Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, not unlike most events of His life, must be studied from each of the four gospels in order to be fully understood. Just as any four persons will describe somewhat differently another person or event, so the gospel writers describe the events surrounding Palm Sunday somewhat differently. They do so according to their personal perspective and according to
the different aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry each of them emphasized.
Matthew viewed and wrote of Jesus as the Lion, the King of Kings. Mark saw Jesus as the Ox, the servant of God and man. Luke wrote of Jesus’ human side, the Son of Man. We call Matthew, Mark and Luke the synoptic gospels, for they, though unique in many ways, are much similar in many. John stands alone in that his perspective of Jesus and the events of His life are much different from the synoptic writers. John sees Jesus as the Eagle, preeminent Son of God.
When we consider perspectives, we must also recognize that Matthew the Lion and Mark the Ox are somewhat opposite perspectives. So also do Luke the Son of Man and John the Son of God see Jesus from opposite viewpoints. Furthermore, the synoptic writers busy themselves with the fulfillment and finishing of the Old Testament and write specifically to the Jewish nation, offering them the Kingdom of God. The gospel of John opens the New Testament concept of salvation through the shed blood, not of a natural lamb, but of the Lamb of God, and offers the Kingdom of God to a newly birthed Holy Nation.
With this understanding, the following is a sequential synopsis taken from all four gospels of the events just preceding Palm Sunday and transpiring immediately thereafter (For a more thorough study, one might consider all the differences in reference to the specific writer and his perspective):
Some time before the feast of Passover, Jesus and His disciples came to the Mount of Olives. The villages of Bethphage and Bethany were nearby. From there He sent two disciples to a nearby village to bring a donkey and its colt, for the prophet Zachariah had written of His riding upon them into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-5). The two disciples found the colt at a house where two ways met, loosed him and brought him to Jesus (Mark 11:1-4). Six days before Passover Jesus went into Bethany to the house of Simon the leper. Martha served supper there. Also at supper Mary anointed Jesus for His burial and Judas Iscariot raised great objection, calling this a waste, for the money, said he, would have been better spent on the poor. The next day Jesus left Bethany for Jerusalem riding the donkey and its colt. There was great rejoicing among the people and they strewed branches from palm trees in his way, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” (Jn 12:1-16) Jesus continued on into Jerusalem, but stopped as he came near the city and, weeping over it, He prophesied its destruction for not recognizing its day of visitation (Luke 19:41-44). Later that day, Jesus would take the Kingdom opportunity from national Israel and give it to a nation which would bring forth the fruits of that Kingdom (Matt 21:43). Jesus stayed the day in Jerusalem looking round about upon all things, and at eventide he went back out unto Bethany with the twelve. The next day Jesus and his disciples again left Bethany for Jerusalem, and He was hungry. Seeing a fig tree afar, he went to it but found nothing but leaves, for the tree had no figs. The disciples listened as Jesus spoke to the fig tree: “No man eat fruit of thee henceforth forever.” (Mark 11:11-14) Arriving in the city, Jesus went to the temple and cast out them that bought and sold in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves crying, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt 21:12-13)
Certainly to understand the full of what happened in the above account, we needed to consider the accounts of all four gospels. But if we stop here we will miss so much more that the scriptures offer, for within them names have meanings, numbers have meanings, symbols have meanings – we might say that everything has more meaning than is communicated is just reading the words and knowing their definitions.
Some further things to consider:
Mountains are Kingdoms
Mount of Olives – Olive: Tree; Leaf; Fruit
Bethphage – house of figs (fruit of fig tree)
Bethany – house of dates (fruit of Palm Tree)
Fig Tree – leaves used to cover nakedness brought by sin; symbolic of the religion of national Israel
Palm Tree – branches used to celebrate victory; branches used in feast of Tabernacles; symbolic of the righteousness of the Israel of God
1. Jesus and His disciples arrived at the Mount of Olives
Scripturally speaking, mountains are kingdoms. Mount Moriah and the events that happened there, covered in Genesis 22, declared plainly the prophetic revelation of two other mountains, two other Kingdoms: Mount Sinai, the Old Testament Kingdom of national Israel; and the Mount of Olives, the New Testament Israel, the Kingdom of God. As Mount Sinai was typical of, prophetic of, and the site of the beginning of the Old Testament Kingdom of national Israel, so was the Mount of Olives typical of, prophetic of, and the beginning of the New Testament Kingdom of the Israel of God (the Kingdom of God; Matt 21:41-43; Gal 6:15-16; 1 Peter 2:9-10).
The Mount Sinai
From Sinai to the incarnation of the Son, Jesus and the Kingdom of God were preached to the natural Jew (Deut 18:15; Acts 37:7-9; John 5:45-47; Luke 24:25-27; Exodus 19:5-7). For all that, the Jew’s religion and tradition made the Word of God of no effect in reference to their recognition of their King and His Kingdom (Jn 19:15; Jn 9:29). Therefore, when the fullness of time would have given them the Kingdom, , typified in full to the Jew in Mount Sinai, Jesus the King took it from them (Matt 21:43).
The Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is typical of the Kingdom of God. It was upon the Mount of Olives that Jesus delivered His discourse on the end of the age. He closed His discourse and prophesied the close of the age with the exhortation to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all the world for a witness unto all nations in Matthew 24:14. Jesus won personal Kingdom victory in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives as He prayed through His last night on earth, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” The great Teacher had before taught His disciples the same prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” It was at Bethany in the Mount of Olives that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, there and thereby attesting to His power over death, hell, and the grave, this being the core truth of the Kingdom of God and its King. It was at Bethany in the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended into the heaven itself, there to be seated at the right hand of the Father in the very throne of the Kingdom of God (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:6-12). It is upon the Mount of Olives that the Lord shall stand in His return to His Kingdom Consummate (Zech 14:1-4; Acts 1:11-12).
THE THREE TREES
Upon the Mount of Olives: The Olive Tree
The Olive Tree is a long-living evergreen, this fact being typical of the unchanging nature of righteousness in the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. The Olive leaf is typical of God’s peace, its first biblical mention appearing after the account of the flood. It was found of Noah in the mouth of a dove, the dove itself also being another symbol of peace. The fruit of the Olive was provision for Israel; and its oil is typical of the Holy Ghost. All these attributes of the Olive tree, its leaf and its fruit find their counterpart realities fulfilled in the righteousness, peace and joy of the Kingdom of God.
At Bethphage: The Fig Tree
There were two cities Jesus visited when He came to the Mount of Olives. The first was Bethphage. The meaning of its name is “house of figs.”
Jesus, being King of His Kingdom (Mount of Olives) came first to the house of figs (houses are within kingdoms: the house of figs and the house of dates – spoken of more specifically below – were both on Olivet).
The house of figs is a house of religion. The house of figs promises to supply for mankind that which only God can give and do (Gen 3:7; Gen 3:21). Jesus would destroy the Jew’s house of figs (Luke 19:43-44; Matt 23:37-38), but at once he would also bring down every future house of figs, for He was, and is, the Truth of full dependence upon God alone.
Fig leaves were man’s first covering after he sinned. For fear (not shame; Gen 3:10) Adam and Eve had made them aprons from the tree, thus providing for themselves a remedy for sin and the fear of death that it brings. These being inadequate to cover sin and to deliver from death and its fear, God made them coats of skins (nowhere does the Bible say these were animal skins. Selah! a little, and stop reading into scripture what is not written), while making them dependent upon blood for their life rather than the Tree.
Jesus cursed the fig tree for its misrepresentation of truth. It had promised fruit (the fruit of the fig tree arrives before the leaves), that is, the ability to take away the sin and fear of death prevailing upon Adam’s kind, while it had no such fruit. The tree withered and died, never to bear again. Man’s every effort now to cover himself with his humanistic, designer religion would eventually wither away from its roots upward, for the Word of Truth Himself had revealed its lie and cursed its existence. He would soon now provide fresh coats of righteousness upon the bodies of His flesh and bone, flesh and bone kept alive and from further sin by the sinless blood of the Last Adam.
The fig tree was symbolic of national Israel. The nation was intended to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation unto God (Exod 19:6). From the day Isaac was offered on Mount Moriah, Christ and His kingdom had been preached and prophesied unto them (Heb 4:1-2; 1Cor 10:1-4), but when Christ would come personally to them, they would be so full of religion and so ignorant of their own scriptures that they would kill their King as a criminal. When Jesus cursed the fig tree, He was symbolically cursing national Israel. Later, having wept profusely over her, upon entering Jerusalem, He would do so in reality (Luke 19:41-44; Matt 21:43).
At Bethany: The Date Palm
Six days before Passover Jesus next went to Bethany, the house dates, the house of the Palm Tree. The house of dates is the house of the Kingdom of God. The righteous shall flourish at the house of dates (Ps 92:12). There is abundance of water at the house of dates (Ex 15:27). The house of dates has victory in Canaan, initially at Jericho (Deut 34:3). The house of dates celebrates the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:39-43). The house of dates is the house of the resurrection life (Jn 11:1-44). The house of dates is the house of the ascended life (Luke 24:50-51).
The donkey and colt probably came from Bethany, the house of dates (typical of victory and the feast of Tabernacles) (Matt 21:1-2):
1. As Jesus left Bethany (that place of Lazarus’ resurrection and Jesus’ ascension) that first time and entered Jerusalem, His way was strewn with Palm branches: the feast of Tabernacles was offered and began its celebration. Victory over death is sure! Ingathering has begun. The King of Israel is here! Every promise to the Nation of Priests is about to be kept!
A. Tabernacles always removes fear of sin, sickness, poverty and death
B. The fear of death is the fear of any loss and the fear of loss is death’s beginning (Heb 2:14-15).
C. Throughout that first day in Jerusalem, Jesus observed all that went on in the city. The Holy Nation was not ready for Tabernacles! He returned in the evening to Bethany
2. As Jesus left Bethany the second time to go to Jerusalem, He cursed the Fig Tree.
A. The feast of Tabernacles, now aborted because the Holy Nation offered no harvest, the feast of Passover began its celebration, but this time it would bring the birth of a new nation for the old nation lived no longer
B. The fig leaf would no longer cover the nakedness that sin brings upon Adam’s kind
C. Now as Jesus wept over the Holy City Jerusalem, He spoke: saying, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
D. Then Jesus entered the city and went into the temple and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying to them, “It is written, My house is the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt 21:13) Later the same day, He would also say, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt 21:43)
Both houses, the House of the Religious (Fig Tree) and the House of the Righteous (Palm Tree) were located at the Mount of Olives. Bethphage, the House of the Religious Fig Tree disqualified itself and its citizenry from the Kingdom and was not mentioned again (Jesus never had a problem with government or sinners, only with the religious). Bethany the House of the Righteous Palm Tree, the site of the Ascension, beginning with twelve disciples, then with both Jew and Gentile, grew into a world wide Kingdom typified in the all of the Mount of Olives and its Olive Tree (Eph 2:11-22; 1 Peter 2:6-10).
There are numerous “twos” in this account of Palm Sunday. Many of these “two’s” are revealing of the two ways: the way of the Old which is about to perish: and the way of the New which is about to replace the Old:
1. There were two cities: Bethphage (Old) and Bethany (New)
2. There were two trees represented as houses: Fig (Old) and Palm (New)
3. There were two women at Bethany: Martha (Old) and Mary (New)
4. There were two feasts: Passover (Old) and Tabernacles (New)
5. There were two disciples: (Maybe) One Old and one New
6. There were two donkeys: One Old and one New
7. There were two ways that met: One Old and one New
8. There were two entries: One Old (2nd time) and One New (1st time)
9. There were two of Israel and two of Jerusalem: One Old and one New