In Palm Sunday’s gospel (Luke 19:28-40) Jesus enters Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover week. The gospel describes the different welcomes offered by his followers and some of the Pharisees. 

It invites us to consider where we stand as he passes by, but also to consider what his message was.  


The gospel begins, After Jesus had said this, (a parable) he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, (less than two kilometeres from the walls of Jerusalem) he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’

Jesus may have noticed the donkey and colt on his recent trips between Jerusalem and Bethany… where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived and where he stayed during the week before Passover… but some read this as divine knowledge. If it was from divine insight, it indicated that Jesus’ divinity was breaking through into every detail of his life, not just miracles like raising Lazarus from the dead.

If it was merely ‘human knowledge’ it showed Jesus’ attended to a wide range of elements in his social environment. Either way, the evangelist found this knowledge notable.

Regardless of how he knew about the colt, Jesus orchestrated events so that he fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, from the first reading for Palm Sunday:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech. 9:9) 


Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

Jesus may have nodded to the owners of the colt during his trips to and from Bethany, perhaps he had smiled at them as they attended to the colt, so they knew who he was. When they heard that the disciples’ request was for Jesus, they agreed.  If, on the other hand, we read this as an example of Jesus’ divine foreknowledge of events, it shows that Jesus’ word, even conveyed through others, had power. 


They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. The fact that Jesus rode this colt which no one had ever ridden alludes to Jesus’ mastery of animal nature.

As for Jesus’ choice of a colt, in a contemporary sense, it’s as though Jesus chose to ride a bicycle into the city when he could have taken a motorcade. He wanted to be accessible and to travel in the manner that many ordinary people did. 

In contrast to Jesus’ entrance, Pilate also came to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover: not to celebrate but to supervise the response to any potential uprising. He would have entered the city on a horse, surrounded by soldiers who cleared a path for him between the crowds of people, and perhaps preceded by a drummer announcing his way.

The differences between the divine and imperial entrances to the city for the feast could not have been starker. The welcome for Jesus as the crowds pressed in to greet him and touch him would have contrasted sharply with the fear of Pilate as his soldiers pushed people aside. 

Jesus’ way of entering the city repudiated regal style in favour of an entrance that welcomed relationship. 


As he (Jesus) went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. This homage reflected 2 Kings 9:13, when Elisha had anointed Jehu as king, they took cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Jesus’ very presence evoked a personal form of engagement in the welcome.


When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (The words of Psalm 118:26) 
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

By this point in Jesus’ public ministry many recognized that his miracles, his compassion for sinners and the marginalized of society and his scriptural-based teaching marked him as heaven-sent. The most appropriate way they could respond was to adopt the psalmist’s words to praise him.

At the same time, note that Luke said it was the whole crowd of disciples, not everyone who had come to the city. Other Passover pilgrims may have been curious bystanders having heard about him and the wonders he had done.  Many may not have known who he was and wondered about his identity and why these people were praising him. In many respects the crowd resembled today’s society with its mix of believers, the curious but distant, and those who are ignorant of Jesus. His entrance was an invitation to all. 


Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Perhaps the Pharisees were scandalized by the praise given to Jesus. Alternatively, they may have feared Pilates’ retaliation at the hint of a Messianic insurrection. (Pilate had a bias for violent solutions to perceived problems.)

Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out. This is the climactic verse in the gospel. Jesus acknowledged the truth of what his disciples had said. He validated their words that he had indeed, “come in the name of the Lord”. His comment meant that, even if his disciples were silent, it would not change the fact that Jesus was Lord. 

The comment about ‘stones crying out’, echoed an earlier episode in Luke, when John the Baptist had said to the crowds, do not begin to say, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:8) In other words, if they were silenced, God himself would testify to Jesus’ greatness. (In Genesis 28 Abraham had used a stone for his ‘pillow’ then made it into a monument to God, a form of lasting praise.) In a sense, he was saying, ‘Nature will declare the fact’.

By referring, indirectly, to Abraham, Jesus anchored his presence and mission in one of the most venerable saints of the Hebrew scripture. He seemed to be saying, ‘as Abraham honoured God by building a monument out of stone, so God would honour him by giving the stones voices’.  

In his entrance to Jerusalem, Jesus was confirming his divine mission to everyone.


  • How do you understand Jesus’ knowledge that the colt is in the village? Does his information come from omniscient divine awareness or from comprehensive human observation of his environment? (When he entered Jerusalem did he know that he would die and rise that week, or did he have a human understanding that the imperial authority might think he posed a threat of insurrection?)
  • Where do you ‘stand’ as Jesus enters Jerusalem? As a disciple, praising him? A curious bystander? A conflicted Pharisee, admiring his work and teaching and trying to fit it into your orthodox beliefs? As one hostile to his presence? As the colt’s owner, proud Jesus had chosen his animal?
  • The Semitic way of thinking and speaking is alien to us, even when translators do their best to convey the sense. Jesus’ parables, (the one preceding this morning’s gospel for example), are not always easy to grasp. Jesus’ reference to ‘the stones crying out’, might similarly seem like an odd expression. Yet Jesus rooted it in scripture. His words still challenge us to wonder at the significance of his comments.