On the day we call Palm Sunday, Jesus led an army of peasants to occupy the city of Jerusalem. Like the actors in the Gideon drama from the previous article, Jesus’ army was essentially defenseless, and its advantage was precisely in that fact. In both cases the winning side was not dressed like an army nor equipped as an army, and in no way looked like an army. Still it acted like an army and won. Gideon’s soldiers blew their trumpets in the dark, announcing attack, and the enemies ran. Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem as his followers boldly shouted “Hosanna to the son of David,” the equivalent of “long live the king.” As they shouted their challenge, the Jewish opponents were helpless to interfere, while the watching Romans were oblivious to the meaning of what Jesus did. After all, the Jews routinely greeted pilgrims at Passover with calls for the Messianic son of King David. Jesus arrival did not appear that unusual to the Roman guards.
On Palm Sunday Jesus walked in to the temple grounds and surveyed the area, but did nothing. The enthusiastic crowds at that exciting moment could well have turned to rioting had Jesus played his hand, but Jesus waited. On the second day after things had returned to holiday normal, Jesus returned and started giving orders. “Get this merchandize out of here,” he yelled, while scattering the tables and money boxes on the ground and opening the pens of the animals for sale. Like the Midianites who heard Gideon’s trumpets centuries earlier, the shocked merchants promptly abandoned their post, and were gone.
Why wasn’t Jesus promptly arrested? As in the Gideon story, the critical factor was fear. On every street corner a group of Jesus’ enthusiastic followers were celebrating the holiday. The leaders feared a riot would surely ensue should there be any show of police authority against Jesus, and so they did nothing. Little did they understand that under Jesus’ command, public disorder was the last thing they should expect from his followers. Jesus singular, personal authority had sent the merchants scrambling, and his authority would also be sufficient for crowd control should he merely give the order, “Peace, be still.” After all, on one occasion the wind and waves on Lake Galilee had responded promptly to a similar command from Jesus.
Over the next few days Jesus revealed his qualifications for office according to Moses’ description in Deuteronomy 17. He publically expounded upon the nature of his kingdom. When asked about paying taxes to Rome, he suggested sending all of Caesar’s idolatrous money back to him so that the Jews could give God what God was owed. The economic advantages of the mutual defense agreement with Rome had given special privilege to Rome’s local supporters, and impoverished all others. Returning Caesar his currency would have ended the agreement with Rome.
Jesus did not challenge Rome’s authority in the Triumphal Entry. He only took control of the real estate still under Jewish authority, the temple grounds. At that point he was only King of the Jews, not of the Romans. But his capacity to control any threatening group was revealed when the temple police came with their Roman military advisors to arrest him. According to John, Jesus spoke the I AM (ego eimi), and the police fell to the ground in a position of worship. Only with Jesus’ permission were they able to arrest him.
After the trial, on the cross, under Pilate’s written declaration that Jesus was, in fact, king of the Jews, Jesus exercised the authority of his office to pardon the Romans. The king may have been on a cross, but he was still king, and in a few years following his resurrection, his followers, following his example, died on crosses in Rome, bringing the authority of Divine grace to the land where the soldiers had come from. Jesus forgiveness of Israel’s enemies laid the necessary foundation for peace on earth, a peace that Israel, until now has failed to ratify.
Jesus fulfilled all Moses’ guidelines for a government in Deuteronomy 17. (1) He was appointed to rule by God’s audible announcement from heaven at his baptism, “This is my beloved son.” (2) His army had no weapons. (3) He had no politically motivated marriage entanglements and no mutual defense treaties with anyone. (4) He collected no taxes and built no palace. (5) At the age of 12, according to Luke 2, he passed his exams in Biblical knowledge, and by age 30 was ready to start his revolution. He alone knew how to build the house God promised for David, a building not made with hands (Acts 2:48-50 & 17:24), a spiritual dwelling in the hearts of humankind. That is why he could say in John 5:6, “Moses wrote about me.”
INTERPRETING JESUS IN ORDER TO SERVE HIM
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Roman guards watched without a clue as to the significance of what they saw. Today He rules a world equally oblivious to what is going on, unwilling to acknowledge his blessings and unable to recognize his judgments. Washington, Tel Aviv, Moscow, Beijing, and I.S.I.S. alike have no clue. Our task is to announce that Jesus is Lord in preparation for his return. The change of government has already been established…
 “Whom the Lord, your God shall choose…” (Deuteronomy 17:15)