he wrote, “Fear not our King is coming.” We can rejoice. Christ is coming again.
The prophet predicted everything. Events were unrolling as the prophet had written. Every good Jew knew the scriptures. Plus, Jesus had taught his disciples. Yet they did not understand what was happening as they watched it unfold. They, like us, cannot get past our preconceived idea and prejudices.
First, we need to be aware we have preconceived ideas. And that those preconceived ideas may not be what God said. Second, we need to study the scriptures. Approach the scriptures allowing them to teach us. The scripture is to correct us. They do not re-enforce our prejudices. Third, pray God opens our eyes. God opened the eye of Christ disciples after the resurrection.
The high priests were not happy at the crowd’s action toward Jesus. The words recorded by John shows rage. They felt like they had not done enough. They felt like they had talked about it long enough. Things were getting out of hand. They had warned the people about Jesus.
This is the way desperate men talk when they are preparing for extreme measures. If God’s enemies are so resolved in pursuing evil, we ought to be far more resolved in a doing God’s will.