Jesus enters Jerusalem as King Luke 19:28-40

I want to share a secret with you. You may have noticed that throughout the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, although you can see it most clearly in Mark’s Gospel, until the last week of Jesus’s life there was a secret which was revealed to just a few people. It was a secret which has been closely guarded. Until now.
We could call it the Messianic Secret, or the “Son of God” secret. All through the three years of His public ministry, Jesus kept his identity as the Son of God secret as far as possible? When He cast out demons, Jesus commanded them to be silent because they knew who He really was. When he healed people, and even raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead, Jesus always said, “Don’t tell anyone what has happened.” At Caesaria Philippi when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” and then asked them, “And who do you say that I am?” Peter gave that marvellous answer, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus immediately told them, “Don’t tell anyone.” After the transfiguration, when Peter James and John had seen Jesus in all his glory, the command was the same. Don’t tell anyone.”
You may have been wondering – why all this secret? Why did Jesus want to keep His true identity secret from everybody except his closest disciples?
The first reason was because of the risk of rejection. You remember Jesus’s first sermon at Nazareth. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” The crowd was preparing to throw Jesus off the cliff because they thought he was blaspheming. And at least twice when Jesus taught the people, when He said, “Before Abraham was, I am” and then when He said, “I and the father are one,” at least twice the people picked up stones to stone him for blasphemy. Jesus recognised that as soon as the secret of who He really was came out, very soon afterwards He would be dead.
But then there was a second reason for all the secrecy which was the risk of misunderstanding. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a great military leader to set them free from the Roman occupation. After Jesus fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fishes, he had to hide away because all the people wanted to make Him King, by force if necessary. But Jesus did not come as a military king or a political leader. It took three years to prepare the way before Jesus could reveal who He was without everybody misunderstanding. Only at the very end, in the last week of His life, did Jesus let the secret out. And even then He did not do so in public statements and explicit claims but rather in two significant and symbolic actions and one powerful parable.
By the way that He entered into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus was making a powerful claim.
Luke 19:35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 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:
38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’
40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
But what is so unusual about arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey, you might ask? The thing is, nobody would. Well expecting mothers and very old people might. But not at Passover time. At Passover time however far they had travelled all Jewish pilgrims would enter Jerusalem on foot. Important leaders and Roman soldiers might ride horses. But nobody would enter Jerusalem on a donkey. Nobody but one person. The person the Jews had been waiting for for centuries. Only one person would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey and that person would be the Messiah. That was the prophecy everybody was waiting to be fulfilled!
Zechariah 9 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. 10I 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.
Matthew’s Gospel quotes Zechariah 9 and makes clear that Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey at Passover took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet (Matthew 21:4).
The Messiah would arrive in Jerusalem at Passover, not on a horse for battle but on a donkey announcing peace. By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had come. And by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was claiming that He Himself was God’s chosen one, the Messiah. God’s chosen King greater than every other ruler and every other king.
The crowds recognised the significance of Jesus’s action.
Luke 19:37 … the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” the crowds shouted. This is a quote from Psalm 118 verse 26. Psalm 118 is a Song of praise – a Hallelujah, one of a number of the Psalms which were sung together to make a thanksgiving liturgy which was sung to welcome the procession of the king and the people into the Temple in Jerusalem. Each year the local people would sing Psalm 118 to welcome the Pilgrims who were arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Psalm 118 begins like this.
Psalm 118 1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. ~
2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
As the pilgrims approached Jerusalem they would be singing these words.
Psalm 118:19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
And finally Psalm 118 contains the very words the crowd sang as Jesus entered Jerusalem.
25 LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
The Psalm which had been used for generations to welcome pilgrims to Passover had foretold the significance of Jesus’s Triumphal Entry and of his crucifixion. For hundreds of years they had been waiting for the promised King who could come in the name of the Lord. And now Jesus was arriving! He was the one who would bring peace to the earth, as the prophecy in Zechariah had promised.
“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 9:10)
In so many places in the Old Testament God promised that the Messiah would bring peace. We often read these words at Christmas.
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Remember the song of the Christmas angels.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
And remember this wonderful promise Jesus made to his disciples
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
On Palm Sunday the crowds welcomed Jesus coming as Prince of Peace to bring God’s peace to this troubled world. And all of us need to experience God’s peace in these difficult days. May I suggest two keys to receiving God’s peace, at these times more than ever.
The first is simply to put our trust in God.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you. 4Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
We put our trust in God who knows the end from the beginning, in God who will never fail us and forsake us, in God who is with us wherever we go.
Then the second way to experience God’s peace in these troubled times is prayer.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. When he entered Jerusalem at Passover riding on a donkey, the crowds recognised Jesus as God’s promised King, the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the Messiah.
Then the next day Jesus did something else which revealed who He really was.
Luke 19 45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘ “My house will be a house of prayer”; but you have made it “a den of robbers”.’
We call this incident “the cleansing of the Temple.” But we miss the point of the story if we think it was about corruption. The moneychangers and those selling sacrificial animals weren’t crooks. They were a normal and official part of the Temple system, especially at Passover time. To understand what is going on here you have to realise just how big the Temple was. The moneychangers and the stalls were in the outermost court, the Court of the Gentiles. Best guess is that this area was as long and as wide as at least four football pitches. There is no way that Jesus threw out all the moneychangers and all the sellers. He could not have turned over all their tables. That would have led to a riot and Jesus would have been arrested immediately. What Jesus did was on a small scale, in one corner of the vast Court of the Gentiles. It was a symbolic demonstration which again fulfilled prophecies of what would happen when the Messiah would come.
Zechariah 6 12 Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’
The Jews had been waiting for centuries for their Messiah to come and rebuild the Temple. To make his claim clearer, Jesus then quoted a prophecy from Isaiah which talks about the Temple becoming a house of prayer for all nations when the Messiah comes.
Isaiah 56 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant — 7these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
For hundreds of years, this was what the Jews had been waiting for and looking forward to – the time when their Messiah would come to purify the Temple and its worship. The prophet Malachi says even more about that day.
Malachi 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.
Malachi makes clear that it will not just be some human messenger God will send to purify the Temple. God himself will come to do this. So Jesus “cleansing of the temple” had deep spiritual significance. Jesus was not only calling for purification and renewal of Temple worship. Jesus was claiming to be the promised One who would bring that purification and renewal. Indeed Jesus was claiming to be God Himself!
After entering Jerusalem as King and making that demonstration in the Temple, Jesus then told the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. You can read it in Luke 20:9-19.
Most parables make a single point – this makes many. It is an allegory. Jesus tells the parable to make the Jewish leaders realise just exactly who it was they were trying to kill – the Son of God.
Luke 20:9 He went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.
In the parable the Vineyard owner represents God, and the Vineyard represents the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. This was a common picture that every Israelite would understand, taken from Isaiah.
Isaiah 5:1 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. … The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight.
In Jesus’s parable the tenants put in charge of the vineyard but who failed to pay the rent represent the Leaders of Israel. And the Pharisees and the Sadducees realised that they were represented by the tenants. Luke 20:19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them.
The Messengers sent by the Owner to the Tenants represent the Old Testament Prophets, the servants of God who had often been rejected and even killed by the Israelites. But then the last person who is sent to the Tenants in the story is not just another servant. It is none other than the Owner’s dear Son.
Luke 20:13 ‘Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.”
14 ‘But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. “This is the heir,” they said. “Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
That Owner’s Son who the Tenants were planning to kill represents Jesus himself. The Jewish Leaders realised that. The whole crowd would realise that. In this parable Jesus is claiming to be none other than the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who would fulfil the prophecy in Psalm 118 and be the cornerstone of the rebuilding of the nation.
Luke 20:15 …. ‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’
When the people heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
‘ “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’
If Jesus had been any more explicit he would have been stoned for blasphemy there and then, or else it would have started a revolution.
Jesus entered Jerusalem at Passover not walking but riding on a donkey. He “cleansed” the Temples. And he told the parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. The cat is out of the bag. The big secret is finally revealed. Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the last messenger sent by the Owner to the Tenants in the Vineyard – even though He knew they would kill Him. Jesus is the Messiah, who brings God’s Kingly Rule. Jesus is indeed the Son of God, God Himself, bringing the salvation the Jews had spent many centuries expecting and hoping and praying for and looking forward to. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace who brings peace into our troubled lives in these turbulent times as we put our trust in him and pray to him.
So we can join the crowds in praising Jesus today. Even if we don’t praise God, the whole of creation will!
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’
40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
In the musical Jesus Christ Superstar Tim Rice’s lyrics put it this way.
“Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.
If every tongue was still the noise would still continue.
The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing!”
38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

A hymn for Palm Sunday

RIDE ON, RIDE ON IN MAJESTY! In lowly pomp ride on to die!
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin O’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! Hark all the tribes ‘hosanna’ cry;
Thine humble beast pursues his road With palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on His sapphire throne Expects His own anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die!
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain, Then take, O God, Thy power, and reign!

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