It was an extraordinary day in the life of the Jewish nation. The Passover Festival was beginning and the young superstar of Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth, was entering the city of Jerusalem to face what was to become the most momentous week in the history of the Western world.
Several realities must not be overlooked when understanding the importance of this week. First, the Romans were brutal in their governing of conquered countries. Just as the Babylonians and Assyrians several centuries earlier. Rome maintained its grip on conquered nations by never allowing anything remotely viewed as a revolution of any kind. Secondly, Rome controlled Palestine through a puppet king named Herod they had placed on the throne and from whom they demanded absolute loyalty. Any show of weakness on his part would immediately lead to his being taken down from the position. A good question is, why was control of Palestine so important? There were two reasons. First, Palestine was on the Spice trade routes from Africa, providing exceptional wealth for the Empire. Also, Palestine provided a buffer to Rome’s primary adversary, Persia, modern-day Iran. All of the Palm Sunday and Holy Week drama turned on the unique nature of Passover was the one Jewish feast that marked their liberation from Egypt. No other time in the Jewish year would revolution have been as much on the minds of pilgrims entering Jerusalem as it was during Passover. Hundreds of thousands would have come deeply steeped in bitterness to Roman occupation. They would have come with the inspiration of Moses who a thousand years prior to this moment had gone into Pharaoh’s palace and demanded “let my people go”. Deep in the Jewish psyche was the expectation of a Messiah who was believed to be a deliverer like Moses.
When the crowds cheered Jesusʹ triumphal entry into the city, they were cheering who they believed was to be the Messiah and therefore a modern-day Moses. Jesus did not come followed by an army of revolutionaries, attack Roman authority, but instead went to the temple, overturned the tables, and showed that his primary mission was not to overthrow Rome, but to purify the Jewish religion. When that knowledge became clear to the Jews with a revolutionary bent, it was certain Jesus had to die.