The Dramatic Unfolding of Prophecies

Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF

Claretian Publications, Macau


Lk 19:28-40

The gospel reading before the procession on Palm Sunday is always the royal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem although the main reading of the day is the passion narrative. The Jerusalem entry is the final backdrop for the capital punishment of Jesus.

It was the Passover season in Jerusalem. Jesus had travelled around 100 kilometers from Galilee with a large caravan of followers. In such pilgrimages, it is usual for the people of a village or town to go together. Moreover, Jesus had become an accepted leader of Galilee with a significant number of followers who accompanied him. Their arrival had become a spectacle in the eyes of the Jerusalemites. About 20 years ago, another Galilean by the name of Judas had come to Jerusalem rebelling against Rome. The temple authorities had a vivid memory of how the Romans killed them and put down the rebellion. But Judas had left a philosophy with the Jews that they were to be ruled only by God. A large majority of the people might have been sympathizers of this idea. What the temple authorities knew very clearly was that if another uprising took place, the temple and everything sacred would be completely taken over by the Romans, and they were afraid that Jesus and team had a rebellion in mind!

Unlike the warrior kings who ride horses, Jesus enters the temple area on a humble colt. The full impact of the symbolism of the “king on the colt” will be understood only if we read it from the gospel of Mathew who refers to a donkey and a colt, not one animal but two. The text is directly taken from the book of Zechariah 9:9 where two animals are mentioned. The donkey and its offspring prefigure the Jewish religion and its offshoot, the Church. Jesus on the donkey will not only recall the prophecy of the Messiah arriving on a humble donkey but also a peaceful taking over of Jerusalem. The Jews of the time might be remembering this part of Zechariah’s prophecy by heart as the back of their palms as expectation about the arrival of the Messiah was rife in the air with the oppression of the Romans.

The previous verse (Zechariah 9:8) speaks of taking possession of the temple. So the drama played in the mind of the people around there was that Jesus was going to take over the temple forever from the Roman forces and the half-blood Jew, Herod, as well peacefully! He is arriving as the King of Peace. Reading the prophecies of Zechariah would bring out in glaring detail how the whole drama of the entry into Jerusalem, Jesus going to mount of Olives, and the conversations during the interrogations were the fulfilment of the prophecies of Zechariah, unfolding in their midst. Jesus was undoubtedly taken to be the Messiah by the people.

Giving this Messianic aura to Jesus was exactly what scared the chief priest and his company. Their conspiracy was to erase that concept altogether from the mind of the people. The attempt to put Jesus to the trial as a Galilean is also to put a doubt in the mind of the people that the Messiah was not supposed to come from Galilee. For the temple authorities, protecting the temple and the business was of supreme importance! The Messiah was not supposed to come at that time!

The people were expecting a physical takeover of Jerusalem by Jesus and beginning his rule from Jerusalem. Such would be the case when you read the prophecies of Zachariah literally. Even the disciples believed this physical taking over. It is in this context that we understand what the disciples were arguing about on their way to Jerusalem. Who would get the more important positions in the kingdom of Jesus? And the Zebedee brothers came with their mother to request for the most important places on the right and left of Jesus. They thought about a kingdom on earth, not a kingdom of heaven! Remember that Jesus was interrogated with that question if he was a king. Never had Jesus spoken about his kingship before. But the kingship came under interrogation exactly because of this prophecy that people were enacting with the entry of Jesus on the donkey. Jesus would break that expectation and teach Pilate a lesson on the heavenly kingdom.

The Jewish belief was that the Messiah would enter the temple mount from the East Gate (the Golden Gate) through which Jesus entered the temple on that day. This is a beautiful convergence of many Messianic prophecies. Remember, even the mention of Bethany which lies to the east of the city is to highlight the coming of the Messiah from the east!

A kingdom has some features. Most significantly, it has a king, some subjects, a territory, and laws and regulations to govern. In the case of the kingdom of God, we know clearly that Christ is the king. His territory is the whole universe and is not limited to the divisions on the face of the earth drawn by people. What we need to do to belong to his kingdom is to live by the laws of his kingdom, which most predominantly is love. He enlists into his kingdom those who are willing to DIE FOR LOVE.