Text: Luke 19:28-48
Theme: Jesus is some King
Doctrine: Spiritual Reign of Christ
Image: Jesus weeping on the donkey while surrounded by celebration.
Reading this account of the entry of Jesus fills us with a little joy inside, does it not? Today is Palm Sunday, and today we celebrate Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This name seems to be somewhat strange, though, it does not really fit with what we just read. When we think of triumphant entries we think of huge parades, great celebrations, expensive preparations. We do not think about someone riding on a donkey. We think of the celebrative return of a sports team after they have won a championship. Everyone comes out to welcome the team home and all the businesses are closed so people can enjoy the day. Or perhaps we think of things like presidential inaugurations. These are also magnificent affairs filled with pomp and pageantry, and traditional ritual.
Or perhaps we think of the coronation ceremony of a monarch. There is a museum in London, England, where a recording of the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II plays on a loop all day long. I sat and watched most of the ceremony. Some of us can remember the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. That, in itself, was a magnificent affair, but it in no way compared to Queen Elisabeth's coronation. Here was a rather young, stunningly beautiful young woman clothed in the most magnificent dress and royal cape England had to offer. As she approached the throne she passed through throngs of people standing in solemn silence. Before ascending to the throne, she knelt before the Archbishop and received a blessing. Sitting on the throne with her train and robe spread out before her she received the gold orb and sceptre symbolising her rule over the British Empire. The climax of the whole event was when the Archbishop stood behind her and lowered the crown of England on her head. Everyone erupted in cheering and applause, hailing her as Queen.
This kind of experience is a bit foreign to many of us, seeing as how it happened so long ago, but we recently witnessed a similar ceremony with the funeral of former President Ford. It was amazing to witness the number of people who went out to pay their respects to this president. How the entire city came out en masse to show respect for the man that he was. The 21 gun salute and the 21 jet fly over added to the immensity of the display. And the climactic lowering of the casket into the cold ground for its final resting place as the sun set into the west struck many people to the heart.
Jesus shows himself to be King
These are the images that fill our heads when we think of elaborate ceremonies and the greeting of dignitaries. We would not naturally think about someone riding into town on a donkey. Many others have pointed out that this sort of thing is not what people would have expected from Rome either. When Pilate entered Jerusalem it would have been in full state with a retinue of soldiers and a magnificent war horse. The Romans would have looked down with disdain at this spectacle. Some king this is, all he has is a donkey.
For the Jews, however, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey would have stirred up some incredible feelings. All four gospel writers consider this to be a significant event. They go into extensive detail about how Jesus sent his disciples ahead to get a donkey's foul, one which had never been ridden. The way that Luke tells the story, it appears as though Jesus has set the whole thing up. It may be an exposition of the divine knowledge of Jesus, that he knew where the donkey was and that the owners would let it go with a simple explanation. More likely, however, Jesus has set the thing up previously with the owners, even giving a password for when he would send people to retrieve it. So, when the disciples told the owner, “The Lord needs it.” They knew exactly who was requesting use of it. They put their cloaks on it so that it would be more comfortable for Jesus to ride and began to lead the procession up to Jerusalem. It seems that the crowd began to get excited as they went along. They were, after all going into Jerusalem to attend the passover. The atmosphere was one of joy and celebration. Here was this person who had done wonderful deeds coming to celebrate the passover in Jerusalem. They began to sing out joyfully one of the Hallel Psalms, one of the praise Psalms. Luke quotes a portion of Ps 118, which we read as the call to worship this morning. The Psalm says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Luke, however, makes a slight change in the wording so as to indicate what was going on. Unlike Matthew and John, Luke does not mention the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 directly. This prophecy is:
9 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.
Luke changes the wording of Ps 118 to indicate that they applied this prophecy to Jesus. Jesus is not just “he who comes in the name of the Lord” but “the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” For Luke, the crowds recognise the authority of Jesus, they recognised their king coming on a donkey, they recognised the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Son of David who would be given a throne that would never end. In Jesus they saw all of the fulfilment of all of their hopes.
The Pharisees recognise the reference as well. They know what the crowd is saying. They understand how dangerous this song is. They glance nervously around to ensure that there are no Roman spies and quickly go over to Jesus. They ask him t silence the crowd. “Tell your people to be quiet. Tell them they must be wrong. Tell them that they should not apply these prophecies to you. Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” But Jesus says something surprising. Unlike most of his ministry he welcomes, and even promotes the people in recognising him as king. Here he has made a special effort to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah by riding a donkey's colt into the city. Jesus tells the Pharisees that the people have it right. They have correctly identified the Messianic hope. If they did not shout aloud. If they did not proclaim that Jesus was king, then creation itself would shout out it exaltation. The stones themselves would cry out that Jesus is king. Some king this is.
falls short of expectations (David as type of Christ)
Jesus reveals himself as king, and the people recognise him as king, however, he does not fill the expectations of the people who were looking for this king. The people had reason to be disappointed in Jesus. After all, they were expecting a king like David. They were expecting a king to come in to the city and set up an earthly reign. They expected all of the enemies of the Jews to be wiped out. They expected to be set free from all their suffering and to enter into the peace, the shalom of God. They expected Jesus to set all things right again. They expected from Jesus in his first coming what we expect from him in his second coming.
This explains a bit more what the people took issue with, does it not? They have the stories of David and his conquests. They have heard how God protected him and led him to victory defying all odds. They have heard how God promised David someone on his throne forever. They have heard about the miracles Jesus has performed. They have heard his teaching. They expect Jesus to be ushering in the final judgement.
Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
Then, just as the crowd is breaking over the hill above Jerusalem, just as the magnificent golden city comes into view, just as people catch a glimpse of the sunlight reflecting from the glorious temple of God the person they have been acclaiming as king bursts into tears. Jesus begins to weep over the city of Jerusalem. This is no little gleam in the eye, this is no little trickle of tears into the beard, this is full blown weeping. He wept, just as people were weeping and wailing over the death of the synagogue ruler's daughter, just as the widow wept over the death of his only son, just as the sinful woman wept when she washed Jesus's feet with her tears and anointed them with perfume, just as Mary mourned over the death of her brother Lazarus, just as Peter wept after he disowned Jesus, just as the women who mourned and wailed for him as he was being led to his crucifixion. Here is the king in whom they have placed their messianic hopes, blathering while sitting astride a donkey's colt. some king this is. He even utters an oracle of destruction over the city he is supposed to be king.
One of the things that is amazing about the use of a donkey for this ride into Jerusalem is the colouration of a donkey's coat. See, when you sit astride a donkey and look down and at her coat it looks as though a silver cross has been painted on her back. As Jesus mounts the donkey, he gets on this cross. Is it any wonder his emotion breaks forth? Is it any wonder he weeps over his rejection by the people of Israel?
Jesus Drives cleanses the temple
As Jesus continues his ride into the city, the crowd follows, even though their enthusiasm has been dimmed. They realise that Jesus is going toward the temple. This is good news. At the time Jesus entered the city the Romans had placed a garrison of soldiers right next to the temple. You can imagine the crowd getting a bit nervous as they draw closer to the big solid doors of this garrison. They begin to tighten their fists and pick up pieces of stone or wood ready to help out in whatever way they could. The whole crowd gets tense and silent as Jesus rides up to the doors of the garrison, but then continues on by.
The people look at each other with disbelief, wondering what Jesus is doing. They expected him to break into the garrison and over throw the Romans who were there. They were expecting him to judge these foreign rulers who were putting them in submission. They were expecting something other than what Jesus was doing. Some king this is.
Jesus continues on past the garrison and enters the temple. Now, this king surprises the crowd even more. He comes into the temple area and becomes righteously indignant. We could almost say he becomes violent. He goes in and overturns the tables of money changers, he drove out those who were selling various things needed for sacrifices. Coins were cascading across the stones, and feathers were flying everywhere. Jesus, panting from the exertion stands up in the middle of the mayhem and shouts at the top of his lungs, “It is written, my house will be a house of prayer’” and turning his burning gaze on those who were cowering in the corner, he said, “but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The people were expecting Jesus to come in and judge the foreign Romans. Instead they get a guy who overthrows their comfortable lives and judges them. Some king this is.
What are our expectations of Jesus
What kind of Jesus are we expecting? As we sit and think about this triumphant entry into Jerusalem, what do we think of this king? What do we want him to do for us? Whom do we want him to judge? How do we want him to enter our lives? In a few days we will commemorate Good Friday. We will remember the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of this king. We often place all our emphasis on the resurrection and forget about the crucifixion. We want to remember the events of the two Sundays around this event, and forget the dark time in the middle. This, however, does not work. We miss out on who Jesus is if we make this triumphal entry all about his kingship. Jesus is publicly and proudly declaring that he is the promised Messiah, but he is also showing that he is not the Messiah that the people expect. Jesus shows himself to the be Lion of the tribe of Judah, the great Son of David, but he does so by showing himself as a lamb who is headed to the slaughter. Jesus mounted that cross on the donkey's back knowing that he would be placed on a different kind of cross in a few days. Jesus enters the city bringing with him his kingdom.
Tonight we will look at the Catechism's explanation of the petition in the Lord's Prayer where we ask God “Thy kingdom come.” Do we truly want this kingdom to come? Do we really want this king to enter into our hearts? Do we truly want the kingdom of God to come, or do we want some other kind of kingdom? Do we want our own little kingdoms extended? Do we want to make a name for ourselves? Do we want to give up control of our lives and bow down to this king, this blathering, blubbering king riding on a donkey, and overthrowing the things we have crowded our hearts with?
Matthew records, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, 'Who is this?'” This is the question to all of us this morning, “Who is this?” Jesus asks each and everyone of us here today, “Who do you say that I am?” Do not let your answer be like that of the crowds a few days hence. When Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd after he had examined him and found nothing wrong with him, he says, “'Here is your king,' ... But they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!' 'Shall I crucify your king?' Pilate asked. 'We have no king but Caesar,' the chief priests answered." (John 19:14-15, NIV) The king that is presented to us on Palm Sunday, is not the king we would expect. What is your response to this presentation. Jesus shows himself king to you today, and I say along with Pilate, “Here is your king!” How will you respond?
Let us Pray