Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
Luke’s gospel has been setting us up for this for a long time now. All the way back in chapter 9, it said that Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. Chapter 13 reminded us that Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem. We have had this big long section from chapter 9 until here where Jesus had been on the way to Jerusalem. And in both those earlier references to his heading toward Jerusalem, it mentioned that his death awaited him there. So, Luke has been drawing us toward this moment, building up his arrival at this time into Jerusalem with great anticipation. Here, finally, the Messiah has arrived in Jerusalem, to do the very work he had come to do. To clarify, this was not by any means the first time Jesus had come to Jerusalem. His previous ministry in Jerusalem is recorded in other gospel accounts. But there is something different with this trip to Jerusalem. It’s surely why Luke’s gospel highlights it in this climactic way, with building it up since chapter 9. Jesus comes here to Jerusalem in a bold and public way that he had not before. Here, we see the glory of the Messiah coming to the city of God’s people, just as long prophesied by the prophets at many times and in many ways. Yet, as Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem here as the Messiah, he knows that quickly it will lead to his betrayal, arrest, suffering, and then death on the cross. He knew this, but that is in fact why he came and central as to why his arrival here in Jerusalem was so climactic.
So then, while our passage is one big scene of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem, it does have a natural three-scene division. Let’s take them in order then, beginning first with verses 28-40. This first section begins with Jesus still a short ways off from Jerusalem, about to begin his final ascent into the city. The text tells us that he was in the area of the Mount of Olives near the two villages of Bethphage and Bethany. That put him approximately two miles east of Jerusalem. It is at that point he instructs his disciples to secure a colt for him, one never ridden before. As a side note, the text tells us of how they spoke with the owner, so this was not a stolen but loaned animal, but I digress. But, Jesus then rides this colt to Jerusalem, and we read of his triumphal entry.
Notice then the glory of all this. As he rides on this colt, the multitude of his disciples laud his coming. They lay down their cloaks. Elsewhere we learn they also laid down palm branches. Basically, they are spreading out the red carpet for him, so to speak. They then praise him and herald him as king. Verse 38, they say, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” That’s a quote of Psalm 118:26, though they add the word “King” here. Surely Psalm 118 was speaking of a coming king, but they proclaimed what was only implied in the psalm. They clearly see Psalm 118 finding its fulfillment here with Jesus entering Jerusalem as the Messiah King. Notice that there words go on in verse 38 to say “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Luke’s gospel really draws us to recognize the majesty of this when we hear those words again. I say again, because the last time we heard similar words, was at Jesus’ birth, and then by the angels. There, the angels declare peace on earth, and glory in the highest. Here, the disciples declare peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. At Jesus’ birth, his great glory was disclosed to some. But since then, Jesus has been very guarded in how he let his glory be known. But now it returns in a bit of symmetrical fashion. But now his glory begins to be broadcast in a broader and more public way.
Let me make sure this is clear what I’m getting at. In this first scene, Jesus is being shown as the king that he is. He is heralded here as king. And this was Jesus’ clear intention. Remember, it was Jesus who asked for a colt to be brought to him. His riding that colt into Jerusalem was him fulfilling the prophecy by Zechariah 9:9 that foretold the Messianic King would come in that fashion. By his initiative, he is clearly and publicly fulfilling that, and by so doing, he is clearly and publicly claiming to be the long-awaited King of God’s people.
Let me further clarify. Jesus is not being secretive here about this. Why am I making that point? Because earlier in Luke’s gospel we saw that Jesus was repeatedly concerned to not make his identity as the Messiah known. He silenced demons who tried to reveal that truth. In a similar way, he would tell people he miraculously healed to not tell others about it. In chapter 9, we learn why. There, his disciples finally come to confess that he is the Christ, and he strictly charged them to tell that to no one. He then explains and foretells his suffering, death and resurrection. But you see that is what is different now. Before this, he had a public teaching ministry to accomplish before it was the appointed time for him to suffer and die. He guarded his messianic identity until that appointed time. But now, the hour was soon at hand. Now, he would no longer keep his Messianic identity a secret. It was his idea here to do such a bold and public sign as ride in on this colt in fulfillment of prophecy. And when all the disciples start lauding him as king, he does not rebuke them or silence them. The Pharisees even demand him to do that here, but he won’t. Before, Jesus would have silenced them. Not any more. Now, this message must be heralded. That’s why Jesus says that if they are silent, then even the rocks would cry out. This must happen. He must be declared here as king. Yet, ironically, the glory of proclaiming him as king here is in service of God’s plan for the Messiah to first suffer. The bold declaring that Jesus is king is setting things up for the religious leaders to reject him and have him killed on the cross. Jesus knew this, and that is also why this must happen here. But for now, let us not miss the glory of this moment, Jesus here rightly heralded as the king that he is.
Let us now turn to the second scene and consider verses 41-44. Notice the setting. He had been riding from the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem on that two-mile stretch. Now he is making his final approach the city and Jerusalem comes into sight. He’s almost there. And as he beholds the city, he weeps. He explains why he weeps for the city. The have not know that day the things that make for peace. Notice the timing of “that day”. That is explained further at verse 44 when he speaks of their visitation. Jesus as the Messiah had visited him that day. But as we know from his predictions, the city in general was not going to receive him. There, that day, he came as the Messiah king to visit them unto salvation. He, their savior had come to bring peace. But they would be rejecting that savior, and so they would be missing out on that peace.
So then, Jesus weeps for them. This weeping includes weeping for what Jesus prophesies will happen in verse 43. Jesus prophesies there that the days will be coming upon Jerusalem where they’ll be besieged, conquered, and completely destroyed. The temple will be destroyed. The city and its wall would be destroyed. That would in fact come to pass in 70 AD when the Roman general Titus who later become emperor came and defeated them during the Great Jewish Revolt. But Jesus here prophesies that their future destruction would be related to how they rejected him as messiah. Jerusalem would indeed be horribly destroyed in 70 AD. This prophecy would come to pass. In poetic justice, history records that Titus brought four legions to siege to the city just before Passover, when the city occupancy was full of Jewish pilgrims for the feast. Then a brutal five-month long siege was endured until the city walls were finally breached. The city was set to fire, the temple completely destroyed, and the city devastated, with much loss of Jewish life. And ultimately, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was a foretaste of the final day of judgment that will come upon all who persist in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah.
It is important to note that this was not the first time that God decreed the destruction of Jerusalem. Previously, the city under the old covenant had been destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians. While that was also pagans destroying what was supposed to be the capital city of God’s people, that was also God’s judgment upon how wayward Israel had become. God’s people had largely apostatized back then, like they were doing again at Jesus’ day when they rejected him. When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, it was a similarly devasting result, and that is when the first temple had been destroyed. Israel’s great sin and rebellion against God had brought such a divine judgment upon them. So then, while Jesus prophesies and weeps regarding the downfall of Jerusalem, it was not the first time that the city had so fell.
It was also not the first time that the city had been wept over. I refer now back to the prophet Jeremiah, who is endearingly known as the Weeping Prophet. Jeremiah was a prophet in the period of time preceding and leading up to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. In the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, his weeping is recorded on multiple occasions, weeping over the city of Jerusalem in light of its destruction by the Babylonians. Here are some examples. Jeremiah 13:17, “My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.” Jeremiah 14:17, “Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease, for the virgin daughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow.” Lamentations 2:11, “My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.” Lamentations 3:48, “My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
So then, Jesus’ climactic coming here into the city is not just in glory as its king. It is also in lamentation as a prophet foretelling and lamenting its coming destruction. Jesus looks like Jeremiah the Weeping Prophet here. Or, more accurately, Jeremiah was a type of Christ in his prophetic ministry. It’s why some people mistakenly had thought Jesus was Jeremiah back from the dead, Matthew 16:14. Jesus, as the Messiah coming to Jerusalem, shows himself here to be a prophet coming to God’s people.
Let’s turn now to our third scene as we consider verses 45-48. Here we see Jesus entering the temple. I think it is often missed that this is all part of the triumphal entry. It’s easy to miss that when you have section markers added by the publishers of our Bibles. Jesus didn’t just ride in on a young donkey and then this is some separate unrelated trip to the temple. No, observe what our whole passage has shown us. Scene one showed Jesus riding up on the way to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, then scene two showed Jesus arriving at the city, and then this third scene shows us where he goes right when he gets there. So very fittingly, he goes right to the temple. And this too fulfills prophecy, because when he comes to the temple, it is to cleanse it. Malachi 3 prophesied that God would one day send the Messiah and that he would come to the temple to purify it, and to purify the priests and Levites, so that the people’s worship would be righteous and pleasing to the LORD. Here, that is what Jesus is doing.
Jesus sees people selling, verse 45, and he drives them out. I remember all the critiques Jesus has been making about how so many of the religious leaders were lovers of money. Well, here, we see people who must be lovers of money even at the temple, trying to make more money. Jesus then quotes yet another prophecy, again from Jeremiah, about the people in the temple, being like robbers in a den. The quote from Jeremiah 7:9-11 is actually describing how the people were sinners in various ways, not just in matters of stealing. That the people back then would sin all week long, then come to the temple and worship God and act all holy. Jeremiah lamented how the temple had become a refuge for such unrepentant sinners. Of course, to clarify, the church should be a refuge for sinners, but as a hospital not a hideout. It’s to be a place for repentant sinners, who are looking to God for forgiveness of sins and for grace to grow in righteous living. So then, Jesus quotes Jeremiah to say that this is what was happening again. Godless people were there in the temple, going through the motions of religion, but they weren’t people who truly loved the Lord. In this case, there were people taking up space in the temple who weren’t even pretending to worship, but were actually just brazenly looking to turn a profit. So then, Jesus looked to begin to purify the temple by especially driving out the most egregious desecrators.
Now when making spiritual reformation, it is not enough to just put off the bad things. You also need to put on the good things. So then, Jesus not only puts away these vendors in the temple, but Jesus then began to teach daily in the temple. As Malachi prophesied, the Messiah would reform not just the temple itself, but also the priests and Levites. This is something that you may not be familiar with, but the temple was not just to be a place of prayer and worship, it was also to be a place for teaching. Under the old covenant it was the job of the priests and Levites to be the regular teachers of God’s Word. We often mistakenly think that was the role of prophets, and while is true to a degree, the prophets had more of an extraordinary role compared to the priests. The prophets tended to be mouth-pieces of God for new revelation on special occasions when God so desired to send the people a special message. But the priests and Levites were the ones in charge of the regular instruction and discipleship of the people. There job was to make sure God’s Word was being conveyed to the people regularly so that they could keep faithful to God’s covenant. We find that this was their duty in passages like Leviticus 10:11 and Deuteronomy chapters 31 and 33, and there are various examples in the Old Testament of them doing this. So then, Jesus takes up this teaching role there in the temple. He was teaching the people there daily. The people were hanging on his words and really enjoying his instruction. As a side not of application, we are reminded here that being a Sabbatarian that emphasizes what we do on Sundays together at church doesn’t take away from the truth that there is also a place for midweek ministry. While weekly worship on Sundays is commanded to us, midweek ministry is commended to us, and we would be wise to make time for such.
Coming back then to the passage, here we see that Jesus comes to Jerusalem as the Messiah and shows himself to also be a priest. He comes as a priest to bring much needed reformation to the temple. He sought to remove what should not have been there and put in the Bible teaching what should have been there.
So then, we are not surprised that in verse 47 all this temple reformation contributed to opposition against Jesus by the chief priests and the scribes and principal men of the people. I’m sure the priests would have felt rebuked when Jesus comes and cleans house and starts doing what you were supposed to be doing. Interestingly, in Luke’s gospel, we’ve seen Jesus’ primary opposition so far by the Pharisees. But now with this reference to opposition from the priests, we bring the Sadducees into the picture because the priesthood and the other temple leadership were generally Sadducees. Likely, the list of people in verse 47 were all various Sadducees connected with the temple. In other words, like how the Pharisees were not happy with Jesus coming here as a king or a prophet, the Sadducees were not happy here with Jesus coming and acting as a priest. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem managed to upset every group of religious leaders. But this was not an accident, rather it was his intention to bring the confrontation to full light and so accomplish the work that he came to do.
So then, in conclusion of today’s passage, I hope you have seen what I hoped you would see. That for Jesus to come in this climactic way into Jerusalem is to come as a prophet, priest, and king. We have another beautiful passage of Scripture that presents Jesus in these three important offices. For us to speak of the coming of Christ, is to speak of God sending a prophet, priest, and king. And he is not just another prophet, priest, and king, but he is the ultimate prophet, priest, and king. He is the superlative of these, the par excellence of these.
This is what Jesus was when he came as Christ to Jerusalem back then. And this is what he will continue show himself to be, and all the more. Think of how we will see this yet in the future. There awaits for us another triumphal entry when King Jesus returns at his second coming to usher in the fullness of his kingdom in consummate glory. He has prophesied that on that day he will bring a New Jerusalem down out of heaven, a place he has prepared for us. Then there will be weeping no more, for he will wipe away our every tear, and we will have peace. Hebrews tells us that Jesus will continue as a priest forever (7:3), and Revelation 21:22 tells us that in the New Jerusalem there won’t be a physical temple structure because Jesus with God will be the temple. So then, Jesus is and always will be, prophet, priest, and king, for his saved people. And we are his people, if you trust in him by faith.
All of this was made possible because Jesus climactically came into Jerusalem back then and put things into motion that resulted in the Pharisees and Sadducees leading the people and Rome against Jesus. This resulted in his suffering and death in our place. But he would not remain dead, but would rise again and show himself alive as the glorious and triumphant Messiah.
Let us then wait in faith for his second coming. As glorious as his triumphal entry here into Jerusalem was, his second coming will be all the more. So that then we will come to know the peace of heaven and his glory in the highest when Christ our prophet, priest, and king, appears.
Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
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