13.01.01 Introduction and Summary of the Passion Week Events
The most important week in the history of humanity has become known as the Passion Week beginning when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The immense popularity He had in the city can be clearly seen in sharp contrast to the immense hatred of His enemies when they stood before Pilate.
Tensions always ran high at Passover because it was believed that was the most likely time for the messiah to rise and begin another revolt for national freedom. Therefore, extra soldiers were present to crush any self-proclaimed messiahs, as well as the expected rebellion that would follow. At Qumran, the Essenes wrote of an expected messiah and various false prophets also wrote of one in Pseudepigrapha literature. These all reflect the various expected dreams and opinions of the time.
Since the Roman occupation began, several individuals claimed to be the messiah but were consequently killed or crucified. For this reason, Herod the Great upgraded the Hasmonean Baris and renamed it as the Antonio Fortress. It was adjacent to the temple, and he stationed extra military units inside the temple at every Passover. He wanted to be sure that if a messianic pretender did announce himself, his soldiers would put a quick end to his life as was done to the little boys in Bethlehem.
However, the Old Testament prophets described a messiah who was to be very different from the many first century expectations. It is interesting that there seems to be little or no evidence that the rabbis of this era were reviewing “Daniel’s 70 weeks,” and if they pondered the possibilities that the predicted 490 year period might end soon and the Messiah would appear. If they did, in fact, suspect Jesus to be the Messiah, then they should have suspected that rejection of Him would bring destruction to the city and nation – the judgments that are described in Deuteronomy 28.
Into this political caldron entered Jesus, riding on a donkey, a humble resemblance to a king on parade entering one of his cities. The people loved Him. His reputation for healing and excellent teaching went far beyond Israel! He never spoke a harsh word to anyone, except of course, to those hypocritical religious leaders who did not practice what they preached. As long as He was moving in the villages and among the synagogues, He was in Pharasaic territory and the Sadducees were enjoying the frustrations of their enemies – the Pharisees. However, when Jesus cleansed the temple, He deliberately entered Sadducean territory. Consequently, He galvanized all of His enemies against Him.
As Jesus exposed the corruption of the religious elite, they began to plot their strategy. Their dirty work would have to be done at night when those who loved Him would be sleeping. Furthermore, if they could not get Him executed for religious reasons, then they would attempt a political accusation, such as accusing Him of being a messiah with anti-Roman political ambitions.
At this point, it is important to provide an overview of the many events that transpired in the last week. There have been various attempts to calculate which year the Passion Week occurred. Suggested years range from A.D. 26 to A.D. 36. The latter has been often chosen because Jesus started His ministry when He was about 30 years of age (Lk. 3:23). In the sixth century it was assumed that Jesus was born in year 1 and had a three and a half year ministry period. This obviously adds up to the year 33. However, as previously explained, He was born between the years 7 and 5 B.C. Furthermore, the term “about 30” years of age permits Him to have begun His ministry when He was a little older. Assuming a three and a half or possibly a four and a half year ministry period, the years add up to the year A.D. 30 with no difficulty. This is confirmed by Jewish writings that state a number of strange events occurred about four decades before the temple was destroyed, meaning, these occurred in the year A.D. 30. In calculating years, it must be remembered that there is no year zero, the time from December 31, 1 BC to January 1 AD 1, is one day, not one year.
The Triumphal Entry was the fulfillment of three significant prophecies.
- Jesus fulfilled the 483 year prophecy of Daniel 9:25, and thereby fulfilled the moment or timing of His coming. The prophet Daniel said that beginning of the time of restoration and the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the anointed comes would be sixty-nine sevens of years [Sabbatical years], or when adjusted to the modern calendar, 483 years. Scholars have debated what time this prophetic clock began and there are three possibilities. Most, however, agree that it was in 444 B.C. when the king of Persia decreed that Jerusalem should be rebuilt (Neh. 1 & 2). Daniel 9:26 states that the Anointed One would be cut off at the end of the seven sevens and sixty-two sevens of weeks, meaning at the end of the 483 years. It is significant to know that the word cut off also means executed. If that is correct, then the Triumphal Entry and death of Jesus occurred in A.D. 30. The challenging difficulty for scholars is that there were four decrees given around the 444 B.C. period.
The second half of Daniel 9:26 states that after the Anointed One is cut off, the ruler of the people will come and destroy the city and sanctuary. That ruler was the Roman General Titus and his Tenth Legion, as they not only destroyed the city, but also destroyed and dismantled the temple and thousands were slaughtered in the process. This clearly points to Jesus as being the Anointed One. Furthermore, just prior to the Roman entry of the temple, the Zealots entered and destroyed all financial records that pertained to debts, and when the Romans came, they destroyed the genealogical books. So no one after A.D. 70 could prove that he was a descendant of King David.
Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrificial Lamb of God. Moses said in Exodus 12:3 that on the 10th day of the first month of Nissan acquire a lamb and bring it into their homes. There they would observe it for any imperfections as it was not to have a proverbial “spot or blemish.” Of course during that time everyone, especially children, became affectionately close to the cute little thing. But then, four days later, the lamb was sacrificed.
- Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 118, and thereby fulfilled the meaning of His coming. Note that Psalm 118:24 reads,
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The obvious question is, “what day?” It was the anticipated day that the messiah would ride into Jerusalem. It finally arrived. The next verse (25a) reads, “Lord, save us!” which is precisely why the people shouted “Hosanna” (Lk. 19:42). The term “hosanna” (Gk. hosanna 5614) is generally understood as a prayer of praise meaning Lord, save us or save us now, but in the first century it also meant please deliver us. The crowds knew that they were shouting a reference to the psalm when they addressed this phrase to Jesus – for they wanted Him to be their king; their messiah. Unfortunately, national Israel would reject Him, which is why He later said in Luke 19:42 that if they “knew this day” it would bring them peace – the phrase is a reference to Psalm 118:24.
- Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (see 13.01.02 below) as predicted by Zechariah (9:9), and thereby, fulfilled the manner of His coming. On the 10th of Nisan, He rode into the Holy City and in the following four days the Sadducees, Pharisees, Scribes, and even the Herodians examined him theologically. In the meantime, the people loved Him more than ever; His popularity escalated. All who tried to find fault with Him became embarrassed or humiliated. Little wonder then, that they planned to kill Him.
As Jesus approached the city gates, the public praises became increasingly intense. It was only a few days since Lazarus was raised from the tomb and the news of this incredible event spread like wildfire. Everyone remembered His many miracles and now they wanted to make Him their king. People probably thought that since Jesus performed such great wonders, He could conquer the Romans, clear the temple of its corrupt priesthood, re-establish the long awaited Davidic Kingdom and the Davidic Covenant. In the meantime, as the crowds praised the Miracle Worker, Caiaphas and his Roman friends were nervously waiting for what would happen next. At this point Jesus probably remembered Satan’s temptation of kingship after His baptism.
The life of Jesus was filled with numerous prophetic fulfillments. Yet there is one that would not be recognized for another four decades. It is a prophetic word given by the prophet Daniel while in Babylon.
After those 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the coming prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
Only after the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, did Jewish and Gentile believers realize the significance of Daniel’s prophecy. The destruction confirmed that Jesus was the expected messiah, because according to Daniel, He would come before the temple’s destruction.
Jesus had spent His ministry years teaching about the Kingdom of God; that to know God was to know Him – Jesus. His Triumphal Entry (Mt. 21:4-5) was the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9-10, but more than that, it was also the public presentation of Himself to national Israel as their Messiah. He had spent several years in ministry and while He had a great following of common peasants, this was the last opportunity for the Jewish leadership, commonly referred to as “national Israel,” to accept or reject Him. Since the Jewish leadership officially rejected Him and His message, He announced the official end of Israel’s stewardship of the Kingdom of God (Mt. 21:33-43). Instead, His gospel would now be preached to all nations (Mt. 26:13) by Gentiles and one day the entire world will be judged (Mt. 25:31-46). This new kingdom is the new covenant, symbolically sealed with His blood for all Jews and Gentiles who would accept Him as their Messiah (Mt. 26:26-28).
In summary, the Triumphal Entry of Jesus announced, without question, the fact that the Jewish people accepted Jesus as their messiah – although they were thinking of Him as a political-messiah.
- Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, in essence saying, “I am your messiah.” This was not only in the fulfillment of prophecy, but the people responded by waving of the palm branches – a non-verbal greeting to Jesus as their king. During the festival of Sukkot, they waved palm branches in six directions to acknowledge God as their king. Now they waved palm branches to acknowledge Jesus as their king – an act that must have placed the religious leaders and the Romans on high alert.
- The first word the people shouted was “hosanna!” It was a messianic greeting that meant “Please deliver us.”
- Then they referred to Him as the “Son of David.” This was the most popular name of the messiah.
- Then they said, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The rabbis for centuries taught their people that when the rabbi comes, they should address him with this phrase.
There can be no question that the popularity of Jesus had reached its climax. In John 6:14-15 the people tried to make Him king and now they greeted Him as king.
. The phrase Passion Week is an old English term that means Suffering Week.
. See “Barabbas” in Appendix 26.
. Simon bar Kokhba was one of those who claimed to be the Messiah who would deliver the Jews from the Romans. He led an uprising in A.D. 132 which resulted in the utter destruction of Jerusalem three years later. Both Jews and Christians were expelled from the city and the victorious Roman general Hadrian renamed Israel, “Palestinia,” in honor of the ancient Philistine enemies. From this name that the modern name “Palestine” is derived. See also Appendix 25.
. Maier, In the Fullness of Time. 345.
. See 04.03.10.Q3 “When was Jesus born?”
. While this writer agrees with F.F. Bruce (New Testament History, 192 n2) and Arnold Fruchtenbaum, (The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 20, page 19.) that the year A.D. 30 is the crucifixion date, a majority view appears to lean toward the A.D. 33 date. One of the earliest studies of the crucifixion date was by Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) and is titled The Coming Prince. It was first published in Great Britain in 1894 and quickly became a classic, but it has some problems. In 1978 Dr. Harold Hoehner, in his book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, resolved four difficulties of Anderson’s work. Hoehner presents strong arguments defending an A.D.33 crucifixion date. See Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, 572. See also Appendix 19.
. See 16.01.18.Q5. “What was the year of His death?” for more details.
. See Appendix 15 concerning Daniel’s prophecy.
. Metzger, God in Eclipse. 151-52.
. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 12; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 334-35; Vine, “Hosanna.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:312.
. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 7, Session 1.
. For a study of Jewish covenants from a messianic Jewish perspective, see Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.
. See Appendix 15 concerning Daniel’s prophecy.
. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 7, Session 1.