The King Of Peace
1. Starting today we enter into Passion week. Its first day is called "Palm Sunday." According to John's Gospel the record says a great multitude "came out with palm branches to welcome" Jesus who was heading for Jerusalem," (John 12:13). Today falls on that day, that is, the day of the Lord's "Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem." The facts of that day are written down in all four gospels. Please read and compare them. This year, I have read you from Luke's Gospel. There is something which is only recorded in this gospel account. It is that Jesus shed some tears upon seeing Jerusalem. The crowd had joy and the Lord Jesus had tears. Such a contrast makes an appeal to the readers' hearts. While we continue reflecting upon the meaning of the Lord's tears, I would like to read you a portion of this passage.
The King Rode Upon A Donkey
2. To begin with, please look from verse twenty-eight to verse thirty-four. "After Jesus had thus finished talking, he arose and moved on ahead, and went up to Jerusalem. Then when he came near to Bethphage and Bethany at the foot of the mountain called 'the Olive Garden,' he said that he would send two of his disciples on an errand. 'Please go to the village on the opposite side. When you enter it, you will find a donkey colt tied up which no one has ever ridden on yet. Unfasten it and bring it here. If any one should ask you Why are you unfastening it?, say The Lord needs it.' When the men who went out on the errand had departed, it was exactly just as [the Lord] had said. As they were unfastening the donkey colt, its owners said, 'Why are you unfastening the colt?' The two men said, 'The Lord needs it,'" (verses twenty-eight through thirty-four).
3. First off, our eye catches two strange things. First, it is the absurd order issued by the Lord. All they had to say was "The Lord needs it" and the matter was settled; just saying that seems extremely lacking in the common sense department. Various explanations have been offered for this. For example, the owners [of the donkey] were disciples of Jesus and had already made the arrangements with Jesus before hand. That was certainly possible. But, Luke offers no explanation of any kind. Luke depicts the miraculousness of that event upfront as "When the men who went out on the errand had departed, it was exactly just as [the Lord] had said." In other words, the emphasis of the text here is on the sovereignty of Jesus. He is depicted as though his deportment was that of a king of some kind.
4. The second [strange item we notice] is the command "please come pulling the colt along." Again, this is also a curious point. Why should it be "a donkey colt?" The distance from Bethany to Jerusalem was not unwalkable. Besides that, even though he is to ride it, why should there even be a need to select intentionally a colt that no one has ever ridden on? From one perspective [there is the factor of] his royal-like behaviors; but, then from another perspective how should we understand the strange actions of seeking a colt?
5. Of course, we should go ahead and look in the Old Testament for the background to these actions. But, actually, [the New Testament] Gospel of Matthew does so [for us]. Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9. In that passage these two strange actions, which don't seem to be related upon first glance, are in fact correlated as one. Here is what the text says there.
6. "O daughter of Zion, dance heartily. O daughter of Jerusalem, lift your voice of jubilation. Look. Your king is coming. He is obedient to God, as a man given the victory and not lifted up in pride, he comes riding upon a donkey, riding upon the colt of a female donkey. I will cut off the chariots from Ephraim and the cavalry [army horses] from Jerusalem. Bows of war will be discontinued. Peace will be announced to the peoples of many nations. His government will extend from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth," (Zechariah 9:9-10).
7. The king is coming. The king of peace is coming. And what's more, he is riding upon the colt of a donkey. That is the prophecy being made here. We think that the actions of the Lord Jesus [show] that he was clearly conscious of this prophecy. And it was clear that his disciples also were understanding it the same way; because, when the disciples came pulling the colt to Jesus they and some other folks appeared with the following actions [which are described in the next paragraph.]
8. "So, after they came pulling the colt to Jesus, they draped their clothes on it and let Jesus ride over on it. As Jesus moved forward, the people laid out their own clothes on the roadway. When Jesus approached the downward climb of Mt Olives, the flock of disciples unanimously were joyous at all the miracles which they saw and began to praise God with a loud voice. 'Blessed be the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, glory to the highest,'" (verses thirty-five through thirty-eight).
9. What the disciples did was declare the enthronement of the king. [There is a record in the Old Testament that] once in Israel when a person named Jehu pulled off a coup d'etat, the people had removed their coats, spread them under his feet, blew horns, and declared "Jehu is king," (Second Kings 9:13). What they are doing here in this text is the same act. And, we know the mentality of the people from their singing voices which have begun to praise God. "Blessed be the king who comes in the name of the Lord." They were jubilant at the arrival of the true king and so they were singing like this.
10. Why did a thing like this take place? As far as we see in this scene we know that a considerable number of worshipers (disciples) went up to Jerusalem together [each year at this time for the Passover festival]. They all began to celebrate the enthronement of the Lord Jesus simultaneously, and they began to praise God, which means that up to this point so far they already had quite an expectation built up. Their expectation is described in the text as follows in chapter nineteen and verse eleven. "As he approached Jerusalem, the people therefore were thinking that the kingdom of God would immediately be made manifest." That's right, they were expecting the arrival of the kingdom of God. That their expectation was swelled up was for sure because there had been many miracles wherever the Lord Jesus had gone. "This powerful person must be the king who is to come. He must be the king recorded in the Book of Zechariah. And he must be the very one to overthrow Roman rule as the true king and he will set up for us the rule of God. And, he will announce to us [the great shalom of God, God's] peace. While thinking such thoughts the people followed Jesus as he headed for Jerusalem. So, we could say that what took place here was the event which truly happened as it was supposed to happen.
11. But then again, there were also some who were not rejoicing over this matter. They were the Pharisees. Please look at verses thirty-nine and following.
12. "Thereupon, the Pharisees went to Jesus from the midst of the flock of people and said, 'Teacher, please reprimand your disciples.' Jesus answered. 'But, I say to you, if these people were silent, the stones would shout,'" (verses thirty-nine through forty).
13. Why does the text contain the words "please reprimand your disciples?" That is because if the uproar related to this "enthronement of the king" were to get the Romans agitated, there would be a forthcoming possibility of a military based intervention. So, their words superficially warn, "If there is an intervention by the Romans, you would be exposed to danger and might bring disaster upon Jerusalem. So, please have them stop." But, their true point of interest was in preserving their own religious authority. They themselves, in fact, feared immensely any political intervention by Rome. Their own authority would be preserved as long as the current regime continued; because, Judaism was an officially recognized religion by Rome and if an uproar arose and Rome were to intervene politically, their privileges would be lost. We learn from the ruling body of the Jews convened shortly before how much they were fearful of this entire matter. John's Gospel records it so: "Then, the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the high court and said, 'This man is performing many signs, but what should we do? If we let him alone, everyone will believe in him. Then the Romans will come and destroy both our temple and our race of people," (John 11:47-48). This was their truest feeling.
14. But, the Lord had this to say about their message of "please reprimand your disciples." "But I say to you, if these people were silent, the stones would shout." The declaration that Jesus was the true king could not be shut down by any kind of power. The Lord Jesus was emphasizing through and through that "he is the king who is to come in the name of the Lord."
If You Had Discerned The Path To Peace
15. Well, the next scene is about this One who is their "king" who had shed tears. Please look at verses forty-one on.
16. "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the capitol city, Jesus cried on behalf of that city and said. 'If you had discerned the path to peace on this day... But, at this time that [path] is not in your sight. Before too long the time will come and the enemy will build a fort around you and after surrounding you and coming at you from every direction for attack, they will lay you and your children even with the ground and pull down every last stone among you. That is because you did not discern the time when God visited you," (verses forty-one through forty-four).
17. The Lord Jesus wept tears because the downfall of Jerusalem was in his sight. In the year A.D. 70, that is about forty years later, what Jesus had said came to realization. Jerusalem was turned into [a pile of] ruins. What could have caused the ruins of it? The immediate cause was the Roman army; but, Jesus did not say that. He said, "If you had discerned the path to peace on this day..." Before too long the time came and Jerusalem did collapse. The Lord said that "that was because you had not discerned the time when God visited you."
18. "Peace" is what everyone ought to have been looking for. With the prophecy of Zechariah on their hearts they declared the enthronement of the Lord Jesus and those disciples who had celebrated with great joy also must have been hoping for the realization of God's kingdom and the establishing of true peace. For this very reason, they were hoping for the forces which opposed God to be overthrown by the power of God. I believe that it was not just the people who had come personally just for the Lord, but also many other people who had been in Jerusalem [for other reasons] began to welcome the Lord Jesus with the same thoughts [of the kingdom of God and establishing true peace by military means]. The Gospel of John records the state of the great multitude that was coming to the festival and how they were overjoyed in welcoming the Lord Jesus. Everyone was waiting for and longing for liberation and true peace. On one side, even the Pharisees must have been wishing for peace. Although they took an anti-Roman position, they were totally against any use of military might. On that point the Zealot Party and others were totally different. I believe that when they had plotted for the removal of the Lord Jesus we could say in a way it was "an act in their willful pursuit of peace." It wasn't just a few persons who had embraced this type of thinking either.
19. That's right. Everyone was in a mode of waiting in an eschatological way for peace. "May the Lord bless you out of Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem for as long as you have life and see many children and grandchildren," (Psalm 128:5-6). The psalm which they sung in this way must have been a prayer of all the people. But, in real life reality it brought ruin on Jerusalem. Why was that? The Lord wept and said. "If you had discerned the path to peace on this day..." It's true, they had not discerned [the path to peace when he came that day.]
20. They should have at least known how the prophecy, that tells of the coming of the king on the donkey begins. The Book of Zechariah begins as follows:
21. Zechariah 1:1-4 [says,] "In the second year of the eighth month of Darius the word of the Lord visited Zechariah the prophet, son of Berechiah, grandson of Iddo. 'The Lord has been intensely angry with your ancestors. You, please speak to them. Thus says the Lord of all the armies. Return to me says the Lord of all the armies. If you do, then I will return to you, says the Lord of all the armies. You must not be like your ancestors. The prophets of old called out to them, [saying] 'Thus says the Lord of all the armies. Separate yourself from the way of evil and evil deeds and return.' But, they did not hearken unto me nor incline their ears toward me."
22. There once was a time when Jerusalem turned to ruins. That was the period of the ancestors who did not incline their ears to the calling [of the Lord] to "return back to me." He called to them again. "Return to me." By going through the experience of repentance, they could have truly greeted in the king of peace as king. However, even while they had the One who was the true king that was to come in the name of the Lord right in front of their eyes, they were trying to take the same path as their ancestors did in times past. Now in Jerusalem they were wanting the same thing to happen again. But what they wanted to happen was based on the fact that they would not incline their ear to the calling of God and would not return [to him in true repentance]. The tears of the Lord were shed over the reality of [their unwillingness to repent and return and only look for the blessings of the kingdom].
23. Many people think that peace is caused when one's enemies are destroyed and systems are changed. They think that peace is caused by people who have power like that. Or, other people think that peace is caused by keeping current conditions, by maintaining the establishment, or by preserving one's self. But, even as they go on wishing for peace, what we come to see is that what always comes to pass for them is tantamount to ruin. Don't we see that? Let's not forget the tears of Jesus. The way to true peace is repentance in our heart and hands. The path to peace is in returning to God. Whatever we try or plan to do will not bring true peace when repentance is missing. Instead, it will only bring ruin. The Lord came first to bring peace with God. In order for us to welcome the king of peace, first we must repent individually on our own and turn to God. Even while the gospel is being told to you, it is a time of God's visitation. As for us, I would like us to discern what kind of time it is now, turn to God, and welcome the Lord as the king of peace.