"And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road" (Matt. 21:8). The Hebrew people were accustomed to gathering branches for the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Neh. 8:15). On this occasion, they were taking palm tree branches (cf. John 12:13), along with their outer garments, and spreading them out on the road for Jesus to ride upon. This was a common practice for victorious conquerors (e.g., II Kings 9:13). Some have suggested that a great multitude such as this could have spread this "carpet" from the mountain top all the way to the city gate (approximately one-half of a mile).
"His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, 'You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!'" (John 12:16-19).
Although Jesus' apostles did not understand the significance of what was happening at that time, they would later remember and understand after His resurrection Actually, it was at Jesus' ascension that the disciples started to understand the "bigger picture" (cf. Luke 24:44,45). On the Day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2) they begin to comprehend that the kingdom Jesus was establishing was a spiritual one and much greater than any earthly one they had envisioned.
"Therefore the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness" - The raising of Lazarus from the dead was an event that significantly impacted many Jews for some time. Those who had witnessed the event were testifying of it; it seemed to be the preeminent thought in their minds.
"For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign" (John 12:18). Those who hadn't witnessed the miracle had heard of it, and many were evidently convinced that it was true. Thus, not only was a large group traveling with Jesus, but another large group of Jews was coming out of Jerusalem to meet Him (with much praise and honor for their king; a king in whom they were placing much hope for a physical kingdom).
"The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, 'You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!'" The wording here seems to indicate that there were two groups among the Pharisees, and one group is criticizing the other for their failure to stop Jesus. They were bitter in that large multitudes of people were leaving them and going after Jesus. The Pharisees can see their own power and influence waning before their eyes. They are jealous of Jesus' popularity; it was eating them up inside. Yet, they don't know what to do about their predicament (except fume among themselves). Ironically, they had put out a plea for anyone who knew where Jesus was to report it (cf. John 11:57). They certainly felt foolish since no one had supplied such information to them and now Jesus was in their presence accepting adoration from thousands. All they can do as His adversaries is watch helplessly and grow even more bitter.
We will continue our study of this passage in our next lesson.