The story is told of the late Queen Elizabeth who would visit her summer palace to get away for a while. She would often dress more plainly and at times even go out and walk throughout the property. Once she came across a group of American tourists. They started up a conversation with her, asking if she live around there and if she had ever met the queen. They made small talk and eventually went on their way, never realizing that they had just talked with the Queen of England. They had met the queen and did not recognize her at all.
As we look at today’s story in scripture we are going to see something very similar.
In the days of Jesus, the people were under the brutal rule of the Roman Empire. Life was unbearable, but what other option did they have? It was into these days of oppression that Jesus was born. He was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and began his public ministry in Judea and Galilee at the age of 30. For three years he preached of the coming of the Kingdom of God. His ministry was confirmed by the authority by which He taught and the working of signs and miracles. The blind received sight, the lame walked, those who had leprosy were cured, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, and the good news was preached. All of this was in preparation for what would occur this last week of Jesus’ life.
In Luke 19:28-40 we see a remarkable event. Census records show that as many as 2.5 million Jews, gathering from all over the known world, would have gathered in Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover. Historians tell how Jews from different regions would usually cluster together, camping in specific areas in and around Jerusalem. It is known that Jews from Galilee often gathered at the south end of the Mount of Olives during Jewish feast days.
In the words of Pastor Nelson Price, “These were the unsophisticated and unspoiled people of the area where Jesus spent most of His time and performed most of His miracles. They knew Him best. On several occasions they had tried to make Him king (John 6:15). Mark 12:37 says of them, ''The common people heard Him gladly.''
The villages of Bethany and Bethphage were located near the Mount of Olives, 2-3 miles from Jerusalem. It was from this direction that Jesus and His disciples likely encountered the Galileans camping near the Mount of Olives and encountered other Jewish pilgrims as well. This was the setting of Jesus’ triumphal entry on what we now know as Palm Sunday.
This story is recorded in all four of the gospels. Up until this point Jesus had been drawing back from public notice as much as possible. He did not seek large crowds, even though they at times sought Him. He did not aim to perform for public approval. Much of Jesus’ ministry had been away from Jerusalem in the areas around the Sea of Galilee, but here, in the triumphal entry, Jesus was finally making a very public proclamation as He entered Jerusalem. His time had now come and He very intentionally turned their attention towards Himself. King Jesus had come.
It was the time of year to celebrate the Jewish Passover. Thousands upon thousands of Jewish pilgrims from all over the known world had gathered in Jerusalem. From census information of Jerusalem at this time we know that over 250,000 lambs were slain each year at the Passover feast.
Passover was still a week away, but this day was the time for the Passover lambs to be chosen. They were to select lambs that were without blemish which would be sacrificed for the people. Jesus was coming as the true Passover Lamb.
In the midst of this religious celebration Jesus presented them with a picture, where His claims of being the Christ (Messiah), would be unmistakable.
Luke 19:28-40 is a story of Jesus entering Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.
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.”
As we look back through this story we can notice many things. Leading up to this story, crowds of people had gathered around Jesus in the town of Bethany. They had recently witnessed or heard of the resurrection of Lazarus. Now a mass of people walked with Jesus towards Jerusalem. As this crowd descended to Jerusalem with Jesus another crowd was coming up out of the eastern gate of the city of Jerusalem. This was often the way that citizens would greet a dignitary or royalty who was coming to visit their city. They would come out to usher him into the city.
John 12:12-13 tells us, “The large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” When the crowd coming down into Jerusalem with Jesus combined with the crowd coming out of Jerusalem, the mass of people was so large and so loud in their praise of Jesus that the Pharisees who were watching said, “Behold the world has gone after Him (John 12:19).”
From our perspective this seems to be a simple story of crowds of people cheering the arrival of Jesus. That is the basic truth of the story, but there is so much more when one looks more closely.
Jesus came down from the Mount of Olives to enter Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives was just east of the city of Jerusalem. It was a place with sacred importance. In the book of Ezekiel God had given the prophet a vision of God and His glory leaving and one day returning to Jerusalem from the east of Jerusalem. The crowds that day likely took note of the significance of the direction from which Jesus’ triumphal entry was coming.
We must also take note of the animal. An unused animal was often used for sacred purposes (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7). The Passover Christ riding on an unused colt was another message to the people about the sacredness and importance of who Christ was.
A third detail to take note of was the type of animal on which Jesus was riding. A conquering king would enter a city riding a horse. A king coming in peace would ride a donkey (Matthew 21:2; 1 Kings 1:33-34). Jesus had not come to be an earthly, military king, who would free the Jews from Rome. He came as an eternal king who would free many from the condemnation and slavery of sin and reconcile us to God. He came as the true Passover Lamb who had come to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 that had been written 500 years before.
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Do not be mistaken. Do not think of Jesus as weak. In Revelation 19, we see that Jesus will one day return riding on a white horse, with an army of angels, as a conquering King of kings and Lord of lords. He will bring eternal and complete victory on that day, but on this day, He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey.
Jesus was coming to be King of the Jews. He was coming with righteousness and salvation. He came as the true Passover Lamb, gentle and riding on a donkey, but not in the way that they expected.
Verses 35 – 36 tells of how the crowds spread their cloaks or outer robes on the road in front of the donkey that Jesus was riding. This was another way that kings were treated. In 2 Kings 9:12-13 a prophet of God proclaimed a man named Jehu as king and this is what is said of the people’s response, “They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!” This was another clear message in the story that Jesus was not coming as just a good teacher or a good man. He was claiming to be the promised King of kings who would sit on the throne of David forever.
In John 12:13 this same story of Jesus Triumphal entry is told and it tells how the people waved palm branches. Palm branches were another way to prepare the way of the “King.” In ancient history palm branches often symbolized goodness and victory. Some Jewish coins from the first century had palm leaf engravings with the accompanying inscription, “the redemption of Zion.”
We also find Palm Branches as part of the worship that is described in Revelations 7:9-10,
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
The Sovereign God had brought all of these indicators together in one place, at one time, to declare Christ as Messiah and King. In response to all of these signs the people began to praise Jesus, quoting from Psalm 118:26, a verse with clear references to the coming Messiah that had been written in centuries before. ““Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
The donkey, the location, the cloaks on the road, the palm branches, and the prophetic praises of the people all declared Jesus as the promised Messiah and a king. It was a dangerous statement to be making at that time in history since the Romans were in power, but that is who Jesus was and why he had come.
In the midst of the cheers there were Pharisees, some of the most religious Jews, who were watching the event take place. They rejected the claims of Jesus being the Messiah and called for him to rebuke the praises of the people. They told Jesus to rebuke his disciples but He responded with these words, “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Jesus was stating the truth that the praises of God in Jesus Christ cannot be silenced. Christ’s followers were giving glory to Jesus because He was the Promised One from God but the Pharisees refused to give Him glory.
God is of infinite worth. There is no other name that will ring throughout the halls of heaven for eternity except the name of Jesus Christ. The names that our world exalts will be forgotten and fade into the past but the name of Jesus will resound forever. The praise of God cannot be silenced and the Sovereignty of God will not be denied. If we do not give Him glory, nature itself will testify to His greatness.
Psalm 19 tells us
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of this hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
Romans 1:19-20 declares
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
The praises to God cannot be silenced by governments, by sword, by threats, or by fear. The people of God proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ will continue, unstoppable, until Christ returns…and that will only be the beginning. In heaven all other glories will be silenced and Jesus Christ will be exalted.
God was the sovereign ruler over all things in Jesus’ day and is the still the sovereign ruler over all things today. He ordered the details of Jesus’ triumphal entry centuries before it ever happened. In the same way He who started a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
The Jews of Jesus’ day longed for freedom from the Romans. They believed that this would bring life as it was meant to be, but they were wrong. They desired too little. They were too easily satisfied. They wanted freedom in the present from sinful men, when God wanted to give them freedom from themselves for eternity. They wanted to make a name for themselves when God wanted to give them His name. They wanted peace, the absence of conflict, but God wanted to give them a deep inner peace that remains no matter what difficulties the world brings our way.
Some of the Jews of Jesus’ day missed the fact that a Messiah had come who would deliver them from what plagued them most. They had religion but were yet very far from God.
This happens in our world as well. Many choose to let Jesus pass on by. In their world they have no desire or room for a king. They don’t understand their need and don’t recognize Him as Savior.
That is what we are faced with today. Will we live for the glory of God, or will we push Christ aside and pledge our loyalty to another? Will we join with the Pharisees and completely miss the Messiah’s coming or will we bow our hearts to our coming King. Will we humbly seek God on His terms or will we be blinded by our desires for the world. The King has come. May we bow to Him fully with our whole hearts.
Let us turn our attention to verses 31-34 for one more lesson that can be gleaned from this story. It concerns the donkey colt that Jesus had requested at the beginning of the story. As Jesus had approached Jerusalem, he had asked two of His disciples to go to a nearby village where they would find a donkey colt. They were instructed to untie it and bring it to Jesus. If anyone asked why they were taking it they were to tell him, “The Lord needs it.” That is exactly how it happened. They went and when the owner asked why the disciples were untying the donkey they merely said, “The Lord needs it,” and the owner let them take it.
We don’t know what the owner’s name was or anything else about him. We only know that the one phrase was sufficient. “The Lord needs it.” In this moment an obscure unknown man who owned a donkey was invited to fulfill a century old prophecy and to be a part of the story of God on earth.
When these verses use the word need it is not as if God is lacking or cannot provide for Himself. He is fully self-sufficient and sovereign. (Psalm 50:7b-12; Psalm 24:1) He needs nothing, and yet it was a way for God to express an invitation to the man to join Him in what He was doing.
In John 6:6 we see a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus takes the small lunch and feeds five thousand men plus women and children. In the Bible we see many people who make available what they have because the Lord needs it. Then, in the hands of Jesus, their little becomes much.
This story of salvation and Christ’s invitation to join Him in His work continues today. Our sovereign God moves us closer to the final Day of the Lord, and we have been asked to be a part of it in our workplaces, in our families, in our churches, and in our world. Are we willing to give whatever, whenever, because ”The Lord Needs it?”
This question involves more than just our money and our time. Are we willing to give the Lord full access to all that we have and all that we are? This includes our passions, our abilities, our plans, our dreams, our future, our retirement, our families, and even our children. For the sake of Christ are we even willing to offer our past pain, failures, and challenges so we can minister to others who have similar needs.
It is when we make available the things of our lives, to the King of our lives that God takes them and does amazing things.
The following story comes from Chuck Swindoll’s book, Touching Others with Your Words. He admits that it is difficult to find the origin of this story, and whether it is true or not, I believe that it teaches a very true lesson.
“After each of the 20th century world wars, the great classical pianist Ignacy John Pederewski held benefit concerts to raise money and awareness for the plight of his native Poland. One evening, the virtuoso stood in the wings, deep in thought, as the Music Hall filled to capacity. The gathering crowd included a mother hoping to encourage her young son's progress at the piano. As the audience milled about, talking about politics, the two great wars, and the evening of music they would enjoy, she failed to notice that her son had slipped from her side and made his way to the piano on stage. Having mounted the bench, he began playing, note by single note. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The simple tune could be heard throughout the hall, prompting laughter from some and shouts of righteous indignation from others. Get that kid away from the piano! One man shouted.
The commotion drew Pederewski from his mental preparations to see the youngster still playing. He slipped quietly across the stage and bent down behind the boy and whispered in his ear, “don't stop; keep playing.” With his left hand, the pianist filled in the base, and he encircled the child with his right to play a running soprano obligato. The sudden hush fell over the crowd as the little boy's simple melody blended perfectly with the masters glorious accompaniment, their impromptu duet holding the audience in rapt Wonder.”
On this Palm Sunday may we Christ for who He is, hail Him as King and make available to Him all that we have, trusting that with our ordinary He will do the extraordinary.
 Research from Pastor Nelson Price’s sermon, “Palm Sunday: Tragedy Or Triumph?
 ¹Origin of Motif: Ancient coin from 69 C.E., http://judaism.about.com/library/1_culture/bl_coins.htm
 Chuck Swindoll, “Touching Others With your Words”