Palm Sunday: Responding to Jesus Luke 19:28-42
4/20/2019 2:58:21 PM
April 14, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Luke 19:28-42
I want you to imagine there’s a famous science professor from a university. He has a YouTube channel and on this channel he posts amazing stuff and has millions of followers because he’s able to explain science in ways everybody can understand. He’s invited to do multiple TED Talks that all go viral. In his first TED talk he reveals a miraculous new form of anti-biotic that kills viruses! He’s actually curing the common cold! In another TED Talk, he demonstrates how to increase the yield of farmland by 100 fold! He’s literally ending world hunger. Elsewhere he’s posted a new technique for predicting hurricanes and tornadoes far enough in advance that people can be safely evacuated before they strike.
All the while he’s pointing out that government officials and bureaucracy are blocking his amazing products from coming to market and he outlines how the political system could be streamlined. Everybody is asking him to run for office, but he always deflects those comments saying he’s a scientist, not a politician. As the years go by and his popularity grows, more and more people clamour for him to run for office! Finally, word gets out that he’s going to a political party’s national convention. Rumours abound that he’s going to announce he’s running! The internet goes wild, twitter explodes, people line up outside the hotel where the party is meeting! People have signs and are chanting for him to be the next national leader! He’s going to end poverty, end world hunger, save the environment and clean up the government!
This is kind of what it was like in Israel during Jesus’ 3 years of ministry. Jesus was curing the sick, feeding the hungry, even raising the dead! Everybody wanted him to lead a revolt and get rid of the hated Roman Empire! People in Israel were looking for Jesus to end hunger, cure diseases, and lead a revolution to overturn the government. He had fed thousands of people on two different occasions. He had cured all kinds of diseases. He could even calm storms and walk on water! Imagine what he could do as a general! He could feed his armies, cure any wounds suffered, stop rains from slowing his troops down and maybe even send a storm against the Roman legions! All along, he was teaching God’s word even better than the religious leaders of the day! No wonder there were near riots when he turned towards Jerusalem!
Let’s take a look at how Luke describes Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on what has come to be called Palm Sunday. By way of context, take note that Jesus is coming from Jericho where he has cured a blind man, brought Zacchaeus to repentance and then told the Parable of Ten Minas which begins with “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return….”
Read Luke 19:28-42.
What It Says
What does this text say? If you’ve been going to church for long, you’re probably familiar with this scene. I know I’ve been hearing about it since I was a kid in Sunday school. But there are a few things I want to point out today, in particular some things unique to Luke’s Gospel.
Our text opens, “After he said this…” What did he say? That was what I just pointed out as the Parable of Ten Minas: “A man of noble birth goes away to be proclaimed king before he returns home.” Jesus now approaches Jerusalem and look at v. 38, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowd proclaims Jesus king! And, as the narrative unfolds, people respond to Jesus like people responded to the man in the parable: some object to him being proclaimed king, some obey the kind and others misunderstand the king and thereby miss their opportunity. [James Edwards, Luke, p. 547]
Jesus showed tremendous courage to enter Jerusalem this way. There was a bounty out for his arrest. [cf John 11:57] As Jesus approaches, he passes through small towns, Bethany and Bethpage, It was in Bethany that Lazarus and his sisters lived and Jesus resuscitated Lazarus. Jesus sends two anonymous disciples ahead to one of these villages to fetch a donkey colt. It is unclear if he had made previous arrangements with the owner of if this is an example of Jesus’ prophetic foresight. At the end of our narrative, Jesus uses his prophetic foresight to proclaim the destruction of Jerusalem that happened in AD 70, roughly 40 years later.
We don’t know which two disciples Jesus sent, but we do know they were obedient. They found things just as Jesus said, followed his orders and succeeded!
We are told that the colt had never been ridden. Why was this important? Because that meant that according to OT law it could be used for sacred purposes! So there are significant religious overtones to what is happening here. Also notice Luke’s description- that the disciples put Jesus on the donkey- similar to an enthronement rather than mounting himself [Edwards, p. 546] The people lay their coats on the road like when Jehu was anointed King of Israel. [2 Ki 9:13] So the people were also seeing and joining in on the kingly symbolism as Jesus comes to Jerusalem. As Jesus crosses over the Mount of Olives and descends to Jerusalem, the people start chanting “blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
King David fled up the Mount of Olives to escape a revolution. Now Jesus descends the Mount of Olives to start one! [2 Sam 15:30] The Mount of Olives, then, was significant in Israel’s collective memory. It was a place of worship even in the times of David and Zechariah 14:1-10 predicts that on the Mount of Olives the Messiah would be revealed. So the location, the actions, the characters all point to a Kingly Messiah in the line of David coming to set things right and the crowd goes wild!
The Pharisees are offended and terrified and tell Jesus to silence the people for a couple reasons: The people were too enthusiastic for Passover. The Pharisees didn’t want to Jesus proclaimed Messiah. They were terrified the Romans would respond. [Leon Morris, Luke, p. 305] Jesus says that the praise is unavoidable- if the crowds were silent nature itself would cry out in praise!
Now, here’s the stark contrast that Luke present. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, knowing how little their enthusiasm was worth. Jesus literally wailed when he saw the city, knowing what was going to happen in about a week. King David wept on his way up the Mount of Olives, Jesus wept on his way down. He knows that Israel doesn’t understand their real problem- alienation from God. They think Jesus will bring peace from Roman occupation, but he’s actually there to bring peace with God! Israel doesn’t know what they really need for Shalom- peace- everything needed for their well-being! So Luke presents this stark contrast of celebration by the crowd and intense sorry in Jesus. Jesus then predicts the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans and its destruction- events that happened in AD 70.
What It Means
All four Gospels describe Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but each one has its own particular slant on the narrative. Luke ties his narrative to King David in the Old Testament and the parable of Ten Minas that Jesus just told in Jericho. Like the people in the parable, the people in Luke’s narrative have a range of responses to Jesus.
3 Responses to Jesus: Obedience – the 2 anonymous disciples who go find the colt as well as the owners of the colt who let Jesus use it! Like the first 2 servants in the parable who invest the money given to them for the profit of their master. Second is objection- the Pharisees don’t want Jesus proclaimed Messiah or king! Just like the parable, a delegation of people follow the nobleman to object to his kingship, his being given authority. Third is misunderstanding- the people of Jerusalem/Israel misunderstand Jesus, not knowing what he was like, just as the 3rd servant in the parable misunderstood his master. The Frightening part is that individuals face the same range of responses and the same consequences! When we misunderstand Jesus, when we object to his authority, we head for destruction! [Darrell L. Bock, Luke, p. 315]
Jesus was clearly entering Jerusalem as a king, but a misunderstood king. We spoke about the Kingdom or authority of God in our series on the Lord’s Prayer- it means submitting to and respecting the authority of God to rule. Jesus is submitting to God the Father, he is about to be elevated in his authority- made/proclaimed King by God in the resurrection. But his Kingdom is not of this world- his authority and rule are not of this world. So the people misunderstand his mission. They confuse Jesus’ kingship with fixing their problems, fixing their government and giving them earthly freedom or autonomy.
The crowd cannot understand the nature of Jesus’s kingship until after the cross. They want Jesus to save them from their problems- like hunger and sickness. They want Jesus to save them from the problem of Roman rule. But what Jesus actually came to save them from us a much bigger issue, in fact the ultimate issue, their alienation from God because of their sin!
In v. 38 Luke describes the people cheering, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” This echoes the angels at Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” Jesus came to bring peace to heaven and earth, to bring peace and reconciliation between God and humanity, the results of which are felt throughout all of creation.
Jesus’ kingship has to do with conquering sin and bringing peace to heaven and earth, not just Israel. Luke hints at this with the words of the angel in ch 2 and “peace in heaven” here in v. 38, but that is for us to see in hindsight. The people that day didn’t get it at all! This complete lack of understanding is going to have deadly consequences for everybody involved! Jesus in a week, and Jerusalem in 40 years. And so Jesus weeps over Jerusalem! Here, again, we see his humanity (last week) and his full range of emotions.
Why does all this matter? How do we apply this? Still today people have a range of responses to Jesus. Some people obey Jesus. Like the 2 disciples, they follow Jesus where he tells them to go and do what he says, even if they don’t understand everything Jesus is doing. Some people object to Jesus. They don’t want him proclaimed king over them! They make themselves his enemies. Some people misunderstand Jesus. They want Jesus to solve their problems. They submit to him only to the extent that he then does what they want him to do. When Jesus didn’t start a revolution, the crowds shouted for him to be crucified!
Some people want Jesus to solve their problems. Jesus wants to reconcile us to God. Some people want Jesus to fix their poverty problems, or their hunger problems, or their health problems, or fix their kids’ behaviour, or provide what they want, fulfilling their dreams. These are all things Jesus has the POWER to do, but he does not have the purpose to do them. Jesus’ miracles were to prove his identity, they were not his goal in themselves. Rather, Jesus wants to solve the ultimate problem- the problem of sin, of rebellion vs God! All our other problems flow out of this ultimate problem. Without sin, the world would have no sickness, poverty, hunger, disobedience, abuse of power, etc.
Today, like the Jews in Jesus’ day, we have a choice to make. How will we respond to Jesus? We can follow him and obey and thereby be reconciled to God. We can object to Jesus, saying that declaring him God and King is too much, we object on principle, saying people are too enthusiastic about Jesus. We can look to Jesus to solve our problems, change our spouse, change our kids, fix our country, etc. We can get Jesus confused with our politics. But when we misunderstand Jesus and when we object to Jesus, we are completely missing the point! We miss out on his real mission- to reconcile us to God.
As we come to Easter, let me issue each of us a challenge- how will you respond to Jesus? Will you obey him? Surrender to him? Let him be your king on his terms? Or will you object to him, offended that he says you need him, that you’re not good enough on your own? Or will you only look to Jesus to do what you want him to do, and reject him when things are hard, or disappointing, when he doesn’t fix your problems or provide your dreams? The choice is yours. Let me urge you to accept Jesus, to obey him and to make him king in your life on his terms. Amen.
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