Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout jubilantly, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Look—your King is coming; He is righteous and able to save. He comes seated humbly on a donkey, on a colt, a foal of a donkey~ Zechariah 9:9
I spent the afternoon studying Palm Sunday. I wanted to look at this day through Jewish eyes…. in light of Old Testament Scriptures. To see what the people who saw Him ride into Jerusalem would’ve seen and known. There are so many rich nuggets to be found in this momentous occasion. My study began with a specific question. Why did God choose this particular day for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem? Was it just a random day or did it have specific meaning to the Jews of that day?
The day Jesus entered Jerusalem was called “lamb selection day”. I love that! Families selected their lambs in the late afternoon. Offering Himself as the Lamb, Jesus also rode into the city in the late afternoon that day (Mark 11:11).
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household… Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. – Exodus 12:3, 6
How is it that I have never heard of Lamb Selection Day? Or that it was the same day as what we call Palm Sunday? The writers of the New Testament certainly understood the significance. But of course they grew up abundantly schooled in the Torah and the Old Testament Scriptures, I did not.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” Hebrews 7:27 says, “He sacrificed for sins, once for all, when he offered himself”, and Hebrews 9:28, ”Christ was sacrificed to take away the sins of many people.” John the Baptist said, ”Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Peter, in 1 Peter 1:19 says, ”You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or spot.” In the book of Revelation twenty or more times it refers to Christ as the Lamb. Revelation 5:6 says, “Then I saw a lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne…”. Revelation 12:11 – ”They overcame by the blood of the Lamb…”
From Genesis (Genesis 22:8 – “God Himself will provide a lamb”), to Revelation (Revelation 5:12 – “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain”), Christ is revealed as our Passover Lamb! And, just to make sure we didn’t miss it, God sent His Son into Jerusalem on the same day that the Jewish people had been selecting their lambs for the past 1500 years!
Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem four days before Passover is not a coincidence. The lambs chosen for sacrifice by each family on the 10th of Nisan (the day we call Palm Sunday) must be visible for 4 days before the Passover Feast in order for everyone to observe the selected lamb’s perfection. During those days of inspection of the lambs, the perfect Lamb of God was present daily at the Temple, where everyone could see Him….. allowing Himself to be inspected by the people.
Jewish historians cite that the lambs during that time all came from Bethlehem and were brought into Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. At that time, only the sheep from Bethlehem, that had been raised especially for this purpose, were allowed to be used for selection. Jesus entered Jerusalem along with all the Passover lambs through that same Sheep gate. Can’t you just see it? What a beautiful picture of redemption…. His hour had finally come! Oh what a beautiful Savior… what a beautiful spotless Passover Lamb.
The road into Jerusalem was extremely crowded that day. Hundreds of thousands (or according to Josephus, millions) of pilgrims were flocking into the city to begin the celebration of the Passover season. How did the people respond to the arrival of Jesus?
At the Sheep Gate, a crowd of people threw their coats and branches down on the ground while shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanah in the highest!’
“Hosanna” – hosha’na in Hebrew means, “Save now!” They were hailing Him as King – the One Who would dwell with them in the Messianic Kingdom! By this time they were weary from the oppression by the Romans. It was 1,000 years since Solomon had been crowned king and rode in on a donkey to Jerusalem (1 Kings 1:32-40). AND of course – it was nearly PASSOVER – which to them was a reminder of God’s deliverance from their enemies! Now Jesus… the Messiah, would finally set up His Kingdom delivering them out of bondage to the Romans and reigning over their beloved nation of Israel!
The cheering crowd was upsetting some of the Pharisees who began to call out to Jesus saying, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” (Luke 19:39). Jesus refused and told them that if His followers were silenced, the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40). The stones? Why did Jesus mention the stones? What would that have meant to this crowd of people and the Pharisees?
Jesus had started his triumphal entry east of the Jordan – He crossed the Jordan River on that day. .. . Nisan 10th (Palm Sunday). In Joshua 4:19 the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land — on the 10th of Nisan!!!
After crossing the Jordan on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Jericho. This city was the first to be conquered by the children of Israel in Joshua’s day when they were fighting for a kingdom. All of those standing there along the road wouldn’t have missed the symbolism of crossing the Jordan into the Promise Land and setting up a kingdom. This must be what Jesus was coming to do! Set up His Kingdom here in Israel.
Mark 10:46 tells about a crowd joined Jesus near Jericho. Word had gotten out – HE WAS COMING! The people were crying “Jesus, SON OF DAVID, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).
Their cry was for the restoration of the age of Solomon. This is what they had longed for… what they were expecting! For the restoration of Israel…. for the return of what it had looked like in Solomon’s day.
This is the setting for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem . . . Excitement for the deliverance of Roman oppression and the setting up of a glorious kingdom. They’re Savior had come for them! As you look at the details of what was happening it’s easy to get caught up in their excitement and forget that in a few days these same people would suffer a great disappointment. Their expectations were not met…. or so they thought. It didn’t turn out the way they thought. The One they thought was Messiah… King…. would be crucified and their lives would remain under the oppression of Rome resulting in the destruction of their beloved Temple.
But Jesus did set up His Kingdom. His hour had come. His purpose and destiny fulfilled.
He had reclaimed a kingdom ——— His Father’s kingdom.
He had conquered ——– sin and death –- the real oppressor (NOT Rome) (Heb. 2:14)
Ephesians 4:7 quotes Psalm 68 which is a victory hymn written by King David. “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
In Psalm 68 we read that after a TRIUMPH, the CONQUERING KING marched through his enemy’s territory, wreaking havoc and collecting spoils – and bringing home those spoils.
Hebrews 2:14 says that through death, Jesus DESTROYED Satan who had the power of death, and released the CAPTIVES.
Jesus’ death meant VICTORY for us.
Through His death and resurrection He gave LIFE to us….. ETERNAL LIFE in Him.
His Kingdom is a Kingdom which resides in us and released through us.
But sadly they couldn’t see all of that yet. They were crying out Hosanna! It was a plea for salvation. Literally, hosanna means “I beg you to save!” or “please deliver us!” It was a cry for salvation and a recognition that Jesus was the One able to save. They were looking for a physical king. They were desiring and hoping for someone to change their oppressed condition.
They were sure that the long-awaited Messiah would come in the form of a militaristic king. One who would sit on an earthly throne. The throne of David—and reign in Jerusalem over a renewed Davidic kingdom.
Spiritually they were blind to their true condition…. they needed salvation from sin, not from Roman oppressors. Isaiah 42 talks about the spiritually blind who are captives and sit in darkness. They regain their sight when they are set free. Isaiah 35 prophesies about the Messianic Kingdom (the Highway of Holiness) and one of the responses of Heaven to save is the recovery of sight to the blind.
Mark 10:51-52 tells us that there was a blind man named Bartimaeus who was one of those by the road on that Palm Sunday…. on that lamb selection day.
What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. ~ Mark 10:51-52
He followed Jesus. He selected his Lamb that day! I will find it hard now to refer to it as Palm Sunday now that I know about “lamb selection day.” That just seems so much more appropriate. What about you? Have you chosen The Lamb of God today? Select Him and examine Him… He has come to set you free and set up His Kingdom in your life if you’ll let Him.