Luke 19:28-48; 22:1-6
Today is a day that we celebrate every year, a day of rejoicing and hosanna’s! It is the day on which we remember that Jesus is king. I have memories of making palm branches in Sunday School, of children parading with palm branches and of singing songs like “Crown Him With Many Crowns.” But as we engage in this celebration, there is always a shadow that hangs over the celebration. Although we declare that Jesus is the King, we know that in five days, we will be mourning His death on the cross. So while we celebrate kingship, we anticipate death which is an interesting combination. We have been studying Luke and I think that Luke captures this mixed emotion very well. As we look at the story of the triumphal entry today, we will examine this mixed message of victory and death. It has some important lessons to teach us.
The story begins with the phrase, “going up to Jerusalem.” Have you ever noticed how often the idea of Jesus going to Jerusalem appears in Luke?
The first story about Jesus in Jerusalem occurs in Luke 2:41-45. It is the story about Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem with his parents when he was 12 years old, in which Jesus indicates the appropriateness of his being in His Father’s house. In that story, Jesus was asking questions and giving amazing answers in the temple.
After that event, it does not say that Jesus went to Jerusalem, except that the devil took him there to be tempted. In fact, the next mention of Jesus going to Jerusalem occurs in Luke 9:51 and from there on it is a theme that constantly repeats itself. It is clear that this is not just a passing reference or even a geographical reference, but that Jesus is intentional about going to Jerusalem, as if something very important is going to happen there.
In Luke 9:51 we read, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
In Luke 13:22 it says, “Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.”
In Luke 18:31, Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.”
Then in Luke 19:11, there is another interesting reference to Jesus going to Jerusalem. “While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”
It is quite obvious that the journey to Jerusalem is significant. What was going to happen in Jerusalem? Why was this such a deliberate journey?
As if anticipating the triumphal entry, we read in Luke 19:11 that “the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” The next reference to Jesus coming to Jerusalem is found in Luke 19:28 in which we read that Jesus went up to Jerusalem. This is the point at which He arrived in Jerusalem and with all the attention focused on going to Jerusalem, this arrival in Jerusalem is something to be noted.
There is something very deliberate happening in this arrival, a revelation of who Jesus is and what He came to do which must not be missed. Truly the kingdom of God was coming.
The story begins with the instructions of Jesus to two of his disciples who were sent to get a colt which had never been ridden. How did Jesus know about all that would transpire when they went to get the animal for him. Did he have foreknowledge of these things? Why did they release the animal so easily? Had he made arrangements ahead of time or did he have such authority that they were glad to obey? I think that they released the donkey so easily because they were told that “the Master has need of it.” In this statement, we get a glimpse of the divine foreknowledge and divine authority of Jesus. The next important image that is presented is the procession into Jerusalem. The journey was not a long one. At the point at which Jesus mounted the colt, the road descends to the city of Jerusalem for about one mile. It was, however, a significant journey. Having Jesus ride into the city on this animal and spreading their cloaks on the road in front of him was a symbolic act to demonstrate that He was the King, the Messiah.
The background of spreading garments before a king or an important person was not unfamiliar. We find it in II Kings 9:12,13, “…Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’” They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!” As they spread their garments in the way for Jesus, they were recognizing that He was King.
Furthermore, the ride into Jerusalem was intended as a welcome of the Messiah in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 which says, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus was deliberately fulfilling this passage, for he was the king coming into his city.
The song of the disciples as they celebrated the coming of the king into Jerusalem is a quote of Psalm 118:26. It was a song which was often sung as pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem for the Passover festival which was about to begin. It was a Psalm which recognized the coming of Messiah to the people of God. This time, the disciples sang this song as they approached Jerusalem and rejoiced that Jesus was their king. They celebrated the truth of what was here being enacted.
When Jesus came into the city, he made his way to the temple and we read in Luke 19:45 that he entered the temple area and drove out the money changers. He acted like a king who was coming to restore righteousness in his kingdom. He prepared the temple for people to once again use the temple for what it had been intended - as a house of prayer.
Then after cleansing the temple, he taught in the temple, day after day. He fulfilled his role as the king who was teaching his people to live in the way subjects of the king ought to live.
The Messiah King has arrived in Jerusalem and is establishing His kingdom there!
The disciples are rejoicing, but we read that as Jesus approached Jerusalem “he wept over it.” Why, if he has arrived in Jerusalem as the King, the Messiah, is he weeping?
Luke is very deliberate about the shadow that is hanging over the triumphal entry. The disciples are rejoicing and shouting what is the truth. Jesus came as king, but, was it really a triumphal entry?
The first indication of something wrong in this story is the rebuke of the Pharisees. They tell Jesus to make his disciples be quiet. Jesus replies that if the disciples will not shout, the very stones will shout. This is quite interesting. The truth cannot be silenced. It is impossible for the truth about Messiah King to be squelched. Jesus’ coming as Messiah King will not be hidden, it must be declared for all to hear and understand.
But, the Pharisees reject that truth and their rejection signals the shadow that is hanging over the truth.
Already we have had indications that the coming of Messiah will not be accepted, that this whole thing will proceed very badly. Earlier, when we looked at the passages regarding Jesus movement towards Jerusalem, we already saw some of this shadow. Jesus announced, in Luke 18:31, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.” What had the prophets written about the Son of Man? Isaiah had written that he was a man of sorrows, despised and rejected. In Luke 13:33 Jesus also recognized that triumph in Jerusalem would not be the first step. There we read, “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”
The movement below the surface of this triumphal entry, taught by Jesus throughout his ministry and implied in the voice of the Pharisees trying to shut the disciples up as Jesus entered on the young donkey begins to move rapidly towards rejection. First of all, Jesus is questioned. As Jesus was teaching each day in the temple he was challenged. We read in Luke 20:2, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” Repeatedly over the next few days the authority of Jesus was questioned. In 20:20 we learn that they sent spies to try to catch Jesus. At the same time, rejection also is building and Jesus recognizes that this is happening. In 20:17, he recognized that “the stone” would be rejected by “the builders.” This rejection built momentum among the Jewish leaders. In 19:47 already we read that “the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.” In 20:19 we find that they looked for a way to arrest him and in 22:1 we are told that they were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus. Finally, in Luke 22:3 we read about the offer of Judas to provide that way to finally get rid of Jesus.
What a contrast! The king who enters Jerusalem as its saviour and Messiah is rejected. Here He is not the triumphant king. One writer says, “The narrative is scarcely ‘triumphal’ in any Gospel.” Although recognized by his disciples, the Jewish leaders do not recognize Him, instead, they reject Him. He is the rejected King.
That is why Jesus wept over Jerusalem. “The ‘city of peace’ was blind to the ‘Prince of peace.’” Jerusalem has rejected God so many times before, but this is her last opportunity. He wept because they rejected Him and were doomed to destruction because they did. He hurt for their rejection of him.
It is important for us to understand these things about Jesus’ life. There was a deliberate movement in his life. He moved from birth to death, knowing that he was going to die. It is important to understand that and to understand who he really was. It is important to know that He is the king over all. It is important to know so that we fully understand Jesus, who He was and what He did.
It is also important to think about how these truths impact our lives. The impression that Luke gives us is that because of deliberate unbelief, the leaders of the people missed the whole of God’s work among them.
One time we were driving along the freeway. We talked about stopping for lunch, but we were not sure which exit would have the restaurants which we wanted to stop at. We drove past the first exit and the next one and suddenly we were driving out in the country again and had missed our opportunity to stop. It would be a long drive and a long return trip to get back and we didn’t know where the next place to stop would be. We missed our chance and it would be hard to recover the opportunity.
One year when Carla was running at the Manitoba Marathon, some friends came to encourage her and cheer her on when she came across the finish line. Of course, for a long time, they just sat and visited, but as they noticed people coming into the stadium finishing their races, they decided that if they moved to another place in the crowd, they would have a better vantage point. While they were moving from where they had been to the other place, Carla came running in and they missed her finish.
Sometimes it is like that, we miss an opportunity. Sometimes we miss it because we are at the wrong place at the wrong time and sometimes because we make foolish decisions. When we miss some opportunities, they do not come again.
When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we get an idea of what was on his heart. He said in 19:42, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Then he also said in verse 44, “you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
The responsibility was theirs. It was not that they were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. The coming of Jesus as Messiah King was clearly and visibly displayed before them. They had every opportunity to understand. The miracles of Jesus, the acted parable of the triumphal entry, the wise answers to the challenges about his authority all pointed to the truth. They did not miss it because the evidence was not there, they did not miss it because they weren’t paying attention. They missed it because they shut their eyes to the truth. In hardness of heart and unbelief they closed their eyes to God’s truth and missed it.
The sad thing is that we can also miss God’s work. We may have seen the truth about Jesus coming to earth to die, but are we seeing God at work today? Are we missing out on the resurrection life and the wonder of what God wants to do in our life? Are we missing the power of God active in our life and ministry because we do not believe?
In our Bible Study, we are examining the book, “Experiencing God.” It has been an excellent study which has helped us begin to open our eyes to what God is doing all around us. We have had to confess more than once that we have not often looked at things from this point of view. We have not often seen God at work because we have failed to believe that He is at work. Our unbelief has caused us to fail to “recognize the time of God’s coming to us.”
About 6 years ago, a friend of mine who is a pastor, had a visit from another pastor who told him that he had a prophecy for him. He told him that God was going to do great things in his church. My friend dismissed the conversation, but when several years later, the idea came again from another source, he remembered the conversation and began to wonder if he had missed God’s work in their church. This time, he was much more alert to what God was doing and he opened his heart to God’s work in their midst. God has blessed that church in the last few years and they have had great opportunity to build God’s kingdom. He almost missed God’s coming to them. How often do we miss God’s coming to us?
Several years ago we discovered that need oriented evangelism was our weakest element in terms of becoming a healthier church. At the same time, the Power to Change campaign became an opportunity for us to grow in this area. I believe that was God at work among us.
How much more is God doing among us, in church organization, in ministry and in individual lives? How can we make sure that we do not miss God’s coming to us?
The failure of the Jewish leaders had much to do with their refusal to acknowledge God. Do we acknowledge God as active in our world? If our whole world has to do with us and with what we can do, we will not see God at work. We will fail to recognize the time of God’s coming.” If we look at life through the eyes of sight, we will miss God at work. If, on the other hand, we will look at life with the eyes of faith, we will see God at work in many ways.
The truth of the triumphal entry is reality today. In fact, it is more true than ever before. The shadow no longer hangs over the reality of his kingship in the same way as it did at that time. Jesus has hung on the cross and has been raised from the dead and has taken his place on the throne at the right side of the Father.
The question we must ask ourselves today is, “do I rejoice with the disciples and do I recognize and celebrate my king, or am I missing God’s coming?”