Passover Reflections: Entering Jerusalem

When  did  Jesus  enter   Jerusalem?

Christians over the world  know that Palm Sunday is the beginning of Passion Week. But do you know why Jesus was entering  Jerusalem on that particular Sunday? We can find an answer in the first verses of Exodus 12. In the beginning of chapter 12 of the book of Exodus, God instructed that the lamb that was to be slain on the eve of the exodus, be separated out four days beforehand:

In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house…

 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening[1].


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So, we learn from the book of Exodus that on the 10th of Nisan, the Passover lamb was chosen and set apart and preparations began for its slaughter. For this very reason, Jesus had to enter Jerusalem on that very day, the 10th of Nisan – the very same day when the perfect lamb was to be selected and set apart.  According to the synoptic Gospels, Jesus was arrested on Thursday, the fourteenth day of the month, on the eve of Passover; four days before this, on Sunday, the tenth day of the month, He entered Jerusalem and began preparations for His sacrifice, in order to become the Passover Lamb on 14th of Nisan! The Gospels show clearly and convincingly that everything that happened to Jesus fulfilled the scenario laid out by God during the time of the Exodus.


Jesus’ Tears  

However, before this entrance to Jerusalem, something very important happens to Jesus: something that definitely belongs to His suffering, to His agony, to His pain – and in this sense, also belongs to His Passion week, even though it happens before the week itself. What are we referring to? In Luke 19 we read that when Jesus approached Jerusalem: He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”[2] This episode is often overlooked or forgotten, however it is of crucial importance for those who want to understand His heart. Do you remember how many times Jesus weeps in the Gospels?  Years ago, my book about God’s tears over Israel’s suffering (“If you are the Son of God…”) started from the realization (revelation) of this simple and obvious fact that I had never before considered: in the entire New Testament, Jesus weeps only twice – once here over Jerusalem, and once over Lazarus (“Jesus wept[3]). There are no coincidences in the Word of God, therefore it is important to see these scenes alongside one another, and the lessons to be learned from this juxtaposition are immensely profound. Of course it’s impossible to cover it all in one post – I have a whole chapter in my book about this juxtaposition – however, it is essential for us   not to overlook this scene:  knowing that He came not only for His own suffering but also for the suffering of His own people, for turning them into “enemies for your sake” – Jesus weeps openly over all the torment to be unleashed on Israel in His name.


A Man with a Jar

In Matthew 21, we see Jesus and his disciples approaching the Holy City. Jerusalem was swarming with people who had come for Passover. Every house had additional guests, every room was packed, yet Jesus seemed strangely unconcerned about a place to eat the Passover meal. Confidently, He told His disciples, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters.”[4] How did Jesus know they would meet a man with a water jar? A man with a water jar was a very unusual sight, as this was ordinarily women’s work. Why would a man be carrying a water jar in Jerusalem?

The only group of Jewish men that traditionally did carry water jars, were Essenes. Since Essenes were mostly celibate, their men did women’s work. Therefore, a man carrying a water jar could only have been an Essene. Essenes had their communities, not only in Qumran, but in various towns. They also had a community in Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that one of the gates of Jerusalem was called “the Gate of the Essenes”. Apparently, it was through this gate that they entered Jerusalem, and from Jesus’s words, his disciples understood they had to enter the city through the Essene’s gate. Also, since Essenes used a different calendar, their guest rooms were still available. That’s why the Teacher knew that a room would be available for the Last Supper.


What did the people of Jerusalem shout?

We know that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, “the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!”[5]

What is the meaning of these words in Hebrew? What did the people in Jerusalem think and understand about Jesus that made them use this particular Scripture?

I suppose that most of my readers know that the English word “Hosanna” transliterates Hebrew Hoshia Na (הֹושִׁיעָה נָּא – Literally: “save, please”) and that these words are taken from Psalm 118:25: Save now, I pray, O Lord אָנָּא יְהוָה הֹושִׁיעָה נָּא

What you may not know however, is that Psalm 118 is one of six psalms (113-118) of the so-called Hallel (Hebrew for Praise), the songs of praise and thanksgiving. There are special occasions when we have an additional obligation to praise God, and on these special occasions we recite special psalms, known as Hallel. According to the Jewish sages, there are several fundamental themes distinguishing the psalms of Hallel – and one of them is acknowledging the source of salvation.  On the other hand, we know that Psalm 118 was recited on the way to the Temple and also in the Temple on Passover Eve, Erev Pesach, at the time of the slaughtering of the Passover sacrifice (“korban Pesach”). So these words from the Psalm 118 not only confirmed that Jesus entered Jerusalem as the ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’ – as the Passover Lamb – but also recognized and acknowledged Him as the source of salvation.


[1] Exo 12:4-6

[2] Luke 19:41-44

[3] John 11:35

[4] Lk. 22:10

[5] Mat 21:9

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Nan Wang

    Thank you for the information that I never thought about. But it confuses me that the lamb for passover is slaughtered on the day of passover eve wheseas Jesus was crucified on the first day of passover. They are not the same day.

  2. Philip Kapoi

    Praise Adonai for raising a standard in your life and giving you the hidden mysteries of the end time..a blessing..shalom.

  3. Suliaman lbn Smith

    Shalom Prof.
    Thanks for all of the knowledge and wisdom that theLord has given you.
    Regards and G-d richly bless you.

  4. Premkumar Samuel

    “According to the synoptic Gospels, Jesus was arrested on Thursday, the fourteenth day of the month, on the eve of Passover; four days before this, on Sunday, the tenth day of the month”
    Can you clarify Madam , may be in a separate post.

    Also is it John Mark the Gospel writer’s house ,where Jesus chose to have the Passover meal?

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Samuel, in my next post, I am going to write about the last days and hours of Jesus. Stay tuned!

  5. Ioanna

    Dear Julia,
    thank you so much for your writings I enjoy readinfg them and apply the knowledge to where ever it may be placed for my spiritual growth in the Lord.
    My prayers are for the selebration of the pasach to be a witness to others here in Greece and to all over the world. Yeshua is the king af kings and the Lord of lords and I love Him greatly and His people.
    Enjoy God’s presence in during this selebration.