On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode on a donkey heading to Jerusalem for the upcoming Passover. His journey was a short one which began in the neighboring town of Bethphage.
The road was crowded with people. His disciples. Pharisees and scribes. And thousands of pilgrims from the Jewish diaspora.
For Passover, Jerusalem’s normal population of 120,000 swelled to nearly a million people as Jews from all over the Middle East returned to observe the feast. It was a profitable event for Jewish merchants, much like Christmas for today’s retail merchants.
As Jesus rode along, His disciples began praising God, saying, “Hosanna! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David. Blessed is the King.”
They were excited over His miracles and expected Him to be the King who would return Israel to its former glory and then throw off the shackles of the cruel Romans.They were hoping for an earthly kingdom, not a heavenly one.
Also, the disciples who had been with Jesus at the raising of Lazarus from the tomb were testifying about His miracle to the crowd. People were excited. Jesus was the Man. An Elijah-type of prophet with death-defying powers.
In the midst of the hubbub and excitement, Jesus paused at a spot on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem and the Temple. This was the exact spot where Jews throughout history had mourned and wept over the Temple.
So, when Jesus stopped and wept at the overlook, the people would have hushed and anticipated a historic speech. Then, He said:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now, they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:42-44)
The people were shocked by His words!
The Prophet had prophesied the death of Jerusalem and the Temple. Without both, Judaism was a non-functioning religion. No more altar. No more sacrifices. No more priests. No more City of God. And where would God go? After all, He lived in the Holy of Holies.
Let’s look at Jesus’ prophetic words:
1. Who was the prophecy intended for? The Jews and their leaders.
2. What audience heard the prophecy? The Jews and their leaders. So, the prophecy was given directly to its intended listeners.
3. The Greek word episkope in verse 44 is translated into our English word visitation. Yet, episkope does not imply a visitor stopping by for a friendly visit. Its true meaning suggests God the Judge inspecting a people and deciding whether they will be blessed or cursed.
So, was the prophecy effective?
(Continued in Part 4)