Luke 19:28-40 The Triumphal Entry
What have you ever had to wait for? Have you ever waited in anticipation for your birthday to arrive or even Christmas? As a child these two events were always the subject of much waiting and anxiety. I had trouble waiting. I would often try to make proposals to my parents to open ‘early Christmas gifts.’ What is it about waiting that is so difficult for us? Well, it’s not just you or I, it is mostly everyone.
Keep that feeling in your mind- waiting for your birthday to come- and imagine having to wait almost six hundred years. Imagine being an entire group of people waiting six hundred years for your special day. Imagine how excited you would be when you realize that today is your day! What has become known as ‘Palm Sunday’ was that day for the Jewish people in the first century. Let’s go back for a moment. Let’s go back to around 520 BC to a man named Zechariah. Zechariah was a Jewish prophet born in Babylon during a period of exile of the nation of Israel. Zechariah made a prophecy in the 500’s BC that reads, “Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been waiting for their Messiah. Ever since God’s covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Israelites have been waiting for their deliverance from oppression. God told Isaac, “I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham, your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed …” (Gen. 26:3b-4) The Jewish people were perpetually in a cycle. It was a state of closeness with God, sin, judgement, captivity, release. This went on for generations. God sent His prophets to bring His children (Israel) back to Him. Like a mother hen gathers her chicks, (Matt. 23:37) God wants to gather His children to Him. Israel was waiting for this deliverer who would come humbly on a donkey and overthrow Jewish oppressors.
Luke writes, in his gospel, that Jesus sent two of His disciples into a village near Bethany. He tells them, “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.’” What follows is Jesus- the teacher who has spent the last three years traveling around the surrounding areas healing the sick and raising the dead- riding into Jerusalem before Passover on a donkey. Yes, the guy everyone was talking about, who proclaimed the Kingdom of God being at hand, who raised the dead a week or so earlier, is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey!
The disciples at first did not put two and two together (John 12:16) but, when the crowds started singing and shouting and glorifying Jesus, the lightbulb went on. The crowd who had just seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead were bearing witness to that event to all the others who had gathered. Talk about exciting! This is it! He’s here! Rome will be defeated and our Messiah will set up His Kingdom! Not so fast, Israel.
The events that followed were Jesus clearing the temple of all the swindlers and money changers and eventually his betrayal by a close friend, abandonment by the rest of his friends, his trial, beating and crucifixion. For a triumphant king coming to claim his kingdom, this seems like a bum deal. I thought this was the promised Messiah? When the people of Israel realized that this was not what they thought Messiah would be, they turned on Jesus so fast it could cause whiplash. Sunday they shouted ‘Hosanna’ and Friday they shouted ‘Crucify him!’
If only they realized earlier that this, in fact, was their promised Messiah. When Jesus was lead like a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7) and fulfilled over twenty prophecies regarding Messiah in one day, the world should have recognized who Jesus was. Jesus came to His own and His own did not receive him (John 1:11). Even his disciples thought that maybe they had it wrong. When Jesus was executed, many thought, “Well, I guess we were wrong.” One of the only ones who recognized who Jesus was during the crucifixion was a Roman soldier. When the sky turned black at three in the afternoon, and there was an earthquake, and the tombs of the dead were opened and the curtain of the temple was torn, one man said, “Surely this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54)
Are you the Israelites or the Roman centurion? Do you recognize the fulfilled prophecy and the un-repayable gift that was given for all humanity? The Gospel, or good news, is this: Jesus was the prophesied Messiah who gave His life for every single person who has ever, and will ever live. He conquered death and rose again and is preparing a place for each person who accepts the reality of what has been done. There is NOTHING that you can do to earn this gift. Whether or not you choose to believe that Christ died in your place, does not change the fact that He did. It’s as if on the day you are trying out for the school orchestra, before playing a single note, you are told that you are first chair. You do not need to do, then you receive. You receive, and then you do. If you recognize that Christ died for you and you believe that to be true, your response should be that of gratitude. That gratitude makes you want to live a life that reflects the love of your creator God. And THAT is the Gospel. Jesus IS what we thought!