Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
How it might have been (but probably wasn’t)
Matthew 21: 1-11, Mark 11: 1-11, Luke 19: 28-44, John 12: 12-19
The story of Jesus entry to Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday
is well known. Now some evidence of the logistics and preparation
behind the scenes of that day has recently been discovered.
A day before reaching the Holy city of Jerusalem from Jericho, to where they had been making their way for th
e Passover festival, Jesus called together his band of disciples and followers around the evening’s fire. He had brought them together for some planning for what was going to be an eventful few days. After briefly outlining his plan to the whole group, he gathered around him a few of his closest friends, to add a bit more detail about his ideas for the next day and to send a few of them off on errands of preparation.
The next morning when they awoke, the Sons Of Thunder were missing, as were Peter and a handful of other followers although Jesus seemed unconcerned. Unbeknown to the others he had sent them off at sunrise to prepare what they had planned the night before. The group packed up quickly to walk as far as possible before the sun rose too high in the sky to make walking uncomfortable, as the day heated up. They came within striking distance of Bethany late in the morning, when James and John rejoined. They said nothing just nodding to Jesus when he glanced over to them and they walked on with the rest of the party.
As it was now in the full heat of the day jesus called a halt at the side of the road, where there was shade and water, telling his followers to rest until the day began to cool. A few of them wondered why they didn’t push on into the town but most were used Jesus’ occasional unpredictability. After they had rested for about an hour, although it was still hot Jesus beckoned to Peter and after a hurried, quiet chat Peter in turn beckoned a few other followers to go with him and set of toward Bethany. No one who noticed, many were dozing in the heat, thought anything of this since Jesus was often sending people off on odd errands and at odd times.
When Peter had gone, James and John talked quietly with Jesus, letting him know that the colt had been arranged, as he had asked, for the next day and that hey didn’t need all the coin they had taken to hire the young donkey. Jesus said to give it back to Judas, to be returned to the communal purse but not until the evening, after the colt had been returned to its owner.
Once the day had started to perceptibly cool, they made their way on toward Bethany. Jesus stopped them again just outside the village and called a few of his disciples over to give them instructions. Two Disciples he sent off to get the colt that he had pre-arranged, with the help of James and John, and bring it back to him although he didn’t tell them why or of the pre-arrangement merely saying that id questioned they were to say that :the master needed it”. Three more of his other followers he sent into Bethany to find the whole group food and secure lodging for the night in the village.
Half an hour later the two he sent for the colt returned, leading it. They went straight to Jesus and told them the donkey had been tied up just where he told them it would be and that it was called Philo. He asked if they’d had any trouble but they said when they mentioned his name the owner said everything was fine. They said also that the others would meet them later, with details about the night’s food and lodging.
Now Jesus divided the remaining group, sending the main body of them into Bethany in the wake of the three he’d sent to find food and beds for the night. The remainder comprised of eleven of the twelve, Peter having been sent ahead with a handful of other followers to Jerusalem, followed Jesus past Bethany and on to the Holy city, now with the colt in tow too. When they passed Gethsemene he halted the group yet again and divided them one more time. Keeping James and John with himself and the colt, he sent five around the city to the north gate and the remaining four ahead into the east gate. Then with the sons of thunder, he found a shady spot to sit in made himself comfortable by Gethsemene, giving those he’d sent on ahead time to get into the city and prepare.
After about half an hour, Jesus, with James and John, who were now leading Philo, moved off towards Jerusalem’s east gate. Keeping their gaze lowered, so as not to look directly at the sentries at the gate, they passed through without attracting too much attention. As soon as they were away from the gate on the inside, all three of them looked around for Peter and the others who had come on ahead. They couldn’t spot all of them but a face here and there in the passers buy and those just hanging around were enough to let them know everything was ready. John now brought the colt to Jesus and threw his cloak over it’s back. James did likewise and they helped him up onto the donkey.
As Jesus started along the street, on the back of the colt, a cry of ‘Hosanna’ rang out, then another then another and people started throwing cloaks and palm leaves in the path of the donkey as Jesus rode along. What a few of his followers had started, others quickly joined in and the crowd grew and from the occasional cry the cheers grew into a chant, ‘Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’. Jesus rode along the wide thoroughfare sitting upright holding a kingly bearing and looking around and waving in acknowledgement of the cheering and adulation as he passed by. Here and there he caught the eye of one of his followers in the crowd, nodding almost imperceptibly to them and as he did so they faded to the back of the crowd and made their way out of the city and back to Bethany for the night.
By the time Jesus reached the temple, without his followers inciting the crowd from the background most of them had faded away, to go on about their own business. The last stragglers dispersed, disappearing down side streets as he reached the temple’s entrance and dismounted handing the reigns to James. Before stepping in to the temple, Jesus had a few more quick words with James and John saw watched them turn back the way they had come to make their way back to Bethany for the night, taking the colt with them back to its owner.
Jesus, after seeing them round the corner of the temple stepped inside and looked around the Court of the Gentiles, taking it all in, studying the layout. After storing this information away in his memory ready for the next day, he noticed the lengthening shadows and so he too made his way back to Bethany before it got dark.
My 2013 Easter story, told through a Roman Centurion’s diary, can be read here: