From the time of D-Day to the end of World War 2 in Europe U.S. soldiers were trained to do something very simple but something that also had a great impact. They were told that whenever they were advancing on a German position and saw a wire on the ground, they were to take just those few seconds and cut that wire. Many times as the Germans retreated, they tried to blow up bridges to prevent the Americans from following them, but because the wires had been cut to the explosives the bridges were spared. And that enabled the advancing American army to move faster and with fewer casualties. It was a very simple and small thing to do, but it had a significant impact in the overall picture.
I. The decisive action by Jesus is evident in verse 28.
Luke says that after Jesus told the parable of the Ten Minas, “He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” This sets an ominous tone for Jesus and his disciples knew what they would face in Jerusalem. The authorities were hostile and had already given instructions anyone who knew where Jesus was should give them that information so that he could be arrested. But far from hiding in fear, Jesus came to Jerusalem publicly and as we will see, triumphantly. That resolve of Jesus is reflected in a small detail that Luke says as well in verse 28. Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem, boldly leading his disciples into the confrontation.
Let’s look a bit more closely at what Jesus is doing by entering Jerusalem in this way. First, notice that Jesus deliberately enables and encourages a public demonstration. Jesus knows that by entering Jerusalem in this way, the crowd will grow and become vocal. He knows that this will enrage the Jewish leaders so that they will want more than ever to carry out their plot against him.
Second, notice that by doing this Jesus forces the Jewish leaders to move up their timetable. Mark 14: 1-2 says, “Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.” To fulfill His role as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Jesus knew that He must be killed on the Passover and so He forces their hand to kill Him before they wanted to. Jesus has all this in mind as He prepares to enter Jerusalem.
As Jesus approaches Bethany and Bethphage near the Mount of Olives, He sets things into motion. Jesus sends two of His disciples to go into a village, likely Bethphage, to get a donkey for Him. There they will find a colt which no one has ever ridden. They are to untie it and if anyone questions them, they are to say, “The Lord needs it.” Luke doesn’t make it clear if Jesus knew all these details because of His divine nature or if He had made prior arrangements with the owners of this colt to use this colt. If it was something that Jesus had arranged beforehand, “the Lord needs it” might have been the “password,” so to speak, which would allow the owners to let the disciples have it. If this was a case of divine knowledge, then somehow the owners submit to the Lordship of Jesus and allow Jesus to have it. The disciples go and they find everything just as Jesus said.
Now why does Luke include all these details? He must have seen something significant in this. First, the fact that this colt had never been ridden points to Jesus as King and God. Kings would ride on animals that had not been used before and so this points to Jesus as King. Moreover, the colt is also holy to the Lord and so was reserved exclusively for Jesus’ service.
Second, this points to the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. “Rejoice greatly, 0 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.” This would make a powerful statement that Jesus is the promised Messiah who had been promised from the time of the Old Testament.
Third, there is something very special in the message, “the Lord needs it.” Jesus had not often referred to Himself as “Lord.” By using this term in this way, Jesus is also announcing Himself as Lord.
Finally, there is something subtle, yet powerful in the actions of these disciples and the owners of this colt. These two disciples were sent on a rather mundane mission: go get a donkey. You can imagine them wondering why they have to go do this task when the others can stay behind with Jesus. Yet they obey and go do exactly what Jesus told them to do. The owners of the colt as well simply yield to the Lordship of Jesus. The owners were likely poor since there were two owners for this one very humble animal. Yet they were willing to let the Lord use it for His purposes.
These are two simple acts of obedience, but look what Jesus does with that simple obedience. He takes their simple obedience and uses it to make His official pronouncement that He has come as the promised Messiah to save His people.
That is something that should be comforting to all of us. There are times when we do things in our lives that don’t seem to be very important. We try to live a simple, but obedient life for the Lord. What we see today is that obedience in the small, the mundane, is significant. There was nothing exciting about going to rent a donkey or letting Jesus use such a donkey. Yet Jesus used this to proclaim His mission publicly. What we may see as being insignificant may actually be instrumental in the Kingdom. We must be willing to say, “Lord, it’s only my car or my house, but use it for your Kingdom.” Jesus can take what seems to be insignificant and use it powerfully in His overall mission.
III. The Triumphant Entry itself is described in verses 37-38.
As Jesus nears Jerusalem Luke says that the “whole crowd of disciples” began to joyfully praise God. As the cheering procession developed, more and more people join in. They had seen Jesus heal the sick and perform other miracles. Those from Bethany had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead just recently. And now Jesus comes) riding on the colt as the Messiah and they welcome him as the promised One.
They shout: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” They are quoting Psalm 118:26 which is thinking of King David when it says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.” The people in the crowd insert the word “king” into this verse because they are hoping Jesus will be the one who would restore the earthly kingdom and be a king like David was. They are viewing Jesus as an earthly king who would rescue them from the Romans. They misunderstood how Jesus would be the Messiah, but they still proclaim Him as Messiah.
Moreover, they are shouting, “peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Sound familiar? This is very similar to what the angels sang when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They sang, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.” The crowd accompanying Jesus echoes that song, only they are shouting, “Peace in heaven.” At Jesus’ birth there was peace on earth; now as Jesus is about to die and rise again, there is peace in heaven. Now there will be peace between God and man; there is reconciliation that takes away the conflict, the division between God and man. Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection will bring peace in heaven as well as earth. And for that reason, the people are shouting, “Glory in the highest!”
That is why we should be filled with joy on this Palm Sunday. There is now peace in heaven because of Jesus! We don’t need to tremble in fear in the presence of God. We don’t have to fear facing eternal death because of our sins. And, in fact, we can know that some day when we die, we will be in heaven with God. Why? Because of what Jesus did as Messiah, there is now peace in heaven between those who believe in Jesus and God Himself. Philip Yancey writes, “Ask people what they must do to get to heaven, and most reply, ‘Be good.’ Jesus' stories contradict that answer. All we must do is cry, ‘Help!’ God welcomes home anyone who will have him and, in fact, has made the first move already. Most experts -- doctors, lawyers, marriage counselors -- set a high value on themselves and wait for clients to come to them. Not so God.”
IV. That necessity to praise is seen in verses 39-40.
Not all see the need for such an exuberant and praise filled procession as we see in the Pharisee’s charge. They must have figured it would be pointless to ask or tell the crowd to settle down. So they go straight to Jesus and ask Him to tell the people to settle’ down. Why did they want the crowd to be quiet? Moreover, they certainly didn’t want to see Jesus proclaimed as Messiah. However, perhaps more than anything else, they didn’t want to rock the boat, as it were. Make no mistake; the Pharisees didn’t like the Romans anymore than anyone else, but they opposed the use of force to overthrow the Romans. Such a demonstration could cause the Romans to squash this perceived uprising and make things difficult for everyone. So they tell Jesus to make the people be quiet.
Jesus answer is beautiful: “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Jesus’ point is that such joyful shouting is inevitable! This may reflect a saying from Habakkuk 2:11 which says that the stones will cry out against the evil in the land. Thus, if the disciples are forced to be quiet, the stones will shout out against that evil. Or it may mean that if the disciples are forced to be quiet, the stones themselves will be forced to pick up the praise for Jesus must be praised and welcomed as the Messiah. When the Savior comes to save His people, the people must shout out in gratitude to God. Does this mean that Jesus approved of what was taking place? He didn’t approve of the people’s misunderstanding of that messiahship. But Jesus is Messiah and King and one cannot be silent about that.
Jesus is our Savior and King and we cannot be silent about this. That is why it is important to think regularly about what Jesus has done for us. If someone stepped in front of a speeding car and died so that you would be spared, would you just walk away and think nothing more of it? I certainly hope not! Jesus took our place on the cross and died for us. His death not only brings us forgiveness but also new life. That is not a ho-hum thing. That demands that we shout out in praise to God!
How? In our worship, let’s realize that we are singing to our Savior and King who saved us and not act as if we are sitting through just another same old Sunday morning. In our resurrection lives, we are to live each minute, each moment as an expression of gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ. When we have the opportunity to serve, whether in getting a donkey for the Lord or by becoming a missionary to some distant land, we obey joyfully knowing God will use our efforts. Ask yourself what God wants you to do for him and then joyfully fulfill the mission he has given you to do in your life. But whatever we do, we must proclaim Jesus as Lord every day.
Jesus has come as Messiah and King to save His people. Let’s shout out our praise and proclaim to all our gratitude every day for what God has done for us thr