By Jared Warner
April 14, 2019
Willow Creek Friends Church
Luke 19:28–48 (ESV)
The Triumphal Entry
28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “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. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
I am probably the only pastor in the world that struggles with preparing sermons around this time of year. I struggle with the major holidays, you know Christmas and Easter, and this Sunday being Palm Sunday is in that Easter category. I have prayed about this, I have chided myself for this, because these are the days that really matter. These are the days of worship that are central to our very faith. Even with that self-condemnation I struggle. Why? I wish I had a good answer, but I mainly feel that it is because I have such strong faith in God, I have such a love for the Gospel that I do not want to place myself in the story.
This is one of my personal issues. Only one, because I have many, but we do not have time for all my confessions. I love the gospel. I love the story of Christ. I love the humanity and the divinity of Christ. I love that Christ came from heaven to live among mankind, that he is God with us. That very mystery of God fascinates me and has caught my attention for the past few months. Emmanuel, God with us. I do not feel that we explore that concept, that idea or theology, enough in our faith. Therefore, I struggle with these traditional Holy days, part of it is because of my love for our Friends traditions where every day is holy, but the other part is that the theology of the holy day is so often missed.
This day nearly two thousand years ago, crowds of people jubilantly cheered as they walked the road to Jerusalem. They were crying Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! For three years, Jesus had been teaching the people. He had been traveling throughout Judea and Galilee telling proclaiming the Gospel. The Gospel, the good news. This is something that we should be interested in. The gospel that Jesus taught was that the kingdom of God was at hand. Sometimes we forget that the kingdom of God is the Gospel. We focus instead on one part or another and say that is the gospel.
The same thing could be said about the people two thousand years ago. The gospel that Jesus preached was that the kingdom of God was at hand. When we say the word kingdom, we each have different ideas that course through our minds. For some it is the thought of empires, for others it is tyranny, for some it is freedom, and for some others it is slavery. Kingdom is a word that has positive and negative impact on our minds. And for the people of Israel in the first century, it meant different things as well. For centuries they had been waiting for the Messiah, the anointed one. Even the idea of Messiah had different meanings to people. Some thought that it was going to be a king. Some thought it was a priest. Some thought that it would be three separate people. When Jesus and John the Baptist said that the kingdom of God was near or at hand, this had people thinking very different things.
We might not understand why or even how these different ideas emerged, but it is in part because of our understanding of king and kingdom. The term kingdom can mean a nation ruled by a monarch, but it can also mean a sphere of influence. A kingdom can be on singular nation or it can be an abstract concept of intellectual ideas or religious identity.
The kingdom of God is at hand and for those people two thousand years ago, they celebrated the idea of a rising nation. They had lived under the lordship of other for several years. Israel was exiled, then they returned to their land but were ruled over by Persia and Greece. They briefly gained their independence only to invite the Roman empire into their land to help protect them from a reinvasion of a Hellenistic empire. This invitation became perverted and eventually became subject to Rome. They longed for freedom and independence. They longed to be a nation bound and influenced by their faith, but they could not even agree on what that meant.
They waved palms and chanted and proclaimed their king, and the religious leaders came out to Jesus and demanded that he silence the people. That sentiment shows us just how divided the first century people of Israel really were. You would think that if the entire nation was anticipating the coming king that when that king made an appearance they would rally together, but they were divided as to what this anointed one would be. When Jesus made his advent so many missed the mark because what they saw was not what they expected.
People are cheering, they are waving palm branches, and placing their coats on the ground before Jesus. Jesus is listening to their cheers. He gladly accepts them because he is Emmanuel and their true king. Yet in all this praise, Jesus weeps as he nears the city. The city is filling with people as they crowd into it for the Passover feast. They cheer because in their mind God is again going to deliver them from the hand of oppression that they celebrate every year. They cheer, and Jesus weeps.
Jesus looks at this city and weeps. I want us to really imagine this for a moment. For those of you that will be traveling to Israel this summer, I encourage you to remember this passage as you enter that holy city. For those of us that do not have that privilege I encourage you to look up a picture of city and to imagine instead of the dome of the rock imagine a bright shining white stone structure larger than several NFL Stadiums combine reflecting the light of the sun. With smoke rising from the alter signaling the prayers and praises of the people. Imagine the smells of burning meat, grains, and incense lofting over the city reminding everyone there of their sin, their blessings, and their prayers. Imagine the pride and the hope that that great city brings to the nations. Imagine that beauty and greatness. Imagine that city dedicated to the idea of peace, hope, and faith. Imagine it and remember this city caused God to weep.
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:42-44)
Jesus wept because after three years of teaching they still did not understand. After three years of God living among them, they were still unable to see what God desired for humankind. Jesus wept because he knows that the cheers would be converted into vengeance, that the vengeance would be converted into ambition, that the ambition would be converted to rebellion, and the rebellion would be converted into suffering. The city of peace. That is what the name Jerusalem literally means, the abode or city of peace. This city was the center of the religious establishment of the one true God, yet Jesus knew that they did not understand what it takes for peace to be established. It was hidden from them. Hidden in plain sight.
Jesus weeps over the city as he enters. Jesus weeps while those around him are praising his very name. Jesus weeps yet no one seems to notice that their king is mourning. They cheer him on up to the very temple courts. Still no one notices the sorrow of Christ. Jesus enters the courtyard of the temple; he sees all around him what humanity has made of something so precious and simple. Jesus knew Abraham, he knew Moses, he knew Elijah, he knew the prophets, he knew all those great men and women of faith. Those faithful that walked with God. Those that lived faith every single day of their life. Those that taught faith to their children and grandchildren. The fathers and mothers we still read about today. He knew them, yet when he walked into the temple, he did not see any resemblance of that life. What he saw was exploitation in God’s name. And he wept and he cried out in anger.
Today we celebrate the proclamation of Christ the king, but what does that really mean? If the kingdom is power and influence, Jerusalem had that, yet Jesus wept over that city. In Christ’s anger he cried out, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you made it a den of robbers.” A house of prayer? An abode of communion, community, unity, or peace. Jesus came to bring in the influence of communion with God, because God is with us. He came to bring peace not through the sword, or any other wielding of power but through mercy and sacrifice. Jesus wept for Jerusalem because that great city named for peace did not see what it took. True peace comes when we step back from our own personal agendas and we decide to work in conjunction with other for mutual profit or the common good. True peace comes when we put down our desires and work for the good of those around us. True peace comes from sacrifice of self, or repentance. And Jesus brought that to us because he died for our selfish desires. He died because of our injustice and hunger for power and influence. He died, so that we could see just how much God loves us. Though we are sinners, enemies of God, God died for us, taking our shame, our injustice and our sin on himself and redeeming us.
This week, I have struggled. I struggle because we live in a world of injustice and division. We live in a culture that seems to thrive on conflict. We live in a place where we have so many things to be thankful for. We have so many people that are doing so much to make our world greater than anyone could imagine yet we focus on the conflict and the divisions. We have so much, yet God weeps because we miss what is right in front of us, and we build houses of conflict instead of abodes of peace. We focus on just a part of the gospel, just a part. Yet Jesus is telling us the Kingdom is here all around us, if we would only open our eyes.
As we enter this time of Holy Expectancy I ask, what is the kingdom of God to you, and who is your king? I ask that in all seriousness because as the crowds cheered their king wept. How does your king feel?