CONTEXT - LUKE 19:28 - 21:38 - JESUS' MINISTRY IN JERUSALEM: Jesus has been on the road to Jerusalem and death since 9:51. That journey came to an end at 19:27. Luke reminded us frequently along the way that Jesus was going to Jerusalem (9:51, 53; 13:22, 33-34; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11) -alerting us to the significance of the work that he would do there. 19:28 begins the story of his ministry in Jerusalem, much of which takes place at the temple. This story continues through 21:38, and is followed by his passion (chapters 22-23) and resurrection (chapter 24).
LUKE 19:28. HAVING SAID THESE THINGS
28 After Jesus said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
"Having said these things" links the Triumphal Entry to the Parable of the Ten Pounds (vv. 11-27). This parable has much in common with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but is tailored to introduce the Triumphal Entry, to include the following distinctive features:
"he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem" He is going from Jericho (v. 1) to Jerusalem, a distance of about fourteen miles (22 km.). Jericho is on a plain and Jerusalem is on a mountain, so the journey is mostly uphill.
LUKE 19:29-35. A COLT WHEREON NO MAN EVER YET SAT
29 When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mountain that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 31 And if anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this: 'The Lord has need of it.'" 32 So those who were sent left and found it just as He had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" 34 They said, "The Lord has need of it." 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and they threw their cloaks on the colt and
put Jesus on it.
"It happened, when he drew near to Bethsphage and Bethany" (v. 29a). We know little about Bethphage, but Bethany-less than two miles (2.7 km.) from Jerusalem-is important. Luke 24:50 tells us that the ascension will take place at Bethany. John 11 tells us that Bethany is the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and is where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, a miracle that precipitated plans by religious authorities to kill Jesus.
"at the mountain that is called Olivet" (v. 29b). The Mount of Olives is part of a range of hills overlooking Jerusalem from the east. When Jesus arrives here, only the Kidron Valley separates him from Jerusalem.
This reference to the Mount of Olives may be related to Zechariah 14:4-5: "His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east...Yahweh my God will come, and all the holy ones with you."
"he sent two of his disciples" (v. 29c). We don't know the identity of these disciples, but Jesus will send Peter and John to prepare for the Passover meal (22:8), so it is possible that they are also the ones whom he sends for the colt.
"you will find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat" (v. 30b). An animal used for religious purposes must be without blemish and "on which yoke has never been laid" (Numbers 19:2). Also, no one other than the king was allowed to ride the king's horse (Tannehill, 282-283).
A colt can be a horse or donkey, but Matthew 21:2, 5, 7 and John 12:14 specify a donkey-thus fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, which says: "Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you! He is righteous, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
Kings ride neither colts nor donkeys, but full-grown horses-well-trained, responsive horses-horses chosen in part for strength and spirit and in part for appearance-beautiful horses-large, impressive mounts-in much the same way that presidents ride limousines or private jets. The size and beauty of the king's horse bear testimony to the king's importance. Furthermore, a man mounted on a large, spirited horse is an intimidating presence, and potential enemies will think twice before attacking a man so mounted.
"If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say to him: 'The Lord needs it '" (v. 31). This might indicate that the owners of the colt are Jesus' disciples, but it might also indicate supernatural preparation for Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
Scholars speculate whether Jesus coordinated with the owners in advance, and it is possible that he did so. However, to insist that he did is to miss the point. This is a lesson, not in prior coordination, but in Jesus' authority.
"They threw their cloaks on the colt, and set Jesus on them" (v. 35). A king not only rides a great horse, but also sits astride an impressive saddle. Jesus, the humble king, sits astride a saddle hastily improvised from his disciples' cloaks.
LUKE 19:36-38. AS HE WENT, THEY SPREAD THEIR CLOAKS IN THE WAY
36 Now as He was going, they were spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 And as soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting: "BLESSED is the King, THE ONE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
"As he went, they spread their cloaks in the way" (v. 36). The crowd receives Jesus with a "red carpet" welcome.
"the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice" (v. 37b). Matthew says that it is the crowds who shout Hosanna (Matthew 21:9), and Mark implies the same (Mark 11:8-9). John also says that it is the crowd (John 12:9). Luke, however, specifies that it is the disciples who offer praise, rather than the people of Jerusalem. Within a few days, the crowd will shout, "Crucify! Crucify him!" (23:21).
"for all the mighty works which they had seen" (v. 37c). Note the abundance of Jesus' miracles that Luke the physician records-mostly healings or exorcisms (4:31-37; 4:38-39; 5:12-16; 5:17-26; 6:6-11; 6:17-19; 7:1-10; 7:11-17; 8:22-25; 8:26-39; 8:40-56; 9:10-17; 9:37-43; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; 17:11-19; 18:35-43).
"Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord" (v. 38a). Psalm 118:26 says, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh," but Luke changes "he" to "the King." The people use Psalm 118 to welcome pilgrims to the great feasts in the Holy City, but Jesus is more than a pilgrim-he is king.
The issue of Jesus' kingship will soon be brought to the front, and will lead to his crucifixion (23:2-3, 37-38).
"Peace in heaven" (v. 38b). At Jesus' birth, the angels sang of peace on earth (2:14), so "peace in heaven" seems jarring. Wouldn't heaven inherently be free from the kind of conflict that afflicts people on earth? Wouldn't peace reign supreme in the heavens? But Satan's presence at Jesus' temptation has reminded us of the cosmic conflict that exists between good and evil-a conflict that will not be fully resolved until Jesus' Second Coming.
LUKE 19:39-40. IF THESE WERE SILENT
39 And yet some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!" 40 Jesus replied, "I tell you, if these stop speaking, the stones will cry out!"
"Teacher, rebuke your disciples"(Greek: epitimeson tois mathetais sou-rebuke your disciples) (v. 39). Thus begins the final, fatal, opposition to Jesus by some of the Pharisees. This is the last reference to the Pharisees in this Gospel-"the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people" will assume the leadership role in opposing Jesus (19:47).
"I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would cry out" (v. 40). Stones, of course, are inanimate objects that don't cry out. Earlier, John the Baptist warned that God could "raise up children to Abraham from these stones!" (3:8)-a reminder that God can bring forth life from that which has no life.
We now begin Section IV of Luke's Gospel, Jesus' ministry in Jerusalem, prior to his arrest, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension (Luke 19:28-21:36). (See Appendix 2H. The Chronology of Holy Week.) Three times Jesus has told his disciples what would happen in Jerusalem -- though they tried to ignore his warnings. But now they are here in the Holy City. During this Holy Week the plot against Jesus intensifies and Jesus clarifies his teaching, ministering daily in the temple that he cleanses and then sanctifies by his presence.
I've always puzzled over the Triumphal Entry. On the one hand, the enthusiasm of the crowds is contagious. The King is coming into the Holy City! Hosanna! On the other hand, I see Jesus filled with pain. He accedes to the celebration -- indeed, he initiates it. But he is somehow detached. Instead of lifting his hands in victory as might a politician or conquering general, he is subdued. And when Jerusalem comes into sight he begins to weep -- not for himself, but for the city and its inhabitants. The Triumphal Entry is essential in God's plan -- we'll look at in this lesson. And so is weeping part of God's heart -- in the next lesson we'll consider that.
Today, my dear friends, let's walk with Jesus along the road that leads from Bethany down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, and seek to understand our Master. After all, we are his disciples. We should know him better than anyone.
Bethphage and Bethany (Luke 19:28-29)
"After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives.... (19:28-29)
Jesus leads his followers in front of the group. The preposition "on ahead" is Greek emprosthen, "forward, ahead."840 Jesus leads the way to his appointment with destiny. It doesn't somehow overtake him accidentally.
"Going up to Jerusalem" is literal, since Jerusalem is at a higher elevation than most of the towns of Palestine. The road Jesus is traveling rises from 850 feet (260 meters) below sea level at Jericho, to elevation of 2,100 to 2,526 feet (640 to 770 meters) above sea level at Jerusalem. Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan is set along the Jericho Road (Luke 10:25-37), though Jesus is in little danger from bandits, since he is traveling with a large number of followers and the roads are crowded with pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for Passover.
The Mount of Olives, located just east of Jerusalem, is a ridge about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, part of the north-south mountain chain. If you stand where the Jericho Road crosses the ridge, to the west is the city of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley, and just to the east of the summit lie the towns of Bethphage and Bethany.
Bethphage is a suburb of Jerusalem, its name in Aramaic meaning "house of the early figs." Scholars aren't sure of the precise location. But the medieval Crusaders accepted a site about a half mile (1 kilometer) east of the summit where a Franciscan chapel is now located. The site had been occupied between the second century BC through the eighth century AD.841
Bethany is the town where Jesus' friends live -- Lazarus, Martha, and Mary -- at whose home he was a welcome guest whenever he was in the City. It is also the place of the Ascension (Luke 24:50-51), located about 2 miles east of Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, identified by early Christian tradition with the Palestinian town el-Azariyeh.842
The Lord Needs It (Luke 19:29b-34)
"He sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, "Why are you untying it?" tell him, "The Lord needs it."' Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, 'Why are you untying the colt?' They replied, 'The Lord needs it.'" (19:29b-34)
Jesus had looked up to the villages on the hillside just ahead and given specific instructions to two of his disciples: The word "needs" is the Greek noun chreia, "need, lack, want," used in the phrase "has need."843 I've often looked at this account as supernatural -- that Jesus knows there will be a particular young donkey tied in the town. And I'm sure he does know that supernaturally. On the other hand, Jesus probably has friends in many, many towns where he has stayed before, who have told him, "If you need anything -- anything! -- just let me know!" Jesus is not telling his disciples to engage in "grand theft donkey," but is taking up a friend on his long-standing offer. Notice that once the disciples say, "The Lord needs it," there is no further argument. The owners are happy to have the Lord use their possessions for his work.
How about you? Do you argue when the Lord makes a demand on something that belongs to you? Yes, you have said, "I give you my life, everything I have," but now when he makes a specific request, do you balk?
The Significance of the Donkey
The word translated "colt" is Greek polos, the young of any animal -- from an elephant to a locust. Here the "colt" or "foal" of a donkey is the reference.844 The specific Greek word for "donkey, ass," hypozygion, is not used in Luke, but found in Matthew 21:5.845
Luke and Mark don't discuss the significance of the young donkey, but Matthew and John quote from Zechariah 9:9, a passage that comprises one of the great soprano arias of Handel's Messiah: "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 (LXX hupozugion), on a colt (LXX polon), the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth." (Zechariah 9:9-10)
The donkey was domesticated in Mesopotamia by the Third Millennium BC and was used as a beast of burden from the patriarchal period. It was renowned for its strength and was the animal normally ridden by nonmilitary personnel (Numbers 22:21; Judges 10:4; 1 Samuel 25:20).846 The Scripture indicates that riding a donkey is not at all beneath the dignity of Israel's noblemen and kings (2 Samuel 18:9; 19:26). Indeed, David indicates his choice of Solomon to be king by decreeing that the young man should ride on the king's own mule (1 Kings 1:32-40).
Jesus' instructions are clear that the donkey must be one that has never been ridden (see Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7; 2 Samuel 6:3). It is set apart, consecrated for a specific use -- for the Master's use. There is a rabbinical tradition that no one should use the animal on which a king rides.847
It is fascinating to me that in Zechariah's prophecy the gentle king that comes into Jerusalem riding a young donkey is the same one who will defeat chariots and war-horses and bring peace to the nations. One of the final scenes of Revelation is a picture of the conquering Christ riding a white war-horse (Revelation 19:11-16), but today he rides a donkey in hope of peace.
When Jesus indicates to his disciples that he should ride on a donkey that no one had ever ridden before, he is initiating a public, kingly act. He is revealing openly that he is the Messiah.
Spreading Their Cloaks before Jesus (Luke 19:35-36)
"They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road." (19:35-36)
The symbolism is not lost on the disciples and Jesus' other followers.
The words translated "cloaks" (NIV) or "garments" (KJV) is Greek himation, which can refer generally to any garment, "clothing, apparel," or specifically to outer clothing, "cloak, robe."848 The word translated "spread" is Greek hypostrōnnyō, "spread out underneath."849 It is in the imperfect tense, indicating continued action in the past, meaning "they kept on spreading their cloaks on the road."
Spreading clothing to carpet one's pathway was a way to honor the person. When the people are aware that Jehu has been anointed king of 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!'" (2 Kings 9:13) Mark tells us, "Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields" (Mark 11:8). John's Gospel indicates the people were going out to meet the procession with palm branches (John 12:13).
Praise from the Disciples (Luke 19:37-38)
"When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'" (Lk. 19:37-38, quot. Ps. 118:26)
It is a day of excitement and jubilation as the King's procession reaches the road's highest point as it crosses the ridge of the Mount of Olives. At this time of year, pilgrims clogging the roads rejoice as they come. And the pilgrims already in Jerusalem hear that Jesus is about to enter the city, and they come out to meet him (John 12:12, 18). The city is abuzz with the news of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and the pilgrims are eager to see this miracle worker.
"When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'" (19:37-38, quoting Psalm 118:26)
The phrase "joyfully to praise" (NIV) or "to rejoice and praise" (KJV) consists of two Greek verbs, chairō, "rejoice, be glad"850 and aineō, "to praise."851 The word translated "miracles" is the Greek noun dunamis, "deed of power, miracle, wonder."852 Also observe that the term "disciples" in verse 37 is used in a more general sense, not of just the Twelve.
As this increasingly large band of "disciples" crosses the ridge and begins its descent into the Kidron Valley the
people sing praise from Psalm 118:25, Please, O Lord, do save us; Please, O Lord, do send prosperity!
The sound is increasing. The enthusiasm is building with a carpet of clothing and branches on the road, with singing, and with rejoicing. People in the crowd are now shouting out clearly messianic phrases: "Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matthew 21:9) "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!' (Luke 19:38) "Blessed is the King of Israel!" (John 12:13). But the Pharisees present in the crowd are scowling. They are deeply offended and can't suppress their disdain.
The Stones Will Cry Out (Luke 19:39-40)
"Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples!' 'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.'" (19:39-40)
Jesus is saying, in effect, that if the disciples are silent the rocks themselves would be forced to offer praise. Indeed, praise is sometimes poetically attributed to objects and animals (Psalm 96:11; 98:7-9; 114:1-8; Isaiah 55:12). But Jewish writings sometimes mention mute stones bearing witness when sin has been committed -- in this case the sin of not offering praise when praise is due (Habakkuk 2:11; Genesis 4:10; and Joshua 24:27).853 In the next lesson we'll explore Jesus' sorrow over the Pharisees' unbelief -- over the unbelief of Jerusalem as a whole.
It Is Time to Be Recognized as Messiah
Up until now, Jesus has been very guarded about his identity as Messiah (see, for example, Mark 8:30). Rather than using the term Christ (Greek for "anointed one") or Messiah (the Hebrew word for "anointed one"), he identifies himself as Son of Man.854 If Jesus had previously acknowledged publicly that he was the Messiah, the political implications would be such that he could not complete his intended ministry of teaching, healing, and proclaiming the Kingdom. But now that ministry is complete. All that remains is to accomplish his "exodus" in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Jesus now moves to fulfill messianic prophecy, and directs his disciples to find the donkey that his Father has prepared for his public entry into the City of Zion.
His claim as King must now be clear. Indeed, this claim of Messiahship, this open acknowledgement of Kingship, seems to precipitate his death. It was certainly on the lips of everyone in Jerusalem that week.855 Jesus is not crucified for his good works. He is killed for his claim to Kingship.
Lessons for Disciples
What are we disciples to make of this triumphal entry? As I ponder the passage I see several lessons:
Lord, please help me to be willing to obey your instructions, even when I don't understand all the details or their importance. Thank you for the immense privilege you grant to me and to my brothers and sisters to be participants in your mission, to play important parts in what you are doing. Help me to rejoice in you and praise you with an open heart, not resist because of my pain or from the wound of a doubting or distrustful heart. In your holy name I pray. Amen.