On Palm Sunday, Jesus had the bigger picture in mind. He looked beyond the present and thought about the world’s future.
We think of the Greatest miracle attributed to Jesus as being the miracles of His resurrection from the dead and ascension into Heaven to sit at the side of His Heavenly Father, three days after He was crucified. However, it was another miracle, the last performed by the Son while still in corporeal form, that is the one that leads us to the day we celebrate today.
It was the raising of Lazarus from the dead in the town of Bethany (traditionally identified with the present-day West Bank city of al-Eizariya, although some feel it was higher up, in the Mount of Olives), shortly before the celebration of Passover, which would bring a multitude of the faithful to Bethlehem (just a few miles distant).
Now this miracle was the last one by His hand prior to the crucifixion, and people, having heard of Jesus because of His teachings and works, wanted the opportunity of seeing and hearing Him speak for themselves. Wanting to show Him their admiration and love, they welcomed Him with pomp and circumstance, into Bethlehem, spreading their cloaks and palm fronds before Him, and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12: 13(b) ESV. However, as we all know, the jubilation would be short-lived when, just five days later, He would shed His blood for you and for me and for many others
Interestingly, since the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) each contain a unique perspective from each of those four Disciples, regarding the days Christ spent traveling, teaching and sharing the Word of His Farther, not all of the stories are contained in each one nor are the ones that they share in common exactly the same. However, the story of the triumphant ride into Bethlehem is a story that is related in each book and the words used to describe those moments, extremely similar. Which serves to prove the significance of this day in the history of Christ’s days here on earth as a son, man, servant, scholar, teacher and lastly, SAVIOR!
Matthew 21:1-11 RSV
1 And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Beth’phage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If any one says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “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.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. 8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Mark 11:1-11 RSV
1 And when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Beth’phage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 2 and said to them, “Go into 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. 3 If any one says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'” 4 And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door out in the open street; and they untied it. 5 And those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”6 And they told them what Jesus had said; and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and threw their garments on it; and he sat upon it. 8 And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!”11 And he entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when he had looked round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Luke 19:28-44 RSV
28 And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Beth’phage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. 31 If any one asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, ‘The Lord has need of it.'” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. 37 As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” 41 And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it,42 saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, 44 and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
John 12:12-19 RSV
12 The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him.17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.”
Since the events in Bethany played such a significant part in the last weeks of Christ’s life, I thought you might want to put on your thinking caps and see if you know the answers to the following questions. I will list each answer next to the number of the corresponding question at the very bottom of this post, below my picture!
Ready? Set? Here we go!
- Lazarus had two sisters who cared a great deal for him; what were their names?
- All around the house of Lazarus were many Jews who had come to offer comfort and support. Jesus saw numerous of these people crying. In the midst of this Biblical story is John 11:35; this verse is the shortest verse in all of Scripture. What does this verse say (King James Version)?
- Christ asked where the body of Lazarus had been laid. He was taken to a cave with a large stone lain across the opening; this foreshadowed Jesus’ own place of burial. Christ asked for the stone to be rolled back. One of Lazarus’ sisters, unaware of the miracle soon to come, protested his request. What was her complaint?
- After the stone was rolled away, Jesus lifted up his eyes and prayed to God. He thanked his Father for hearing him always for the sake of his people. Then, what did Christ cry out in a loud voice?
- In John 12, we read that Jesus paid a visit to Lazarus some time after he had raised him from the dead. What activity did the two engage in together?
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
John 12:12-13 NIV
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Answers to the quiz
- Mary and Martha
In the 10th chapter of Luke, we are fortunate to meet Mary and Martha in another scenario. Christ is visiting the two sisters while Martha is busy with the chores of serving food. Martha becomes frustrated that while she works her sister Mary sits at Christ’s feet and does nothing to help her. Martha asks Jesus to tell her lazy sister to start working. Here is what he says: “Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful; and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
- Jesus wept.
“Jesus wept.” How beautiful. How kind. For Christians, Jesus is not a distant superhuman; no, he is a real person, who feels and expresses the most tender human emotions. The only other place in the Bible that shows Jesus weeping is Luke 19:41. Here, as Christ entered Jerusalem, he cried for the Holy City, knowing the sad fate that awaited her.
- The body would stink.
John 11:40-41 reports that Jesus said, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Then they took the stone away from the place where Lazarus had been lain.
- “Lazarus, come forth.”
John 11:42 says what happened next: “And he that was dead came forth, bound head and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.'” Fantastic! Christ gave Lazarus new life and set Lazarus free!
John 12:2 says, “There they made him supper; and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” While supper was being eaten, Mary, Lazarus’ sister, anointed Christ’s feet with perfumed oil and then wiped his feet with her hair. Clearly, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were all close disciples of Jesus.