Chapter Eleven

                        PALM SUNDAY

       There was no turning back now, and nothing would deter Jesus from
going to the City of G-d, there to initiate the new age. Whether or not he
had a definite plan of action for his mission in Jerusalem, or whether he
was convinced that G-d would reveal to him what he must do there, is not
certain, but he displays now a confidence in his own success (and probably
that of the Jewish people as well) so that nothing could stand in his
way. The probability is that he DID have at least some germ of a plan of
action formulated, and may even have been in contact with sympathizers or
followers in Jerusalem who were to help him execute that plan.

       His triumphant attitude is expressed in the incident of the warning
he had received as he began his journey to the Holy City.

     "The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto
      him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.
      And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast
      out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third
      day I shall be perfected."
                                Luke 13:31-32

       This is no longer the Jesus who retreats into the wilderness or the
mountains to avoid contact with the governing authorities. This is the man
confident of his messianic identity, on a mission to save his people from
the Roman oppressor, and from Rome's Jewish collaborators. And now the
danger is no longer veiled and no longer intimated. The threat is overt!
"... for Herod will kill thee."

       His reply is a challenge to all those who threaten him; it is a
daring crescendo of determination, and complete faith in G-d: today he
heals the nation and cleanses it of impurities ("devils"); tomorrow he will
accomplish yet more; and on the day following he will be PERFECTED! And
although he does not delineate, in any detailed way, the nature of this
perfection, the word TELEYOMAI does not in itself imply martyrdom, altough
in retrospect, many Christians would like to read such an interpretation
into it. More likely, by this perfection is meant the completion of his
task as messianic deliverer of Israel, champion of his people in the Final
Battle, and coronation as king of the Jews, G-d's viceroy on earth in the
Kingdom of Heaven.

       He gathers his followers together and speaks words of encourage-
ment to them:

     "Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold,
      we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the
      prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished."
                                 Luke 18:31

       The excitement and the confidence rise as they draw closer and
closer to the City:

     "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was
      lost. And as they heard these things, he added and spake a par-
      able, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought
      that the kingdom of G-d should immediately appear."
                                  Luke 19:11

       Now it appears that Jesus had planned to make his messianic ap-
pearence in Jerusalem co-incide with the Passover holiday. He probably
thought this appropriate since Passover is the time PAR EXCELLENCE of
Jewish redemption from oppression. Passover looks back at the redemption
from Egyptian bondage, but also ahead to the great Final Redemption by
the power of the King Messiah. It is, after all, at the Passover Seder
that Jews call for Elijah the prophet, herald of the messiah, to appear,
and in the darkest hours of Jewish history messianic expectations always
were pronouced. Passover falls in the month of Nissan, the first month of
the year at a season of hope. Practically the first words of the Seder
service are:

     "Now we are slaves;
      In this coming year, may we be free."

       Six days before the on-set of Passover, Jesus and his Jewish
followers arrived in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, located approxi-
mately 1 3/4 miles to the southeast of the Holy City (known in Hebrew as
Bet Chananyah). Since Passover fell on a Friday that year, it would mean
that their arrival in Bethany was on the eve of the Sabbath, and it was
here, in the home of Martha and Lazarus (whom later tradition claimed was
raised from the dead by Jesus) that they spent the Sabbath, resting in
preparation for the anticipated grand entrance into Jerusalem on the
following day.

       Jewish tradition says that the messiah will appear and reveal
himself to Israel on the first day of the week. That is why, during the
prayer, at the departure of the Sabbath, known as HAVDALAH in  Hebrew,
Jews pray:

      Oh Elijah the Prophet!
      Oh Elijah the Tishbite!
      Oh Elijah the Gileadite!
      Oh speedily - in our time
      May he come to us,
      Bringing Messiah, the Son David!"

       And so it was on the first day of the week that Jesus and his
disciples approached Jerusalem with hope and good tidings of a new day.
When they approached the suburb of Bethphage, Jesus sent two of his
disciples ahead into the town, telling them that at a certain place they
would find a tethered donkey which they were to bring to him, upon which he
would ride into Jerusalem in in fullfillemnt of the messianic prophecy of
Zechariah (9:9). This detail intimates that indeed Jesus' journey to
Jerusalem was not just something completely spontaneous, but rather a
thought-out and planned event, and that he had been in contact all along
with various collaborators in and around Jerusalem who fully believed that
the Kingdom of Heaven was to be immediately initiated, and who wished to
assist in its materialization. It is the first hint that is given of a
general widespread, planned revolt against the Satanic Roman kingdom of
Arrogance by the various factions of the faithfull of Jerusalem.

       The moment that they had been waiting for arrived! Jesus, mounted
upon the ass, entered the Holy City, and his followers "spread their
garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and
strawed them in the way" (Mark 118), and they "took branches of palm trees
and went forth to meet him" (John 12:13).

       Mark and Matthew note that branches of trees were strewn in his
path, as well as clothing. Luke only mentions clothing. John, the least
reliable evangelist, in terms of historical accuracy, is the only gospel
author to add the detail of the palms. Yet in this instance, we may trust
his word as shall presently be explained.

     "And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, say-
      ing, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the L--d:
      Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the
      name of the L--d: Hosanna in the highest."
                        Mark 11:9-10

     "And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried,
      saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh
      in the name of the L--d; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was
      come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
      And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of
                        Matthew 21:9-11

     "And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount
      of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice
      and praise G-d with a loud voice for all the mighty works that
      they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the
      name of the L--d: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest."
                        Luke 19:37-38

     "... much people that were come to the feast ... went forth to
      meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel
      that cometh in the name of the L--d."
                        John 12:12-13

       These are the descriptions of what is called the Triumphal Entry
of Jesus into Jerusalem as told by each of the evangelists. The telling
of each gospel has significant deviations from which we hope we can
glean some semblence of historical sense.

       Both Mark and Luke state that those who hailed his entry were his
disciples or followers, which is probably more of an historical fact than
that it was an amorphous "multitude" of pilgrims or citizens of Jerusalem.
As a matter of fact, Matthew reports that the people of Jerusalem did not
knwo who he was, and had to be told that he "is the prophet of Nazareth",
that is, the multitudes still only know him as the PROPHET of the Kingdom,
not as its messianic King. Yet even the presence of the Kingdom's prophet
is sufficient to arouse excitement. It is as though he himself is likened
to Elijah announcing glad tidings!

       The words with which they praise him are as significant as the air
of excitement which they generate around him, for their expressions of joy
are LITURGICAL. "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the L--d" is from
Psalm 118; as such it is part of the series of psalms known as HALLEL
(lierally "Praise") intoned in the synagogue on the various Jewish
holidays. Actually, the Hallel is supposed to be recited on those
occaisions when the Jewish people feels itself to be, or have been,
experiencing the salvation of G-d from danger or from oppression. Among the
days that it is recited are Passover and Tabernacles, the former
commemorating the Divine deliverance from Egypt, and the latter
commemorating G-d's protection of Israel in the wilderness. Morover, it is
the holiday of Tabernacles that palm branches are carried and waved while
the Hallel is being recited. Towards the end of the synagogue service, the
worshippers walk in procession around the synagogue reciting a series of
prayers known as HOSHANOT! They are called this because their major refrain
is HASHEM HOSHA NA!, Oh L--d, Save us now we beseech thee! Tabernacles is
part of the Rosh HaShannah holiday cycle, comprising Rosh HaShannah (New
Year Day), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Tabernacles). There is
a correspondence between the Passover season and the Rosh HaShannah
season. Both celebrate a new beginning for Israel. Passover falls in the
first month of the Jewish year. It is a time of introspection and
repentance, anticipating the redemption. Rosh HaShannah falls in the
seventh month of the Jewish year but it is also a New Year celebration; it
is the RELIGIOUS New Year, and also a time of reflection, repentance, and
redemption. Thus, on the culminating holiday of the latter cycle, Israel
holds aloft the palm branch as a symbol of hope and joy (see Leviticus
23:40), and cries out to G-d, HOSHA NA! Oh Save us please! Whatever sort of
salvation is being prayed for, it is ultimately a prayer for MESSIANIC
salvation, a plea that Israel may at last be saved from the domination and
persecution of the nations, and that the Final Age may begin.

       Just as John the Baptist had used the ritual imersion symbolism of
Rosh HaShannah - Yom Kippur to espress repentance, so now the disciples
of Jesus used the psalm - Hallel symbolism of Sukkot to express anticipated
redemption. (Note Luke's use of the expression "PRAISE G-d with a loud
voice for all the mighty works that they had seen").

       When Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, there was an
air of anticipation abroad. Events were taking shape in the Holy City that
week which were to find expression in an open rebellion against the Roman
oppressor, an insurrection which no other subject nation of the Empire
would dare attempt. It was the pre-cursor of the great Jewish-Roman War of
66-70 CE. The sight of the prophet from Galilee, healer and preacher,
hightened the excitement generated by the inpouring of pilgrims from the
four corners of the earth, a fore-shadow ing of the messianic ingathering
of Israel. The disciples of Jesus, seeing their master riding upon the
messiah's donkey on this first day of a new week, expressed their hope and
joy in a form familiar to Jews, the lifting of the palm branch, thesinging
of Hallel, and the recitation of the HOSHA NA.

       Yet in all of this, there seems to be some sort of confusion in the
minds of the evangelists or their editors as to what exactly happened at
the Entry. The expressions, "Hosanna in the highest", "Hosanna to the son
of David"  make absolutely no sense whatsoever. It is as though the Hebrew
expression were misunderstood to mean "praise" or "glory" by the non-Hebrew
speaking authors or editors. As a matter of fact, the entire episode of the
Triumpal Entry, and especially its Jewish references, has been
misunderstood and distorted in the minds of its Christian readers, as has
the the entire series of events cumulatively known in Christian tradition
as Holy Week (or Passion Week). Hopefully this essay may help to shed some
new light of understanding for its readers.

     "The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how
ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him."
                         John 12:19

       The correct reading should be "The Sadducees therefore said". All
along, the Herodian party, close allies of the Sadducees, had placed Jesus
and his followersunder survellience on suspicion of rousing the people to
revolt. Now, seeing the popular excited reaction to his mounted entrance
into the City at this season of high messianic expectation, and observing
the interaction between him and the people, the Sadducees take uneasy
notice. Here, they understand, is someone more dangerous than the Baptist,
for while the Baptist called the people out to the wilderness, Jesus whom
the people call "prophet", brings his mission into the heart of the
Quisling establishment domain. Here in the City is the seat of the Roman
government in the Land of Israel. Jesus appears to be defying the power of
Rome itself.

       "The world is gone after him" - 'world' is a common euphemism
for the Jewish people in rabbinic literature, especially the Talmud.

     "And there were certain Greeks among them, that came up to worship
      at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of
      Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him saying, Sir, we would see
      Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and
      Philip tell Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is
      come, that the Son of man should be glorified ... Now is the
      judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be
      cast out."
                          John 12:20-23,32

       Only John records this incident. "Greeks" - the word HELLENES
should not be understood as referring to gentiles. It means Jews of
the Greek speaking diaspora. There were many such living in the Land
of Israel who had emigrated there. They had their own neighborhoods
and synagogues and associations much as the Eastern European Jewish
immigrants had their "FAREINS" here in this country at the start of
the twentieth century. For a reference to the synagogues of the resi-
dent Hellenes in Jerusalem, see Acts 6:9. The "Greeks" referred to here
however are NOT residents of Jerusalem. They are pilgrims who "came up
to worship at the feast". Apparently the fame of Jesus had either
spread to the diaspora or these visiting pilgrims just happened to be
present at Jesus' entry into the City and were impressed or curious.
The diaspora Jews of that time waited just as expectantly for the mes-
siah as those of the Land of Israel, perhaps more so since they felt
the "exile" more acutely. During their interview with Jesus, he tells
them that their expectations are to bepresently realized. The "prince
of this world", Caesar, is to be cast out and the messiah is to
be immanently glorified! This interchange between Jesus and the
Hellenic Jews was to have far reaching consequences regarding the
spread of Christianity as we shall see later.

       "Came to Philip" - Philip is again mentioned together with Andrew.
Why do the Greeks approach Philip? Although Philip and Andrew are said to
be residents of Bethsaida, Philip's Jewish name is never given, a very
strange thing since the Jewish names of most of the other disciples ARE
given. If Philip bore only a Greek name, then it is possible that he or his
parents came originally from the Greek diaspora and settled in Bethsaida.
If that is so, and by virtue of the fact that he SPOKE Greek, then he would
be the logical one for the Greek-speaking pilgrims to approach. As stated
earlier, Philip and Andrew were responsible for providing food for the
Nazarene group. As disciples who did the "shopping" for the group, they
would come into contact with various kinds of strangers more often than the

       We can picture the scene of that Palm Sunday morning as Jesus walked
(or rode) thorugh the streets of Jerusalem, followed by the crowd, until he
came to the heart of City, and stood facing the Temple, the hub of the
world, the place of the Dwelling Presence of the G-d of Israel.

     "Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou
      unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and
      said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will
      raise it up."
                        John 2:18-19

       This was a bold statement for Jesus to make, and it is the charge
that was brought up against him at his trial (Mark 14:59). Indeed, the
messiah is to build the third and final Temple in the messianic age of the
Kingdom. It will be a pure House of G-d to which all nations shall stream.
The Temple that stood in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus was built by
Herod the Great, and presided over by the pro-Roman Sadducees. There were
many Jews of that day who felt that THAT Temple was defiled as it had been
under the pro-Selucid Hellenists. They would not have been sorry to see
it replaced by the Temple of the messiah as a fitting beginning of the new
age. This, of all messianic tasks, is what Jesus promises "the Jews" in
answer to their inquiry about his messiah-hood.

       "Then answered the Jews" - CERTAIN Jews. Use of the definite article
in New Testament writings shows underlying resonances of anti-semitism
which influenced subsequent Christian modes of generalized antipathetic
thinking about Jews. The expression, "THE Jews", is over-worked in John's
gospel. In the synoptic gospels, it is usually paralleled by "THE
Pharisees". In relating that THE Jews asked Jesus for a sign, it lends a
certain negativity to the question that probably was not intended. The
majority of THE Jews was not present in Jerusalem at the time so only SOME
Jews could have asked him for a sign from motives of expectant curiosity,
not as a challenge

     "And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when
      he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide
      was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve."
                            Mark 11:11

       What does the phrase "looked round about upon all things" mean if
not some sort of prepatory reconnosance? Mark, earliest of the evangelists,
is the only one to report this detail. This verse sets the scene for what
is to follow on the next day, the "Cleansing of the Temple."

Feel free to send King Solomon email; CLICK HERE

Click to return to the JN Menu

Click to return to the Literary Index

Click to return to the Website Index Page

Copyright 1997