After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.”’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’ Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer”; but you have made it a den of robbers.’
Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.
Actions speak louder than words. And here Christ’s actions shout, very loudly indeed. This final step of the journey into Jerusalem was not a spur of the moment thing; it was planned. At this time Jesus already had a price on his head, as we are told in John 11:57. So, this was a deliberate, courageous act. The timing of his triumphant, peaceful and kingly ride into Jerusalem on a colt was chosen to contrast with the Roman procession into Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, at the time of the Passover, would be powder keg waiting to be ignited by all sorts of ‘trouble makers’; after all Passover celebrated the Jewish people’s release from a previous empire, and anti-Roman passions would be running high. So, at the beginning of the week of Passover Roman legions from the sea-side garrison in Caesarea Maritima would ride into Jerusalem to subdue any trouble, which would be done with cruel efficiency.
This procession of imperial cavalry was headed by Pontious Pilate on a war horse. The contrast could not have been greater, and few would have failed to notice the significance. Jesus had set his face against oppression, corruption and exploitation … and he would pay the price for it; and thank God he did!
Saviour God, we thank you for Christ’s sacrifice as he stood up against the powers of corrupt governments and oppressive empires. We thank you that his resurrection demonstrated the triumph of good over evil, of love over hate. We pray you will give us the courage and insight to do the same today. Amen.
Alan Yates, Education & Learning Committee Convenor, member of Trinity URC, High Wycombe