Jesus weeps over and then returns to Jerusalem

Jesus’ triumphal entry: JERUSALEM, Sunday, Mt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-44; Jn 12:12-19 (OT prophecy: Isa 62:11; Zech 9:9)

(left) Albrecht Durer, Christ returns to Jerusalem

Mt 21:1–11 (NASB95) When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5  “Say to the daughter of Zion,
      ‘Behold your King is coming to you,
       Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
       Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!”

10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew quotes from this significantly Messianic OT passage:

Zech 9:9-11 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth

Luke adds that Jesus “wept over” Jerusalem on account of its coming destruction and desolation he prophesied (Luke 19:41-45), and which occurred in A.D. 70 by the Romans (cf. 2 Sam 15:30 – when David went up to Jerusalem, weeping on his way). The King of kings does not come to conquer and celebrate his victory in reclaiming his city, rather he weeps at its coming destruction!

Lk 19:41-44 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Also see Lk 13:34-35 (Mtt 23:37-38) — “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! 35 “Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”[1]

This theme of judgment and desolation of Jerusalem is a frequent one in the OT, especially in the pre-exilic period, but also some prophets point towards a future post-exilic desolation (Jer 12:7), though sometimes it may be figurative of the judgment on those who reject the Messiah. In this case, when many (the Zealots and other worldly-minded) were anticipating Jesus re-claiming the kingdom from the Romans at this time by force, Jesus instead prophetically describes the terrible destruction of the city coming from the Romans (A.D. 70).

Comments:  Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem is the long anticipated arrival of the Messiah into his holy city, as very specific prophecies are here depicted as fulfilled. The term “triumphal” is peculiar when considered from a human perspective, since it would seem quite contrary to a triumph when he comes in apparent weakness and will be killed in the process. Nevertheless, considering the various details of the Gospel testimonies (which each supply unique details), it is a marvel to see Christ’s full control of all that leads up to the Passover of his death.  Nothing is able to pre-empt his plan to reveal to the world God’s purposes and plan, that the coming of salvation and the kingdom of God would be according to God’s way and not mankind’s.  When Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on a colt he was obviously not coming as the typical ancient king or military conqueror in a gold chariot seeking destruction of enemies, but rather he was coming to procure and offer salvation to those who were his enemies. Jesus’ true glory is most evident here in his humble submission to the will of God to achieve real victory. That is, he will crush the Evil one, and bring a reversal of the curse, not through a powerful military action, nor even by supernatural conquest with angelic hosts, but through fulfilling the law of God and paying the ransom required by God’s character to bring redemption. Zechariah’s prophecy indicated that the Messiah would be gentle and humble and would bring salvation. He would eventually even remove the war machinery through his actions, precisely because he would bring true peace (shalom) not through military conquest but through spiritual conquest. Despite Jesus’ radical departure from the ways of the ancient kings and their kingdoms, his actions still declared him to be the true King of Israel and the world, yet a king of an entirely different order than what had preceded in all of human history. His kingdom will be an eternal one, fulfilling the ancient promises of a human Deliverer from the line of Adam and Eve and Abraham who would sit on the throne of David forever. The gospel narrator is therefore especially concerned to address the question the Gospels seek to answer: “Who is this man?” He is affirmed/proved in the narrative to be:

  • The Lord (worthy of praise, “hosanna!,” “from the lips of infants you have ordained praise,” Mtt 21:126; Ps 8:2)
  • The King (fulfills the Gen 3:15 promise of a human Victor over the enemy and the curse)
  • Gentle (riding on a donkey colt, Zech 9:9, and Zechariah also stresses that this King would bring salvation as well as peace[shalom])
  • The Son of David (the covenant promise of an eternal King)
  • The Prophet (predicts the future and also interprets and applies the Scripture rightly)
  • The “blessed” one who comes in the name of the Lord (the One who represents the Lord YHWH bears his Name, and thus his glory). Luke 19:38 adds, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And also at the rebuke of the Pharisees, who did not approve of the crowds singing praise to Jesus, he said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk 19:40; cf. Hab 2:11). The creation must praise the One who created it.
  • The One who saves (“hosanna!,” also see Zech 9:9 above).


  • Mt 21:4 – “spoken through the prophet” about riding on a donkey – Is 62:11; Zech 9:9-11.
  • Mt 21:5 – “King” of peace and shalom – he comes to his city and people, but not in victor attire and regalia on a war-horse. See David and donkey in 2 Sam 16:1-12.
  • Mt 21:10 – “the prophet” – Deut 18:18.
  • Mt 21:9 – “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” – Ps 118:36.
  • Lk 19:41 – “he wept” – ἔκλαυσεν (κλαίω; κλαυθμός, οῦ m; κραυγήb, ῆς f: to weep or wail, with emphasis upon the noise accompanying the weeping—‘to weep, to wail, to lament, weeping, crying.’[2]). Recall “Jesus wept” (shortest verse in NT) at the tomb of Lazarus (a different GR word: dakru/w, ἐδάκρυσεν) in Jn 11:35. Some have noted that the kind of grief Jesus feels here is an angry one at death itself, his primary enemy and objective: he must die to overcome death forever. Jesus also seems to have grieved to the point of weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane right before his death (Mt 26:36-46; Lk 22:4-46).
  • Lk 13:35 – “You will not see me again until . . .”— see  Isa 45:23; 22:5; Zech 12:10; Rom 14:11; Php 2:10-11; Rev 1:7.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Lk 13:34–35). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 303). New York: United Bible Societies.

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