Through The Eastern Gate

By which gate did the Jesus enter Jerusalem?

The readings from Palm Sunday record the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

“As he went, they strewed the road with their garments; and when he drew near the descent of mount Olivet, the whole company of his disciples began rejoicing and praising God for all the miracles they had seen. Blessed is the king, they said, who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, glory above.” (Luke 19:37-38)

The praises with which the crowd greets Jesus are from Psalm 118. They signify that the crowd recognizes him as the Messiah of whom the psalm is written. The account from the Gospel of John recognizes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as fulfilling the words of Zechariah:

“Next day, a great multitude of those who had come up for the feast, hearing that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, took palm branches with them and went out to meet him, crying aloud, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, blessed is the king of Israel. And Jesus took an ass’s foal, and mounted on it; so it is written, Do not be afraid, daughter of Sion; behold, thy king is coming to thee, riding on an ass’s colt. The disciples did not understand all this at the time: only after Jesus had attained his glory did they remember what they had done, and how it fulfilled the words written of him.” (John 12:12-16)

Here John refers to the prophesy from Zecharaiah 9:9: ” See where thy king comes to greet thee, a trusty deliverer; see how lowly he rides, mounted on an ass…”

Psalm 24 also describes the triumphant entry of the Lord into Jerusalem:

“Swing back, doors, higher yet; reach higher, immemorial gates, to let the King enter in triumph! Who is this great King? Who but the Lord, mighty and strong, the Lord mighty in battle? Swing back, doors, higher yet; reach higher, immemorial gates, to let the King enter in triumph! Who is this great King? It is the Lord of Armies that comes here on his way triumphant.” (Psalm 24:7-10)

But which gate did Jesus enter through?

Jesus entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate, which is also called the Golden Gate, or the Gate of Mercy.

“The Golden Gate is located on the eastern side of Jerusalem’s old city wall, thus one of names it is known by is an Eastern Gate. It faces the of Mount of Olives right across the Kidron valley. The Golden Gate is a structure that consists of the two gates that lead directly to the Temple Mount. The southern part of the gate is called the Gate of Mercy (Shaar Harashamim in Hebrew) as in ancient times Jews would pray in front of the gate asking Almighty for mercy.

“Muslims also refer to it as Mercy Gate (Bab al-Rahma) and sometimes as the Gate of Eternal Life. In the New Testament it is mentioned as a Beautiful Gate. The northern part is called Gate of Repentance (Shaar Teshuvah in Hebrew). During the time of the First Temple period this was the closest entrance to the Temple of Solomon.

“Jews believe that the Mashiach (Messiah) will enter Jerusalem from the east through the Golden Gate and as he enters the Temple Mount he’ll bring redemption to the Hebrew nation.” (“Gates of Jerusalem”)

Why did the Jews believe that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate?

The Jews connect the Messiah with the Eastern Gate because of the prophesies of Ezekiel and Zechariah and Ezekiel. Ezekiel writes:

“Then he brought me back to the eastern gate of the outer precincts, that was fast shut. Shut this gate must ever be, the Lord told me, nor open its doors to give man entrance again, since the Lord, the God of Israel, entered by it.” (Ezekiel 44:1-2)

Zechariah writes:

“And then the Lord will go out to battle against those nations, as he did ever in the decisive hour. There on the mount of Olives, that faces Jerusalem on the east, his feet shall be set; to east and west the mount of Olives shall be cloven in two halves, with a great chasm between, and the two halves shall move apart, one northward, one southward.” (Zechariah 14:3-4)

Ezekiel prophesizes that the Eastern Gate will eventually be sealed shut, because the Lord entered through it. Zechariah describes the messiah as going out through the Eastern Gate to do battle on the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives, or Olivet, is just outside the Eastern Gate, and lies on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane. The Gospe of Luke tells us that, after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “Each day he went on teaching in the temple, and at night he lodged on the mountain which is called Olivet.” (Luke 21:37)

According to Luke’s account, Jesus would have left Jerusalem through the Eastern gate every evening following his triumphal entry to get to the Mount of Olives, and returned again every morning through the Eastern Gate to teach in the Temple. This continued until the evening of the Passover, when, after the Last Supper, he went out through the Eastern Gate for the last time to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he was arrested, and entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate for the last time as a prisoner.

When was the gate closed?

The Eastern Gate was first closed by Muslims in 810 and then reopened in 1102 by the Crusaders. Saladin walled it up again after regaining Jerusalem in 1187. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt it together with the city walls, but walled it up again in 1541, and it has remained walled up ever since.

Thus, was the prophesy of Ezekiel fulfilled. “Shut this gate must ever be, the Lord told me, nor open its doors to give man entrance again, since the Lord, the God of Israel, entered by it.”

Sources:

“Gates of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem on My Mind website. Accessed Mar 22, 2016. http://www.jerusalemonmymind.com/Jerusalem%20gates%202.html.

Holy Bible. New Advent website. Knox Translation. Accessed Mar 22, 2016.

Price, Randall J. Rose Guide to the Temple, Rose Publishing, 2013. Quoted in “Golden Gate.” Wikipedia. Accessed Mar 22, 2016.

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