The Gospel of John, Jesus’ seventh sign, part 8
Jan 07, 2020
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (as it is called) is recorded in all of the gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-14; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19). Palm Sunday was Abib 9, and the next day (Monday) was Abib 10, when the people selected their lambs for Passover (Exodus 12:3).
The people recognized Jesus as the Messiah and King, waving palm branches, and quoting Psalm 118:25, 26, not realizing that they would have to wait until He came a second time for Jesus to become King in practical terms. This was not, after all, the feast of Tabernacles, but Passover, where Jesus was destined to become “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hence, the messianic hopes of the people were to be dashed to the ground shortly, when their religious leaders crucified Jesus on charges of blasphemy.
For this reason also, Jesus did not enter Jerusalem on a white horse, as was commonly done when a king or general entered a conquered city. Instead, He rode a donkey, which indicated that a Pentecostal Age lay ahead before He could come on a white horse. As I showed in my book, The Wheat and Asses of Pentecost, donkeys are a main prophetic type of Pentecost throughout Scripture. Jesus’ work on the cross was designed to bring about Pentecost seven weeks later.
John’s account hardly focuses upon the manner in which Jesus acquired the donkey. We read in John 12:14-16,
14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it, as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion, behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him and that they had done these things to Him.
Matthew 21:1-3 says,
1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them’.”
The priestly village of Bethphage (or Bethpage) was situated just outside Jerusalem at the base of the Mount of Olives. These priests took care of the ashes of the red heifer and were responsible to assist in cleansing the unclean. It appears that Lazarus’ earlier testimony had made a profound impression on some of these priests, so when they were informed that Jesus had need of a donkey, they were happy to comply.
This fulfilled the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9,
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation [yasha], humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Humility is one of the main qualifications to rule in the Kingdom of God. Power is always oppressive when the one wielding it lacks humility. Zechariah prophesies that the Messiah was to be humble. It is the same for all who are called to reign with Christ, both in this age and in the age to come.
Hence, the prophetic “donkeys” are trained through Pentecost to rule as overcomers in the Age of Tabernacles. Their training precedes that coming age, of course, and it is on-the-job training. For this reason, future rulers are called to reign in this present life as well, even though their reign is limited by the times in which they live.
So also the Israelites in their Pentecostal “wilderness” were “humbled” (Deuteronomy 8:3) during their training period prior to entering the Promised Land.
Cleansing the House of Prayer
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He immediately entered the outer court of the temple, where the priests were making money selling animals and birds at exorbitant rates. Matthew 21:12, 13 says,
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”
This was the second time that Jesus cleansed the temple. The first time, recorded in John 2:13-16, occurred near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The second time occurred at the end. Both occurred at the season of Passover.
When Malachi prophesied of the sudden arrival of God’s “messenger of the covenant” (Malachi 3:1), he wrote also in the next verses,
2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when he appears? For He is like refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.
When Jesus cleansed the temple, He fulfilled this prophecy, for in driving out the money-changers, He prevented “the sons of Levi” from defiling the sacrificial system itself. These priests made it nearly impossible for anyone to bring their own sacrifices to the temple. Their authority to inspect the sacrificial animals gave the priests the power to reject any animal that they deemed to be imperfect.
When this happened, the people were forced to buy one of the priests’ animals at an inflated price. This is how the priests enriched themselves at the expense of the common people. Jesus called them “robbers.” Malachi tells us that these “sons of Levi” needed to be refined “so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.”
The Dividing Wall Abolished
There was also the problem of the dividing wall that separated Jewish men from women and gentiles. The wall kept women and gentiles from approaching God and provided a spiritual and psychological reason for a class system that was inherently discriminatory. Paul says that Jesus tore down that wall (Ephesians 2:14-16) in order to “reconcile” the two groups—those in the inner court and those in the outer court.
The true purpose of the temple is stated in Isaiah 56:6-8, where we find that foreigners are as welcome as Israelites to worship God.
6 Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord… 7 Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. 8 The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
Isaiah was simply reiterating Solomon’s prayer of dedication after the temple had been built. Part of his prayer is recorded in 1 Kings 8:41-43,
41 Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name’s sake 42 (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.
There was no dividing wall in Solomon’s temple. No mention is made of a dividing wall in the second temple. But when this second temple was taken apart stone by stone and rebuilt by King Herod, there we find a dividing wall that made Jewish men more “chosen” than others. Jesus tore down that wall, not because of any change in the mind of God, but because the wall was one of the traditions of men never commanded in the law.
Hence, we see that the religious leaders had turned the temple into “a robbers’ den,” not only by robbing the people by corrupting the process of animal inspection, but also by robbing foreigners of their right to approach God in the “House of prayer for all the peoples.”
Jesus’ reforms, however, were met with extreme opposition, for the religious leaders did not want to give up their traditions of men.
Choosing the Lamb
John 12:17-19 says,
17 So the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. 18 For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”
John omits any reference to timing, but Mark 11:18, 19 says,
18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
Mark 11:20, 21 indicates that this occurred on Monday—the same day that Jesus had cursed the fig tree earlier. By the following morning, he says, the fig tree had already withered.
So we find that the religious leaders, acting on behalf of the people (even in their corruption), met together to finalize their decision to “destroy Him” on Monday, Abib 10. In effect, they chose the Lamb of God to be offered for the sin of the world on the prophesied day. They chose Him, because they perceived that “the world has gone after Him.”
Ironically, they chose Jesus on behalf of the world as a whole.
This is part 8 of a series titled "Jesus' Seventh Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.