Entering Jerusalem: the king

Entry_Into_Jerusalem136 As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; 37 and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen.

As Stoffregen notes, Luke’s account is one that challenges our memory with his own telling of the events. “It is quite ironic to read this as the processional gospel on ‘Palm’ Sunday. There are no ‘branches of palms’ mentioned in Luke’s account as in John (12:13). There are no ‘leaves from the field’ as in Mark (11:8). There are no ‘branches from the trees’ as in Matthew (21:8). There are no leaves or branches of any type mentioned in Luke. (Note that only John talks about ‘palms’!)”

Stoffregen goes on to note other unique Lucan contributions: “When Jesus enters Jerusalem only Luke tells us:

  • 1 …the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen (v. 37).
  • 2 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (vv. 39-40).

In Luke, the entrance of Jesus causes a division among the crowd which is not found in the other gospels. Related to this emphasis, the disciples in Luke do not shout ‘hosanna’ – an Aramaic phrase meaning, ‘Save us, I pray.’ What is anticipated at the coming of the king is ‘peace in heaven and glory in the highest.’ Peace (eirene) is emphasized in Luke (14 occurrences in Luke, 6 in John, 4 in Matthew, and 1 in Mark; 7 in Acts). This theme begins at the end of Zechariah’s song: ‘to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ (1:79). It continues with the angels song: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ (2:14). It shows up in Simeon’s song: ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word.’ (2:29) An emphasis for Luke is that salvation consists partly in living at peace with God and with each other — Jews and Gentiles, male and female, rich and poor, slaves and free.”

38 They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”  

The kingship motif that is implicit in the details of the processional entrance to this point becomes explicit in the praise of the multitude: “Blessed is the king….”  The verse is drawn from one of the Hallel psalms (Ps 118:26), which was used to welcome pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festivals. Luke, however, has added both the royal title “the king” and the last couplet. The use of the title contributes to the kingship motif developed by the acclamation of Jesus as the “Son of David” in Jericho (18:38–39), the parable of the greedy and vengeful king (19:11–27), and by the overtones of the entrance procession. The last couplet echoes the words of the heavenly host at Jesus’ birth (2:14). Now, Jesus is hailed as the bringer of “peace in heaven” and “glory in the highest heaven.” Jesus’ reign as king will bring shalom on the earth and glory to God.

Culpepper [370] writes, “Jesus was a king, but no ordinary one—the king of fishermen, tax collectors, Samaritans, harlots, blind men, demoniacs, and cripples. Those who followed Jesus were a ragtag bunch, pathetically unfit for the grand hopes that danced in their imaginations. There were women who now leaped with joy, a Samaritan leper with a heart full of gratitude, a crippled woman who had been unable to stand straight with dignity for eighteen years, and a blind man who had followed Jesus all the way from Jericho. The cloaks thrown on the road that day were not expensive garments but tattered shawls and dusty, sweat-stained rags. Jesus was the king of the oppressed and suffering. He shared their hardships, relieved their suffering, accepted them when others deemed them unacceptable, gave them hope, and embodied God’s love for them. Now they came to march with him into the holy city. Only a few days later, on their way home, they would say to one another, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21).”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

The first sign of opposition to Jesus in Jerusalem arises in the response of the Pharisees to the phenomenon of Jesus’ approach to the city. They order Jesus to rebuke his disciples—and thereby reject their accolades of messianic kingship. Jesus, however, responds with an allusion to Habakkuk’s words of judgment: “9 Woe to him who pursues evil gain for his household, setting his nest on high to escape the reach of misfortune! 10 You have devised shame for your household, cutting off many peoples, forfeiting your own life: 11 For the stone in the wall shall cry out, and the beam in the woodwork shall answer it!” (Habakkuk 2:9-11)

Jesus’ response echoes the earlier warning John the Baptist had proclaimed to the religious leaders: “8 Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Luke 3:8) Luke prepares the reader for the full import of Jesus’ announcement that “they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (19:44). This ominous warning is all the more devastating because this is the last reference to the Pharisees in Luke. They have consistently opposed Jesus. Now they are silenced and pass from the scene. If the people did not cry out in praise, God could raise up another people to fulfill God’s purposes—even from the stones.

Sources:

  • R. Alan Culpepper, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 9 of the New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 365-71
  • Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke in The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997) 680-82
  • Brian Stoffregen, on-line commentary from CrossMarks.com

Scripture Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970 available at http://www.usccb.org/bible/

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