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Edward F. Markquart

Series B

The Palm Story - Gospel Analysis

PALM  SUNDAY      Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16

Pastor Edward F. Markquart
Grace Lutheran Church
Des Moines, Washington 98198

The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.

Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 234-235. 

#269. THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY     Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19

Notice that all four gospels record this event in the same place in the story about Jesus. After Jesus had completed his ministry in Galilee and just as he was entering Jerusalem, this event of the triumphal entry occurs. The headings of these Bible verses are printed in dark print in all four gospels, indicating that the four gospel authors agree on the location of this story at this moment in the life of Jesus.

-The next day, a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. (Only John). In the Gospel of John, the previous day was Saturday night when Jesus ate evening dinner with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. During that meal, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil. That means, in the Gospel of John, the next day of the triumphant entry was Sunday, or the first day of the week.

In the history of the church, we know that Passion Week was eight days long, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday is the first day of Passion Week. Today, Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday.

-When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives. See the map below and locate Bethany and the Mount of Olives. We see that Bethany was contiguous to the Mount of Olives. Focus on the precise geographic details of this eye-witness account of Jesus’ entry into the city.

Today there is a cemetery on the hillside at the ancient Mount of Olives. We remember that Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12) It seems fitting that there is a cemetery on the location from which Jesus ascended into heaven. You can see the Kidron Valley that runs below the Mount of Olives.

“Bethphage is a small village close to Bethany near the top of the Mount of Olives on the road that leads East from Jerusalem to Jericho. From here Jesus began his last ride into Jerusalem, often called theTriumphal Entry.”  A church is built on the ancient site of the village of Bethphage.

-Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them,

-Go to the village opposite you and immediately, as you enter it, you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it to me. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?’ say, “The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately. Notice that this is a single colt, a young jackass. The gospels are insistent that it is a young colt, but there does not seem to be any apparent theological reason for this. It seems simply to be a memory of a historical event. Notice all the precise and graphic details.

A young donkey (colt) with a garment on its back.

Jesus rode on a young colt into Jerusalem.

-You will find an ass tied and a colt with her. (Only Matthew). Notice that Matthew has two animals, an ass and its colt. In Matthew’s account of this incident, Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on two animals rather than one, thereby fulfilling the details of an Old Testament prophecy.  Notice that Matthew’s account of this story is influenced by Matthew’s need to substantiate actions in Jesus’ life by drawing from Old Testament prophecies. In the Old Testament quotation from Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9 (see the bottom of the page in your textbook), there is a Hebrew poetic parallelism of “the king coming in, mounted on an ass and on the colt, the foal of an ass.”

-This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on an ass and on a colt, the foal of an ass.” (Only Matthew) This is a quotation from Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9. We remember from our first lessons early in this course that Matthew was like a Jewish rabbi/author from New York City who was writing to other Jewish people on the East coast. Matthew was a Jewish author who understood his Jewish audience. He knew what logic would appeal to his Jewish audience. His Jewish audience appreciated Jesus’ actions being confirmed by Old Testament prophecies. Matthew consistently quoted the Old Testament to support his understanding that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.

-And they went away and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street, and they untied it. Notice the graphic detail in Mark’s account. This graphic detail came from Simon Peter’ and his remembrances before he was crucified upside down in Rome. Simon Peter told his Jesus Story to John Mark, who subsequently authored the Gospel of Mark. Luke and Matthew omit this juicy little detail about a door and an open street. We love juicy little historical details that we often find in Mark and John’s gospels. Both Mark and John feel like they tell first hand, eyewitness accounts of many of the stories from Jesus’ life.

-Those of them who stood there said to them, “What are you doing untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said and they let them go. The two disciples tell the owners of the colt that Jesus had foretold them what was to happen. In the four gospels, Jesus always knew the future.

-They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments on it and he sat upon it. The two disciples put their garments onto the colt. Again, it is the descriptive detail of this event. We can see the two unnamed disciples “throwing” their garments on the back of the young colt.

-And many spread their garments on the road and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. We appreciate the detail. Nowadays, children are often asked to bring a leafy branch from a tree in their back yard for Palm

Sunday worship services. 

-They take palm branches and went out to meet him. (Only John) Circle the words, “palm branch.” This verse is the source of the Christian tradition of having palm fronds as part of the Palm Sunday worship services. This verse is why we call this Sunday “palm Sunday.”

-And those that went before them cried out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming.” Jesus was riding into town with the blessing of Almighty God. The crowd thought that Jesus was the coming earthly messiah in the spirit of King David.

-The king of Israel. (Only John.) Jesus was the king of Israel. Later, a sign, “This is the king of the Jews” would be placed on the cross.

-Hosanna in the highest.” Praise the Lord.

-And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these (my disciples) were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Only Luke). John has a similar occurrence in his gospel, “The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see that you can do nothing wrong. Look, the world has gone after him.”

The following verses are found only in the Gospel of John:

-His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. It was only after the crucifixion and resurrection that the disciples looked back on the life of Jesus and remembered some of the things that he had said during hislifetime such as the quotation of the Old Testament Scripture that the “king would come riding in on an ass.” At that moment, Jesus knew that he was the anticipated king that was prophecied in the Old Testament, but the disciples didn’t really grasp it.

So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.  The crowd was really impressed with the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Crowds always like miracles and this miracle had impressed them enormously. We have previously heard about the crowds following Jesus for the wrong reasons such as he was a healing king who would give them free healings, a bread king who would give them free food, and a political king who would give them political freedom. The fickle and capricious crowd was more interested in the healings, bread and political freedom that themselves being ruled by this king in their everyday lives.

It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him.  Yes, the Gospel of John is the Book of Signs, and people always wanted to see one more sign/miracle from the “Houdini of the Holy Land.” The raising of Lazarus from the dead was his biggest trick of all.

The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!" Underline. Highlight. Emphasize. “Look, the world has gone after him.” This was the real issue why the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus.

They were jealous of the accolades and worship that Jesus was receiving and they wanted to get rid of him.



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-From a sermon, HEY SANNA HO SANNA     Palm/Passion Sunday     Matthew 26,Mark 14, Luke 22, Matthew 21:1-11    

“Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna sanna sanna , ho sanna, hey sanna, Hey, hey JC, JC won’t you smile at me.  Jesus Christ, if you’re divine, turn my water into wine.  Prove to me that you’re no fool.  Walk across my swimming pool.  Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna.”

With these words, Webber and Rice’s rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar” have captured the glimmer of that first Palm Sunday parade; that nationalistic religious fervored carnival of “Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna; Jesus Christ if you’re divine, turn my water into wine.”

What a day.  You couldn’t believe it. It was like a carnival. It was like a circus. It was like a parade.  Hundreds of thousands of Jews were jammed into the holiest of holy cities.  Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were jammed into those narrow little streets. It was like a carnival. Shoulder to shoulder. Arm to arm. Body to body. You couldn’t walk. You couldn’t squeeze through this mob of people crammed into those little narrow streets of Jerusalem.

It was Passover time and the city was jammed.  It was like a mob at Mardi Gras. Just jammed. And you were there. The hockers were hocking their wares, “Lambs for sale. Lambs for sale.”  “Good deal on matzo.  Matzo here in our tent.” “Come and have your Passover dinner with us.  Great food.”

What a mad house. Dirty streets and dusty mules. Dusty streets and dirty mules. Camels baying off in the distance. Pilgrims chanting their prayers. Roman chariots and Roman charioteers riding back and forth.  Just like it the movies with John Wayne and Charlton Heston and Cecil B. DeMille, and you were there. What a mad house. What a mess. But it was a great week for business and a great week for making money. And the kids? They loved it. They loved all the commotion.

The reputation of Jesus had already spread.  You see, the day before, Jesus Christ had produced the mightiest miracle he had ever done.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He had actually raised Lazarus from the dead yesterday, and then coming into town, Jesus healed two blind men, and they were now able to see. The masses of people had heard about these miracles, and everyone wanted to see if he could pull off another trick like that. The crowd wanted to see more miracles.  They wanted to see a deaf person hear. They wanted to see a blind man be given sight. They wanted to see the skin of a leper made pure. Just like on television.  They wanted to see the healer in action, this mighty miracle worker.  And if they saw a miracle, let me tell you, if they saw a man actually raised from the dead, they would believe.  If they actually saw a blind man be given sight, they would then be true believers. If the Houdini of the Holy Land could pull another trick out of his bag, they would believe.

“Hey, hey, JC, JC won’t you smile at me.  Jesus Christ if you’re divine, turn my water into wine.  Prove to me that you’re not fool, walk across my swimming pool.”

There are people who are like that, you know.   They will only believe if they see a sign.

That is the way it was on that first Palm Sunday parade. There was that group of people there to see the Houdini of the Holy Land in action. It was the Big Top, the Big Tent, the Big Show, a carnival, the center ring in action. That was one group who was present on that first Palm Sunday.  These people said, “Lord, if you give me a miracle, then I will believe.” … Have you ever been like that?

Then there was a second group of people that day. This second group didn’t want a religious carnival; they weren’t looking for the Houdini of the Holy Land; they weren’t looking for one more magic trick. These people were much more serious. They were looking for a political revolution. It was like a mass political rally, with all its intense fanaticism. Imagine yourself in Iran or Iraq. And your great political leader and savior has been exiled in France, and you read in all the newspapers and see it on all the television news that your Khomeni is flying back home to Iran after many years of exile.  What a mob at the airport. What a mob in the streets. What a mob everywhere because the great political leader was returning to save his nation. That is the way it was on that first Palm Sunday. There was a mass political revolution, and to understand Palm Sunday, one needs to understand this rising, nationalistic fervor.

In other words, it was political pandemonium. It was chaos. The town was ready to blow up with any spark. We are told that two-three million people were jammed into that town, and it was ready to ignite.

“Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna sanna hey sanna, ho sanna, Jesus Christ, if you’re divine, throw out those bloody Roman swine.”

And so there were two groups on that first Palm Sunday. There were the religious fanatics who said, “Jesus, give me a miracle and then I will believe.” And then there were the political fanatics who said, “Restore our freedom and get rid of the Romans.” Both groups chanted, “Hosanna to the Son of David.  Hosanna to the Son of David. The king of Israel has come.” And that is the way it was. It was a carnival. It was a circus. It was revolution on the move.

What was Jesus doing? What was Jesus doing with this mass of humanity around him? What was Jesus doing in the midst of this psychedelic kaleidoscope of madness? Was he standing up on the back seat of his chariot and waving to the crowd like some politician? Was he riding on that chariot with arms upward and outward and his fingers spiking a “V” sign for victory? Was he waving at all those people in their second story windows as they were throwing confetti on him? Was he pumping them up with political oratory to get the political revolution moving? No. Here in this cacophony of craziness, Jesus didn’t say a word.  He rode in silence.  Silence.

Jesus rode on a jackass into town. The crowds wanted him to ride on a tall white horse, dignified in the sunlight or on a chariot of war, glistening in its golden trim. But Jesus rode on an animal of peace, not of war.  The crowd wanted him to grasp a sword in his hand and wave that sword to show what he and his followers would do to the Romans, but he had an olive branch of peace in his fingers. The crowds wanted him to give enflamed and impassioned oratory to inspire them into revolution; they wanted the shouts of soldiers but they heard only the songs of children.  And Jesus? Jesus didn’t say a word. Not a word as he rode into that city.

The crowd was chanting at the top of their lungs, “Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna to the King.” And slowly, and gradually, the Hosannas became quieter and quieter and quieter. Then nothing.  By afternoon, another chant had begun, almost in a whisper, “crucify him,” softly, softly, louder, louder and finally bursting with power, “Crucify him. Crucify him. Crucify him. Crucify that man. He’s a bloody imposter. A fake. He’s no king, that’s for sure.”

They had wanted a warrior on a warhorse and instead they got a carpenter on a jackass, and so they killed him and put a poster above his head, “King of the Jews.” Big joke.

That’s the way it was on that first Palm Sunday, on that first Passion Sunday.

It is interesting to me that there were two times in the Gospel of John where the crowds tried to force Jesus to be king.  Only twice. Once, in chapter six, where Jesus had fed the five thousand people. When Jesus caused that much food to be freely available, those people wanted to make him king.  Free food?  Much food? Yes, let’s make that guy king.

The crowd tried to force Jesus to become king after feeding the five thousand, but the Bible says he would not be their king and he withdrew into the country.  The second time that the crowd tried to force Jesus to be king was on Palm Sunday. Jesus had worked big miracles, raising Lazarus from the dead and then healing the two blind men. If Jesus had that kind of power to heal, the crowd wanted to make him king. So once again, the crowds tried to force him to be their kind of king, and he refused. Jesus disappointed them twice.” End of this portion of the sermon.

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