Jericho, also known as the city of palm trees, is located northeast of Jerusalem just above the Dead Sea. Situated about 800 feet below sea level, Jericho is the lowest city in the world. Heading towards Jerusalem, the ascent rises approximately 3200 feet up to Jerusalem. The traveler could complete the arduous 15-mile hike in about 8 hours.
Two events happened at Jericho before Jesus made his onerous climb up to Jerusalem: The healing of the blind men and the spiritual healing of Zacchaeus. Upon his arrival, Jesus rides on the foal while his followers, many from Jericho, spread out their cloaks and branches in the roadway. Displayed in the heavens that evening are signs pointing to the Messiah. Let’s examine the events of the first Palm Sunday and how the Son of David, the Lion of Judah, made his honorable entrance into Jerusalem.
Leaving Jericho, two blind men cried out to Jesus to have mercy on them. One of the blind men was Bartimaeus, whose name means ‘son of the unclean’ in Hebrew or ‘son of honor’ in the Hebrew-Greek. Despite being rebuked by the crowd, they cried out for mercy to the Son of David. When Jesus stopped and asked what He could do for them, they requested that their eyes be opened or that they receive sight. Accordingly, Jesus touched their eyes, and they received sight. In addition, they followed him to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus, cast his cloak, a sign of forsaking his beggarly life in return of being a disciple of Christ as represented by the double meaning of his name. Interestingly, I think the two blind men represent a humanity that is in need of spiritual sight. As spoken in Luke 4:18, Jesus came to recover the sight of the blind, whether physically or spiritually.
Zacchaeus, whose name means ‘pure’, ‘clean’, or ‘just’, surely needed a name change, but Jesus changed his life to fit his name. Using his position of chief publican, he had obtained his wealth in unjust ways. When Jesus came to Jericho, his short stature prevented him from seeing Jesus. Undeterred, he climbed the sycamore tree, a type of fig tree whose fruit resembles the mulberry and is symbolic of Israel. Stopping, Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down because he desired to abide at his house for the night. I wonder if Zacchaeus represented the corruption of Israel at the time and the need for repentance. In other words, Israel fell short of the glory of the Lord. However, the Lord was requesting to abide in Israel. Concerning Zacchaeus, his life was turned around to serve the Lord, he became an Apostle of the Seventy, and tradition says that Peter appointed him as the Bishop of Caesarea.
In route to Jerusalem, Jesus passes the village of Bethany, ‘house of the poor’, and sends his disciples to fetch a foal from the village of Bethphage, ‘fig house’, as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9. Along the descent from the Mount of Olives, his followers throw down their cloaks and palm branches in his honor while praising him. Often we think the crowd was praising the Lord on this day, and yelling for him to be crucified the following Friday. This is untrue! The faithful crowd that was praising Jesus had accompanied him from Galilee and Jericho, while those that were yelling for him to be crucified were the people of Jerusalem.
Astronomically, when Jesus entered Jerusalem the moon would have been in the constellation of Leo, the Lion of Judah, and the sun would have been in the constellation of Aries, the Sacrificial Ram or Lamb. Because the stars are not generally seen during the daytime, the astronomical scenery would have displayed the moon in Leo when evening arrived. However, God had orchestrated the timing of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem to correlate with the heavenly drama. The date of his arrival in Jerusalem would have been on March 29, 33 AD.
The palm tree is a symbol of praise. Jericho, the city of palm trees, is where the eyes of Bartimaeus are opened and Zacchaeus is spiritually set free. Jesus sends his disciples to Bethage, the fig house, to obtain the foal to ride into Jerusalem. Praising him with palm branches are the followers of Jesus who shout, “Hosanna, to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest.” In finale, the palm branches point to the heavens where Christ’s identity is displayed by the lineup of the stars, sun, and moon.