(Please read Luke 19:28-44 & 23:32-34. I quote the NIV.)
Message: At Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and crucifixion are examples of people who did and did not understand.
- The crowd celebrated (19:28-38).
The details of the account in vs. 28-35 are there to tell us that Jesus prepared this parade. The details of the colt and the code phrase are not meant to describe some sort of miracle. Instead, they demonstrate Jesus’ control over the situation; He prepared to enact a symbolic entry into Jerusalem that the pious pilgrims would immediately understand. When Jesus set this parade in motion, He was doing so under the orders of God the Father. We know that’s so because Jesus said that He did not do anything except what God told Him to (John 5:19).
Verses 36-38 tell us the people were joyous participants; they understood perfectly what Jesus was demonstrating, knew the symbolism, and responded enthusiastically. Their part was spontaneous.
We wonder how, a week later, the crowd could turn on Jesus and demand His crucifixion. The answer is that these were two entire different groups. Let’s make this clear. The group that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem we’ll call “the crowd.” The group that shouted for His death is “the mob.”
The Crowd was made up of out-of-towners; pilgrims, religious tourists; faithful folk who had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They came from all over the ancient world. A faithful Jew was to return to Jerusalem once a year; most of them chose to return for the Passover.
The Mob was made up of locals; residents of Jerusalem fully allied with the priests and other leaders, ready to do as ordered. When the religious leaders thought a mob threatening to riot would influence the Roman governor, they called upon their faithful flock to turn out and coached them on what they were to say.
- The complainers crabbed (19:39-40).
Their complaint was that the crowd was out of control. Luke identifies the complainers as PHARISEES. Let’s review who these people were.
– They were the most religious people around: they had probably memorized the entire OT, and tried to keep all the details of the Law, and in addition the 600+ interpretations of the Law that teachers had added over the centuries and which they considered on a par with Scripture. Because they were so legalistic, they could easily keep the letter of the law but neglect the weightier matters of the Spirit.
– The common people both respected and hated the Pharisees, and the Pharisees treated the people with contempt, especially “sinners.”
– They were dogged protectors of the status quo. Thought they chafed under Roman rule as much as anyone, they defended the power, authority, prestige, and money the system provided them.
– These are the reasons the Pharisees so frequently put themselves in opposition to Jesus, why they feared Him, and why they conspired to kill Him.
So you can understand how they were upset with Jesus. They saw this whole episode as a threat. On this occasion, their opposition was particularly petty; “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” They told Jesus to end this parade and get these unruly pilgrims under control. (Notice how that word comes up!) They sought control and probably thought they had Jesus right where they wanted Him; He could either be defiant or shut them up. Either way, they won!
But Jesus’ response denied them control. He took a third option and effectively responded, “God is in control.” God is so much in control, and the parade was so much His will that if the pilgrims did not shout, then He would do something miraculous and make the stones under their feet shout out praise!
- The crowned Christ cried (19:41-44).
This event is unique to Luke’s Gospel. It fits perfectly with his theme, that Jesus came to find and save lost sinners.
It also fits in the sense that it is in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus three times pronounces a woe on Jerusalem.
– The first is in Luke 13:34-35 = “O JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM, YOU WHO KILL THE PROPHETS AND STONE THOSE SENT TO YOU, HOW OFTEN I HAVE LONGED TO GATHER YOUR CHILDREN TOGETHER, AS A HEN GATHERS HER CHICKS UNDER HER WINGS, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING! LOOK, YOUR HOUSE IS LEFT TO YOU DESOLATE. I TELL YOU, YOU WILL NOT SEE ME AGAIN UNTIL YOU SAY, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD’.”
– The second is here in chapter 19.
– The third is in Luke 21:20-24 = “WHEN YOU SEE JERUSALEM SURROUNDED BY ARMIES, YOU WILL KNOW THAT DESOLATION IS NEAR. FOR THIS IS THE TIME OF PUNISHMENT IN FULFILLMENT OF ALL THAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN. THERE WILL BE GREAT DISTRESS IN THE LAND AND WRATH AGAINST THIS PEOPLE. THEY WILL FALL BY THE SWORD AND WILL BE TAKEN AS PRISONERS TO ALL THE NATIONS. JERUSALEM WILL BE TRAMPLED ON BY THE GENTILES UNTIL THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES ARE FULFILLED.”
Still, this pronouncement against Jerusalem comes at an unexpected time. Jesus stood before a group of people cheering for Him when He stopped and cried for Jerusalem, bringing a prophecy o/t city’s doom. Imagine the emotional effect of “Santa Claus” stopping the Thanksgiving Day parade, climbing down from his float, kneeling in the middle of the street and pronouncing a tearful prophecy of New York City’s destruction. What a down beat!
Jesus cried because He foresaw their rejection of Him and what it would cost them; it broke His heart. Jesus did this because He had knowledge. He knew their present condition. He knew they were arrogant, rebellious, and stubborn and that they were going to reject Him. He also knew their future condition: He had already repeatedly predicted the downfall of the city.
As importantly, Jesus wept because He had had heart. Though they deserved the wrath that was going to be poured out on them, it was still heart-breaking for Him to see His people and their great city come to an end. God’s vengeance and wrath are not occasions for rejoicing, no matter how richly deserved – Jesus wept.
- The crucified Christ forgave (23:32-34).
They knew exactly what they were doing in the sense that His crucifixion was according to their plan. The religious authorities and the residents of Jerusalem acted in secret because they did not want the pilgrims to find out and riot on Jesus’ behalf. The betrayal of Judas allowed them to act under the cover of darkness and their conspiracy pushed the Roman governor to the action they wanted.
However, they did not know what they were doing in the sense that they did not know who they were crucifying. Their intent was to eliminate a threat to their control, their sense of orderly life. They thought Jesus was just a man who’d vaguely threatened the temple, another nut job who’d stir up the common folk and bring down another brutal Roman retaliation. They had rejected the notion that Jesus was the Messiah. They found Him guilty of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God. They clearly did not know who they had put on t cross. They did not know what they were doing.
Demonstrating the love and grace that should been seen in every one of His disciples, Jesus prayed to God the Father, asking Him to forgive them. The reason He gave was true; they didn’t know what they were doing.
Though they acted out of hatred and self-righteousness, their evil act was accomplishing God’s will. (Remember what Isaiah wrote; “It was the LORD’s will to CRUSH him.”) God is so powerful He can turn evil to good and accomplish His will!
The application of this passage is three-fold but simple:
#1 = DO BE LIKE THE CROWD; worship Jesus as your King. Get excited! The crowd was so happy to see Jesus they inconvenienced themselves to go and cut palm branches to wave at Him. They thought so much of Jesus and so little of their worldly possessions that they laid their cloaks on the road to honor him. (A person’s cloak was a prized possession, especially for a traveler!)
#2 = DON’T BE NASTY LIKE THE CRABBY PHARISEES. Obviously, not all Pharisees were like that bunch, but the name “Pharisee” has come to be a byword for hypocrites, control freaks, and nay-sayers. It’s ironic that they were the most religious people around and yet the people who incurred the sharpest rebukes from Jesus.
#3 = DO BE LIKE JESUS; He is our example in this passage in three specific ways.
a = How he dealt with the Pharisees. Dr. Jay Carter refers to this kind of behavior as “invalidating,” and the people who practice it as “invalidators.” Those Pharisees were saying that the procession was an invalid assembly and ordering Jesus to disperse the crowd. He refused to play their game or even to take them seriously. He turned to God.
b = What Jesus took very seriously was the outcome of His people. He looked upon the city with the eyes of God, saw their tragic future, and was moved to tears. We tend to get things backward: we’re moved to tears by invalidation and miss entirely the real threat: rebellion against God.
c = Most importantly, when He was on the cross, at the moment of the most gross injustice, Jesus was gracious and pleaded to the Father for the forgiveness of His persecutors. We need to seek the graciousness and gentleness of Jesus. The ends do not justify the means. Being right does not always mean that we have the right. We need to look on all people with the eyes of God to love and forgive.