Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why did the Jews wave palm branches when Jesus approached Jerusalem?

Matt 21: 8-13
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee."

Why did the Jews wave palm branches when Jesus approached Jerusalem?

We have to look back at what Judas Maccabeus did for the Jewish nation in 165BC.
When Judas Maccabeus in 165 B.C won back Jerusalem he cleansed the Temple and this led to the creation of the Jewish feast – Hanukkah.
(to read about profaning the Temple: read 2Mac. 6: 1-6)
(to read about cleansing the Temple: read 2Mac. 10:5-7)

So when Judas purified the Temple, the Jews celebrated it with palm branches re-commemorating the Feast of Tabernacles. Palm branches were a key part in the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast which celebrated the dedication of the Temple. When Solomon dedicates the Temple he does it on the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kings 8).

What better day to cleanse the Temple than on the Feast of Tabernacles. What better festival to celebrate a righteous Jewish leader coming to purge the Temple from the Gentiles than the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Jews greet Jesus with palm branches because they think He will be the new Judas Maccabeus. What Judas did in the cleansing of the Temple was so significant for the Jews he was regarded as a national hero for restoring the national Jewish identity. Some of the most popular names in Jesus day were Judas, John and Simon (the brothers of Judas). Judas and his followers protected the Torah in the midst of pagan oppression and pagan influence.

The Jews think Jesus is going to cleanse the Temple from the Romans and throw the Romans out of Jerusalem, create a new national identity for the Jews and liberate them from pagan oppression.

Do you ever wonder why on Palm Sunday all the crowds were greeting Jesus with jubilation and joy, saying “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and then in a few days they are shouting “crucify Him”.

The Jews were upset that Jesus didn’t do a Judas Maccabeus by throwing out the Romans but worse than that they expect Him to cleanse the Temple from the Romans but instead He cleanses the Temple from the priests. Jesus purges the Temple from the Jews, from the Jewish corruption, the Jewish establishment and the priesthood.

They were expecting Jesus to say the Romans are the problem but He said in effect you’re the problem. That is why they turned on Jesus.

This is another example of Jesus evoking the stories of Israel to explain His own story.

Source: The Gospel of Saint Matthew Bible Study
Dr Tim Gray
Professor of Scripture
St Augustine Institute

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