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Luke 19:28-40 Biblical Commentary:
LUKE 19:28 – 21:38. JESUS’ MINISTRY IN JERUSALEM
Jesus has been on the road to Jerusalem and death since 9:51. That journey came to an end at 19:27. Luke reminded us frequently along the way that Jesus was going to Jerusalem (9:51, 53; 13:22, 33-34; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11) —alerting us to the significance of the work that he would do there.
19:28 begins the story of his ministry in Jerusalem, much of which takes place at the temple. This story continues through 21:38, and is followed by his passion (chapters 22-23) and resurrection (chapter 24).
LUKE 19:28. HAVING SAID THESE THINGS
28 Having said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
“Having said these things” links the Triumphal Entry to the Parable of the Ten Pounds (vv. 11-27). This parable has much in common with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but is tailored to introduce the Triumphal Entry, to include the following distinctive features:
• Jesus tells this parable “because he was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the Kingdom of God would be revealed immediately” (v. 11).
• The nobleman goes to a distant country “to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (v. 12).
• The nobleman gives ten pounds to ten slaves—one pound each—for which he holds them accountable.
• The citizens hate the nobleman and do not want him ruling over them.
• At the end, the nobleman says, “But bring those enemies of mine who didn’t want me to reign over them here, and kill them before me” (v. 27).
The royal greeting that Jesus will receive in Jerusalem does not signify that he has obtained his royal power and is ready to establish his reign. Instead, entering Jerusalem, Jesus is preparing his departure to a distant country where he will get royal power and then return in his Second Coming.
“he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” He is going from Jericho (v. 1) to Jerusalem, a distance of about fourteen miles (22 km.). Jericho is on a plain and Jerusalem is on a mountain, so the journey is mostly uphill.
By going up to Jerusalem, Jesus accomplishes four things (Hendriksen, 872-873):
1. He precipitates a public demonstration on his behalf.
2. He forces the hand of the Jewish leaders, bringing their timetable in line with God’s.
3. He fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9—”Your King comes…on a donkey.”
4. He shows himself to be a messiah who brings peace rather than war.
Jerusalem is where Jesus will die, but is also where he will be resurrected and where the church will be born at Pentecost (Acts 2—also written by Luke). Once the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, they will become Jesus’ witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In other words, Jerusalem—the place of Jesus’ death—will also be the starting place for the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel.
LUKE 19:29-35. A COLT WHEREON NO MAN EVER YET SAT
29It happened, when he drew near to Bethsphage and Bethany, at the mountain that is called Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, 30saying, “Go your way into the village on the other side, in which, as you enter, you will find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat. Untie it, and bring it.31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say to him: ‘The Lord needs it.'” 32Those who were sent went away, and found things just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35They brought it to Jesus. They threw their cloaks on the colt, and set Jesus on them.
“It happened, when he drew near to Bethsphage and Bethany” (v. 29a). We know little about Bethphage, but Bethany—less than two miles (2.7 km.) from Jerusalem—is important. Luke 24:50 tells us that the ascension will take place at Bethany. John 11 tells us that Bethany is the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and is where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, a miracle that precipitated plans by religious authorities to kill Jesus.
“at the mountain that is called Olivet” (v. 29b). The Mount of Olives is part of a range of hills overlooking Jerusalem from the east. When Jesus arrives here, only the Kidron Valley separates him from Jerusalem.
This reference to the Mount of Olives may be related to Zechariah 14:4-5: “His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east…Yahweh my God will come, and all the holy ones with you.”
“he sent two of his disciples” (v. 29c). We don’t know the identity of these disciples, but Jesus will send Peter and John to prepare for the Passover meal (22:8), so it is possible that they are also the ones whom he sends for the colt.
“you will find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat” (v. 30b). An animal used for religious purposes must be without blemish and “on which yoke has never been laid” (Numbers 19:2). Also, no one other than the king was allowed to ride the king’s horse (Tannehill, 282-283).
A colt can be a horse or donkey, but Matthew 21:2, 5, 7 and John 12:14 specify a donkey—thus fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, which says: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you! He is righteous, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
A donkey is a humble mount, and the colt of a donkey even more so. Donkeys are smaller than horses—not as fast or responsive as horses—unsuitable as a mount in battle. The colt of a donkey could barely carry a full-grown man.
Kings ride neither colts nor donkeys, but full-grown horses—well-trained, responsive horses—horses chosen in part for strength and spirit and in part for appearance—beautiful horses—large, impressive mounts—in much the same way that presidents ride limousines or private jets. The size and beauty of the king’s horse bear testimony to the king’s importance. Furthermore, a man mounted on a large, spirited horse is an intimidating presence, and potential enemies will think twice before attacking a man so mounted.
Jesus is king of the Jews (19:38; 23:2-3, 37-38), but he is a different kind of king—the kind of king who rides a donkey colt—comes in peace—comes to serve—comes to die. Just as a king’s huge, spirited war-horse sends a message about the man who rides it, so also Jesus’ donkey colt sends a message about him—who he is—his purpose in coming.
“If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say to him: ‘The Lord needs it ‘” (v. 31). This might indicate that the owners of the colt are Jesus’ disciples, but it might also indicate supernatural preparation for Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
When the two disciples go to fetch the colt, the owners ask, “Why are you untying the colt?” (v. 33). The disciples respond as Jesus directed, saying, “The Lord needs it” (v. 34). No further discussion will be needed. The owners will allow the disciples to take the colt, thus demonstrating the power of Jesus’ authority.
Scholars speculate whether Jesus coordinated with the owners in advance, and it is possible that he did so. However, to insist that he did is to miss the point. This is a lesson, not in prior coordination, but in Jesus’ authority.
“They threw their cloaks on the colt, and set Jesus on them” (v. 35). A king not only rides a great horse, but also sits astride an impressive saddle. Jesus, the humble king, sits astride a saddle hastily improvised from his disciples’ cloaks.
LUKE 19:36-38. AS HE WENT, THEY SPREAD THEIR CLOAKS IN THE WAY
36As he went, they spread their cloaks in the way. 37As he was now getting near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!”
“As he went, they spread their cloaks in the way” (v. 36). The crowd receives Jesus with a “red carpet” welcome.
“the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice” (v. 37b). Matthew says that it is the crowds who shout Hosanna (Matthew 21:9), and Mark implies the same (Mark 11:8-9). John also says that it is the crowd (John 12:9). Luke, however, specifies that it is the disciples who offer praise, rather than the people of Jerusalem. Within a few days, the crowd will shout, “Crucify! Crucify him!” (23:21).
“for all the mighty works which they had seen” (v. 37c). Note the abundance of Jesus’ miracles that Luke the physician records—mostly healings or exorcisms (4:31-37; 4:38-39; 5:12-16; 5:17-26; 6:6-11; 6:17-19; 7:1-10; 7:11-17; 8:22-25; 8:26-39; 8:40-56; 9:10-17; 9:37-43; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; 17:11-19; 18:35-43).
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (v. 38a). Psalm 118:26 says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh,” but Luke changes “he” to “the King.” The people use Psalm 118 to welcome pilgrims to the great feasts in the Holy City, but Jesus is more than a pilgrim—he is king.
The issue of Jesus’ kingship will soon be brought to the front, and will lead to his crucifixion (23:2-3, 37-38).
“Peace in heaven” (v. 38b). At Jesus’ birth, the angels sang of peace on earth (2:14), so “peace in heaven” seems jarring. Wouldn’t heaven inherently be free from the kind of conflict that afflicts people on earth? Wouldn’t peace reign supreme in the heavens? But Satan’s presence at Jesus’ temptation has reminded us of the cosmic conflict that exists between good and evil—a conflict that will not be fully resolved until Jesus’ Second Coming.
LUKE 19:39-40. IF THESE WERE SILENT
39Some of the Pharisees from the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples (Greek:epitimeson tois mathetais sou—rebuke your disciples)!” 40He answered them, “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would cry out.”
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples”(Greek: epitimeson tois mathetais sou—rebuke your disciples) (v. 39). Thus begins the final, fatal, opposition to Jesus by some of the Pharisees. This is the last reference to the Pharisees in this Gospel—”the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people” will assume the leadership role in opposing Jesus (19:47).
In this Gospel, epitimao (rebuke) is typically used “when telling of a clash between the rule of God and those supernatural powers that opposed God (see 4:35, 39, 41; 8:24, 9:42, etc.). Such lack of perception is not just myopic, it is demonic” (Nickle, 205).
All along, Pharisees have taken offense with Jesus—with his claim to forgive sins (5:21); his friendship with tax collectors and sinners (5:30); his failure to require scrupulous observance of his disciples (5:33); and his healing on the sabbath (6:6-11). Now they take offense at Jesus’ disciples saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”—a saying appropriate only to the messiah.
The Pharisees have a point, of course! Unless Jesus is the messiah, it is blasphemous for his disciples to make messianic claims for him—and blasphemous for him to accept such claims. The Pharisees consider themselves the arbiters of proper religious conduct. They observe the law, and feel responsible to insure that others do the same. Jesus is not behaving in accord with their understanding of the law, and they feel a responsibility to correct him—or stop him.
“I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would cry out” (v. 40). Stones, of course, are inanimate objects that don’t cry out. Earlier, John the Baptist warned that God could “raise up children to Abraham from these stones!” (3:8)—a reminder that God can bring forth life from that which has no life.
The reason for this inevitability is that God stands behind Jesus’ kingship. It is God who sent the angels and shepherds to proclaim Jesus’ birth (2:14, 20), and the time has come for the world to know Jesus as messiah. God will not allow the created order to be silent, now that Jesus’ time has come.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holliday, Carl R.; and Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year, C (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1994)
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Fitzmyer, Joseph A., S.J., The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV (New York: Doubleday, 1985)
Gilmour, S. MacLean & Scherer, Paul, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 8. (Nashville: Abingdon , 1952)
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Hendriksen, William, New Testament Commentary: Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978)
Johnson, Luke Timothy, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Luke (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991)
Nickle, Keith F., Preaching the Gospel of Luke (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000)
Nolland, John, Word : Luke 18:35—24:53, Vol. 35C (Dallas: Word Books, 1993)
Stein, Robert H., The New American Commentary: Luke (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992)
Tannehill, Robert C., Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Luke (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996)
Wright, Stephen L., in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Text. The Third Readings: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001)
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