Next Gospel Backgrounds Lesson: Triumphal Entry Part I

This lesson is titled “The Triumphal Entry” because we have finally arrived at the most significant week in all human history. The next seven days are a roller coaster of emotions, ending on the highest peak of all, the Resurrection.

Lesson 39 will be in two parts. Part I will review the Ascent of Adummim, which connects Jericho to Jerusalem. We’ll meet up with Jesus and the recently resurrected Lazarus in Bethany, look at how Jesus procures a donkey for his entry into Jerusalem, and examine the crowd’s reaction as they welcomed Jesus.

Elevation from Jericho to Jerusalem

The lesson begins with Jesus and His talmidim leaving Jericho to make the 18-mile journey to Jerusalem. We can recreate this journey when we go to Israel (albeit from an air-conditioned bus with wi-fi). Although 18 miles is not that far, the elevation gain is steep, so one had to be in excellent physical shape to do it on foot. As the “Following the Messiah” hosts point out, it would be challenging to do that strenuous hike and carry on a conversation simultaneously. What was going through Jesus’ mind, knowing what would happen? What was going through the disciples’ minds, wondering what would happen?

Next, in John, we have the Ioudaioi wondering whether Jesus would come to the feast? This is an odd thought, as attendance at the feast was compulsory for all able-bodied Jewish men. In John 11:56-57, John distinguishes the “Ioudaioi” and the “chief priests and the Pharisees.” Not all “Jews” (Ioudaioi) were in on the plot, and we also know that not all Pharisees were in on the plot either (Nicodemus, for one). If we keep reading in John 12:9-11, we see that many Ioudaioi were “believing in Jesus.” This was because of Lazarus’ testimony.

a donkey in Bethany Israel We assume Jesus spends Shabbat (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John may be indicating this in John 12:2-8). Then on Sunday morning, Jesus gives instructions to procure a donkey. We briefly discuss whether this represents a prophecy or whether Jesus was taking advantage of the hospitality system of that day (perhaps combined with His familiarity with the area). Just as with the beggars in Jericho, Matthew says “a colt and his mother,” whereas Mark and Luke focus only on the “colt.” Matthew occasionally says there were two of something when Luke/Mark focuses on the more significant one (perhaps this is a result of his former job as a tax collector!).

The Triumphal entry is a big deal for one primary reason. Every other time before this, when the people wanted to anoint Jesus as their leader, He said, “my hour has not yet come.” Now, Jesus not only permits it, but He also arranges it in a way that has direct parallels to Solomon, another “son of David.” He would ride a donkey into Jerusalem, indicating that he comes not as a conqueror but in peace.

The crowds shout “Hosanna” (Hebrew for “save us now” or “save us please!") and wave palm branches, which was a direct allusion to the days of the Maccabees, who defeated the Seleucid Greeks in 166 BCE. In other words, they were encouraging Jesus to take over politically. They also chant Psalms 118, another messianic reference. It was unmistakable that they were crowning Jesus as the messiah, which Jesus is Ok with (Luke 19:40) . The problem is (to borrow a quote), “this is not the messiah you’re looking for.”

To close the lesson, we look at the “cheapest souvenir in Israel.” When the Pharisees heard the people chanting that Psalm in THAT circumstance, they feared reprisal from the leadership, this is one indication that these Pharisees were not against Jesus but were on his side. They simply feared for his safety.

Jesus said, “If these kept quiet, the very stones would cry out.” So the cheapest souvenir is to bring home one of the stones that didn’t cry out.

Part II will continue with Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, a precise prophecy that would be fulfilled around 40 years later, and other activities in the Temple.

Read/Listen to the portions

  • Matthew 21:1-17
  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Luke 19:28-40
  • John 11:55-12:1, John 12:9-16

Note: There is a known textual problem with John 12:2-8, which we will discuss when we get to Matthew 26.

Watch the videos

Gospel Backgrounds Lesson Video:

The beginning of the Following the Messiah episode 8 has an excellent segment about the Triumphal Entry. Watch through 8:55.

Study the context

Chris Flanagan
Chris Flanagan
Bible teacher and growing disciple of ישוע/Jesus

Former healthcare compliance auditing professional with a passion for understanding the biblical texts in their original context and applying these lessons to 21st century life.