Forum Class for June 25, 2006

 

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
(Luke 18:31-19:10)

By: Bob Deffinbaugh , Th.M.

18:31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man 54 will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again.” 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Introduction

…Our passage consists of three paragraphs, each of which involves a significant amount of humiliation. Jesus’ rejection by His own people, His mocking, scourging, the spitting of His persecutors, and His cruel death on a Roman cross were the deepest humiliation. The blind man who received his sight had to undergo a humbling experience to get Jesus’ attention, in spite of the stern warnings of those who wished him to be silent. And Zacchaeus, the little rich man, who was not able to see over the crowd, humbled himself to climbing a tree so as to catch a glimpse of the man from Nazareth, the One who might be the Messiah.

I believe that humiliation binds each of these very different events together. In addition, I think that one can say that there is also the common theme of misunderstanding apparent in all three incidents. Jesus’ very clear statements about His up-coming rejection, persecution, and execution were not understood at all by the disciples. And the purposes of Christ were not understood either, as we can see in the next two episodes, where in both cases, men either tried to prevent men from coming to Jesus (as they did the blind man), or they resented Christ’s coming to them (as Jesus went to the house of Zacchaeus). The purpose of Jesus, “to seek and to save what was lost” (19:10), was simply not grasped at all.

Background

The subject of the coming kingdom of God has been in view since the question as to when the kingdom would come was raised by the Pharisees in chapter 17. In chapter 18, the focus changed from the timing and circumstances of the coming kingdom to who it would be who would enter into it. Jesus taught that those who would enter His kingdom would be not be those who expected to enter. And so the self-righteous Pharisee is not justified, but the penitent tax-collector is (18:9-14). Jesus taught His disciples that while the rich young ruler, and those like him would have much difficulty getting into the kingdom (18:18-27), those who were child-like would possess it (18:15-17).

The rich young ruler sadly left the presence of the living Lord because of what he did understand. He understood that his possessions could not come before his Lord. Strangely, the disciples continued to follow Jesus, but they really did not understand. Peter, apparently speaking for the rest of the disciples, said to the Master, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You” (Luke 18:28). The inference seems to be this, “Lord, we have left all to follow you. What’s in it for us?”

The Lord’s answer was gracious and encouraging. He told them that they would not leave these things as some great sacrifice, for they would indeed gain greatly, not only in heaven, but in the present age. They would receive a many fold return, in the present, and eternal life as well (verses 29-30).

The Ultimate Sacrifice 
(18:31-34)

I believe that the revelation of our Lord to His disciples in verses 31-34 was intended to put their “sacrifice” into perspective. Did they think that they were giving up everything for the kingdom of God? In reality, they were not giving up, but gaining, as our Lord’s immediately preceding words indicate. There was really only one sacrifice on which the kingdom of God was based, and that was the sacrifice which the Lord Jesus would make—the sacrifice of His own precious blood, to atone for the sins of the world.

Before we look at the prophecy of our Lord’s death which He gives to His disciples here, let us refresh our minds as to those specific statements Jesus has already made, as recorded by Luke. The following are not the only references to the Lord’s death, but they are those which are the most direct:

Luke 6:20-23 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

Luke 9:20-31 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.

Luke 9:43-45 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

Luke 12:43-45 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk.

Luke 13:33-35 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Luke 17:24-25 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

In Luke’s gospel we find a progressively revealed indication of the rejection, maltreatment, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord. Luke has informed us that Jesus will be rejected by the Jewish leaders (9:21-23), betrayed by one of His own (9:43-45), rejected by His generation (17:24-25), and now rejected and crucified by the Gentiles (18:31-34). Luke, in writing this gospel for a Gentile audience, does not wish them to miss their own role in the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. The prophecy of His suffering and death, given in 18:31-34 is very specific and detailed. It is totally different from the vague predictions of the fortune tellers and false prophets.

The amazing thing for me is that even with such a specific prophecy, the disciples had no idea what Jesus was talking about (verse 34). The reason for their lack of understanding is given in our text: the meaning was hidden from them—God deliberately withheld it. They were not ready for it. They would only understand Jesus’ rejection, crucifixion, and death after His resurrection.

There was no way that the disciples were going to raise a question about His meaning at this point. In the first place, what Jesus said was not what they wanted to hear. It was most unpopular. It did not fit in with their (human, cf. Matthew 16:23) expectations. Peter had tried to straighten Jesus out the first time He clearly spoke of His coming death, and he was strongly rebuked. I can see the disciples looking at each other, with puzzled glances, but also giving each other the high sign, not to raise any questions or to attempt to change the Master’s mind. They had tried this once before, and weren’t about to try it again. They had learned their lesson.

It is at this point that I wish to pause momentarily. At this point in their lives, the disciples understood very little of what Jesus was saying, nor did they grasp what He had come to do. It was not until after our Lord had fulfilled His task on Calvary, not until after He was raised from the dead, not until Jesus Himself had taught them (cf. Luke 24:27), not until the coming of the Holy Spirit, that the disciples were able to put all of this together.

Prophecy is never perfectly grasped until after its fulfillment. Jesus was not attempting to explain to His disciples what was about to happen, so that they could understand and have their minds and hearts at ease as all of these prophecies were coming to pass. Our Lord’s purpose was to underscore and draw their attention to the specific events of His death ahead of time, so that after its fulfillment they might understand that this was, indeed, inspired prophecy.

Why is it that so many Christians think that they can spell out the future, becoming experts in prophecy so that they can map out all of the details of the second coming? Why do we think that we can understand these things when no one else in history has done so. Even the prophets themselves were puzzled by their writings, and pondered what their meaning might be (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12).

If our Lord were to be graded by one of the homiletics (the science of preaching) professors in seminary, He would probably fail, for much (some might even say most) of what Jesus said was not understood by His audience. If the Lord Himself did not make everything He taught perfectly clear, how can we expect to do better? If our Lord did not make everything perfectly clear, with several very pointed applications, why is it that we think we must do so?

Frankly, there is a lot to be learned from hearing or reading that which we don’t understand. In the first place, we are (or should be) humbled by the fact that we don’t understand everything we hear. The problem with most of us is that we think we know too much, rather than thinking we know too little. Not understanding keeps us meditating and praying for insight into the Word of God. Not understanding all we read or hear helps us to look forward to heaven, for it is there that we will know all things fully. And yet, having said all this, we still are resistant to the fact that we need to study those things which we do not understand, and we do not like having to wait until later on to know what it means. The disciples knew very little, but they did know one thing, that Jesus was sent from God, and that He was loving, powerful, and kind. They knew enough to follow him. That is all we really have to know. The rest is frosting on the cake. Let us learn to be content with what we do not know.

The Healing of the Blind Man 
(18:35-43)

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Luke’s account of this event is not without parallels in the gospels of Matthew (20:29-34) and Mark (10:46-52). Matthew’s account informs us that there were two blind men healed on this occasion; 55 Mark’s account tells us the name of the man, Bartimaeus, and even his father (Timaeus).

This was a scene that was, at one and the same time, tragic and comic. Bartimaeus was sitting by the road as it led into Jericho (v. 35). Beggars always have certain spots picked out where the traffic is more frequent, and where, for some reason, there seems to be more generosity expressed (e.g. outside the temple). He could not see, so his begging would have been triggered by what he heard—a footstep, the sounds of passers-by talking, etc. The blind man would have heard Jesus approaching Jericho. He would have heard the sounds of the crowd from some distance. He asked those around him what was happening. Someone told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

Bartimaeus knew about Jesus, perhaps from what he heard as he sat along the street. You can imagine how the rumors would circulate about Jesus among the sick and the infirmed, especially concerning His miracles of healing. Bartimaeus began to call out to Jesus. He wanted healing and he believed Jesus was both able and willing. He did not call to Jesus by the name that was told him—Jesus of Nazareth—but rather by the name which identified Him far more accurately—Jesus, Son of David. The blind man may have had a physical handicap of blindness, but he knew that Jesus was more than a man; He was Messiah. Thus, Bartimaeus called to Jesus as Messiah, for He could heal the sick and give sight to the blind. 56 Bartimaeus pled for the one thing which touches the heart of a righteous God toward an undeserving sinner—mercy. He did not merit anything, but he did beg for mercy.

Those who were leading the way into town—probably the elders of Jericho—were irritated by the interruption and the unseemly disturbance which Bartimaeus posed. Here he was, yelling at the top of his lungs. He was being a nuisance. They therefore told him, in effect, “Shut up!” They sternly warned him to be still. Would they throw him in jail for disturbing the peace? How could Jesus, an important person, be bothered by such interruptions? He would not wish to stop for one blind man. The man must be silenced.

Jesus never seemed to conform to human expectations. He stopped, and ordered that the man be brought to him. At this point, Mark exposes the hypocrisy of those who once tried to silence Bartimaeus, for now they tell him to “take courage” (10:49). Mark also tells us that the man jumped up, threw off his coat, and went to Jesus. He was not going to be stopped. When asked by Jesus what he wanted, it did not take him long to speak up. He wanted to see. Jesus immediately healed him, informing him that it was his faith that had made him well (v. 42). Bartimaeus began following Jesus, and he may never have stopped. He also was glorifying God, which may also never have stopped. All the people joined in, giving praise to God.

Jesus Treed a Tax-Collector 
(19:1-10)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Tax collectors were not new to Jesus. Early on in His ministry, Jesus had attracted, and worse yet (in the eyes of the Pharisees), received them warmly. In Luke 5:30, Jesus was accused by the Pharisees for eating and drinking with “tax-gatherers and sinners.” It would seem that the two terms, “tax-gatherer” and “sinners” were synonymous to the Pharisees. There was hardly any lower form of life than these traitors. Jesus must have deeply offended the Pharisees when He told the parable of the penitent “tax-collector” and the self-righteous “Pharisee” in chapter 18 (verses 9-14), especially when it was the penitent tax-gatherer who went away justified, and the Pharisee went away unjustified.

Zacchaeus was not just an IRS man, he was a “chief tax-collector.” He would have been thought of about as fondly as a high level drug dealer. He was rich (v. 19), and this wealth very likely came, in part, from his crooked dealings (cf. 3:12-13). For some unexplained reason, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. He may have yearned for more than this, but he made a diligent effort to see Jesus as He passed through Jericho.

But Zacchaeus had a problem—he was a short man. I can visualize him bouncing up and down on his toes, trying to see above the taller folks who crowded ahead of him. “Boing, boing, boing,” he went, almost like a cartoon character, but his efforts were to no avail. Finally, he came up with a plan. He looked down the street, where he knew Jesus would have to pass. There it was! A tree. Perhaps not such a great tree, but a tree nonetheless. He could climb that tree and Jesus would pass by.

It would have been amusing, I think, to see this rich man trying to shinny up that tree. What a contrast this was to the way the rich young ruler must have come to Jesus. I envision him driving up, as it were, in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes limousine. But here, the rich little man Zacchaeus is scampering up a tree, perhaps falling a time or two, but finally getting high enough to see Jesus. There were probably little streams of perspiration running down his face. His clothing may have gotten soiled or spotted, maybe even torn. But he was now able to see Jesus.

While this rich little man is quite different, in many respects, from the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, he is also similar to him. Both men wanted to see Jesus. Both men would not be stopped by hindrances. And both men were rewarded by the Master. The difference between the two was that Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. He wanted to be noticed and summoned to come to Jesus. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, may have wished to remain unnoticed. It was not a very dignified thing he did. We might even say it was child-like (cf. 18:15-16).

Jesus took note of Zacchaeus, although we are not told why. He stopped, looked up, called him by name, and told him that he must come to his house. This “must” has the same feel to it as does this situation, described by John in his gospel: “He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:3-4, emphasis mine).

Why did Jesus express the necessity of going to the house of Zacchaeus? Why the “must”? What was so necessary that it required going to the house of Zacchaeus?

As a tax-collector (a chief tax-collector, no less), Zacchaeus was considered a sinner, the same as a Gentile. Such a person should not be accepted into the hospitality of one’s home, Pharisaism would say (cf. Luke 5:29-30). One should most certainly not enter into the home of such a person, to accept their hospitality and to eat their food. In the process of doing so, one would defile himself, in violation of the law, as interpreted by Pharisaism. Jesus not only accepted an invitation, He invited Himself. This brought an immediate, strong reaction: “All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner’” (verse 7).

This was not merely the reaction of a few. Luke tells us that they all began to grumble. Did this also include the disciples? Perhaps. The explanation for our Lord’s actions comes in verse 10:

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (verses 9-10).

The purpose of our Lord’s coming was still not clear. First and foremost, Jesus came to save sinners. Yes, He would later establish the kingdom of God on the earth, but the basis of this kingdom, that which Christ must accomplish at His first coming, was the forgiveness of man’s sins. Men could not enter into the kingdom of God in their sinful condition. Jesus came to bear the penalty of man’s sins, and to provide them with His righteousness. This was the foundation of the kingdom.

Jesus came to seek and to save sinners. He did not come to associate with the rich and powerful. He did not come to provide positions and power for the disciples. He came to save sinners. To do so, He must associate with sinners. Thus, while it may offend the sensitivities and the social mores of His day, Jesus would go where sinners were, so that the gospel could come to them and they could be saved. If one’s goal is to save sinners, then being with sinners is simply a means to that goal. Jesus’ ministry was governed by His goal of seeking and saving sinners. Did Zacchaeus think that he had sought the Lord? He had. But the Lord had also sought Him.

What a beautiful picture of the tension that is maintained here between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. The blind man called out to the Savior for mercy and received it. Zacchaeus did not call upon the Lord, but the Lord called to him. The Scriptures clearly teach that no one who truly comes to Jesus for mercy, on the basis of faith, will be turned away. They also teach that anyone who comes to Christ for salvation does not come on their own initiative, but is drawn by God:

“WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:13, citing Joel 2:32).

“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

It is therefore God who both begins and finishes the work of salvation, and yet man is not to be passive:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2).

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, In order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in you faith supply moral excellence, and in you moral excellence, knowledge… (2 Peter 1:4-5ff.)

God’s sovereignty does not remove our responsibility both to seek God and to obey Him. And yet when we do, we know that it is because God has caused us to will and to work His good pleasure. No man who truly seeks God as Savior will ever be turned away. Those who do seek, will find that they have first been sought by Him, the One who came to seek and to save the sinner.

It is only after reporting the grumbling of all who beheld Jesus going to the house of a “sinner” like Zacchaeus that Luke also informs us of the change which faith has brought to this man. It would seem that even before Jesus entered his house, Zacchaeus stopped and spoke to Jesus of his intended purposes, as a result of Jesus’ coming into his life. He would, he said, give half of his possessions to the poor. In addition, he would repay four-fold anyone whom he had defrauded (verse 8).

The first thing that I notice is that Zacchaeus offered a great deal to the poor, but not all of his possessions. Why only half? Did Jesus not require the rich young ruler to sell all? Notice that Zacchaeus’ offer is completely voluntary. Jesus has not laid this on him as some kind of condition. The man determined to do this, as an act of gratitude, not as a duty which he would be grudgingly perform.

Second, I believe that he offered to give only half of his possessions to the poor for a very practical reason—paying back those whom he had defrauded would require the rest of his wealth. In my mind, Zacchaeus did give away all he owned: half to the poor, and the other half to those whom he had swindled.

Third, I find this man’s offer to repay by paying back four times what he stole very interesting. When I look at those Old Testament passages which prescribe the repayment due to those from whom we have stolen, I find that the minimum repayment, as it were, was the return of the stolen goods, plus a 20% penalty—a kind of rental fee (cf. Leviticus 6:1-5). In other places repayment of stolen goods was determined on whether or not the stolen object could actually be recovered (cf. Exodus 22:1-5). The thing which impresses me about Zacchaeus’ offer is that he did not promise to make the minimum repayment, but the maximum one. Zacchaeus was willing to grant that his theft was of the worst kind, and was willing to make things right with this frame of mind. He did not minimize his sin.

This leads me to make another observation: while salvation is not by works, when genuine salvation comes to a man, his life radically changes. Salvation is a radical event, bringing men from darkness to light, from death to life, and from evil to righteousness. Genuine conversion produces change in the lives of those who are saved. Zacchaeus evidences a genuine conversion by the change which can be seen—a sudden change in his case—in his actions. May it be so of us as well. Men may not understand the change which has occurred in our lives when we have met the Master and been saved, but they should see change. That is part of what the book of James is all about.

The sinner, Zacchaeus, is now a saint. Salvation has come to his house. He will never be the same again. And yet, while the crowds could finally rejoice and praise God for the sight which blind Bartimaeus received (18:43), there is no record of any praise to God for the salvation of Zacchaeus. At least, I hope, there should have been a sigh of relief.

Conclusion

Two things impress me about our text, in addition to what I have already said. The first is that Jesus was seldom understood by men. His disciples did not understand His straightforward predictions of His rejection, suffering and death (cf. 18:34). The leaders did not understand the heart of Jesus, and thus sought to silence the blind man and keep him from Jesus. And seemingly no one understood what it meant to “seek and to save sinners” and thus all grumbled when Jesus invited himself to the home of a sinner. Prior to the cross, and to the coming of the Spirit, very little of what Jesus said was grasped by His audience, including His closest followers.

Should it come as a surprise to us, then, that when we live as Christians we are not understood either? The apostle Peter later tells his readers that misunderstanding should be expected, for God’s ways are not man’s ways:

For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you; but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead … Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange things were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation (1 Peter 4:3-5, 12-13).

The “way of the cross” necessitates being misunderstood, resisted, and rejected. That is what our Lord experienced, and it is what His followers will find to be their experience as well.

Finally, I find that all three paragraphs of our text contain the common theme of rejection and humiliation. Jesus’ atoning death for the sins of the world required not only death, but rejection and humiliation. His was a humbling death. It was not glorious, in one sense at least. The blind man humbled himself and endured the rejection and resistance of the crowd. He would not be silenced. He would not be stopped. He did receive mercy. But it was only through humiliation that he was to come to Jesus. So, too, for the rich man, Zacchaeus. Unlike the rich young ruler, who seemed to come to Jesus with his riches and pride, Zacchaeus climbed a tree, and he withstood the sneers and grumbling of the crowd. His, too, was the experience of rejection and humiliation.

The cross of Jesus Christ is a cross of rejection and humiliation. Our Lord willingly bore this cross. But the way to that cross is often also through rejection and humiliation. But what a blessing that way is, when it leads us to the Prince of Life, to the forgiveness of sins, and to His mercy. Let us gladly seek the cross through the valley of rejection and humiliation, for this is the way our Lord came to His cross.

NOTES:

54 It was interesting to track the expression, “the son of man,” through the Bible, using my computerized concordance program (NIV). I found that the expression is found in only five Old Testament and seven New Testament books: Numbers (1); Job (1); Psalms (3); Ezekiel (93); Daniel (2); Matthew (28); Mark (13); Luke (25); John (12); Acts (1); Hebrews (1); Revelation (2).

Prior to the book of Ezekiel, the expression is nearly equivalent to “man,” the “son of man” simply being human, one born of man (cf. Numbers 23:19). In Psalms 8:4 and 80:17, however, more than this is implied, for here we find an allusion to the One who is to come who is born of man, but who is also the coming King, the Messiah. In Ezekiel, the expression is used of the prophet himself. The Lord Jesus, of course, was a prophet, and thus could use the term of Himself as a prophet. Daniel’s prophecy in 7:13 implies more than just a mere man. It to these “more than just a man” texts that our Lord seems to be alluding when He calls Himself the Son of Man in the gospels. John’s gospel (9:35; 12:34) seems to use the expression with the most precision. There are other texts which do not use the precise term, but do seem to refer to the Messiah as the “son of man” (cf. Ezekiel 1:26-28; Daniel 10:5, 16, 18).

55 My opinion is that the one man, Bartimaeus, was by far the more prominent. It would seem that he may have become an active member of the church, years later, and thus he and his father may well have been known. This detail would have been of much interest to those who knew him, to learn how this man first came to Christ. Bartimaeus may also have been the more vocal and aggressive, so that the second (unnamed) blind man of Matthew’s account may have been healed on this heels, so to speak, of Bartimaeus.

56 Remember that at the outset of our Lord’s ministry, Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1 & 2 (cf. Luke 4:16-21), where the prophet spoke of Messiah bringing “recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). Remember also that when John the Baptist had his doubts and sent men to inquire of Jesus, as to whether or not He was the Messiah, Jesus pointed to His giving sight to the blind (Luke 7:21), among other things, as evidence of His being Messiah.

 

 

 

The Nobleman: His Slaves and His Citizens
(Luke 19:11-27)

By: Bob Deffinbaugh , Th.M.

19:11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ 14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ 20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ 25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ 26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Introduction

My friend Chuck was just released from prison. It was my joy and privilege to pick him up and take him to the airport. As we visited in the past few days, Chuck told me about some of the things which he did, and which his friends did, knowing his time was short. He told me that he had signed up to umpire an incredible number of baseball games in his last three days, somewhere between 8 and 13 as I recall. In the prison, and elsewhere as I understand it, there is an expression that is used which is interesting. If a man has three days left until his release, he will say, “I have two days and a wake-up.” That last day, as it were, is the time when he comes to life, when he does all that he needs to do, when he begins to think and act in light of what he will be doing from that time on.

It is interesting what we will do or not do, knowing that the time is short. Some Christians seem to think that believing the time before our Lord’s return is short has nothing but good results. That is not necessarily true. I have seen men go to prison, sentenced for many years, living as though their release were imminent. They fail to develop the mindset and the behavior patterns which are necessary for getting along as well as they can.

Our text is very interesting in that it depicts disciples as thinking that they have “a few days and a wake-up” before the kingdom comes. Jesus, on the other hand, seems to view this mindset as problematic. He tells this parable in order to correct, or at least to put into perspective this short-term thinking. We, too (or at least many of us), believe that the return of our Lord Jesus Christ is imminent, that is, it could be at any moment. In the case of people of Jesus’ day, the people were both right and wrong. The entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem did present Israel with their Messiah, but in the plan and purpose of God, He would be rejected, nailed to a cross, buried, and rise again, all to save men from their sins. It would not be until some time later that the kingdom of God would be established. Indeed, we still await the coming of that kingdom.

What, then, is wrong with looking for an imminent return of our Lord? Is Jesus trying to teach the people that they are wrong? Yes, in fact, He is doing that in our text. But it is not merely holding to an imminent return that is wrong, it is holding this view wrongly, in misapplying it, that we may err greatly. Just as the doctrine of God’s grace can be abused, even though true (cf. Romans 6), the doctrine of an imminent coming can be misused, too. Let us look carefully, then, at what is wrong with the “imminent kingdom” position taken by the people of Jesus’ day, and let us study our text carefully to see how this parable is intended to correct the error.

Background

The Lord has had His face set towards Jerusalem for some time now (cf. 9:51). He has spoken very specifically to His disciples about His rejection, suffering, and death at Jerusalem (cf. 18:31-34). His disciples were not able to understand, however. They, like many others, have their heads filled with glorious thoughts of the kingdom of God, the appearance of which they expect at any moment (19:11). The closer they get to Jerusalem (Jericho was about 17 miles away), the greater the expectation. Jerusalem was not only the capital of Israel, and the throne of the king (including Messiah, the Son of David), it was the place where they expected the kingdom to be commenced. Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem was viewed to be the official commencement of the kingdom. Reviewing these Old Testament texts, we can understand why:

You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9).

At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts (Jeremiah 3:17).

In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness’ (Jeremiah 33:16).

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls (Joel 2:32).

The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. “Then you will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her (Joel 3:16-17).

Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Micah 4:2).

This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain” (Zechariah 8:3).

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 (Zechariah 9:9).

“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity (Zechariah 13:1).

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south (Zechariah 14:4).

On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter (Zechariah 14:8).

The Structure of the Text

The structure of our text can be summarized as follows:

(1) Introduction—(v. 11)

(2) The Nobleman’s Departure—(vv. 12-13)

(3) The Rebellion of the Nobleman’s Citizens—(v. 14)

(4) The King Returns and Deals With His Slaves—(vv. 15-26)

(5) The King Deals With His Rebellious Citizens—(v. 27)

The Relationship Between 
Luke 19:12-27 and Matthew 25:14-30

The marginal notes in the NASB, both in Matthew 25 and in Luke 19 seem to suggest that these two accounts are parallel. While there are some obvious similarities, the differences are far greater. Consider the differences, which become much more obvious when the two passages are compared side-by-side:

Luke 19:11-27

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those, standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ 25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ 26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.

27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Matthew 25:14-30

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3).

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.

The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Excellent, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’

 

The Differences Summarized 57

Luke

Matthew

Approaching Jerusalem (19:28)

In Jerusalem (24:1-3)

A nobleman, then king (12)

A man (14)

Went to receive kingdom (12)

Went away on journey (14)

Money = Mina (13)

Money = Talent (15)

Each given one mina (13)

Given according to ability (15)

Gain was different (16, 18, 20)

Each doubled in gain (16-18)

Slaves & Citizens

Only slaves

 

The Setting 
(19:11)

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

Jesus had just told Zacchaeus that “salvation had come to his house” (v. 9). Some listened and believed that this meant that salvation had also come to the nation in the form of the kingdom of God. Jesus and His disciples were pressing on, drawing ever nearer to Jerusalem, the hub of Israel, the focal point of biblical prophecy. The disciples, at least, regarded Jesus as the Messiah, albeit a very different one than that which was to be. As the distance between Jesus, the crowds who followed, and Jerusalem shrunk, the expectation exponentially multiplied. They thought of the kingdom as but a few miles and a few hours away. They believed the kingdom of God was imminent. That was the problem, it would seem. That is the very reason Luke gives us for Jesus telling the parable which follows. Somehow, this parable is to correct, or at least to clarify, the situation.

The Nobleman, His Destiny, 
His Departure, His Slaves and Citizens 
(19:12-14)

12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ 14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

The man of the story was a person of position and power, a “nobleman” (NASB, v. 12). He was soon to be a man of even greater power and position. He was about to become a king. In order to be appointed as such, he had to travel to a distant country. As I understand it, the kingdom which the nobleman was to receive was not a different kingdom in a distant land, but the kingdom which he had just left. It would have been something like a lawyer going to Washington D. C., to be appointed to a high position back in his home state. It would seem to men that this nobleman would return quite soon, to assume his position of power.

Knowing that he would be absent for a time, the nobleman called some of his slaves to him, to give them their orders for the period he was to be absent. He gave each of the ten slaves one mina. From the marginal note found in the NASB at verse 13, we can learn that this was equivalent to nearly 100 days’ wages. A talent, on the other hand (as mentioned in Matthew 25:15ff.), was worth about 50 times as much (cf. marginal note in NASB at Matthew 25:15). His command was specific. The slaves were all to “do business” (Luke 19:13, NASB) with the money, or, as the NIV puts it, to “put the money to work” until the master returned. The master expected to get back more than he put into the hands of his slaves. Money, as a friend of mine put it, has a time-value. Money should always increase over time, since it can always be loaned out at interest, or at least put in the bank, where it will be loaned out. The master thus expected to get back more than he left in the care of each slave.

The master not only had slaves, who were obligated to serve him, he also had citizens who should also serve him as their master. In those days, citizens were virtual slaves of the king. It would seem that the citizens were silent as the nobleman left their country. They did not like this man, nor did they want him to return to rule over them, once he was officially king. They seem to have gotten their courage in the nobleman’s absence. Thus, they sent a delegation to that distant place, informing their “king” that they did not want him to return, and therefore strongly suggesting that he not return.

It is not difficult to understand the story thus far, nor is it difficult to see its meaning with reference to Jesus, His “departure,” His rejection, and His return. Like the nobleman, Jesus came to the earth with great position and power. Like the nobleman, Jesus’ power greatly increased as a result of His departure. Jesus was rejected by men, hung on a cross, put to death, buried, raised, and then ascended to heaven, where He now is seated at the right hand of God. Jesus’ power is now even greater than it was when He first came to the earth (cf. Philippians 2:9-11). His return to reign over His people, His citizens has been delayed (from our human perspective), but He will surely come.

The King’s Return: Accounts Settled 
(19:15-27)

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ 20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ 24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ 25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ 26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

After some time, the nobleman did return, but now as the king. The first thing he did, as king, was to settle accounts with his servants. Apparently Jesus did not mention any more than three of the slaves. One of them did very well, getting a 10-fold return on his master’s money. Another slave managed to use his master’s money to obtain a five-fold return. The third had no increase at all, for a very understandable reason: he had never put the money to any use. Instead, he simply hid the money in the ground. In effect, he lost money for his master, since there had been no gain at all.

The master dealt with the first two slaves in a similar way. The first slave, who seems to have been more diligent (he had the greatest increase, twice as much as the second slave), received his master’s commendation: “Well done!” The second slave was not commended with the same words as the first, but was rewarded in the same manner—each received a position of authority directly proportionate to their faithfulness with regard to the master’s money. The first slave presented his master with ten minas and received as his reward, the rule of ten cities. The second slave presented the master with five minas and received the rule of five cities as his reward. In both cases, their faithfulness as slaves in the use of their master’s money resulted in them becoming rulers.

The third slave who was mentioned was very different, and so was his master’s response. Notice that this slave is by far the focus of this parable. The first slave is allocated 2 verses of print; the second, another 2 verses. The account concerning the third slave involves 7 verses. It is evident, then, from the “law of proportion” that this third slave, while not the hero of the story, is the central figure. To relate this to the introduction in verse 11 we must say that this third slave personifies the problem which our Lord is addressing, the problem of thinking that the kingdom is imminent.

This slave did not put his mina to use, he did not “do business” with it. Instead, he hid it, neatly wrapped in a piece of cloth. Initially, I failed to distinguish what the slave in this parable did with the mina, from what the slave did with the talent in Matthew’s gospel. In Matthew, the slave buried the talent in the ground. In this parable, the slave wrapped the money up in a piece of cloth, and hid it somewhere. I can almost see it socked away in his drawer somewhere close.

The slave's words are all that we have to go by. They are also that by which the slave was judged by his master. His words, quite honestly, have been very perplexing to me. I have, however, come to the following conclusions.

(1) The master expected the slave to take his words literally and seriously, which the slave did not do. The master told all the slaves to “do business” with the money he entrusted to them. This slave did not do so. Hiding the money in a piece of cloth isn’t “doing business.”

(2) The master took the words of the slave seriously, judging him in accordance with what he said.

(3) The slave’s description of his master was far from flattering. It strikes me as totally out of place for the slave to tell his master that he is a “hard man” (NIV, “exacting,” NASB). I have the impression that the slave’s view of his master differs only slightly from that of the citizens, who do not want this man as their king.

(4) The slave’s description of his master may not have been accurate. The master did not challenge the viewpoint of the slave—that he was a harsh and demanding man, but this does not mean that the slave was correct. This was his perception of the master, whether it was correct or not. I personally think that the master was not harsh. After all, the master is a picture of our Lord, who will come as the King of the Earth.

(5) The slave’s words are hypocritical. The slave told his master that he feared him, because he was exacting, but the master refused to accept this explanation. If the slave had truly feared his master, he would have made an effort to produce a profit for him, which he did not do. He did not even go so far as to put the money out at interest, so as to get some return for the master. If the slave was truly fearful, he would have also been obedient.

(6) The slave’s words provide us with the key to understanding why he did not make an effort to “do business” with the master’s money, even when commanded to do so, and when he said that he feared him. I have come to the conclusion that the slave’s perception of his master is very similar to that of the citizens, who rejected him. Why did the citizens not want this nobleman as their king? Because they thought he would be a bad king. Just as the master had the right to reap what he did not sow, by being the master of tenant farmers, so the king also taxed the people, and gained benefits from their labor.

Personally, I think that the slave felt it was wrong for his master to lay claim to any of the fruit of the labor of others. I think that the slave felt his master was both unkind, uncaring, and undeserving of gain. I believe that he felt the master was wrong to command his slaves to “do business” and to make a profit. This explains to me why he would put the money away, and refuse to do that which his master specifically commanded.

(7) It is also possible that the slave may have failed to “do business” with his master’s money simply because he felt that the time was too short to engage in business. At the beginning of this parable, Luke told us that Jesus spoke the parable in addition to His other words, because the people were looking for the kingdom to come immediately. One of the things which a “short-term” mindset does is to discourage “long-term” planning and investing. If you receive a check for $10,000 but know that you will have to write a check for that same amount in a day, you generally will not seek to buy a certificate of deposit with it, or to buy a savings bond, or to put the money in your savings account. You will deposit the money in your checking account, simply because you know that it will only be a short time before it will be gone.

Did the wicked slave have the same mindset? Did he convince himself that doing business was foolish and unnecessary, since the kingdom was imminent? Did he feel that long-term investing of his master’s money was just plain foolish? It may very well be so. Long-term investing is foolishness to those who have but a short-term mindset.

Here is a very real tension in Christian living. We must hold two truths in tension as we seek to apply them. On the one hand, we must live in the light of an imminent return. Christ may come at any moment, and we should both be ready and watching for His return. But we must also live wisely, making good investments for His kingdom, knowing that His return may not be as soon as we think or hope. Many foolish things have been done by those who felt that the kingdom was imminent. On the other hand, many foolish things have been done by those who feel its coming is distant. We must hold both a short-term and a long-term view of life and ministry, and we must seek to hold these in tension.

(8) The king’s wicked slave did not lose his life in this parable, but he did lose his reward. In the parable in Matthew, the wicked slave is cast into outer darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth (25:30). The rewards that could have been his were forfeited. His mina was given to the slave who had proven most diligent.

The master’s final act was to deal with His rebellious citizens, those who had become bold when he left, and had sent a delegation to invite this “king-to-be” not to return. On his return, the king commanded that his enemies, those wicked citizens of his kingdom who rejected him, be brought before him, where they would be killed. These enemies are clearly representative of those inhabitants of the nation Israel who would reject Jesus as their Messiah. Just as these people refused to have “this one” (a very demeaning expression) as their king, so the nation Israel would reject Jesus as their king. They would profess to having only one king—Caesar (John 19:15). The 23rd chapter of Luke’s gospel is filled with references to Jesus as “king,” all of which are negative.

Conclusion

In the context of Luke’s gospel, this parable now begins to make sense. Jesus was nearing Jerusalem. Expectation was at an all-time high. Everyone expected the kingdom to commence upon our Lord’s arrival. This parable was then given by our Lord. The departure of the king to a distant land, and his later return signaled a time delay in the arrival of the kingdom of God. The people expected the kingdom to be established almost immediately, but this parable taught that there were some intervening events which must take place first.

The delay of the kingdom’s arrival had at least two reasons. In the first place, the king had to go away in order to gain the right to rule. Our Lord had to lay the foundation for His kingdom by laying down His life for the sins of the world, by making a provision for righteousness on the basis of His grace, so that men could be pronounced righteous and be allowed to enter into His kingdom. Jesus had to go up to heaven to be crowned king (cf. Philippians 2:9-11), and to wait for the Father’s appointed time for Him to return and to reign.

In the second place, the delay of the kingdom provided a time for the king’s servants to be proven, to be tested, so that those who were faithful could be rewarded by greater responsibilities in the kingdom. The delay in the coming of the kingdom enables the Master to test His servants in the use of the money that has been entrusted to them. To the degree that the slaves are faithful in the use of money—a small thing—they will be given greater authority, the authority to rule in the kingdom.

And finally, while the disciples (especially) thought of the kingdom of God in terms of political revolution and of personal position and power, this parable reminded them that the coming of the kingdom would begin with a time of judgment. A judgment in terms of those who rejected Christ as Savior, and also a judging of the followers of the Lord as to their faithfulness in serving Him, which will be the basis of their rewards in the kingdom.

The text has an interesting lesson regarding Jews and Gentiles. Remember that the gospel of Luke is purposed to be an explanation of the gospel from a Gentile perspective. Now who do you think the “citizens” in this parable represent? They represent the Israelites, The mass of Jews in Jesus’ day who rejected Him as their Messiah. And who would constitute the slaves? Slaves were most often foreigners—Gentiles if you would. Jesus has once again turned the world upside-down, for it is the (Gentile) slaves who become rulers, while the Jews, the “citizens” do not even enter the kingdom, but are slaughtered outside. The Gentile thrust of this gospel is once again evident. The way to honor and position is not competition and self-assertion (as the disciples seem to have been doing), but faithful service as slaves. To seek to preserve one’s independence, however, is to invite divine judgment.

As I was studying this text I wondered what the minas stood for. What did they symbolize? At first, I was impressed with the fact that everyone of the ten slaves got the same amount of money. Thus, I concluded that the gospel was that which has been entrusted to us, that which we are to invest in, to do business with until He returns. But I have changed my mind. I think that the minas stand for money, just as they plainly do in the text. The fact is that some of us have far too much concern for money—we love it too much, and we cling to it like the rich young ruler. But there are others who, like the wicked servant, disdain it altogether, and who feel that it is wrong to have money, and even more evil to try to use it. Jesus dispels such thinking as evil and wicked, for money that is used for the kingdom of God is invested in eternity, it is laying up treasure in heaven. For some of us, this is a lesson that needs to be heeded well.

My final question is this, my friend, “Are you a citizen or a slave?” Which are you? That is the most important distinction in the world. Your eternal destiny is determined by the decision you make here. Is Jesus the Messiah, the King of the Earth, or is He one to be rejected? If He is Messiah, then you are to be His slave, doing what He has commanded, looking for His return, but “doing business” faithfully until that day. You become a slave by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s King, who came first to die for the sins of men, and who comes again as the judge of all, and the King of the Earth. Your eternal destiny is determined by whether you are a citizen or a slave. May you be a slave, for Christ’s sake, and yours. And if you are a slave, may you (and I) be a faithful slave, one to whom the master can say, “Well done, good slave.”

NOTES:

57 Plummer is the most detailed in his description of the differences between the two texts. He writes, “Here, Jesus is approaching Jerusalem, but has not yet entered it in triumph: apparently He is still in Jericho. In Mt. He is on the Mount of Olives a day or two after the triumphal entry. Here He addresses a mixed company publicly. In Mt. He is speaking privately to His disciples (xxiv. 3). Besides the difference in detail where the two narratives are parallel, there is a great deal in Lk. which is not represented in Mt. at all. The principal items are: (1) the introduction, ver. 11; (2) the high birth of the chief agent and his going into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, ver. 12; (3) his citizens hating him and sending an ambassage after him to repudiate him, ver. 14; (4) the signal vengeance taken upon these enemies, ver. 27; (5) the conclusion, ver. 28… . Even in the parts that are common to the two parables the differences are very considerable. (1) In the Talents we have a householder leaving home for a time, in the Pounds a nobleman going in quest of a crown; (2) the Talents are unequally distributed, the Pounds equally; (3) the sums entrusted differ enormously in amount; (4) in the Talents the rewards are the same, in the Pounds they differ and are proportionate to what has been gained; (5) in the Talents the unprofitable servant is severely punished, in the Pounds he is merely deprived of his pound. Out of about 302 words in Mt. and 286 in Lk., only about 66 words or parts of words are common to the two.” Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1969), p. 437.

 

 

The Untriumphal Entry
(Luke 19:28-44)

By: Bob Deffinbaugh , Th.M.

Matthew 21:1-17 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.

They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Mark 11:1-18 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ “ They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him SAY it.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

Luke 19:28-48 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ “ Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

John 12:9-19 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Introduction

It was nearly 20 years ago that I heard this text used in a most unusual way. A friend had just lost a little girl, who died as an infant of an incurable disease. At the funeral, one of the elders of the church, Howard Prier, read the paragraph (I do not recall from which of the gospel accounts) which we have recorded before us in verses 28-34. How could a text pertaining the acquisition of a donkey possibly bring comfort to those who had just lost a child in death? Mr. Prier focused our attention on the phrase, “the Lord needs it.” All it took was this statement from the disciples, and the owners of these two animals were willing to let them be led away. And all it required for the Christian to release the little child to God’s care and keeping was the knowledge that, in His good purposes, God had need of the child. What a beautiful truth. What a marvelous application.

In the context of the passage before us, I am nevertheless faced with a couple of tensions. The first is this: Why is an entire paragraph devoted to the procuring of a donkey and its foal, when it seems like such an insignificant event? The second tension is occasioned by the great contrast between the joyful praise of the crowds and Jesus’ weeping: Why does the entrance of our Lord seem so triumphal, when our Lord’s assessment of it implies the opposite? Why does the people rejoice while the Savior weeps?

The Background of our Passage

The events of the entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem can only be understood in the light of a number of very important elements, all of which converged in this place at this point in time. First, Jerusalem was the destination of our Lord, toward which He had been heading for some time. From Luke’s gospel, and from the accounts of Matthew and Mark, we know that Jesus has been bound for Jerusalem for some time. Ever since the transfiguration of Jesus, He had been speaking to His disciples of going to Jerusalem, where He would be put to death (cf. Luke 9:31, 51). Even publicly, to some degree, it was made known that He would not be stopped from going to Jerusalem, to His death (Luke 13:31-35).

Second, all Israel knew that it would be in Jerusalem where Messiah would be enthroned as their King. In our previous lesson, I outlined a few of the Old Testament texts which looked for Messiah to appear in Jerusalem. 58 In the “triumphal entry,” Jesus’ presentation of Himself to Israel as their Messiah is seen as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 (cf. Matthew 21:4-5). All eyes were on Jerusalem, and Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.

Third, the Passover feast was at hand, which brought many spiritual pilgrims to Jerusalem and fueled the fires of spiritual and messianic expectations. Spiritual Israelites from all over Israel would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, just as Jesus’ family did, as recorded in Luke chapter 2 (verses 41 ff.). Edersheim writes,

“Everyone in Israel was thinking about the Feast. for the previous month it had been the subject of discussion in the Academies, and, for the last two Sabbaths at least, that of discourse in the Synagogues. Everyone was going to Jerusalem, or had those near and dear to them there, or at least watched the festive processions to the Metropolis of Judaism. It was a gathering of universal Israel, that of the memorial of the birth-night of the nation, and of its Exodus, when friends from afar would meet, and new friends be made; when offerings long due would be brought, and purification long needed be obtained—and all worship in that grand and glorious Temple, with its gorgeous ritual. National and religious feelings were alike stirred in what reached far back to the first, and pointed far forward to the final Deliverance. 59

John specifically tells us that many came to Jerusalem from the country, to celebrate the Passover:

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover, to purify themselves (John 11:55).

Fourth, Jesus had performed a number of spectacular miracles, which attracted the crowds and further fueled their messianic enthusiasm. Blind Bartimaeus (Mark named him, Mark 10:46), accompanied by another unnamed blind man (Matthew 20:30), were given their sight in Jericho (Luke 18:35-43). The most spectacular miracle, however, was the raising of Lazarus, which happened very near to Jerusalem, in Bethany (John 11:1). The result of this miracle was even greater popularity for our Lord, with some believing in Him, and others not:

“Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done” (John 11:45-46).

This popularity alarmed the Pharisees, who met together to discuss the crisis, and who, from that day on, were intent on killing Jesus, based upon this counsel, spoken by Caiaphas:

“You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish” (John 11:49b-50).

Jesus therefore retreated, avoiding public exposure, until the proper time for His death came. He went to the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, staying there with His disciples (John 11:54). Many were seeking Jesus. He was the topic of conversation of those waiting at the Temple (John 11:56). Not only was Jesus sought, but also Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him (John 12:9-11).

One can hardly grasp the mood of many at that moment in history. They were looking for Messiah, and Jesus was a likely candidate. The moment was right. They looked for Him, watching carefully for any indication of His identity. In contrast, the Pharisees and religious leaders were determined that He was not the Messiah, and that He would have no opportunity to attempt to be acclaimed such by the masses who would have wished He were their King. They were intent on putting Him to death, and were only looking for the right opportunity. These opponents of our Lord feared the crowds, and sought to do away with Jesus out of their sight.

Putting the Props in Place: 
Arranging for Messiah’s Entrance 
(19:28-34)

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethpage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

The Mount of Olives is a hill outside of Jerusalem, which Luke tells us elsewhere is a “Sabbath day’s journey” from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). It is a place of great significance. It was on the Mount of Olives that king David wept, along with his faithful followers, as he fled from Jerusalem and from his son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15:30). According to Zachariah 14:4, the Messiah was to appear on the Mount of Olives, which would be split in half, forming a great valley. It is here that the “triumphal entry” was staged. During His last week, Jesus spent His nights on the Mount of Olives (Luke 21;37). It seems also to be from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended (cf. Acts 1:12).

Jesus must have paused here on the Mount of Olives, before entering Jerusalem. He sent two of His disciples on ahead to procure a mount. It was not that Jesus needed a ride, for it was not a long walk into Jerusalem. To my knowledge, this is the first time Jesus is said to have ridden an animal. The purpose for riding into Jerusalem on a never-ridden foal of an ass was to fulfill prophecy, and thereby to proclaim His identity as Messiah. The prophecy is that of Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is legitimate and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey—on a young donkey, the foal of a female donkey.(Zechariah 9:9).

There is a whole paragraph devoted to a description of the details surrounding the procuring of this donkey and its foal in all three of the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John alone cuts these details from his account. Why the detail in Luke and the other two gospels? Several responses can be given:

First, this was an important fulfillment of prophecy, which our Lord was intent on fulfilling precisely. While Luke does not stress the element of fulfilled prophecy as much as Matthew, this is nevertheless a factor. Jesus was, by His deed, declaring His identity as Messiah.

Second, the miraculous power of the Lord Jesus is portrayed. Some might think it a miracle that the animals were released to these two disciples. But Jesus’ exact knowledge of the whereabouts of the animals, and of the response of the owners, indicates our Lord is completely aware of and in control of His environment. The fact that the animal on which Jesus rode had never been ridden may be a hidden clue to His deity. In Numbers 19:2 and Deuteronomy 21:3, the animals which were to be sacrificed to God were not to have borne a yoke. Is the fact that this animal had never been ridden a clue to the fact that it was, as it were, an offering to God, something to be used in His service? I believe that our Lord’s choosing to ride on a never-ridden animal is a miraculous event. I can almost see the owners snickering to themselves, saying, in effect, “Just wait until he tries to ride this animal. Is he in for a jolt!”

Third, the fact that the disciples did not first ask to use the two animals, but only gave an explanation for their right to take them, is an indication of the Lord’s right to make use of anything man owns. Think of the various ways in which a previously unridden animal could have been acquired. Jesus Himself could have gone and asked to use it. He could have identified Himself as Messiah, and explained that He had certain prophecies to fulfill, and the use of that person’s animal would be an important contribution to His kingdom. Or, Jesus could have sent His disciples on a similar task. Once they explained who Jesus was, and then asked for the use of the animal, they surely would have gotten it. They could, of course, have promised to bring the animals right back, or could even have offered to rent or buy them.

Yet none of these things were done. Instead, these two disciples went into the village, and without previously asking permission, started to take the animals. All this was done in the sight of the animals’ owners. We would say that this act was “gutsy.” And remember that the two disciples are doing precisely what Jesus instructed them to do. They were told to locate the animals, to take them, and to give an explanation only if they were challenged, which they were. In effect, the owners were probably saying something like this, when they saw their animals being taken, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”

The amazing thing to me is that once told, “The Lord has need of it,” the owners cease to protest, allowing the two disciples to lead the two animals away, with no statement being made about their return. I wonder if they ever expected to see these animals again. Our understanding of the response of these owners must begin with an understanding the value of these two animals to their owners. 60 Wealth in that part of the world, was often measured in terms of cattle. Put into today’s culture, the ass and its colt would have been something like a red Porsche convertible. Can you imagine allowing two strangers to get into it and drive off, with only the words, “The Lord has need of it”? What was it about these words which satisfied the owners of these animals?

The key is to be found in the word, “Lord,” which, in every account is the same term. What did the word “Lord” convey to the people of Jerusalem, and to these people in particular? I believe that this term “Lord” was understood by the animals’ owners to refer to Jesus of Nazareth. I further assume that the term “Lord,” based upon its Old Testament roots, implied the deity of our Lord, and thus His sovereignty over all creation. The term “Lord” conveyed to these animal owners that Jesus was not only Messiah, but God, and thus He had every right to possess these animals, whether He ever returned them or not. His same authority is that which enabled and empowered Him to be in perfect control over this animal, which had never been “broken,” and which would normally have refused to bear Jesus as a burden, or to go where He wanted it to go.

Not only the act of riding this animal into Jerusalem, but also the way in which the animal was obtained was a statement by our Lord of His authority. And take note of the fact that His authority, at least in the obtaining of the animals, was not exercised by our Lord directly, but through His disciples, who were sent by Jesus, in His authority. The later implications of this will be spelled out by Luke in his second volume, the book of Acts.

The is a very obvious application here, as I see our text. Jesus, as the Messiah, has every right to possess what is ultimately His. If Jesus were the Messiah, if He was the divine Son of God, why did He lack anything? Why did He need to borrow these animals? Why did He not miraculously create two beasts? What we see here is consistent with our Lord’s first coming. His parents had no place to bear the child, other than a borrowed stable. Jesus had no home of His own (cf. Luke 9:58), and no means of support (Luke 8:1-3). He stayed, I assume, sometimes under the stars (Luke 21:37), and at other times it may well have been in borrowed quarters. Jesus was even buried in a borrowed tomb (Luke 23:50-53).

Why did the Creator of the Earth (Colossians 1:16) put Himself in need, so that He had to borrow what belonged to others? In the first place, everything does belong to Him. In the ultimate sense, the foal and its mother did not belong to men, but to God. They were only stewards of things. Thus, for the Son of God to “borrow” what belongs to others is really for Him to possess what is His. Second, as the Creator of the Earth, and as the Creator of man, our Lord also possesses man. Man is not free. God is free, free to do with what He created as He chooses (cf. Romans 9:19-24). Thus, for the Son of God to lay claim to these two animals was consistent with Him right to lay claim to all of His creation, including man. We are His possession, to dispose of as He chooses.

While their theology may not have been very well developed, and while the owners of the animals may not have been eager for them to be used (on they other hand, they may have delighted to have Jesus use them), they did not, indeed, they could not resist His will, even when conveyed through two of His disciples.

But back to my point of application. Do we really believe that Jesus Christ possesses all things, and that He has the right to lay claim to them, to dictate how they are used, at any time? I think that we are far less inclined to let go of things than those who owned these two animals. It is one thing to acknowledge our Savior as “Lord,” and as the possessor of all things; it is quite another to live this way. He has chosen to continue, even to this day, to lay claim on the possessions of men. He has chosen not to carry out His earthly work, not by supernaturally creating the means, but by laying claim on those means which He has placed in the hands of men. Our willingness to release possessions into His hands is a testimony to His lordship.

We know that when the Kingdom of God comes, the King will come, and He will possess His kingdom, and all that is in it. None are exempt. Those who have renounced and resisted His ownership will resist Him no longer. His enemies will be defeated and destroyed.

The Untriumphal Entry 
(19:35-40)

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

We would best begin to understand this event by recognizing several important details:

(1) We know that this incident was the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (9:9), even though Luke did not make a point of saying so, as Matthew and John did.

(2) Not everyone in Jerusalem participated in the triumphal entry, but mainly those who could be called His disciples. From all of the accounts, it is evident that while there was a great crowd involved in welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem (cf. John 12:12), many of the people of Jerusalem were not involved. The whole city, Matthew tells us was stirred (21:10), but not all were involved. It would seem that the majority of those involved in this celebration were those not from Jerusalem, but those pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem, either to celebrate the Passover (John 12:12), or to follow Jesus there (Luke 19:37), or both.

(3) No one really understood the meaning and significance of what they were doing as they welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. John informs us that even the (12) disciples did not understand what they (or Jesus) were doing:

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him (John 12:16).

When asked by the Jerusalemites what was going on, and who this “Jesus” was, the crowd responded that He was a prophet, not that He was the Messiah:

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:10-11).

Luke informs us that Jesus was praised for His miracles (Luke 19:37).

When we look at our Lord’s response to the “triumphal entry,” He regarded it as a rejection, and not as a reception of Him as Messiah (cf. Luke 19:41-44). Just as Jesus could say that those who crucified Him “knew not what they were doing” (Luke 23:34), so we see that the crowds did not know what they were doing here either.

Some of the disciples did regard Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as the entrance of the Messiah, of Israel’s King, but they did not understand when His kingdom would be instituted, or how. Others seem to have regarded Jesus as someone less than this. Many, simply did not know who He was, or what was happening. One wonders how many got caught up in the excitement and the activity, without knowing what was happening at all.

I think that some did not regard Jesus as the Messiah, but thought that they could appoint Him as such. I wonder if those, who according to Matthew’s account (21:11), thought of Jesus as “the prophet,” also thought that they could almost forcibly make Him their King, as the people wanted to do in John 6:15. Jesus would therefore have not been regarded highly enough, but only as One who had the potential for being King, if the people appointed Him as such.

(4) We are not told that Jesus commanded this of His disciples, only that He refused to prohibit them from doing so. I cannot prove it, but I have the impression that Jesus did not tell the disciples what to do, once the two returned with the donkeys. The texts of all four gospels reads nearly the same (John’s version is, predictably, somewhat unique, but in agreement in the details). Jesus told the two disciples to go to the nearby village and to get the two donkeys they would find. There is no report that He told anyone what to do when they returned with the donkeys. An explanation for this is not difficult. The disciples knew the prophecies about Messiah. They knew Zechariah’s prophecy well, and thus, when Jesus sent two of them to get two donkeys, the connection between this command and Zechariah’s prophecy was self-evident to them. They did not need to be told what to do, they simply responded to the prophecy they knew was being fulfilled. And so Jesus did not need to tell the disciples what to do once the donkeys arrived. They spontaneously did what they knew should be done in the circumstances. Jesus refused to prohibit His disciples from this welcome, but it does not seem that He commanded them to do so.

A question should haunt us, at this point. If the “triumphal entry” was, in reality, a failure, a kind of fiasco, something which only our Lord really understood, then why did Jesus allow it to happen? Indeed, why did Jesus cause it to happen? Why would Jesus precipitate such an event, which did nothing more than to excite the crowds, but produced no kingdom?

I believe that there are several answers to this question. The first response is that it was absolutely necessary for Jesus to publicly identify Himself as the King of Israel, even though (and we might even say, in order that) He might be rejected and put to death. Many were wondering who Jesus was. Many wondered if He were the Messiah. His act of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was His way of dramatically and emphatically saying, “I am the King of Israel.”

The second reason why I believe Jesus precipitated the triumphal entry was in order to affirm not only His identity as Messiah, but also His deity, and thus His right to be worshipped by all men. Just as the owner’s protest at the disciples’ taking of the donkeys was the backdrop to Jesus’ authority to possess them, so the protests of the Pharisees over the praise of Jesus is the backdrop to His right, as Messiah, to be praised. The Pharisees, of course, not only rejected Jesus’ deity (cf. Luke 5:21), but also His identity as Messiah. How, then, could they allow Him to be praised? They insisted that Jesus stop the people from praising Him. Jesus refused. He said that if the people were silenced, the stone would cry out. Jesus was the Son of God. He not only deserved praise and worship, it could not be silenced.

That is what you and I are to do now, my friend. If you acknowledge Jesus to be the Son of God, to be your Savior, then He must be praised. How is it that a rainy day can keep us from joining others in praising Him? How is it that a beautiful day can do the same, by giving us a “day out on the lake,” rather than with the saints, praising Him? It is one thing for those who deny Jesus as Lord to fail to praise Him. It is another for those who name Him as Lord and King to refuse to worship Him. Heaven is an eternity of praise. When He comes as King, every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will utter His praise (Philippians 2:9-11). Let us not be guilty of keeping silent when we should be praising Him. And is not our bearing witness to Him a form of praise as well? Do we not refuse to praise Him when we fail to tell others of Him and of His love? Let us surpass the stones!

(5) The “triumphal entry” of Jesus provided a forceful impetus to the Jewish religious leaders to get rid of Jesus. The triumphal entry convinced the Pharisees that they must act both quickly and decisively to get rid of Jesus. He was winning the masses over. He must be stopped, and stopped quickly (John 12:19).

Jesus’ Response to His Reception 
(19:41-44)

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

What an amazing contrast there is here between the joyful reception of Jesus by the crowds with our Lord’s tears. They thought they had received Him in a way that was appropriate and fitting; Jesus viewed the event as a disaster, and as leading to disaster, for Jerusalem.

Jesus wept as He approached the city of Jerusalem (v. 41). The reason for His tears is given to us in verses 42-44. First and foremost, Jerusalem failed to grasp “the things which make for peace.” Just what are “the things which make for peace”? In our day, this is a matter of great disagreement and heated debate. The “hawks” think that peace is obtained by might, by having sufficient arms to serve as a threat to any who would think of attacking us. The “doves” think that the absence of armament is the answer. In Israel, the believe was that Messiah would bring peace to the nation when He appeared. Thus, at the birth of the Lord Jesus the angels sang of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14).

But how was this peace to be accomplished? By and large, it would seem that the majority of people thought that this peace would be accomplished by a sword, and by force. They therefore supposed that when Messiah came, He would utilize military might, and that He would throw off the shackles of Rome. When Jesus wept because Jerusalem did not know what would bring about peace, He wept because He knew what lay ahead for this wayward, wrong-thinking nation. Instead of Messiah’s coming bringing about the demise of Rome, the rejection of Jesus as Messiah meant the destruction of Jerusalem, at the hand of Roman soldiers. Jesus therefore spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 A.D.

It was not by Messiah’s use of force and power, nor by the death of Messiah’s enemies that the kingdom was to be brought about, but by Messiah’s death, at the hand of His enemies. It was not triumph which would bring in the kingdom, but the tragedy (from a merely human viewpoint) of the cross. God’s ways are never man’s ways. Man would have brought about the kingdom in many ways, but man would never have conceived of doing so by a cross, by apparent defeat, by the suffering of Messiah Himself, for the sins of His people.

Here, then, is a third implication of our Lord’s deity. If Jesus was Lord (that is, God), then not only does He possess the right to possess man’s possessions (vss. 28-34), and the right to possess man’s praise and worship (vss. 35-40), he also has the right to institute His kingdom in the way He sovereignly chooses, rather than by those means which men might prefer. Messiah will come to possess what is His, to receive man’s praise, and to bring about the kingdom in His own way. Men seemed to suppose that the kingdom would be founded on acts of power and might and by more miracles (cf. v. 37), but Jesus was intent on fulfilling the will of the Father, and thus to bring about the kingdom by personal pain, rejection, and suffering. Such is the way of His cross.

Why is it, my friend, that we still cling to the idea that where God is, there will be miracles, wonders, and prosperity, when the way of our Lord was one of need (as for the donkeys), of rejection, suffering, and pain? If we are to be followers of our Lord, need we not expect to take up a cross, even as Jesus said? And need we not anticipate rejection and suffering, even as was His experience? Just as men resisted God’s way of inaugurating His kingdom, so we continue to resist God’s way of doing things.

Jesus’ Attack: Not on Rome, but on Religion 
(19:45-48)

Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Did the Israelites expect Jesus to immediately wage an attack on Rome, and on its rule? Jesus did not do so. What Jesus did was to attack the Jewish religious system itself, and to renounce its evils. Jesus marched on the temple, for a second time (cf. John 2:13-16) and cast out the money-changers. This was the holiday season, and “business” there in the temple area must have been booming. But instead of using the temple for a place of prayer and worship, the religious leaders made it a place for personal gain. Jesus went back to the temple each day, and taught the people. For a short time, at least, the temple would serve its original purpose. Soon, that temple, as indicated earlier (vv. 43l-44), would be destroyed. God was going to see to it not only that the old temple was torn down, but that a new temple was created, a temple not made with hands, a temple where there was no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, for all who are one in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:11-22).

Jesus’ attack on the religious system of His day was strongly reacted to by those with a vested interest—the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the leaders of the people. They were not yet able to kill Jesus, due to the crowds, but they were intent on putting Him to death at the earliest possible moment. The battle lines were drawn, but it was not between the Messiah and Rome, but rather between Messiah and religion, the Jewish religion.

Conclusion

The triumphal entry, then, was not only Jesus’ claim to be Israel’s Messiah, but also a clear declaration of His deity. He was also Israel’s Lord. His rights as Lord are therefore affirmed and demonstrated in these verses. He as Creator, has the right to possess men’s possessions. As a perfect and holy God, He has the right to possess men’s praise and worship. As the Lord, He has the right to attack the false religion of that day, and to replace it. All of these rights are the rights of the One who was not only Israel’s Messiah, but also Her God. They are the prerogatives of deity.

This declaration of our Lord’s deity, and of His rights as Israel’s Lord are very important, in the context of Luke. Jesus is about to be rejected by His own people, handed over to the Gentiles, persecuted, abused, and crucified. To some, it might have seemed that Jesus had “high hopes” which were unrealistic, and which failed. To some, the cross may have seemed both a disaster and a defeat. But just prior to His death, Jesus declared His deity, demonstrated His right to possess, to receive man’s praise, and to determine how the kingdom would be established. All of these things happened under protest, but could not be stopped. Jesus’ death on the cross was not an evidence of Jesus being overrun or overpowered by His opponents, but of His laying down His life voluntarily, for the sins of His people, as God’s means of establishing the kingdom. What a vital truth we see demonstrated here, just prior to our Lord’s death.

We are not like Israel, for if we have received Jesus as our Savior, we have received Him as Lord, as God, and as our Savior. We have come to acknowledge Him as the King of the Earth, whose kingdom will soon be established on the earth. Why, then, are we failing to practice those things which declare His prerogatives as the King? We say that He is Lord, and yet we resist letting loose of our possessions, so that His kingdom may be furthered. We say that He is Lord, and yet we are reluctant to praise Him as we ought. When we come to church, and even when we come to a worship service, so often our religion is as self-serving as was that of Israel. We think of ourselves, talk of ourselves, and ignore Him who is our God, our Creator, and our Redeemer. We think of His kingdom today in much the same terms as did the disciples of Jesus’ day. We think in terms of the power and prestige we will have, rather than in terms of the praise He should have. We look for miracles and wonders and we want to see Jesus overcome our enemies, and we do not want to think of a cross, of suffering or shame, or rejection by men. We want our religion to be one that is self-serving, rather than one which calls for self-sacrifice. But if Jesus is both Lord and Christ, then He must have His prerogatives, He will have His prerogatives. He should possess our possessions, our praise, and our submission to His ways of bring about His purposes.

NOTES:

58 Edersheim writes of what going to Jerusalem meant to Jesus, in the context of its meaning to every Israelite: “To him it would be true in the deepest sense, that, so to speak, each Israelite was born in Zion, as, assuredly, all the well-springs of his life were there. It was, therefore, not merely the natural eagerness to see the City of their God and of their fathers, glorious Jerusalem; nor yet the lawful enthusiasm, national or religious, which would kindle at the thought of ‘our feet’ standing within those gates, through which priests, prophets, and kings had passed; but far deeper feelings which would make glad, when it was said: ‘Let us go into the house of Jehovah.’ They were not ruins to which precious memories clung, nor did the great hope seem to lie afar off, behind the evening-mist. But ‘glorious things were spoken of Zion, the City of God’—in the past, and in the near future ‘the thrones of David’ were to be set within her walls, and amidst her palaces.” Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., [photolithoprinted, 1965), I, p. 235.

59 Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, II, pp. 479-480.

60 I refer to owners (plural) because Luke uses the plural. It may well be that these people were so poor that it took several of them to be able to purchase this one (then pregnant, perhaps) animal. I can well remember the four families who lived in seminary housing, jointly purchasing a clothes drier, which cost a total of $20.

 

From http://bible.org/