WHY THE CHANGE FROM HOSANNA TO CRUCIFY HIM?
What a difference a week makes! Within a week, the people have gone from shouting “Hosanna” to shouting, “Crucify him!” Matthew 21:8-9 (including Mark 11: 8-9; Luke 19:37-38; John 12:12-13) articulates “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
However, in next 3-4 days of this event we also hear ″What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” ″Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22-23; Mark 15: 13-14; Luke 23: 18-24; John 19: 6, 15)
During the reign of Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.), who ruled over Israel (now called Judea) as a Roman client king, Jerusalem underwent a complete make-over through the king’s numerous building projects, including the expansion of the Second Temple, that is referred to as Herod’s Temple, the construction of palaces and citadels, a theatre, a hippodrome and bridges and the development of water supplies for the city. While Jesus was on the earth in the flesh, Jerusalem’s population estimated to be around 65,000, which more than tripled each Passover because of pilgrims, the merchants they attracted, and the soldiers with which Rome managed these crowds.
In the 33 years of his reign, Herod transformed the city to gain some acceptance and support by the population, as he was not Jewish by birth, but was an Edomite, a descendent of Esau, and his family had converted to the Jewish faith. He also aimed at gaining the support of the Roman authorities by remodelling the city with a Roman design and lifestyle in mind, as the construction of a theatre and of a hippodrome built like a Roman circus demonstrates, in addition to the Antonia fortress, which was a military barracks named after his patron Mark Anthony. The Antonia fortress was part of the Temple complex, located just northwest of the Temple area, and was Herod’s palace fortress. This might have been, according to some, the place Jesus may have been put on trial before Pontius Pilate. The Antonia fortress was connected with the court of the gentiles and thus the Temple, through a stairway and an underground passageway. The main stairs leading up to the gates, through which the Israelites passed to go up the steps to the Temple Mount and to the court of the gentiles, were located on the south side.
According to Biblical Law, who could walk up these stairs and be admitted into the Temple of God? Psalms 24:3-4 says, “Who may ascend into the Hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His Holy Place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.” According to Biblical Law, what could they expect in return? Further Psalms 24:5-6 reveals, “He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your (God’s) face. Selah!” In the gentile’s court is where money changers stood, and animals were sold. This was also the place of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. Matthew 21:12-13 (including Mark 11: 15-17; Luke 19: 45-46; John 2: 15-17)- “Jesus went into the Temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, My House shall be called a House of Prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves’.”
The Second Temple was the Jewish holy temple which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced Solomon’s Temple, which was destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, when Jerusalem was conquered. Herod’s Temple as imagined in the Holyland Model of Jerusalem. It is currently situated adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Around 20 BCE, the building was renovated and expanded by Herod the Great, and became known as Herod’s Temple. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE during the Siege of Jerusalem. During the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans in 132–135 CE, Simon bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva wanted to rebuild the Temple, but bar Kokhba’s revolt failed and the Jews were banned from Jerusalem (except for Tisha B’Av) by the Roman Empire. The emperor Julian allowed to have the Temple rebuilt but the Galilee earthquake of 363 ended all attempts ever since. After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered the construction of an Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount. The shrine has stood on the mount since 691 CE; the al-Aqsa Mosque, from roughly the same period, also stands in what used to be the Temple courtyard.
2.0 TRIUMPH ENTRY TO JERUSALEM
In Matthew 19 (including Mark 10) we find Jesus way north of Jerusalem, in Galilee, his home turf so to speak. This was where Jesus had grown up, based his ministry, and performed most of his miracles. Like most others he starts to make his way south to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. First, he heads down to Judea, to the far side of the Jordan (possibly on the route that skirted Samaria.) He crosses back over the Jordan into Jericho, which we find him leaving in Matthew 20. He arrives at Bethpage and Bethany which he makes as his headquarters for Passover week (Matthew 21 & 26; Mark 14 & John 12). Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims, and Jesus did what many others did who lived outside the immediate area, they slept in the towns surrounding Jerusalem, and then came into Jerusalem for the events of each day.
In Jerusalem awaits the political elite, the leaders of the temple, who are quite happy with their lifestyle and the degree of autonomy that they have under Roman rule. Someone who might upset their applecart would need to be dealt with quickly.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus went Bethany, the home of Lazarus, the man he had raised from death. A large number of people heard that Jesus was in Bethany, so they went there, not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from death. Moreover, during this period he had also healed a blind beggar named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus (Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43; Mark 10: 46-52). The next day the large crowd that had come to the Passover Festival heard, that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. In Matthew 21:1-11 (including Mark 11: 1-11; Luke 19:28-40 and John 12: 12-19) we read [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.” This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.] When people saw Jesus rode on a donkey, they took branches of palm-trees and went out to meet him. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
The word hosanna comes from a Hebrew word meaning “save now” or “save us, we pray.” The first word of Psalm 118:25 is howosiah-na, translated “Save us!” and the crowd’s use of this word at the triumphal entry was significant—especially as they waved palm branches (Psalm 118 was associated with the Feast of Tabernacles). By saying “hosanna” as Jesus passed through the gates of Jerusalem and referring to David and David’s kingdom, the Jews were acknowledging Jesus as their Messiah. The Jews had been waiting a long time for the fulfilment of the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17:11–14; 2 Chronicles 6:16), and their shouts of “hosanna in the highest” indicated the hope that their Messiah had finally come to set up God’s kingdom then and there (see Luke 19:11). By saying “in the highest,” the crowd was invoking heaven’s blessing on them and the salvation that the Messiah was bringing. The phrase also echoes the song of the angels in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest”. To paraphrase the shouts of the crowd: “Save us, our Messiah, who comes to fulfil God’s mission! Save us, we beseech you, as you take your rightful throne and extend heaven’s salvation to us!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” So when Jesus has his triumphal entry into Jerusalem that we read about in Matthew 21 Mark 11; Luke 19 and John 12 he was surrounded by his supporters from the north. They had also camped outside the city and were also coming in for the day. Sadly, the salvation that the people of Jerusalem wanted that day was political, not spiritual. They were only interested in a temporary, worldly fulfilment of the messianic prophecies. They chose not to see the prophecies that said the Messiah would be “a man of sorrows” who would bear the griefs of His people and be crushed for their sins. His oppression and death were clearly predicted in Isaiah 53. Yes, Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for, and He accepted their shouts of “hosanna in the highest.” He was truly Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14).
3.0 POST TRIUMPH ENTRY TO JERUSALEM EVENTS
So, after triumph entry to Jerusalem what did Jesus do? As expected by the crowed, Jesus was supposed to enter the Antonia fortress, which was a military barracks and fight against the Roman army, free the Jews from Roman rule & atrocities and establish His Kingdom. But Jesus didn’t fulfil their above stated expectations. He turned towards the gentile’s court (towards the Temple) where money changers stood, and animals were sold; and did the cleansing of the Temple. He drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11: 15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22). He drove out the money changers and sellers from the temple, directly challenged the leadership of the temple. He also spoke about the destruction of Jerusalem as well as the Temple, then he headed back to Bethany for the night.
He came back in the next morning, cursed the fig tree on the way in (Matthew 21:18-19; Mark 11: 12-14), and then spent the day telling parables that insulted the chief priests and pharisees. It is then that they decided to arrest him (Matthew 21:45-46; Mark 12: 11-12; Luke 22: 1-2). Note that the passage says that they were afraid to arrest him because of the crowd. Christ continued to clash with the teachers of the law and the pharisees in Matthew 22 & 23 (including Mark 12 & 13; Luke 20 & 21; John 8 & 9). Jesus continues to teach in Matthew 24 & 25 and headed back to Bethany where we find him again in Matthew 26.
Meanwhile the chief priests and elders met to plot against Jesus. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. ″But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26: 3-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22: 1-2; John 11: 45-53). Here we notice that the plot involved getting Jesus away from his followers. That is the ones who camped outside the city.
Jesus came back into town to pray on the Mount of Olives at night. It was at the Garden of Gethsemane that he was arrested at night (Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:43; Luke 22: 47; John 18: 3). Jesus himself commented that he was in the temple all day, why didn’t they arrest him then? Why, because his supporters were all in the temple area during the day! He was immediately taken before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court or assemblies of either 23 or 71 elders, appointed to sit as a tribunal in every city in the ancient land of Israel) for his first trial. In the Second Temple Period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Temple in Jerusalem, in a building called the Hall of Hewn Stones. Again, this was still in the middle of the night, and the Sanhedrin had gathered for the express purpose of getting rid of Jesus. The arrest and trial of Jesus were conducted at night, when most people were asleep. The Jewish leadership needed Judas so they could arrest Jesus when He was isolated.
Matthew 27 (including Mark 15; John 18:28) opens by saying that “early in the morning” he was taken before Pilate. It was when he was before Pilate that the crowd shouted, “crucify him”. This was not the same crowd that shouted “Hosanna”. The “Hosanna” crowd were still camped outside the city or making their way in. The “Crucify crowd” was made up of the priests, elders, and pharisees, and those that they had assembled, who wanted nothing to do with Jesus and just want him out of the way.
Pilate’s public court, Praetorium was just outside the walls of Herod’s Palace and west of the temple, and next to the residential neighbourhoods of the priests and high-born. His public court was on unholy (to the Jews) ground. This would had been somewhat isolated, as the masses usually entered the temple from the southern entrances. Moreover, the courtyard at Pilates court probably could hold a couple of hundred people, easy for the Pharisees to fill with supporters. And Jesus was hanging on the cross by 9 O’clock in the morning (Mark 15:25). In an age before alarm clocks, daylight savings, microwave ovens, or any ovens, most of the city (most of the pilgrims at least) was probably just getting out of their homes and not looking to see who the Romans were executing that day. Most of the “Hosanna crowd” found him on the way to the Calvary for crucifixion or after his crucifixion.
So why the change in the crowd? Two different crowds… The second crowd planted at a time when the first crowd could not be there. Remember, more than 3,000 people were added to the Christianity less than 2 months after Jesus’ death, this at a time when a big city would be between 5,000 and 10,000. So, Jesus’ arrest and trial were kept secret, after all the Jewish leaders had ample opportunity to arrest Jesus publicly, but feared the crowds (Mathew 26: 4-5; Mark 11:18; Luke 19: 47-48; John 12: 10-11).