Traditionally in some countries “Palm Sunday” is celebrated on the Sunday before Easter. The event being commemorated is what we know as the “triumphal entry” of the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem, reported in all the Gospels, that is, Matthew 21:7-11, Mark 11:7-11, Luke 19:35-44, John 12:12-19.
It is a known fact in the unbelieving world, and the sceptics commit the mistake of interpreting this important event as the day on which, according to them, Jesus came into Jerusalem to offer himself as the king of the Jews and to be recognized by the people as the Messiah of the prophecies. This is not true, because during the previous three and a half years, during his ministry, the Lord had already submitted the evidence of his divine identity as the Messiah, but Israel, represented by their leaders, already had rejected Him. In Matthew 12:22-45 He calls them a “wicked generation” (v. 45) to be condemned by the men of Nineveh for not repenting and the queen of the South for not having listened to Him. There was a different purpose for His entry in Jerusalem that day, five days before his death.
In accordance with Exodus 12:3-6, the lamb to be sacrificed at the Passover should be separated on the tenth day of the first month (Nisan, end of March and beginning of April for us), to be slain at sundown on the fourteenth day, and eaten in the evening. It was customary to submit the lamb to priests for examination during these days to confirm that it was suitable to be offered for sacrifice.
The “triumphal entry” marked the occasion on which the Lamb of God was separated on the tenth day of Nisan, like the lambs for the sacrifice. On that day he gave a further sign of His identity and fulfilled a prophecy, mounting the foal of a donkey which had never mounted before, entering and showing Himself to the people in Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9).
He was acclaimed by the multitude that attended, with branches of palm trees and various shouts, an episode which is described in the four Gospels, expecting the beginning of the Kingdom of the Messiah on that day. One of their shouts was of the Messianic Psalm 118:26... “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”, and rabbis taught the Messiah should be received with these words when He came. If he had wanted to offer Himself to be the King of the Jews at that time, He would have had full success, because He was recognized by a great multitude as being the Messiah of the prophecies.
Nobody seemed even to imagine that the Messiah had come this time, not to take up His kingdom, but to comply with the true meaning of Passover, and that he was the Lamb of God as had already been announced by the great prophet of their days, John the Baptist (John 1:29.36). In the four days of the interval that followed, Jesus Christ showed Himself in the temple and was questioned by the religious authorities, who then examined Him by asking questions that they thought to be among the most difficult to answer. We characterize the examination as follows:
1. By the main priests and elders: These made the first test, in the form of a challenge, and it related with His authority (Matthew 21:23-22:14, Mark 11:27-12:12 and Luke 20:1-19). They asked: “with what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?” The pharisaic regulations required teaching to be authorised by a rabbi. As Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and announcing the Gospel, they wanted to know where received authority to interpret the Scriptures the way He did. Following a common practice among the Jews (even today), He answered their question with another: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” (Luke 20:3-4). Thus He placed a dilemma before them: if they said that it was not of heaven, all the people would stone them because John the Baptist was considered to be a prophet, but if they told the truth, that the ministry of John was of God, He would then say “Why then did you not believe him?” meaning that He had received his authority from John, as He has been baptized by Him, and it was he who had declared that Jesus was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. They refused to reply, and consequently Jesus also refused to answer them: their refusal to reply was a sufficient answer. He then told the people two parables and a text of the Scriptures, whose joint interpretation sums up as follows:
2. By the Pharisees and Herodians – Their attack was of a political order, as we read Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:20-26. Although diametrically opposed, because the Herodians accepted the Roman yoke through Herod and the Pharisees opposed it, on this occasion they joined together against the Lord Jesus because of the animosity they shared against His claim to be the Messiah, albeit for different reasons: the Pharisees because He did not correspond to what they thought the Messiah should be, and the Herodians because He would be a competitor against Caesar. The question they made is in Mark 12:14: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” If He were to say it was, He would admit Caesar’s right to reign over the nation, and the people who had just proclaimed Him as Messiah would turn against Him, but if He said it was not, He would give the Herodians opportunity to accuse Him of sedition and rebellion to the Romans. The Lord saw their malice, called them hypocrites and gave them a masterful answer: He asked to be shown the coin they paid tax with. When they brought him a Roman denarius, the tribute which used to be paid to the Romans (the tax of the temple was paid with a shekel, the currency of the Jews), He asked of whom was the image and inscription, and when they said “Caesar’s” He determined: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Thus He separated the State from Religion, indicating that there are two areas of authority: Divine authority which comes from God, and delegated authority that at that time came over them via Caesar. Payment of tax to Caesar did not preclude the authority of God, but only reflected the fact that God had delegated His authority through his government. Eventually He himself, as the Messiah, will replace the equivalent of Caesar. As the Old Testament teaches that human governments have delegated authority from God, also Gentile governments have authority over Israel. Luke 20:26 reports: “But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marvelled at His answer and kept silent”.
3. By the Sadducees - These examined His knowledge of theology, on the issue of the resurrection of the dead, that distinguished them from the Pharisees (Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-40). In short, the Pharisees believed that the dead would rise again, but the Sadducees denied any life after death. They used to ask tricky questions of the Pharisees to make them look like fools, and used one of them to try to mock the Lord. They began with hypocritical praise, and then proposed the case of a woman with seven husbands: the question was who would be husband of the woman after resurrection? A Pharisee would not have been able to answer, because all seven brothers were married in succession to the woman, but none had produced children, which would have been the reason for the successive marriages according to the Law of Moses. If one had produced a child, it was assumed that after the resurrection the woman would be wife of the father. Again, the Lord came with a perfect and unexpected answer, since only He had authority to state what He said: first He told the Sadducees that “they were mistaken, because they did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mark 12:24); then informed three things:
As to the power of God, he taught that the resurrection is simply not going back to the natural body with which we die, but that there is a change and the new body does not reproduce itself, therefore there will no longer be a relationship of couple and marriage.
God promised certain things personally to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob which were not fulfilled throughout their lives, for example, they never became owners of all the land of promise. For them to happen, it is clear that resurrection is necessary, because God will keep His word.
God has a living relationship with the patriarchs of the Jewish people, so He cannot leave them dead: “I Am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:32).
Therefore, the Sadducees dared not ask Him any more questions.
4. By the Pharisees - The Pharisees also entered into the area of theology, and the question that was made by one of their lawyers to try the depth of his knowledge was Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34... "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” The answer of the Lord was short and full: "the first of all the commandments is: 'hear, o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' this is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'you shall love your neighbour as yourself.' there is no other commandment greater than these." These responses were also what the Pharisees would have given; therefore they had to agree with him.
Then he asked them a question on Psalm 110:1, and they were not able give any reply, because it related to the concept of a man-God. As to His humanity, He is the Son of David; but He is the Lord of David in his divinity.
In His examination by the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Herodians, the elders and the priests, the Lamb of God had to answer four questions, some captious, and he answered nobly, “without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Even the Pharisees and Sadducees were silenced. Having been fully approved, He was now ready to go to the cross and to become the final Passover sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7).
23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?"
24 But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:
25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?" And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'
26 But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet."
27 So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know." And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
28 "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.'
29 He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.
30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go.
31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to Him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.
33 "Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.
34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.
36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'
39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"
41 They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."
42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE. THIS WAS THE LORD'S DOING, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES' ?
43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.
46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.
1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:
2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,
3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.
4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding." '
5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.
6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.
7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8 Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'
10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
12 So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.
13 Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.
16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.
17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?
19 Show Me the tax money." So they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?"
21 They said to Him, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.
23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,
24 saying: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.
25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.
26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.
27 Last of all the woman died also.
28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her."
29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,
32 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB' ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
37 Jesus said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
42 saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him, "The Son of David."
43 He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'LORD,' saying:
44 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, TILL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES YOUR FOOTSTOOL" '?
45 If David then calls Him 'LORD,' how is He his Son?"
46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.