Some biblical experts believe that Jesus was part of a well designed conspiracy; a plan that was conceived months before Palm Sunday. They see Jesus sending two of his disciples to secure a colt just before they approached the Mount of Olives. They note how Jesus knew exactly where the animal was being held and even gave his disciples the words they needed to say in case someone asked them why they were taking the colt. “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” Unlike Matthew, Mark does not quote Zechariah but his narrative show how carefully Jesus was following the words of the prophet Zechariah, fulfilling every detail.
I don’t know about this conspiracy theory, but if Jesus had a conspiracy he was not alone. Many others had their own conspiracies, their own plans that they were carrying out. In fact, Palm Sunday was the day in which a series of conspiracies were going to be set in motion. Jesus has been walking for days, on their way to Jerusalem. As they passed every village and town groups of people joined them. They were all going to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and they joined a group in order to prevent an encounter with dangerous criminals. As they walk Jesus was teaching the disciples and new people were hearing for the first time the good news. In the crowd there were various people with different agendas and plans that they hope to fulfill once they entered Jerusalem.
The disciples had their own agenda. As they were approaching Jerusalem, James and John, sons of Zebedee take the opportunity to ask Jesus about the positions they will be given in the new kingdom. Once the other disciples heard about their request they began to argue with each other. They were so much involved in their personal plans that they could not hear Jesus warning about his upcoming death. They could not hear anything that did not go with their plans for conquest and victory. The entire trip they were running in their head the possible scenarios as to what will happen once they entered Jerusalem. How much resistance would they face? They knew that victory was certain, this was the fulfillment of the prophetic visions of David’s kingdom.
There were the priests, Pharisees, and other religious leaders of his day. They had their own plans and hopes; their own conspiracy. The gospel of John tells us that in one occasion “One of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man dies for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:49-50) They honestly believe that it was in the national best interest for Jesus to die. They were not sure how dangerous Jesus was, but they were sure that many of his followers would create trouble. They were going to provoke the Roman Empire and that would certainly mean the destruction of Israel. They have worked so hard to create an atmosphere of tolerance, they could not allow all their hard work to be for nothing.
There was Judas, because he was the group treasurer he knew that very important people had began to support their movement; people like Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, Joseph of Arimathea and even Pilate’s wife was a sympathizer. The other disciples were too busy positioning themselves to hear what Jesus was saying, but not Judas. Judas was a realist, he was looking at everything and he knew that if Jesus continued to talk about failure and death those important people would lose interest. They could not afford to be associated with a failed revolution. So he developed a plan to force Jesus’ hand and create a crisis. He would use the religious leaders to arrest Jesus and that way the final struggle would begin before Jesus words destroyed the movement. Judas believed that the end justify the means. Once they were in power, Jesus would thank him. Judas was going to save the movement, even Jesus own life. He would be acknowledged as the hero that made David’s kingdom a reality.
In the crowd were the poor and the oppressed. There were those who had been fed in miraculous ways by Jesus. Mark tells us that just before they arrived near the Mount of Olives, Jesus encountered blind beggar Bartimaeus. “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47) And once he received healing he followed Jesus along the road. He could have gone home, to see his family maybe for the first time, but he decided to go and see what was going to happen when this miracle worker entered Jerusalem. The poor had their own hopes and dreams about Jesus. They were not hoping for a revolution, only for another miracle.
In the crowd were people like Barabbas, people who were already fighting the Roman Empire. They were hoping that all this shouting and praising, that all the things that Jesus was doing, all those things that appeared to fulfill Zechariah’s prophesy would invited an attack by the authorities. They were hoping that then the entire nation would be forced to rise against the hated Roman Empire. Their time was close; there was no better time. Their victory was close; they will use Jesus to fulfill their hopes and dreams. Without realizing it Jesus was playing into their hands.
But in the crowd there were mostly people who were going to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. They had joined the crowd because it was safer to travel in a group, not because they had any interest in this Jesus of Nazareth. When they heard the crowd cried out: “Save us! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!” They thought that they were just quoting Psalm 118. They thought that they were just reciting a psalm on their way to celebrate the Passover. They were not aware of what was actually happening; that they were participating on the most important day of Jesus ministry. They did not have a clue.
And then, there is Jesus. He could have easily entered Jerusalem hiding in the crowds, quietly. He could have requested his followers to prepare to take Jerusalem by force, but he did not. We call this Jesus triumphal entry, but it must have been his loneliest day. Everyone around him had their own agenda; they were ready to use him for their purposes. Not one of his disciples understood what that day meant. In fact Matthew tells us that Jesus could not help but cry: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
In the other three gospels Jesus does something after his entrance that qualifies his entry as a triumphal entry, but not the gospel of Mark. Mark just states that: “Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” It is anti climatic, a letdown. Jesus enters Jerusalem and does not even spend the night there, he leave immediately for Bethany with the twelve. It is impossible to get in God’s plan until God has a triumphal entry into our heart. Our will, our hopes and desires will always cloud God’s will. We will confuse our dreams with God’s dream until God is allowed to make a dwelling in our lives.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)