There will always be those who seek to silence those who proclaim the good news concerning Jesus Christ. Jesus will not let his message go silent.
Through this lesson students should:
Understand that the message concerning Jesus will always have someone to proclaim it.
Understand that, like Jesus, we should not be afraid of those who might seek to silence us.
Be encouraged to proclaim the good news about Jesus through word and deed.
Catching up on the story:
Jesus has been making his way to Jerusalem for what will be his final time. It is near the time of the Passover, and there are many pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem with him. As he has been doing all along, he teaches and converses with those who are following him. When he had arrived in Jericho, Jesus invites himself over to Zacchaeus’ house. While he is there he tells the guests of the dinner and his disciples a parable about another king.
There was a noble man who went off to have his kingship legitimated in a distant land, even though some in his country didn’t want him to be their king. Before he leaves he gives ten of his servants a pound of some coinage (about 3 month’s wages) to invest while he is away. When the king returns he finds that one servant has received a tenfold return on his investment. Another has only received a fivefold return, while another hid his pound in the dirt so as to not lose it.
The master gives the first two servants charge over cities in correspondence to the amount of their return, while the servant who hid his money had his money taken away and given to the one who had ten. Meanwhile, those who didn’t want the master as their king were ordered to be slaughtered in front of him.
What is clear, as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, is that he comes as King, not as someone who anticipates his kingship. More, it is clear that there will be some who resist his kingship and the kingdom he brings.
After this parable was told, Jesus and his followers continue on their trip toward Jerusalem. They soon arrived near Bethany and Bethpage (about 2 miles east of Jerusalem) and Jesus gives some of his disciples’ instructions concerning a colt that he will use to make his entrance into the city. The colt they seek is one that has never been ridden. For special or sacred purposes, animals which had never been used for another purpose would be used (Craddock, 226). A special animal is needed for a special event. Jesus knows that this event will be a watershed moment in his journey toward the cross. Additionally, keep in mind that Jesus had not been in the practice of riding a colt anywhere he went. He traveled by foot. His entrance into Jerusalem on a colt would have signaled to his disciples, and anyone observing, that something special was happening.
Jesus knows exactly where the colt is and what its owner will say when the disciples ask for it. This is likely due to Jesus’ foreknowledge of the situation and not that he had previously made arrangements. Remember, since chapter 9, Jesus has been making his way toward Jerusalem. If anyone asks why the colt is needed, Jesus tells his followers to simply respond, “The Lord needs it.” Here, Jesus’ claim as “Lord” supersedes anyone else’s claim to ownership (Green, 685).
The two disciples, we do not know if they were one of the twelve or if they were part of the large crowd that has been following Jesus around, arrive in the village and they find things just as Jesus had said. They approach the colt and, before they turn to leave, they are confronted by the owners of the colt. Just as Jesus said, they were asked why they were taking the colt, and just as Jesus said, their response worked and allowed them to take the colt.
After the disciples retrieve the colt they return to Jesus. Luke tells us that they proceed to put their cloaks on the colt’s back as a makeshift saddle for Jesus. They then place Jesus on the colt. Notice who is carrying out the action in this part of the story. To this point Jesus has instructed his followers what to do, but now they take the imitative. Jesus has led them to the colt, they place him on it. In doing so the disciples recognize the importance of the event. They recognize the symbolism latent in someone as powerful (albeit a power they don’t yet fully understand) as Jesus riding a colt into Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish universe, the very dwelling place of God.
The scene echoes Zechariah 9:9,
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Here, Israel’s triumphant and victorious yet humble king enters Jerusalem. To be sure, the disciples believe that something significant is happening. They believe that they are entering Jerusalem with the one for whom Israel had been waiting. By allowing them to place him on the colt, Jesus affirms what they are thinking. He is entering Jerusalem as Israel’s king.
There’s only about a mile left in their journey toward Jerusalem. As they make this last leg, Jesus’ disciples and those journeying with him begin to lay their cloaks down in front of the colt making a way for Jesus. After they had gained the summit of the Mount of Olives, about a half mile from the city, and began to journey down toward the city, those with Jesus began to shout and sing.
The song they sing (verse 38) is a portion of Psalm 118, which was originally used in Israel as a hymn of royal entry into the city during the annual ritual of re-enthronement for the king (Green 686). In Israel the king was the one who had been anointed by God, the one who was to ensure that all was right, that justice and righteousness were ever-present. The disciples now proclaim that Jesus is this king and that they long for him to bring the peace of heaven down to earth. Not everyone will share the disciples’ enthusiasm, for it is not those who come out to meet Jesus that sing this song, but those who have been following him all the way.
The final encounter in the passage comes from some Pharisees who were in the crowd with Jesus. It is not clear that these Pharisees were antagonistic to Jesus. They are, to say the least, a little unnerved by ruckus that the crowd is making. Keep in mind that the Pharisees were those who wanted to bring about reform, and in some case revolution, through rigorous devotion to the Torah. Their resistance to Jesus here has to do with the fact that his program of reform did not align with theirs. If the symbolism of Jesus riding into town on a colt with such a great and joyful procession was not lost on the disciples, it surely would not have been lost on those who sought to benefit from keeping the status quo.
Jesus responds, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” What Jesus seems to be saying here is that something must be said and done. The disciples, along with those following along that day, are simply expressing the truth about who Jesus is and what he’s come to do. The truth must be told, and that truth will be proclaimed, even if the rest of God’s non-human creation must proclaim it. There is no opposition to this witness about the soon-to-be crucified king Jesus (and resurrected Jesus, but we must not get ahead of ourselves) that will work. What Jesus is about to do is of such great importance to all of creation, that it must and will be proclaimed.
There is a lot of fear within the church about the church’s slow death in America. We hear all the time of declining membership across all major denominations. We also hear about the actions of people, perhaps even the government, that threaten our religious liberties. The fear is genuine, and so too may be the danger. America is not now what it once was, a country made up of predominately Christian people.
While we should not treat matters of this kind lightly, we also should not fear. There have been, and there always will be, those who seek to silence the message concerning our crucified king. Jesus knows that as he approaches Jerusalem, those who seek to silence him will actually win the day. His death is imminent. Even as he rides into Jerusalem as king he is not afraid. Why? Because Christ and his kingdom, his church even, will not fail. The message about Jesus Christ will be proclaimed. If not by those who seek to follow him, by the rocks themselves, who are, nonetheless, God’s beloved creation too.
But note that, even though Jesus enters Jerusalem as king, confident and unafraid, he does so as the humble and suffering servant of creation. Jesus does not start a political campaign to stop the oppression of his people by the Romans. He does not call people to arms to protect their freedom in him. He does not take to the city square to speak harshly about those who mistreat him and his followers. Instead, he rides on donkey, in contrast to the Roman Emperor, who rode on a strong horse. He weeps. He washes the feet of his followers. He prays. Finally, he allows himself to be arrested, tried and executed.
The reality is that the church’s proclamation about and belief in a king who willingly offers himself up as a sacrifice for all of creation is a counter-cultural thing. It runs against the grain of what we would call progress and it demands a different life-orientation for those who seek to follow this crucified king.
It’s counter cultural because Jesus’ power, as Paul confesses, is made perfect in weakness. That Jesus allows himself to be placed on a colt of a donkey should not confuse us. Jesus came to Jerusalem as king, but not as a king who would take his throne through power. Jesus is enthroned through his death. We too, if we want to follow this king, must seek to live our lives in this power-made-perfect-through-weakness kind of way. It means that we lay down our lives for the sake of others on a routine basis. When we are hurt, we don’t hurt back. We embrace the one who hurt us. When we love, we don’t love so that we might be loved back. We love because the other is a child of God. When we work, we work not just so we can feed our family. We work so that we may give out of the great abundance with which God has blessed us.
The disciples may not yet fully know that the king they are ushering into Jerusalem will rub so hard against the grain of culture that he will be killed. But we know it and are now called to proclaim this message too! Along with the disciples we must loudly sing,
Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord! (v. 38)
We know that this is not just any king, but a king who sacrifices himself for us so that we might have life. He is a king who brings salvation even to those who killed him. He is a king who has come and is coming again to bring the peace of heaven down to earth. The world will know about this king and we are called to proclaim and to live the message. If we don’t, word will still get out: the rocks will shout it. May we, like the disciples, loudly proclaim the message of the one who comes in the name of the Lord! And may we do so without fear!
Practices for Lent:
This week engage in one or more of the following practices:
Read through all of the Gospel of Luke. Note each place where Jesus rubs up against the grain of culture.
This week is Holy Week. Consider a complete media fast. Don’t listen to music. Don’t watch TV. Don’t go on the internet. Don’t read the newspaper. Pray, a lot.
Read Psalm 22 each day this week. This is the Psalm that Jesus will quote on the cross.
Make a concerted effort pray Zechariah 9:9 several times each day. Pray that Jesus would show you what kind of King he is and what his Kingdom is like.
Proclaim, in word or deed, to at least one person, the good news concerning Jesus Christ.
Critical Discussion Questions:
What does God look like in this text/Who is God in this text/What is God doing in this text?
God is going to get his message out. There will be no stopping God’s proclamation about the one he has sent to heal creation.
What does holiness/salvation look like in this text?
Holiness looks like faithfully proclaiming the message about Jesus Christ, through word and deed. At Christmas we are introduced to this Messiah. In Epiphany God reveals to us who Jesus is and what he comes to do. Through Lent we have journeyed with Jesus, learning even more about who he is and what he has come to do. Now, as we are about to celebrate his death and resurrection, we are called to stand up and proclaim all that we have learned about and with Jesus as we have journeyed toward his death.
How does an encounter with this story shape who we are and who we should become?
We are slowly learning what it means to follow this soon-to-be crucified king. As we learn, and this learning will take a lifetime, we must move from just knowing about Jesus to acting like him. We must begin to emulate Jesus.
Specific Discussion Questions:
Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.
Jesus has been walking everywhere he went up to this point in the story. Why does he now seek out a colt to ride? What significance might there be in seeking a colt that had never been ridden?
Jesus initiates the episode by instructing the disciples to fetch the colt. After the disciples fetch the colt they place him on it. Why is it significant that they place him on the colt?
Think back to John the Baptist. His job was to “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4-6). What do the crowds do that might prepare Jesus’ way? Are the disciples and the crowds with them aware that this type of journey toward Jerusalem is significant? Why is this type of entry significant?
As the group nears Jerusalem they begin to praise God joyfully in verse 38. The words they sing are partially from Psalm 118, an enthronement Psalm sung as a king’s enthronement in Israel was celebrated each year. Why might they sing this song here and now?
There are some Pharisees with Jesus. They tell him to quiet his followers. Why might they do that? What might be the danger associated with Jesus entering Jerusalem this way?
Jesus responds by saying that if the crowd doesn’t announce his arrival that the stones will. What does this mean?
It seems like we face many who would like to silence our message about Jesus. Even if those who would like to silence us were successful, do we have cause to fear that the world will be left without someone to proclaim the good news?
Using Jesus’ life as an example, how should we respond to those who might seek to silence us?
What does it look like to proclaim the good news about Jesus the crucified king in word or deed?
Works Cited: Fred B. Craddock, Luke: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990).
Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).