For our last Going Deeper of 2018, grab your Bible and let’s dig into Luke 19.
It is awesome timing that we are reading about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into our world at Christmas. The fact is that while Herod was afraid of a King who would rise up to take over at the time of Jesus’ birth, by the time Jesus was in His thirties and doing ministry, many had lost sight of His road to being king or still saw it only through a temporary lens. Maybe this is something we still struggle with today.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we see that Jesus had reserved this event to make it known that He was the Messiah—the King! Jesus had not sought to be openly known as the Messiah until then. He did not want the waters to be stirred too early. Looking back now, we can see why. What the authorities did with Christ when they were convinced that He was a threat was literally deadly!
Read Luke 19:28-38.
The words the people shouted were not just random words. The people were singing and chanting the words of a song—one that generations of Jews had sung for almost 1,000 years. It was a song that David had written as a prayer for the people’s salvation—a prayer of hope and deliverance! It’s found in Psalm 118:25-27.
Even though they were singing the songs of their ancestors, and even with more than a thousand years of history and teaching, the people in that moment were looking for the wrong kind of savior. We’ll get back to this.
It’s important that we understand the formal entry of a king into a city in that day. During Jesus' day, Pilate ruled over Jerusalem as a Roman governor. Pilate's superior would have been Caesar. In those days, there were a few times each year that all Jewish people were supposed to go to Jerusalem to celebrate specific holidays together. The Romans were in charge and ruled over Jerusalem, but during these celebrations, the Jews would have certainly outnumbered the Romans who were present in the city.
Pilate, the Roman governor, would have probably felt pretty wary about these festivals. It would have been a stressful time in government and there was also the ever-present threat that if the Jews decided to all work together, they might have been able to overtake him. Now, Pilate lived in a mansion in Caesarea, but during these festivals, and specifically this week known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover, Pilate would march into Jerusalem to keep things in order during the festival.
His procession was designed to be authoritative and to show his power. It was designed to scare the people so that they would never even dream of uprising against Rome.
The procession began with the Roman emblem, which was an eagle.
Behind the eagle in the procession came the Roman soldiers carrying etchings of the Caesars with all kinds of things reminding the people of all the power they had and all the battles they had won. The etchings were all about power, strength, and domination.
The soldiers marched with metal shields, which made a loud sound and brought about fear and terror to the people watching.
Pilate entered next on a horse—a huge stallion—again, a symbol of power, strength, and military conquest.
Pilate entered Jerusalem on a horse from the west.
Now, Luke 19 describes another event, which happened the same week. Jesus went to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. While looking from the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem could be seen to the west just past the Kidron Valley. They had brought the donkey to Him and people had spread their cloaks on the road as He went past them chanting, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" This word "King" might not have been a good choice to use in light of Pilate, who had just come in, himself.
Read again Luke 19:39-44.
Let’s set the scene. There were a bunch of stones and graves on the Mount of Olives, because the Jews believed that the Messiah would raise from the dead all the good Jews who had died. From there they believed He would lead them all into Jerusalem where there would be peace and prosperity. Therefore, they all wanted to be buried near Jerusalem.
The Pharisees told them to be quiet, but Jesus said basically, "I'm the Messiah who will raise these people from the dead!" The Pharisees certainly knew what Jesus was talking about.
What about the fact that Jesus didn't walk into the city, but rode a donkey? In the Old Testament, we read what Zechariah had said years ago in 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.
By riding in on a donkey Jesus is saying, "Hey, I'm the One you've been waiting for."
Read again Luke 19:41-44.
Jesus is talking about the demise of the city. Jerusalem would fall about 70 years later. This is the result of the people all being focused on the wrong kingdom victory. Jesus is sad because many will miss the truth He brings—the peace He brings.
Now check this out:
Pilate came from the west proclaiming his war abilities.
Jesus came from the east, so He could proclaim peace.
Jesus' kingdom is totally different from the kingdom of Rome. His kingdom is about peace, not war. It’s about life, not oppression.
Jesus’ parade is for the humble who enjoy Him rather than the parade for Pilate which is for the proud who enjoy themselves.
Now, kings typically rode on horses or in chariots with the power proclamation of their officials, tools of war and weaponry, and many times were followed by the people they had conquered. But not Jesus. Jesus’ entry was all about peace. It was about a power that was bigger than man’s weapons and trophies. The real battle was about to go down, but it would be fought by Him on behalf of us. His blood would pour out—not ours.
Peace is what Jesus brings to those who will trust in Him. But too often we long for a savior that only brings a momentary peace
instead of looking for something deeper—something life changing—something eternal, a lasting peace. The people longed for Jesus to come into Jerusalem and be crowned into power and change the political and social scenery.
They had lost their passion for the restored relationship that the Messiah would be for them, spiritually. They were looking for a king to change things. But the change they desired was about monetary fruit, political peace, and safe borders. It was all about temporary stuff. Even while many were missing the point of who Jesus was and would be, God was not sitting in heaven frustrated. God was carrying out a plan of deliverance and of hope—a plan that would set us free.
When the people stood that day on the side of the road, they shouted “The Son of David is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king! He is here!” And when they shouted, "Hosanna in the highest!" it meant, "Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song of hope and salvation!" The kind of savior they thought they were shouting to, is often the kind of savior we cry out to.
They were so oppressed by abusive taxation and hierarchical rule that they believed Jesus was showing up to take over the city, claim the throne, and change the political, economic, and social landscape. But Jesus didn’t come to be the popular leader of the day who would change the political, economic, and social landscape—the kind of leader who would ride His fame to the top. Jesus was an altogether different leader. Jesus was coming not to bring temporary solutions or patches of policy remix. He was coming to bring life to what was dead.
He was coming to find what was totally and utterly lost in the darkness. And instead of climbing up on the throne, He let Himself be caught, falsely accused, beaten, lied about, and condemned to death. So much so that many of those who a week earlier had screamed, “Hosanna!” with palm branches hoping for a temporary fix to their problems, now yelled, “Crucify Him!” when they saw that He wouldn’t give them what they wanted right then.
Here is the thing. Don’t you and I do this all the time? We go to God or to church hoping for God to simply make what we already have better, to make what once worked the way we liked it work again, or give us a little more of what we have.
And when He doesn’t deliver the way we want, we bail on Him, too. Some leave the church or the club. Some stay but are not truly surrendered to Him, trusting in Him, enjoying Him. We are guilty of crying out for a prosperity gospel. A fix-my-circumstances-for-me-now-and-then-I-will-praise-you kind of leader.
Thank God for Jesus Christ. Thank God that we have a God that loves us despite our selfish ways and worldly idol worship. We have a God who rode on the back of a lowly donkey into the city that long-ago Palm Sunday knowing that He was bringing to His enemies a salvation that was far beyond politics, the economy, and social stability. He was saving us from eternal death.
So, when we sing, “Hosanna!” now, in these days after Jesus’ death and resurrection which has saved us forever from our deserved punishment, we must see and sing, “Salvation has come! Salvation has come!”
The Son of David has come. He has saved us from guilt and fear and hopelessness. Salvation! Salvation belongs to our God and to the Son! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! The King has come!