Going back to the Gospel of Luke one more time. Looking at the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. It’s a day full of contradictions. It’s confusing. It’s hard for us to fully understand. It’s rejoicing that leads the rejection. It’s joy that turns into sorrow. Celebration that turns to suffering. It’s a triumphal entry that turns into carrying the cross to Calvary. Palm Sunday is full of contradictions.
The crowd was right to celebrate the coming of Jesus because this was the true coming of the true King. The crowd was right to celebrate the coming of Jesus, but they celebrated the coming of Jesus in a wrong way. They misunderstood its meaning, and that’s how they got it wrong. Sometimes we can get Jesus right, sometimes we can get Jesus wrong.
We’ve been allowing Luke, the physician, who addresses us as “Dear Theophilus”, dear lover of God, to reintroduce us to Jesus. We’ve been allowing Luke to show us Jesus, and hopefully we are seeing Jesus in new ways.
Ever since Luke chapter 9, we’ve been following Jesus on his final journey to Jerusalem. We now are in chapter 19, last time I was in Luke we were in Jericho, where Jesus healed Blind Bartimaeus and saved Zacchaeus. There is only one more leg on the journey, and today we arrive in Jerusalem.
So Jesus leaves Jericho, and it’s up, up up to Jerusalem. Jericho is the lowest city of the world, right on the shores of the Dead Sea, 1200 feet below sea level. It’s only 15 miles from Jericho to Jerusalem, but it’s uphill all the way. From Jericho to Jerusalem, it’s 15 miles, but 3800 feet of an uphill climb. When you arrive at Jerusalem from Jericho, coming from the east, you crest the Mount of Olives, today just as then, and it is quite the view with the whole city of Jerusalem stretched out before you. So Jesus crests the Mount of Olives, and there is special excitement with his followers from Galilee this trip to Jerusalem. They are there for the Passover, but they all believe something momentous is going to occur this year, that finally Israel’s true King is coming. The excitement at this point is palpable.
They are reaching their destination, and finally the city is before them. Jesus is on top of the Mount of Olives, but then he pauses. He’s going to stage a prophetic enactment. He must fulfill the prophecy. Jesus knows the scriptures. He has something very specific in mind, he must enter the city a certain way. Because what Jesus is doing all through his ministry is announcing and enacting the kingdom of God. In his preaching, in his parables, in healing the sick, in casting out demons, in raising the dead, in who he receives at his table, Jesus is announcing and enacting the kingdom of God. So now, one more time, he wants to announce and enact the kingdom of God in a very powerful, prophetic way. So he pauses at the top of the Mount of Olives. “When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'”” Luke 19:29-31 ESV.
They bring this foal of a donkey to Jesus. Jesus sits on it. It’s too small for him, it looks funny. His feet are dragging on the ground. And yet, this is how Jesus is going to enter Jerusalem.
Why?? Because it’s a parody of the military triumphs of Babylon, Rome, and Egypt. Instead of riding a war horse (because that’s how the King enters the city, on a war house), here’s a man being hailed as king riding not only a donkey, but the colt of a donkey. It would be like reducing the presidential motorcade to a 1972 Pinto. It’s a parody, but it’s also a prophecy. Jesus is deliberately and intentionally fulfilling a prophecy he knows shows what the true king will look like when he comes into his kingdom. The prophecy is this – ““Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey. I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim, no more war horses in Jerusalem, no more swords and spears, bows and arrows. He will offer peace to the nations, a peaceful rule worldwide, from the four winds to the seven seas.” Zechariah 9:9-10 MSG. In other words, everything that the prophets have foretold about God establishing his kingdom through his own Son, the seed of Abraham, The son of David, it’s all coming to pass right now.
The true King of Kings, the true Prince of Peace, the true seed of Abraham, the true son of David, the true Messiah, the true Christ has come! He doesn’t come as a war waging conqueror like Caesar or Pharaoh, he comes in the way of God. Because God says I’m done with war. I’m going to, through my Son, preach peace to the nations….
So he comes humble and lowly, his feet dragging the ground on a colt too small for him. He’s driving a ‘72 Pinto…
“As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.””
Luke 19:37-40 ESV
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