The city of Jerusalem was abuzz with the talk of Jesus of Nazareth. Will He make an appearance in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover or will He stay hidden (John 11:56)? In the days leading up to the feast, Jesus had intentionally kept Himself out of the reach of the Jewish leaders. They had vowed His death (John 11:53). They had also put out the word that if any man knew where He was, he should give Him up to be taken (John 11:57). So, for maybe a couple of months before the Passover, Jesus and His disciples took refuge in a city called Ephraim (John 11:54; c.f II Chron. 13:19).
Earlier, His disciples had feared that He would return into Judea (John 11:7,8) and now their fears were coming to pass. They knew what He had said concerning His own fate in Jerusalem (Matt. 20:17-19). Besides Providence, however, Jesus had something working in His favor for a while, at least—His popularity with the people. As Jesus made His way into Jerusalem, very great multitudes spread out their garments in the way and greeted Him as He entered the city (Matt. 21:8-11). Others cut down branches from palm trees and lay them out on the ground as He made His entry (Matt. 21:8; John 12:13).
The multitude that followed Jesus as He was entering the city of Jerusalem, cried “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord; Blessed be the kingdom of our father David; Hosanna, peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Matt. 21:9; Mark 11:9,10; Luke 19:38; John 12:13). Many in this multitude were among those who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead (John 12:17). They spoke to others about this miracle and the news of this great deed was circulated among the crowds (John 12:18). Because of it, many were waiting excitedly for Jesus to come (John 12:12). Throngs of people before and after His entourage praised Him thus as He entered triumphantly (Matt. 21:9).
Some of the Pharisees were even now brooding. They called on Jesus to rebuke His disciples for their exuberant praise of Jesus (Luke 19:39). But Jesus replied that if the people had refrained from praising Him thus, the very stones would cry out (Luke 19:40). Perplexed and dismayed, the Pharisees despaired because they could do nothing to Jesus, saying “Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the whole world is gone after Him” (John 12:19). At least, that is the way it seemed to the Jewish leaders.
The fact that the multitude took Him for a prophet deterred the chief priests and Pharisees from taking Him publicly (Matt. 21:45,46). All the people were astonished at His doctrine (Mark 11:18) and they were very attentive to hear Him (Luke 19:48). Yet Jesus was very bold for, though there was a price on His head, so to speak, yet He taught daily in the temple (Luke 19:47). This caused some of the people to wonder if the scribes, Pharisees and lawyers did not know already that He was indeed the Christ (John 7:25,26).
The praises that the multitude heaped upon Jesus were nothing short of Messianic. Hosanna, or the Hebrew “Hoshiah Na,” meant “save now.” It is used in Psalm 118 which was sung at the feast of the Tabernacles. Later the expression apparently became a term of praise. Thus, the people were acknowledging Jesus as the Son of David, or as Messiah. It is no wonder that the scribes and Pharisees were envious of Jesus (Matt. 27:18).
The scribes and Pharisees sought popularity. They loved the praises and accolades of men (Matt. 23:5-7). Jesus’ did not seek popularity for its own sake but popularity was His due to His authoritative teaching (Matt. 7:28,29). Undoubtedly His miracles drew the attention of the multitudes but it was His character and teaching that really impressed the multitudes (e.g.,Luke 23:40,41). The Pharisees were vain and superficial and self-serving. Jesus was genuine and sincere and selfless. And so should we be.
Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). His Great Commission was to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. One day, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, whether willingly or not (Phil. 2:10).
Eric L. Padgett