meditation and exposition of Luke 19.28-44
Palm Sunday – ‘Stealth Humility of King Jesus’
In Luke’s Gospel chapter 19 we read of Messiah’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. After two disciples had gotten a colt on which Jesus would ride and as the growing crowd advanced toward the city Luke tells us:
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, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (v37-38)
Do you hear in this an echo from Christ’s birth? Luke draws our attention back to the announcement of the angels in Luke 2. This Palm Sunday the crowd repeats what the shepherds heard in the chilly night air outside Bethlehem.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2.10-14)
And yet, this King (Christ, the Anointed One), this Lord (Yahweh come in the flesh), this one upon whom the glory of Heaven is heaped, this prince of peace, rides on a donkey and then ends his victory campaign into the city with weeping and with sadness for his people (see v41-44).
Mark records that …they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it (Mark 11.7). This may seem unusually for a king when coming in to take the reins of his kingdom. When Julius Caesar paraded in triumph into Rome he rode upon a chariot driven by white horses and an entourage of important persons around him and a slew of slaves and conquered foes behind him. King Messiah brings his winged triumph in upon a borrowed beast; his sandals nearly touching the paved stones. And some watching this lowly pageant have no idea who he is.
Jesus knew many couldn’t see who he really was and so speaking as though unheard he saw the things hidden from your eyes… and that you did not know the time of your visitation (Luke 19.42, 44). Yet, their not knowing who he was did not move him to try to get noticed. He still comes in with humility, not in the high volume of self-promotion, not with waves of ads and memes.
Who is this? people in the crowd asked (Matt 21.10). Glorious Caesar they knew of. They could see Pilate’s palace in the midst of their city. The high priest, Caiaphas, flaunted his wealth about their streets, but Jesus? Yes, Jesus of Nazareth (21.11). From where? Nazareth, that outlying village up North. A king? …what kind of a king? …king of what?
He is the King of glory.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord [Yahweh], strong and mighty,
the Lord [Yahweh], mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in (Psalm 24.8-9).
He is Yahweh, not riding this time on the clouds of his divine might, but riding on an equis asinus. Like King Solomon and like King David on whose throne he now sits. We were told this many ages ago. We should have known.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
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… (Zech 9.9; see also Psalm 118).
Now the King of glory who rode this clumsy animal and is still clothed in our weak flesh, exalted man and humbled God. This great Sovereign, the LORD of glory came in with indomitable gentleness, with piercing love, with stealth humility. This is not weakness. This is power. That is how he conquered. And still he does.
delight in God. again.
image credit: Enrigque Simonet, ‘Flevit Super Illam‘ – public domain