Have you ever wondered what it was like when Jesus came into Jerusalem? One of the striking things about the gospel stories of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem for His last Passover is the tradition of the triumphal entry. Jesus is cheered into the city by travelers that are singing about the coming kingdom of God!
It's impossible to know how many pilgrims turned out that day -- but when Jesus entered the city, the gospels say He received a hero's welcome -- a kind of ancient “ticker-tape parade”.
I see people lining the roadway leading into Jerusalem. They are waving the palm branches showing that they believe in Jesus, He is going to deliver them from their terrible lives. He is smarter than the scribes. And He is the greatest. And so, they are all excited!
Jesus was a Jewish preacher from a small town in rural Galilee, an area some say was known for its political activism. And for at least a year, the gospels say, He would be traveling the countryside, reaching out to the common people, including the outcasts, the unpopular and downtrodden of His time.
He had this power and this charisma about Him that had never been seen or experienced before. How big was His following? Well, we don't know for sure. Certainly, hundreds at any given time in His ministry and public activities. He was a phenomenon. Many believe that crowds were drawn by reports of miraculous healings -- and that many came to see Him as the long-promised Savior who would usher in something called the Kingdom of God.
They think He is the savior for the Jewish people. Jesus would proclaim the Kingdom of God was for everybody, and by that He meant the powerful presence of and the rule of God.
The 1st Century Jewish people were hoping for heaven on earth, so their thoughts may have had something far worldlier in mind. Somehow the way He was speaking they thought He was talking about power and privilege, recognition, authority. And He was suggesting a major shake-up in the society of His time. I think He meant by that, there would be big changes in Israel, and eventually big changes throughout the world. There were BIG changes, but not like what they wanted or expected.
His message was challenging! There were other kingdoms. There was the Kingdom of Herod, the Kingdom of Caesar. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom of God is what life on earth would be like if God were king, and those other guys were not.
Jesus’ message had a political dimension to what He was talking about. For those who gathered to hear Jesus speak received a message of hope, a promise of liberation from sickness, poverty and oppression. But when you study the setting of the story you realize that not everyone who heard Jesus preach would have been pleased about the changes He pledged or the devotion He inspired. As Jesus entered Jerusalem along this valley in the east, another man was arriving from the west. His name was Pontius Pilate.
At the time, the Jewish people were living under the oppression of the Roman Empire, a vast imperial territory that stretched from what is now Scotland to Saudi Arabia. Pilate was the Roman prefect, or governor, appointed to collect taxes and maintain order in the remote outpost of Judea.
His job depended upon his keeping peace in that province. So, any kind of popular movement that seemed to threaten the peacefulness and stability of Judea would have been seen by Pilate as a threat.
Pilate was a career military man and member of the Roman aristocracy. On most days he resided at his seaside retreat in the town of Caesaria. But on special occasions like Passover he made the 40-mile march to Jerusalem to keep an eye on the crowds who would flock to worship and offer sacrifices at the Temple.
Pilate had to leave one of the loveliest seaside resorts in the eastern Mediterranean and go to a madhouse of somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 extra people; stay there for about two-and-a-half weeks while everybody came, did their stuff in the Temple, and then left.
What kind of mood would Pilate have been in, on an occasion like this? My guess would be that Pilate was in a bad mood before he even got to town. I would have been! When you try to piece together what happened that week, we can assume that Pilate's mood was sure to get even worse when word came back that a Jewish preacher was in the city stirring up crowds with promises about a Kingdom of God.
With all the excitement going on in the Jerusalem, Pilate would not have been the only one keeping tabs on this Jesus, preacher from Galilee... Inside the Temple, there was another powerful man would have been keeping watch, as well.
I am sure Caiphas heard the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. He had the most to lose! Joseph Caiaphas was the high priest of the Jewish Temple, an aristocrat appointed by Rome who presided over everything from religious laws to some criminal trials. He was the most powerful man in Jerusalem and scholars agree the person whom Pilate would have held responsible if anything went wrong that Passover.
He had been the high priest for years. He was planning on being the high priest for many more years to come. And if he couldn't control what was happening in Jerusalem, then there was a good chance the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, was going to remove him from office. So, he had a lot to be worried about. The facts tell us anyone entering the city with the kind of fanfare Jesus attracted was sure to capture Caiaphas' attention.
Jesus did not come to get attention from political or religious leaders. He came to rescue us from our sins, He came to save the world. He was not trying to over throw the government, but He was trying to give people hope.
There are many benefits for Jesus coming to this earth; total forgiveness, healing, and finding true freedom. Would you like those benefits? Then come and learn because Jesus would love for you to have all that and more!
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