Luke 19 – Triumph Paused
This post is part of an on-going series meant to compliment the wonderful commentary provided in D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God, Vol 1, which tracks along with the M’Cheyne reading plan. The links to both the reading plan and a free PDF of Carson’s book are available here.
Jesus, during his life, was an enigmatic figure. It wasn’t clear what people thought of him. In no better place is this typified then in Luke 9:18-20:
While He was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, that one of the ancient prophets has come back.” “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah!” (ESV)
While Peter’s declaration, standing in for the thoughts of the disciples, essentially nails that Jesus was the Messiah, the disciples have grave misgivings on exactly what this portends (see Luke 14:31-34). What is more important for our passage today, however, is that many of the people didn’t know what to make of Jesus. The disciples give a potpourri of answers to Jesus’ question, which implies strongly that no one actually knows.
So, as Jesus comes to Jerusalem, he kindly helps them out. In Luke 19:28-40, Jesus sends two disciples to get a colt for him. He instructs them on where to go, what kind of colt it is, and what to say if anyone should question them. Many think that this foresight on the part of Jesus is a demonstration of his deity: he can see the future and knows the actions that people will take. While this is possible, I think that it is just as likely that Jesus set the whole incident up on his own. He knew where the colt was, that it had never been ridden upon, and the owner of it because he had set it all up before. He did this to make an emphatic statement: he was the one who rides into Jerusalem riding on a colt.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech 9:9; HCSB)
The implication of this act is not lost on the crowd, who hail Jesus as the long-awaited Davidic King (v. 38). Jesus has finally shown his hand, as it were. He up and declares himself to be King, causing the people to rejoice for their salvation. While the Pharisees have problems with this, Jesus recognized that praise was due him, just as it was to his Father. “If these were silent, the stones would cry out!” is quite reminiscent of Psalm 148:
Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights.
Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts.
Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you shining stars.
Praise Him, highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of Yahweh, for He commanded, and they were created.
He set them in position forever and ever; He gave an order that will never pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth, all sea monsters and ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and cloud, powerful wind that executes His command,
mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle, creatures that crawl and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all judges of the earth, young men as well as young women, old and young together.
Let them praise the name of Yahweh, for His name alone is exalted.
His majesty covers heaven and earth.
He has raised up a horn for His people, resulting in praise to all His godly ones, to the Israelites, the people close to Him.
God is praised because he is the creator King, and even the sun, moon, stars, sea creatures, snow, mountains and hills, beasts and livestock know it. Jesus is likewise the King of all the earth, why should the rocks not cry out?
Yet, as Marcellus says in Hamlet, something ain’t right. Something is fishy in Jerusalem, and it soils the great procession. Notice that in Luke, Jesus does not enter as the triumphant King, but stops short to weep (9:41-44). The city where he should be crowned as the King of Kings will instead be ruined, “because you did not know the time of your visitation” (v. 44). Their King had arrived, but, even with all the jubilant hailing that happened, they were not prepared for him. What can we take away from this?
First, know that Jesus was under no doubt who he was. He himself, by taking this action, openly and clearly declared himself King. Further, he needed no earthly recognition of the fact that he was King, for he was the King by God’s decree and by rights. If the people didn’t notice, the rocks would have. We know this, and we need no formal recognition of it by any earthly authority to make it so.
Second, know that Jesus’ Kingdom is still displaced. While the world is rightfully his, it is not fully under his control yet. He will be butchered by the keepers of the land, executed as a common criminal, and discarded outside his own city. While the world is Jesus’, it is not yet fully his. We would do well to remember this. We are not in the promised land. We are not in the promised nation. We are but sojourners here, working to prepare Americans, and the world, for the assured return of her King. But our Kingdom neither rises nor falls with America.
Third, we would do well to weep. Righteous anger can be good, providing fuel for justice among God’s people. Christian, if you look around and are angry at being labelled a bigot, angry as you watch culture degrade itself in sin, angry as you are consistently mocked and chided for your beliefs, fine. Be angry. But weep as well. Jesus knew what was coming, he knew that inside that city were not just people who had gone astray, but brutal men waiting for their opportunity to destroy him and gain his inheritance (20:9-18). Even so, Jesus stops to weep. Christian, you likewise should weep. You should weep, knowing that Jesus is King, and will take what is his by force when he returns. Weep, knowing that those who reject the King now will be rejected later. Weep, knowing that there is a winepress for the furious wrath of our God. Weep knowing that the fields are white for harvest, but the laborers are few. Christian, for the love of your neighbor and the fame of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the quick and the dead, I beg of you, weep.
I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ…. Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night of day to admonish everyone with tears. (Acts 20:20-21, 31; ESV)