In the footsteps of Jesus’ triumphant entry from Bethphage to the Old City.
Ten days after I arrived in Israel, I found myself singing “Hosanna”, along with thousands of Christians, in the ancient village of Bethphage. In Bethphage, there is a church that commemorates the place where Jesus found the donkey he would ride into Jerusalem. It even contains a stone, traditionally believed to have been used by Jesus to mount the donkey. It is there that Christians from all over the world meet to begin Palm Sunday’s procession through the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem.
Matthew 21:1-3: “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
Having just arrived in Jerusalem, I was unsure what to expect and nervous about moving to a foreign country by myself. But there is something so uniting about a group of people coming together to celebrate a common belief. Christians only make up around 1-2% of the population of Israel, so when we come together, it truly feels like a gathering of family.
As we waved olive branches and palm fronds and wove our way through the Mount of Olives, I found myself often looking around at the people near me. There is a surreal feeling in Jerusalem of transcending time. Walking through the Old City or looking at the olive trees in Gethsemane, you are struck over and over again with the thought: it happened here. And while we sang on Palm Sunday, I could not help but think of the joy that Jesus’ followers must have felt when he entered Jerusalem two millennia ago. And the joy that King David would have felt when he entered Jerusalem, after conquering it a millennium before Jesus’ time, and danced before the Ark of the Covenant.
But unlike King David and Jesus’ disciples, we all knew what was to come. We knew that despite King David’s jubilance, his beloved City and Temple would eventually be destroyed. Despite Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, he would be betrayed and would suffer and die. As we processed past the Garden of Gethsemane, it was a stark reminder of that reality of our faith. While we are joyful for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and into our hearts, it is not without suffering. In fact, his suffering makes our redemption and the coming joy of Easter possible.