Chapter 20: The Triumphal Entry

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 139–43

Map Chp. 20

The Week of the Atoning Sacrifice





First Day


Jerusalem and Bethany, Judea Nisan/April

Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem





Certain Greeks Visit Christ—a Voice from Heaven



Return to Bethany




Second Day


Cursing of the Barren Fig Tree




Second Cleansing of the Temple





Return to Bethany





Third Day


Discourse on Faith





Question of Authority





Interpretive Commentary

(20-1) Luke 19:41. Jesus Wept over Jerusalem

According to tradition, when these words were spoken, Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives, opposite a point in the walls surrounding Jerusalem a few yards south of the Gate Beautiful. From this spot one may behold a beautiful view of that historic city.

“It is wonderfully picturesque, with its quaint, flat-roofed houses, church towers, and mosque domes covering the four hills on which Jerusalem is built. The view is impressive even now; it must have been inspiring when Jesus beheld it in all its Herodian splendor.

“But it was the inhabitants of the city, not the beautiful buildings or the commanding view that the Savior saw through tear bedimmed eyes when he cried: ‘if thou hadst known … the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.’ (Luke 19:42.) He saw the people divided into conflicting and contending sects, each professing more holiness and righteousness than the other and all closing their eyes to the truth. There were the conservative Hebraic Jews, holding rigidly to the Mosaic law; there were the more liberal minded, Hellenistic Jews whose views had been modified by pagan philosophy; there were a few Essenes with their asceticism and rejection of the Aaronic Priesthood; there were the Sadducees with their lifeless and formal observance of the Sabbath, and their denial of the resurrection; and, finally, the Pharisees with their ‘ostentatious almsgiving,’ ‘broadened phylacteries,’ ‘greedy avarice,’ ‘haughty assertion of preeminence,’ ‘ill-concealed hypocrisy’ which was often hidden under a venerable assumption of superior holiness.

“No wonder the Savior, seeing such division among the people, prayed to the Father so earnestly in behalf of his own little flock to keep them ‘one as we are one.’ No wonder the Savior, discerning perfectly the deceit and hypocrisy underneath the glassed-over outside of religion, uttered such scathing denunciation when he said:

“‘… Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13.)’

“Such were the people whom the Son of Man saw when he stood twenty centuries ago on the Mount of Olives and ‘beheld the city and wept over it.’” (David O. McKay in CR, Oct. 1944, pp. 77–78.)

(20-2) Matthew 24:2. “There Shall Not Be Left Here One Stone upon Another”

“Jeremiah’s prophecy still lacked a complete fulfilment, but time proved that not a word was to fail. ‘Judah shall be carried away captive, all of it; it shall be wholly carried away captive’; this was the prediction. A rebellious disturbance among the Jews gave a semblance of excuse for chastisement to be visited upon them by their Roman masters, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70. The city fell after a six month’s siege before the Roman arms led by Titus, son of the Emperor Vespasian. Josephus, the famous historian to whom we owe most of our knowledge as to the details of the struggle, was himself a resident in Galilee and was carried to Rome among the captives. From his record we learn that more than a million Jews lost their lives through the famine incident to the siege; many more were sold into slavery, and uncounted numbers were forced into exile. The city was utterly destroyed, and the site upon which the Temple had stood was plowed up by the Romans in their search for treasure. Thus literally were the words of Christ fulfilled: ‘There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’” (Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 324.)

(20-3) Mark 11:11. Jesus Blessed His Disciples against the Day When Jerusalem Would Be Destroyed

“And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple. And when he had looked round about upon all things, and blessed the disciples, the eventide was come; and he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:13, Inspired Version.)

“Though Jerusalem, as a whole, was to be desolated and scourged as few cities have ever been yet the faithful within her walls were to be saved, preserved, and blessed.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:579.)

(20-4) John 12:15. “Behold, Thy King Cometh”

“As was known and understood among the people, Zechariah had prophesied: ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.’ (Zech. 9:9.) Now as we see our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, amid waving palm branches, riding over the carefully placed clothing of the people, and accepting their acclamations of praise and divinity, it is as though Zechariah had viewed the scene and written, not prophecy, but history.

“Every detail of this unique episode joined in testifying of the identity of the central figure in the picture. It was as though Jesus had said: ‘Many times I have told you in plain words and by necessary implication that I am the Messiah. My disciples also bear the same witness. Now I come unto you as the King of Israel in the very way that the prophet of old said I would; and your participation in this event is itself a witness that I am he who should come to redeem my people.’” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:577–78.)

(20-5) John 12:20–26. How Did Jesus Teach the Greeks That It Was Necessary for Him to Die?

“To them Jesus testified that the hour of His death was near at hand, the hour in which ‘the Son of man should be glorified.’ They were surprised and pained by the Lord’s words, and possibly they inquired as to the necessity of such a sacrifice. Jesus explained by citing a striking illustration drawn from nature: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.’ The simile is an apt one, and at once impressively simple and beautiful. A farmer who neglects or refuses to cast his wheat into the earth, because he wants to keep it, can have no increase; but if he sow the wheat in good rich soil, each living grain may multiply itself many fold, though of necessity the seed must be sacrificed in the process. So, said the Lord, ‘He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.’ The Master’s meaning is clear; he that loves his life so well that he will not imperil it, or, if need be, give it up, in the service of God, shall forfeit his opportunity to win the bounteous increase of eternal life; while he who esteems the call of God as so greatly superior to life that his love of life is as hatred in comparison, shall find the life he freely yields or is willing to yield, though for the time being it disappear like the grain buried in the soil; and he shall rejoice in the bounty of eternal development. If such be true of every man’s existence, how transcendently so was it of the life of Him who came to die that men may live? Therefore was it necessary that He die, as He had said He was about to do; but His death, far from being life lost, was to be life glorified.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 518–19.)

(20-6) John 12:26. What Reward Shall Jesus’ Faithful Servants Receive?

“… after the testimony of the Scriptures on this point, the assurance is given by the Holy Ghost, bearing witness to those who obey Him, that Christ Himself has assuredly risen from the dead; and if He has risen from the dead, He will, by His power, bring all men to stand before Him: for if He has risen from the dead the bands of the temporal death are broken that the grave has no victory. If then, the grave has no victory, those who keep the sayings of Jesus and obey His teachings have not only a promise of resurrection from the dead, but an assurance of being admitted into His glorious kingdom; for, He Himself says, ‘Where I am there also shall my servant be’ (see John xii).” (Smith, HC, 2:19. Italics added.)

(20-7) John 12:27–30. Who Heard the Voice of God Testify of Jesus?

“In the Gospel of John is related a parallel experience in the Master’s ministry showing how, out of a multitude, only a few—or none—may hear God when he speaks.

“Only the Master, apparently, knew that God had spoken. So often today, men and women are living so far apart from things spiritual that when the Lord is speaking to their physical hearing, to their minds with no audible sound, or to them through his authorized servants who, when directed by the Spirit, are as his own voice, they hear only a noise as did they at Jerusalem. Likewise, they received no inspired wisdom, nor inward assurance, that the mind of the Lord has spoken through his prophet leaders.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1966, pp. 115–16.)

(20-8) Mark 11:12–14. Why Did Jesus Curse the Barren Fig Tree?

Perhaps Jesus sought to teach many lessons when he cursed the barren fig tree.

  1. 1.

    To Demonstrate His Power to Destroy

    “Though Jesus had come to bless and save, yet he had the power to smite, destroy, and curse. ‘It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things’ (2 Ne. 2:11); if blessings are born of righteousness, their opposite, curses, must come from wickedness. True gospel ministers seek always to bless, yet curses attend rejection of their message. “Whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will curse, saith the Lord.’ (D. & C. 132:47.) It is fitting that Jesus should leave a manifestation of his power to curse, and the fact that he chose, not a person, but a tree, is an evident act of mercy.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:582.)

  2. 2.

    To Teach Faith to His Disciples

    “Applying the lesson of the occasion, Jesus said, ‘Have faith in God’; and then He repeated some of His former assurances as to the power of faith, by which even mountains may be removed, should there be need of such miraculous accomplishment, and through which, indeed, any necessary thing may be done. The blighting of a tree was shown to be small in comparison with the greater possibilities of achievement through faith and prayer.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 525.)

  3. 3.

    To Bear Witness of His Control over All Things

    “To the apostles the act was another and an indisputable proof of the Lord’s power over nature, His control of natural forces and all material things, His jurisdiction over life and death. He had healed multitudes; the wind and the waves had obeyed His words; on three occasions He had restored the dead to life; it was fitting that He should demonstrate His power to smite and to destroy. In manifesting His command over death, He had mercifully raised a maiden from the couch on which she had died, a young man from the bier on which he was being carried to the grave, another from the sepulchre in which he had been laid away a corpse; but in proof of His power to destroy by a word He chose a barren and worthless tree for His subject. Could any of the Twelve doubt, when, a few days later they saw Him in the hands of vindictive priests and heartless pagans, that did He so will He could smite His enemies by a word, even unto death? Yet not until after His glorious resurrection did even the apostles realize how truly voluntary His sacrifice had been.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 526.)

  4. 4.

    To Show the Fate of the Nation That Rejected Him

    “The leafy, fruitless tree was a symbol of Judaism, which loudly proclaimed itself as the only true religion of the age, and condescendingly invited all the world to come and partake of its rich ripe fruit; when in truth it was but an unnatural growth of leaves, with no fruit of the season, nor even an edible bulb held over from earlier years, for such as it had of former fruitage was dried to worthlessness and made repulsive in its worm-eaten decay. The religion of Israel had degenerated into an artificial religionism, which in pretentious show and empty profession outclassed the abominations of heathendom. As already pointed out in these pages, the fig tree was a favorite type in rabbinical representation of the Jewish race, and the Lord had before adopted the symbolism in the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, that worthless growth which did but cumber the ground.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 527.)

Points to Ponder

(20-9) Why Were the Jews So Offended by Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple?

Before this question may be properly considered, it is necessary to understand who the “children” were that praised Jesus in the temple.

“And when the chief priests and Scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children of the kingdom crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! they were sore displeased, and said unto him, Hearest thou what these say?” (Matthew 21:13, Inspired Version.)

“Not children in the sense of infants as the King James Version has it, but disciples, members of the Church, those who had testimonies of Jesus’ divinity.

“From these adult ‘children of the kingdom,’ these members of the Church who through repentance and baptism had become ‘newborn babes’ in Christ (1 Pet. 2:2), came ‘perfected praise.’ How could such come from any except those who had knowledge and who were subject to the dictates of the Holy Spirit?” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:585.)

The chief priests were the guardians of the temple and, in fact, guardians (as they supposed) of the whole structure of Jewish religion. They glutted themselves on the profits from temple business, and so the temple was not just the source of their favored social position (which they coveted so jealously) but also the source of their incomes—more, their fortunes.

Jesus had come within the confines of their sacred stewardship before, early in his ministry, and on that occasion he had called the temple “my Father’s house.” (John 2:16.) Though his claim on that occasion offended the priests (because he claimed to be the Son of God, whose temple it was), still the claim itself declared that the temple belonged to God, and with that, at least, the chief priests agreed.

But now, near the end of his ministry, he openly declared his messiahship, and those “children of the kingdom” heard him call the temple “my house.” (Matthew 21:13.)

Apparently his followers understood this claim by Jesus, for they began to sing and praise him as the long-awaited Messiah. When the wrath and violence of the temple purging was over, Jesus’ followers gathered around him to receive what he might give them, for it was his house, and no one had a more perfect right to minister there than he. “His wrath of indignation was followed by the calmness of gentle ministry; there in the cleared courts of His house, blind and lame folk came limping and groping about Him, and He healed them. The anger of the chief priests and scribes was raging against Him; but it was impotent. They had decreed His death, and had made repeated efforts to take him, and there he sat within the very area over which they claimed supreme jurisdiction, and they were afraid to touch Him because of the common people, whom they professed to despise yet heartily feared—‘for all the people were very attentive to hear him.’” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 528–29.)

Consider the following questions:

  1. 1.

    When Jesus drove the merchants from the temple, why were the Jewish leaders offended?

  2. 2.

    When Jesus called the temple “my house,” how did the Jewish leaders react?

  3. 3.

    In your reading, is there any evidence that Jesus tried to placate or appease the Jewish leadership?

  4. 4.

    Is there evidence that the Savior made any attempt to fit people’s preconceived notions of what the Messiah would be or what he would do? Read Mark 8:11–13.

  5. 5.

    Read John 16:1–3. Is it important to understand the truth about the Lord and his servants?Why?

(20-10) Why Did Many of the People Who Welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem as King and Messiah Later Reject Him?

The people of Israel despised the cruel and oppressive rule of Rome. And their scriptures promised a Messiah who would deliver them, promises of which the apostle Paul would later testify. Read Romans 11:26, 27. (Compare Psalms 14:7; Isaiah 59:20.)

But unlike other apostate and fallen nations, many of the people of Palestine by Jesus’ day had lost so much of light and revelation that they could not see spiritual truth. They were ruled by Rome, and about the only sense they could wrest from the promise of an expected deliverer was that he would redeem Israel from foreign rule. But many of the people were also ruled by hypocrisy, dead religious forms, extortion, and pride—many of the leaders who administered the religion were guilty of crimes (e.g., John 8:1–11). They were enshrouded by such a deplorable condition of wanton religious blindness that they paid no heed to the claims of one who could deliver them (by their repentance) from sin.

(20-11) Summary

Only a few faithful disciples comprehended the real significance of the Lord’s initial entry into Jerusalem. When he comes again he will come as King of kings and Lord of lords, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess. Who, then, will be ready to receive him? (See D&C 45:56–58.) Do you suppose His coming in glory will convince all people to serve him and worship him? If no, what will? What is it that brings people to Jesus? What has that to do with you?