Sometimes I wonder just how dense the disciples must have been not to understand what was going to happen. The Jewish leaders and the crowds did not have insider information, but the disciples certainly did. Jesus made it clear enough to them in advance:
“Destroy this temple (of My body) and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19
“As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matt 12:40, see also Matt 16:4
“He began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things . . . and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31
“I have authority to lay it (My life) down, and I have authority to take it up again.” John 10:18
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16: 21.
These verses are just a sampler. So Jesus not only told them on numerous occasions that he would be killed, but also that he would rise from the dead. Some of the disciples understood the first part. When Jesus told them he was going to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, they knew it would be dangerous for him. One disciple commented about this probability: “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:16
Even the Jewish Talmud refers to the notices about Jesus prior to the Passover: “On (Sabbath eve and) the eve of Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged [the Jewish term for crucifixion] and a herald went forth before him forty days heralding, ‘Jesus the Nazarene is going forth to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and instigated and seduced Israel to idolatry. Whoever knows anything in defense may come and state it.’ But since they did not find anything in his defense they hanged him on (Sabbath eve and) the eve of Passover.” Babylonian Sanhedrin 43a-b
The immediate danger was recognized and real. The disconnect comes with the second part. But Jesus certainly predicted His resurrection plainly many times.
One of the triggers that set in motion the process leading to his death was the Triumphal Entry of Jesus on what we call Palm Sunday, one week before His resurrection. Old Testament prophecy predicted that the coming King would enter Jerusalem in just such a way:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion ! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem ! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9.
Although there were many events in this coming week that Jesus, if only a man, could not control, he clearly controlled this one, when he told two of his disciples to fetch a colt of a donkey. See Luke 19:28-40. Obviously he was claiming the prophecy as applying to him.
The Pharisees (the religious leaders of one sect of Judaism) understood what he was doing. When the crowd shouted “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord,” from Psalm 118:26, these religious leaders told Jesus to rebuke his followers. Jesus refused, saying that the stones would cry out if they kept quiet. God would herald the arrival of the true King no matter what others said.
Did the Pharisees reject him at this time for religious or political reasons? Probably both. His ministry over the previous three years challenged their understanding of the Law given by God to Moses. He did not fit their expectations concerning the promised Anointed One.
And the political situation was dangerous, due to the measures taken by Roman authorities to preserve their power. This fear was real. Previous rebellions by alleged Messiahs (the promised savior of Israel) had been cruelly crushed. The Roman ruler, the Prefect Pontius Pilate, came to Jerusalem with a large military force to maintain order during the hectic Passover week that celebrated the establishment of the nation of Israel 1400 years earlier.
To get a picture of this situation, think about the Independence Day celebration in Washington DC each July 4th, only imagine what it would be like if we suffered under a cruel occupation force. This event often triggered an uprising. The rebellion against Rome some 40 years later would result in the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and the 2,000 year exile of the Jewish people.
Psalm 118 has prophetic language as well. The people at the Triumphal Entry shouted “Hosanna!” which means “Lord save us,” a clear reference to Psalm 118:25 that describes the One who comes in the name of the Lord [Yahweh, the personal name of God in Hebrew; in English sometimes translated as Jehovah]. Several verses earlier in verse 22 that Psalm states that “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.” And Jesus was rejected, only to become the cornerstone after his resurrection.
So what would you decide? Would you play it safe, be politically correct, and reject Him? Or would you believe the miracles and Jesus’ claims about Himself and shout “Lord save us”? This is not a dead issue. Jesus is alive now and you have the same opportunity to decide.