Sunday, April 01, 2012

Palm Sunday: Lamb Selection Day

We are all familiar with the story of Palm Sunday--when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the people put threw their coats and palm branches on the ground.

I honestly always thought it was a little odd that Jesus would want all that adoration. Not that He didn't deserve it--because He certainly does--but just that He never seemed to want to draw attention to Himself in that way.

Well, now I know that it wasn't about getting attention and admiration.

Since we are not Jewish, we Westerners miss a lot of symbolism that is a part of the Jewish culture and tradition.

"Palm Sunday" took place on a special day leading up to Passover. It was the 10th day of Nisan which had been established long before, at the very first Passover.

"Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of the first month, each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household." Exodus 12:3

That day came to be called, "Lamb Selection Day." On that day in Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands, of people would be entering the city to choose the lamb that their family would sacrifice to atone for their sins. Jewish historians say that the lambs during that time all came from Bethlehem and were brought into Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate on the Southeast side of the city. At that time in history, only the sheep from Bethlehem, that had been raised especially for this purpose, were allowed to be used for selection.

In Mark 11, it says Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem from Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. He passed the Sheep Gate before entering the Eastern Gate. At the Sheep Gate, they were met by a crowd of people who started to throw their coats and branches down on the ground while shouting,


"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"

"Hosanah in the highest!'

"Hosanah" was the war cry of the zealots who wanted to overthrow Rome and it meant, "God Save us." They believed that Jesus, as an earthly king, would help them free themselves from the tyranny of Rome. Little did they know that God was up to something far bigger.

As Jesus continued on into the city through the Eastern Gate, it is awe-inspiring to see the symbolism. Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was offering Himself as the Lamb on Lamb Selection Day!! He humbled Himself by riding down into the city on a donkey as the Lamb who would pay for the sins of all mankind.

Not only that, but families selected their lambs in the late afternoon of that special day. Jesus also rode into the city offering Himself as the Lamb in late afternoon. (Mark 11:11)

The Mt. of Olives was less than a mile from Jerusalem.

This is not the actual road Jesus would have taken (it's no longer there) but you can see how steep the walk down would have been.

This the Eastern Gate, where Jesus entered Jerusalem. It is sealed now--the only gate in Jerusalem that is not in use. It was foretold in Ezekiel that after the Messiah entered it, it would be sealed and not opened again until Christ returns.

..."This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it. The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway..." Ezekiel 44:2-3