As the people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with loud cheers, He knew the suffering that awaited Him. In this sermon, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke to explain Christ’s fulfillment of a prophecy about the King who would come to the city on a donkey.
This morning, we will continue our study of the Gospel According to Saint Luke. We will be looking at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as we find it in Luke 19:28–40. I would ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God:
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 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. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 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!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
We have been blessed to hear nothing less than the very Word of God, as this text was superintended and supervised by God the Holy Spirit in its original writing by Luke. I ask this morning as you hear the text that you receive it with the full weight of God’s authority. Please be seated. Let us pray.
Our Father and our God, we look to You because Your Word is the very truth that not only redeems us but sanctifies us. We ask now that the Holy Spirit might be present in our immediate midst, that He may illumine for us the meaning of this text and use it to change our lives, pierce our souls, penetrate our hearts, and change our minds. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Why the Triumphal Entry?
This text is integral to the narrative Luke has been setting before us. The message and content of this text are still very important for our understanding of the person and work of Christ.
What is going on in this text? We are all familiar with this account of people rejoicing and celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus. They waved palm branches to and fro and cried out with great joy, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” My question is, Why did Jesus do this? Why the triumphal entry into Jerusalem?
It is interesting to me that scholars have examined the manifold prophecies found throughout the Scriptures that were fulfilled in the historical Jesus. Scholars have counted over one thousand—some as many as twelve hundred—prophecies about the coming Messiah that were clearly and definitively fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. In fact, that very truth of the fulfillment of specific prophecies should be enough to stop the mouths of the most obstreperous skeptics in the world. That should be proof enough for the claims of Christ about being the Son of God and the coming Messiah.
What is unique about this experience is that Jesus went out of His way to orchestrate the fulfillment of a particular prophecy. He did not do anything extraordinary to make sure He was born in Bethlehem according to the prophecy of Micah. That had to do with the providence of God and the decree of Caesar Augustus calling people back to their city of birth in order to be enrolled for purposes of taxation. The baby Jesus, touching His humanity, knew nothing of that imperial decree, so He did nothing purposefully to fulfill the prophecy of the circumstances of His birth.
As an adult, Jesus took matters into His own hands. He was aware of the Old Testament prophecy found in Zechariah, “Weep not, daughters of Jerusalem, behold, your king is coming to you; lowly and riding upon a donkey.” Jesus knew the text. He knew the prophecy, so He went out of His way to make certain all the details of the prophecy were exactly and precisely fulfilled as had been spoken hundreds of years prior.
He said to His disciples: “Go over to this place where you will find the people who own a donkey, a colt which has never been ridden, and untie that colt and bring it to Me. If the owners balk and have reservations about losing possession of their personal property and want to know why you’re untying the donkey, just say to them, ‘The Lord has need of it.’”
The disciples went as they were instructed by Jesus, and they came to the owner of the donkey and began to untie it. The owner asked, “What are you doing?” As Jesus instructed them, they explained to him, “The Lord has need of it.” The owner perhaps responded, “If that’s the case, then be my guest, take the donkey, for whatever the Lord needs, we are perfectly happy to supply.” Why all this extensive activity to prepare the staging of a fulfillment of prophecy?
A Parenthesis about the Kingdom
We must understand that there is a major parenthesis in the life of Jesus between His birth and His death. That parenthesis has to do with the subject of God’s kingdom.
In recent weeks, we looked at the parable presumably given at the home of Zacchaeus in Jericho, the parable of the minas. Jesus explained about a leader who went to a far country to be a king, and he gave certain finances to his servants to be invested wisely in his absence. Luke tells us why Jesus told that parable. Among the reasons was that Jesus understood His kingdom was not going to come immediately. He also understood that vast multitudes of people expected the kingdom immediately, so Jesus gave the parable to explain the idea of a delay between His going away and His return to finally establish His kingdom. In this text, right after the parable, we see Jesus orchestrating a dramatic event that has everything to do with the concept of a coming kingdom.
Born King of the Jews
At the time of His birth, in Matthew’s record of the nativity of Jesus, he tells of the coming of the magi who saw an extraordinary star. This astronomical phenomenon provoked the lengthy journey of the magi, about five hundred miles, in pursuit of a King that would be born among the Jews. The testimony of the magi, once they arrived in Jerusalem, was that they were trying to locate the final destination of this astronomical phenomenon’s movement. They inquired with this question: “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?”
When Herod understood what was happening, he inquired of those seeking the birth of the new king to determine where he would be found. He asked his scholars to look up the Scriptures to tell him the location of the coming Messiah. They came to the book of Micah and informed Herod, saying, “The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem of Judea.” Remember, “Thou Bethlehem, though thou be small among the tribes of Judah, yet out of thee will come the One who will be born King of the Jews.”
Herod hypocritically and maliciously gave directions to the magi on how to find the town of Bethlehem, which was about six miles away from Jerusalem. He said, “When you find Him, come back and tell me His exact location, that I can come and worship Him as well.” Herod, who had already killed three of his sons and one wife, had no intention of giving homage to the newborn King. Nothing rankled King Herod more than the thought of somebody else succeeding in kingship over the succession plan he had devised.
After the wise men left and found the Christ child in the manger, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, learning that Herod intended to assassinate the Christ child. So, they fled from the presence of Herod.
Herod had a plan B. His first plan was to go directly to Bethlehem, find the baby, and assassinate Him abruptly. When that plan failed, he decided to issue a decree that every child under two years of age be executed in the environs of Bethlehem, recorded in Scripture under the title, “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” We know that when Jesus was born, there was already an impending catastrophe because He was born to be King, and King Herod did everything in his power to exterminate Him.
Jesus Knew His Fate
Fast forward in the parenthesis from the birth of Jesus to the end of His life, where the issue of kingship was still central. Before Jesus left for Jerusalem and set His face steadfastly toward that place, after the experience of the transfiguration, He said to his disciples: “The Son of Man now must be betrayed. He must be given over to the hands of the gentiles where He must now suffer and die.” Peter, as well as the other disciples would have none of that, saying, “No, no, Lord, that can’t be.” Our Lord said to Simon: “Get behind me, Satan. I have a destiny to fulfill. I must go to Jerusalem. The Son of Man must suffer and die.” So, with all the grim anticipation of what was before them, the disciples marched with heavy hearts to Jerusalem from the north of Galilee to Judea to see what fate awaited Jesus.
The hour had come, and Jesus knew very well what awaited Him in Jerusalem. He knew what would take place only hours from that Sunday morning when He came into the city in triumph. He said to His disciples: “Go find the donkey. I’m going to mount that animal and ride as a king into the city. Not as a king on a war horse steed, but one who is meek and lowly, riding upon a donkey.”
The people had read their Bibles. When Jesus suddenly appeared riding a donkey, the crowd gathered in a huge multitude, and they were excited. It was a confetti ticker-tape parade as far as they were concerned: “The Messiah has come, and He’s coming now to take His place as the King of the Jews, as the King of Israel. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The people put their garments in the path in front of Jesus as He rode on the donkey. As they were screaming, shouting, and rejoicing, I can only guess what was going on in Jesus’ mind. He knew where He was going, and He knew what was waiting for Him at the end of the week. He knew He was going to be betrayed. He knew He was going to be turned over to the Romans.
Jesus knew that He would stand in front of Pontius Pilate. In a few days Pilate would look Him in the eye and say: “Is it true? Are you a king? Are you the King of the Jews?” to which Jesus responded and said, “You have said so.” Then He went on to explain, “But My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus went on to suggest to Pontius Pilate that Pilate had no power over Him. He said, “If I called upon servants, they would rise up right now and turn your palace into dust.” Like a lamb led to the slaughter, instead, He opened not His mouth, and He had a conversation with Pilate about the nature of truth.
Do you not think Jesus knew what was lying ahead of Him when He was on the back of that donkey, riding down the hill from the Mount of Olives through the Valley of Kidron and to Jerusalem, with all the screaming, yelling, and acclamation, with every Pharisee furious and plotting His destruction?
Jesus did not think for a moment that there was going to be a revolution, that He would seize power and be established and crowned as the King of the Jews. The people did not get it, but He understood it. He had just told them a parable that the kingdom was not going to come immediately, but they did not understand that either.
The Stones Would Cry Out
Though there were smiles abounding on the faces of the crowd and they were cheering in ecstasy, Jesus was riding with a heavy heart, knowing His destiny in the hours that lay before Him. To add insult to injury, when the people were cheering with gusto, the Pharisees said: “These are Your disciples. You’re their master. Tell them to be quiet. Your people are dumber than a box of rocks,” or something to that extent.
We have that expression that somebody is dumber than a box or rocks. How dumb is a box of rocks? Jesus knew the answer to that question because, touching His divine nature, He made the rocks. There was not a stone on the pathway between Bethany and Jerusalem that the divine Logos had not formed and shaped by the power of His creation. They were His stones, His rocks, and He understood that the whole creation groaned in agony waiting for the redemption that Christ and Christ alone could bring. Jesus was not just the King of the Jews or the Savior of the Jews, He was the King of the cosmos, the cosmic King that the unintelligent animals recognized but the very people did not want.
At the end of the parable of the one who went on a far journey to be called a king, Jesus said, “And judgment will come on those who hate Me and do not want Me to reign over them.” Who was dumber than a box of rocks but those who refused to have Christ as their King?
Jesus said: “You don’t understand, Pharisees. If My disciples are silent, even the stones will cry out. The stones that have no tongue, no mouth, and no lips will begin to scream: ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. This is our King, the King of all creation.’” But we know that stones do not have mouths or lips. They are inanimate objects.
Blood Cries Out
Go back to Genesis, to the killing of Abel by Cain. God said: “Where is Abel, your brother? I can’t see him. What have you done with him? But his blood cries out to Me from the earth.” Was that metaphor or hyperbole, or did that blood have a voice that could be heard by almighty God?
In the book of Revelation, the saints and the martyrs cry from behind the altar with respect of the blood of Abel and all the martyrs who have gone before or since, whose blood cries to the heavens about their slaughter. How much blood in our own day is screamed from the lips of the infants who are silenced in their mothers’ wombs, whose cries are heard by God Himself and by His King?
“Do with Me what you will, Pharisees, Pilate, Caesar. But on the last day, the last word will be spoken by My Father, and all whom the Father has given to Me who will cry out, ‘Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.