Monday, April 10, 2017

The King on a Borrowed Donkey (Luke 19:28-48)

One Sunday after church I took James out for a driving lesson and we ended up heading out to Auckland airport, and as we were going along George Bolt drive, a high-speed motorcade came towards us from the airport. There were police on bikes, that stopped at every intersection to ensure that the vehicles behind them could move through without stopping. There was a police car with lights flashing so motorists would pull over and let them speed by. The motorcade itself was three large black SUV’s with blacked out windows. You couldn’t see who it was in the cars, you couldn’t see which vehicle they were in or which one contained, my over active imagination assumed, heavily armed security people. It was quite a sight, it felt like being in a movie not on a Sunday drive in Auckland, it was unsettling to think that in New Zealand such measures were necessary for a visiting dignitary. 

I wondered what kind of welcome this person would get when they arrived at their destination…red carpets, warm handshakes and greetings, amidst the flashing bulbs of a media scrum, or if they were an unpopular politician, the chant of protesters and yet more police to keep the peace. They would get the grandest of accommodation and the best of service.

I checked the newsfeeds to see if there was someone important coming to New Zealand but there was no mention of anyone. Maybe if it had been someone big there would have been more fuss more ceremony, tighter security and more coverage. Just remember back to Bill Clinton’s visit in 1999 for the APEC summit in Auckland, or the Royal visits that so many look forward to and cherish. All the trappings show us how important and significant these people are… there is a paradox in that to how Jesus enters Jerusalem, and his welcome… He comes humbly riding on a donkey, a borrowed donkey at that…  

Today we come to look at Jesus entry to Jerusalem, amidst the crowds of pilgrims coming for the Passover festival. We are looking at it from Luke’s perspective. For close to a year now we’ve been following Jesus journey to Jerusalem in Luke’s gospel, a journey that takes up the central third of the gospel. I know I said we’d finished that series last week with Jesus parable of the ten Mina’s but the journey really finishes here as Jesus enters the city. It finishes here as Jesus goes to the temple, and drives out the merchants. It finishes here as he teaches and the crowds are attentive to his words. It finishes here as the religious establishment want to have Jesus killed and they put into effect the events that will lead to the cross, Jesus death and his resurrection.

Luke’s account of Jesus entry into Jerusalem, is told in four sections marked by different geographical indicators of Jesus final journey up from Jericho to Jerusalem and on into the very temple itself. The focus of this passage is very much on Jesus himself, it’s full of Old Testament witness to who Jesus is, and it picks up themes that have been running through the gospel: That Jesus is God’s chosen king, but his kingdom is totally different than the realms of this world and how are we supposed to respond to Jesus, there is both worship and acclaim and disrespect and rejection in this passage.

We are told Jesus went ahead, going up to Jerusalem, and he approaches the villages of Bethphage and Bethany  on the Mount of Olives. The mount of olives is mentioned twice in Luke’s account because in Zechariah 14:4-5 it talks of God’s messiah coming from the east from the Mount of Olives. The scene here focuses on Jesus sending his disciples to go and get a colt, that had never been ridden from one of those villages. He tells his disciples if they are asked what they are doing to tell the person who asks the Lord needs it… and they will be given it. This is what happens.

The motorcade that James and I saw had been meticulously planned and practised and there is the feel of some prior planning going into the mission to get a donkey for Jesus. We know from John’s gospel that Jesus visited Bethany on a regular basis. In first century, Jewish customs if a rabbi needed something he could ask and it would normally be lent to him. But the emphasis in this section is not on Jesus strategic planning but his prophetic insight and the fact that what is about to unfold is part of God’s plan. If the planning has gone on it is God’s divine plan. Jesus has on three occasions in his journey to Jerusalem told his disciples that in Jerusalem he would be rejected betrayed and killed and in the final part of Luke’s journey narrative that he would rise to life again on the third day. What is about to unfold is not a tragic end to a good ministry, political intrigue and the happenstance of history, it is God’s purpose and God’s plan, right down to the minute detail of providing a donkey.   

The disciples bring the donkey to Jesus and they throw their cloaks on it and in front of it on the road. Jesus ridding on a donkey is fulfilment of scripture in the book of Zechariah 9:9 the prophet says

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

This act is to show that Jesus comes as God’s chosen king. The placing of cloaks in front of the donkey reinforces the Picture of Jesus as King as in 2 Kings 29:13 we have the coronation of Jehu as king of Judah and it tells us that cloaks were laid before his bare feet.   

But the donkey also speaks to what sort of king Jesus is as well. This is not the conquering hero coming into the city at the head of a victorious army, claiming the spoils of war and demanding the accolades of the people. Commentator Darrell Bock says “the humble animal denotes not a messiah of power but of humility and service.”  That this is at Passover signifies sacrifice for forgiveness of sin. God’s king and God’s kingdom stands in sharp juxtaposition to the realms of this world. Down through history attempts to use political or military power to instil the Kingdom of God have led to tragic consequences. The crusades, the Spanish inquisition, parts of the reformation, with civil war and revolt.  In recent times aligning the Christian faith with this party or that government or putting our hope in this candidate or that candidate, has done more wrong that right. We must ask ourselves  is Jesus the humble king of peace, and see his kingdom come as he did in humble service, care and compassion for the least and the lost, and the display of the churches reflection of Jesus righteous and just character. Not demanding influence and power but siding with those with influence and without power.

The story moves on and we move closer to Jerusalem. Again we see Jesus coming from the Mt of olives and down into the last valley before the city. We are told that the disciples begin praising God for all the miracles they had seen. As the city draws near their belief in Jesus as the messiah  turns into worship and thanks to God. I preached on psalm 124 at the Edmund Hillary retirement home on Thursday. Psalm 124 is one of the psalms of ascent, which gives thanks to God for his help in a series of trials and sufferings, described in a wonderful array of vivid images. The Psalms of ascent were used by pilgrims coming to Jerusalem and I can imagine a psalm like that one sparking the disciples to think of all God’s help they had seen in Jesus signs and wonders. It prompts them to use the words of another Psalm associated with the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a royal psalm, Psalm 118 ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! ‘peace in heaven and glory in  the highest’.
  if you are wondering where the hosannas are in Luke's account. Luke's quote of Psalm 118 focuses on Jesus aas King and the hosanna's in the psalm are right before he starts to quote. Like wise the palm fronds are not mentioned but again they are in Pssalm 118 as they follow on from this quote by talking of a procession with palm fronds to the altar in the temple.

There response to Jesus is to praise God for all the things they have seen and heard, to acknowledge Jesus as their king. That their hopes for the future are in Jesus and who he is. They don’t fully understand it yet, there will be big doubts and hard times ahead, God’s purposes will look a lot different than how they had hoped for, but their response to Jesus is faith and worship. The same response we are called to make. There hope of Heavens peace and glory, are our hopes, reconciliation with God and his justice and righteousness to reign.

But we also see in the middle of this rejoicing the voices of opposition that have been with Jesus all along. There are no police barriers or security guard to keep them away. Pharisees come to Jesus  and tell him to stop his disciples saying the things they were. The Pharisees you see may be spiritually blind, but they are not dumb they know what these words mean, they know that Jesus disciples are hailing him as king and messiah and saviour. They do not recognise him as such, he does not fit their image of what the king and messiah would be.  Jesus reply here does not quells their anxiety rather it fuels it. Jesus really in an open affirmation of his divinity says well if the disciples stopped, then creation itself would cry out, and acknowledged who Jesus is. The Pharisees hearts maybe like stone when it come to Jesus but the stones beneath their feet would tell of Jesus.  This is the wonderful task and privilege that you and I are given to tell and share of what we know of Jesus and give praise for God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Creation the psalms tell us speak their praise but it is left to you and I to speak and declare the truth of Jesus to a world that needs to know.

The journey moves on. In verse 41 it tells us that Jesus approaches Jerusalem, as he comes up out of the last valley the whole city comes into sight. Jesus response is to weep, in this last stretch of the journey we’ve seen Jesus act as a prophet and as a king, now he acts in a priestly manner. He shows God’s care and love for the city and it’s people. He laments that the city and its people, represented by the Pharisees in this passage, have not recognised who he is, have not realised that the peace they seek has come to them in the person of Jesus Christ. They had a chance to embrace a different way of living a different way of dealing with the powers who were occupying and oppressing their country but they missed it.  He uses a whole raft of military imagery, ramps being raised against the walls, siege, brutal conquest to speak of the consequences of not recognising the time of God’s coming to them. It’s a very accurate portrayal of the Romans destruction of the city in 70AD in response to a Jewish revolt seeking their independence from Rome, their own understanding of the Kingdom of God.    Jesus as priest tries in here with the Passover as he has come to Jerusalem not only as its king but to offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. This is the true salvation and peace that Jerusalem was looking for…

The narrative then changes location again and Jesus enters the temple, cleanses it of the merchants and money lenders and starts to teach. You know that’s a sermon in itself…

You know I don’t know who was in that motorcade that flashed past us that Sunday afternoon. I don’t know where they were going or what they were about. It’s just the image that is stuck in my mind. But in Luke’s account of Jesus entry to Jerusalem we are invited to see who Jesus is. The Jewish scriptures show us the significance of his every action here. We see Jesus as prophet, king and priest. AS the gospel goes on we see where Jesus is going, his betrayal, his death on the cross and his being raised to life again, and ascending to the right hand of the Father, we have seen what Jesus is about and experienced in our lives as well as we have known his grace and love and calling and purpose.   We are invited to join the disciples in giving him praise, being attentive to his word, hearing it and obeying it. We are challenged about rejecting him and how that road leads to judgment.  Today I simply want to finish by inviting us to first be still and think in our own minds how we want to respond to Jesus as king. Then I am going to invite us to stand and join our voices with Jesus disciples and the children mentioned in John’s gospel and the people of the kingdom of God to sing hosanna ‘god save us’ lets be still, lets pray.

No comments:

Post a Comment