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TEXT: Luke 19:28-48
SUBJECT: Luke #74: A Phony Welcome
Every year on Palm Sunday joyful sermons are preached on the Lord's Triumphal Entry. The story is told as a high point in His life, as the last happy hour He had on that side of the Resurrection.
The story needs re-thinking. If His ride into Jerusalem was such a festive thing, why was He crying all the way? And why didn't the welcome He got raise His spirits? He came to the city in tears and left it with a heart far heavier than before. This is not the last happy hour of His life; it is the beginning of sorrows.
BETHANY AND BETHPHAGE
The story begins two or three miles east of Jerusalem. The Lord is in a small town called Bethany or maybe it is Bethphage (Luke isn't clear on this). In any event, He tells two of His friends to go into the other town where they will find a young donkey tied up. They're to untie it and bring it back to Him. If anyone calls them on it, they're to reply, "The Lord has need of it".
They walk over to the town, find the donkey, untie it, and, the owner says, "What are you doing with my donkey?" They tell him what they're up to, and the man is happy to lend his donkey to the Lord.
ON THE ROAD
They lead it back to the Lord and something happens, something strange and uncommon-they feel the Glory of the Lord. It's not right that such a Man should ride a donkey like any other poor farmer or merchant or errand boy!
But they've got no saddle to put on the beast, so they make do with what they have: their coats. Then they lift Him onto the donkey and start on their way to Jerusalem.
It's not long until they feel they're still not doing enough for the Lord; they're not showing Him the honor He deserves. But what can they do? How can poor men without the training of court life pay tribute to a King? They want to roll out the red carpet for Him, but they haven't got one. So they strip off their coats and sweaters, and shirts; they're laid before the donkey and the King rides over them in homespun majesty.
THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
When He reaches the Mount of Olives, others notice Him and they, too, are swept up in the feeling. With loud voices, they begin to shout the Psalm,
"Blessed is the King who comes
in the Name of the LORD"
This is from Psalm 118. It was always sung at the Passover when good men entered the city, but there's a difference on this day. It's not just sung when the man arrives, but it is sung to the Man.
If you come in late on Sunday morning, you may walk into the church to the song,
"Immortal, invisible, God only wise".
We're glad you're here, but, but we're not singing the song to you. But that's precisely what they were doing on the day our Lord rode into Jerusalem-they were singing the Psalm to their King!
The Lord is the humblest of men, poor, uneducated, with no kingly airs about Him, yet-in a mysterious way-the people feel His Royal Majesty. They give vent to their feelings. A Welcome Home Party breaks out in the streets of Jerusalem, and the Lord is its guest of honor.
Luke tells us the disciples were leading the cheers, but he doesn't mean just the Twelve who knew Him best, but all the people who had some attachment to Him. The many He had healed were there; the thousands He had fed with a boy's lunch; maybe even a formerly dead person or two were there to rejoice in their King.
Matthew (who was there that day) heard especially high voices joining in the celebration: they were young children, even babies not yet weaned, singing their praises to the Lord.
It must have been a scene both tender and thrilling.
But then the party-poopers showed up-and did they ever live up to their name! Instead of joining the party, they jumped all over the guest of honor. They were scandalized by the happy voices they heard all around them, and they told the Lord to shut them up!
"Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!"
If I He did that, however, the Pharisees would be even less happy. For the King's entry into the Royal City was so great and so full of possibilities, that.
"If these should keep silent, even the stones would cry out".
The City of the Great King ought to celebrate, for the Great King has come at last! If the leaders won't rejoice, the children will; if they're silenced, even the rocks would break into song!
In his huge commentary on Luke's Gospel, Darrell Bock, writes,
"The irony is that Jesus declares that if the disciples did not speak out, creation would. Inanimate objects have a better perception of what God is doing than do the people that Jesus came to save".
Dirt clods don't have eyes or ears, minds or hearts. Yet even they know the glory of the Lord when it shines upon them. And the People of God don't!
The Pharisees came to the Lord for a rebuke, and-boy!-did they get one: but not the one they were looking for!
The scholars of Israel were dumber than dirt!
But their problem went far deeper than mere ignorance. Ignorance can be dispelled with knowledge-if that's all it is-ignorance. But what if the ignorance has a moral cause to it? What if they don't know because they don't want to know? What if they're blind because the prefer darkness to light? Then what?
Only one thing: Judgment.
After cutting the Pharisees dead, the Lord looks out on the great city they're leading and it breaks His heart. "He wept over the city", Luke says, because
"If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave within you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation".
The Lord offered Himself to His people-and despite the brief and shallow enthusiasm they felt for Him-they wanted no part of Him! They wanted a Messiah-there's no doubt about that-but not this Messiah.
They wanted someone to crack Roman skulls, not call Israel to repentance. But the Messiah did not give them what they wanted. And because of that-within five days-the very same people would be calling for His crucifixion!
For this sin, an appalling judgment would fall on the People of the Covenant, with their capital city as a special focus of destruction.
One teacher takes the judgment pronounced on Jerusalem and turns it into an end time destruction of the Church. This cannot be found in the text and there is no reason to believe it. Many others say that it is the literal city our Lord has in mind, but its doom is still future. This makes more sense than the former teaching, but, it too, fails the test.
The easiest way to understand the prophecy is also the most literal way. There are no symbols in the text and nothing to suggest a deeper, higher, or more spiritual meaning.
The judgment pronounced that day fell on the city of Jerusalem-on many of the very same people who were alive that day! In the late 60's A.D., the Jews revolted against their Roman masters. When the Empire hit back, it hit back with a terrible force! All Palestine was ravaged by the angry Roman troops. And Jerusalem was put under siege. The Romans surrounded the city, camped out, and waited.
The siege was so secure that no one got out for two years. And this means the people starved and disease ate them up. It got so bad that mothers started eating their babies and innocent men were tortured and killed for alleged treason. Finally, the city broke, Rome took it, and the greatest massacre in the history of the world took place!
Josephus was a Pharisee alive at that time and served as a general in the Hebrew army. He gives all the gory details in his book, The Wars of the Jews. Interestingly enough, though he was a patriot and was not a Christian, he said the Jews deserved what they got! The city was so bad that it provoked God to destroy it.
THE WICKEDNESS OF JERUSALEM
The wickedness of the city was not limited to the bad parts of town-where all the bars are, where the working girls live, and so on. No, the sin of that city was concentrated in the Temple.
The Temple belonged to God and was open to His people. But it then occupied by squatters-trashy people who took it over and vandalized it. The vandals were the priests and the Pharisees-the very men who claimed to guard it.
They turned God's House into a crooked bazaar. There was nothing wrong with selling livestock in the court, for the pilgrims needed sheep, oxen, and so on, to offer the Lord. But they weren't just "selling" the sacrifices, they were swindling the people out of their money.
It worked like this: only an unblemished animal could be offered to the Lord. Only the priest could call the animal unblemished. But the priests were calling all the animals blemished and the people had to buy others-at unfair prices. Now the priests were not being too fussy; they were getting paid by the sellers to make the false judgments. Passover had become a cheat! A lousy, crooked, rotten way to make money!
When the Lord saw what was going on, He got mad, and drove out the crooks, with the withering rebuke,
"It is written, `My House shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of thieves".
After cleansing the Temple, the Lord stayed in Jerusalem to teach the people He loved, and to die at the hands of the leaders who hated Him.
The meaning of today's story is easy to state, but hard to fathom. The People of God that day rejected their King, but their King still loved them.
His rejection is seen even in the happy parts of the story. He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey-and not on a warhorse or a royal carriage as fits a King.
The donkey He rode was borrowed and the saddle He sat in were the threadbare coats of poor men.
The praise He received was not from the leaders of the city, but from the lower classes-and even they didn't really mean it.
Then it gets worse: the custodians of holiness want Him to stop the praise of God! And to let them get on with their lying and gouging the poor people who had come so far to worship God.
The Lord sees no hope for the city and nothing but doom in the near future.
Yet He cannot accept their doom with a hardened heart. He cries His eyes out over it, and though all hope is gone-it seems-He stays in town, cleanses the Temple, and continues teaching the people whom He knows will soon call for His death!
Oh the wickedness of men! Even in their religion, they want no Christ! We are born in sin and unless Jesus Christ does something for us, we will live and die without hope and without God in the world!
But Jesus Christ has done something for us. He saw our hopelessness and dared to hope for our salvation. He knew our problems were real and deep and incurable by anything we could do for ourselves.
So He did it for us! He died on the cross in our place. He offers the forgiveness of sin, a new life, and heaven to anyone who wants them.
How different He is than we are! Look at how sensitive we are to rejection-but He is not! Christ has the hide of a rhinocerous! We reject Him, we ignore Him, we damn Him with faint praise, and He still loves us and works for our salvation.
How dear He ought to be to His people. For we did not respond to the Gospel the first time we heard it. We ignored it, we laughed at it, we argued against, maybe we even blasphemed it! But as we laughed and raged and ranted, He kept offering Himself to us and gave us the grace to receive the offer.
"How precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed".
How dear He ought to be to the unsaved. You are no better than the people of Jerusalem that day-maybe not as good as they were. Yet, instead of bringing down His judgment upon you, Jesus Christ is still pleading with you to repent of your sins, to believe in Him, and to have eternal life! The eternal life He died to give you.
So why don't you take the offered mercy?
This is you day; these are the things that make for your peace. The Gospel is your salvation! Why don't you take it now-and from the bottom of your heart believe and love the Christ who offers it to you?
God give you the wisdom to choose well. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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