So, I realize that Jacob Prasch isn’t exactly considered a classic preacher/evangelist, but since it is Palm Sunday, I wanted to share one of the best explanations of the event that I have heard…
What really happened on Palm Sunday? If Christians properly understood the Jewish background of the events surrounding the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem many of the greatest challenges and deceptions facing the church today could be understood and exposed for the unbiblical beliefs they are. On Palm Sunday the procession into Jerusalem for the Pilgrim Feast of Passover commenced. The pilgrim throngs, representing Jews from throughout the Roman Empire, sang from the Hebrew festal liturgy now known as the Machzor, Psalms 113-118. In Judaism these are known as the Hallel Rabah—or the Great Praise—which even today remains an important part of the Passover liturgy or Siddur. Its climax is Psalm 118:22-29. The Palm Sunday text found in Matthew 21 refers to this twice. Once, in verse 9, when the crowds are singing “Hosanna to the Son of David”, and secondly, in verse 42 when Jesus refers to Psalm 18:22, citing Himself as the stone which was rejected. The Levitical choirs would lead the pilgrims down the cleft of the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, and through the East Gate of Jerusalem with Psalm 118 reaching its climax as the pilgrims heard, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” meaning “Save Us, Save Us” and then they knew that the procession was approaching the Temple Mount. O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. Psalm 118:25-26 and in Matthew 21:9 they said: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Baruch Ha Ba B’Shem Adonai Barachnu Hem Mi Beit Adonai Hodu L’Adonai Ki Tov Ki La Olam Chasdo Hoshanna, Hoshanna L’ Ben David. During the choral climax on this pilgrim feast Jesus rode on a donkey at the front of the procession for his Triumphal Entry in fulfillment of the messianic prophecies of Zechariah 9, and the Jews were cheering him as the Son of David, asking him for a salvation that would bring them prosperity, calling out to him: “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord”. Yet a few days later in Matthew 23:39 Jesus tells the Jews that they will not see him again until they say to Him, “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord”; the same precise words they sang to Him a few days earlier. Now it seems Jesus acts as if Palm Sunday never happened! Why? Because it is in fact something properly reserved for a future time.
There were three main reasons the Jews were not ready for Jesus to come the first time. They had a “signs and wonders gospel”, they had a “kingdom now gospel” and they had a “prosperity gospel”. As it says in Daniel 7:21-22, the saints take full possession of the kingdom after the return of Christ—not before. His kingdom is not of this world. Yet the Jews wanted someone who would get rid of the Romans the way the Maccabees had disposed of the Greeks a century and a half earlier. They were taken up by a false spirit of Dominionism and Triumphalism—almost exactly what we see throughout much of the church today. The Jews had no desire to know about a Suffering Servant Messiah, they simply wanted a Dominionist “kingdom now” Messiah who would give them material prosperity. Having said that, it must be understood that it is His purpose to bring material blessing, but at His Second Coming as the Son of David and not at the first coming when He came to atone for our sins. So they rejected the true Messiah because He would not tell them what they wanted to hear and they would not believe the truth that He gave them. Today the same errors of prosperity theology cause Christians to reject the true Messiah for the same reasons. Health, wealth and prosperity can only be fully realized at His return. Until then we may experience a foretaste of the coming blessings, but the message of the Gospel is to pick up our cross and follow the Suffering Servant so that we will be ready for the return of the coming king. We may now understand why Jesus told the Jews, “You will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!’” They had said it to the Son of David, when they should have been saying it to the Son of Joseph. They should have embraced a Suffering Servant as opposed to looking for prosperity, and looked for a kingdom to come instead of a kingdom now. This is borne out by Zechariah 12:10 which says that upon His return His own people, the Jews, will see the one they had pierced and know that the Son of David is also the Son of Joseph.
Palm Sunday was a day on which Jews would listen to famous rabbis having debates. Indeed, many of Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees take place against the background of these rabbinic debates which were customary during the pilgrim feasts. Jesus’ reputation had, however, gone before Him—including the accounts of His feeding thousands miraculously, healing the sick and raising the dead. The people wanted a display of what Jews call nesim v’niflaoht, an exhibition of signs and wonders. Jesus, however, refused to put on a show as we read in Matthew 21. Instead he drove the corrupt temple bureaucrats and religious leaders out of the Temple. In other words, He performed the search for leaven in its truest sense. For before the lamb could be sacrificed at Passover, the Temple had to be cleansed. It was only after Jesus removed the leaven from His Father’s house that He began to heal the lame and the blind (Mt. 21:14). Jesus would not put on a show and would not elevate signs and wonders or the miraculous above His message of holiness and repentance.
We find three false ideas of the Gospel being played out on Palm Sunday. The first was a “kingdom now” theology which was Dominionist and Triumphalist along the same lines as what is promoted today in the belief systems of Restorationism and Dominionism. Married to it is a dangerous emphasis on material prosperity, just the same as we found on Palm Sunday with the rejection of a crucified Messiah who beckons us to join Him on the cross before we will be able to join Him in His coming kingdom. Thirdly, we see an over-emphasis on signs and wonders of the kind that Jesus refused to allow His ministry to be reduced to. Power, exhibitions of the miraculous and showmanship are amplified over death to self, to the world and to the power of sin. Most Jews of Jesus’ day rejected Him because he would not deliver on their “Kingdom” expectations of prosperity, Dominionism, and signs and wonders exhibitionism. Instead, they were to follow a false messiah a generation later. His name was Simon Bar Kochba, falsely proclaimed as Messiah by Rabbi Akiva on the Second Jewish Revolt circa AD 120. Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochba typify the Antichrist and False Prophet. As Jesus said, “If another comes in My Name, him you will believe.” Bar Kochba led the Jews to a national holocaust as will the Antichrist in the Great Tribulation. Rejecting the true Christ because most wanted a Messiah with a different message, they found a false one—and will do so again. So will much of the church, for precisely the same reasons.