The Triumphal Entry

painting of triumphal entry
Pietro Lorenzetti (1280-1348), Entry of Christ into Jerusalem
Basilica di San Francesco, Lower Church

As Jesus finally reaches Jerusalem, Luke shows us a dramatic contrast. On one side of the contrast, we see Jesus and his disciples; Jesus openly declaring himself to be the Messiah, and the disciples bowing the knee to the King. On the other side we see the Pharisees, with Jerusalem associated, rejecting their king.

This is the reality that Luke has been building to all along. There are really only two responses to Jesus, a fruitful submission or rejection. Rejection may take several forms. It may be the end of a shallow joy that comes when persecution arises. It may be being wooed away from our king by possessions, the fading trinkets of this world. It may be an unfruitful paralysis, the hiding of our ‘mina’ in a hanky. But anything short of radical submission to the king is rejection of his rule.

Disciples Bow the Knee

As he draws near to the city, he sends two disciples ahead to procure a donkey. Everyone would understand the reference.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech 9:9 ESV)

And if any should ask why he needs the donkey, Jesus tells them to say that the Lord has need of it. For the first time, Jesus is openly declaring himself to be the Messiah.

The disciples throw their cloaks upon the donkey, regarding their King as too holy to ride bareback. And they throw their cloaks on the road, on the one hand regarding it as unfitting that a beast upon whom the Lord rides should touch the ground, and on the other considering it an honor and a privilege to have their finest possessions trampled in honor of their king. This is the posture of a true disciple, exalting God’s holiness by sacrificing everything to it.

Pharisees Reject the King

But the Pharisees are not persuaded of Jesus’ claim. They do not address him as ‘Lord’, but as ‘teacher’. And they demand that his disciples cease and desist their blasphemy. But it is not blasphemy. It is appropriate. And, Jesus says, if they were silent, the rocks would cry out in praise of the coming King. But Jesus laments the rejection, weeping over Jerusalem and proclaiming her coming destruction. There are only two responses to Jesus. Absolute submission to the king … and anything short of that.

An Opportunity

Jesus said something very striking about the donkey, something that needs to be set alongside his response to the Pharisees to be appreciated. He said that the Lord “needed” the donkey. What an odd thing to say! Had Jesus not said it, himself, it would strike us as blasphemy. The Sovereign Lord of the Universe, Creator and Sustainer of all there is … how can he possibly be in ‘need’ at all? This statement needs to be read with his response to the Pharisees. Jesus declared that, if worshipers were silent, the stones would worship. We need to understand that, when the scriptures speak of God ‘needing’ something, it is indicating something that God has chosen to use. But the God who chooses to use something also raises up the something he chooses to use. He has chosen to use us as witnesses for the expansion of his kingdom:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom 10:14–15 ESV)

But do not think for a moment that you’ve got God over a barrel and that he ‘needs’ you in the sense that, without your help, his plan might fail. Our God is making a great name for himself, and he will do that with or without you. He has given you a great opportunity. Be sure not to hide your mina in a handkerchief. If you do, he will surely raise up a servant to serve him and do what he ‘needs’ done. But what a loss that will be for you!

Jesus is the King. How will you respond? In the end, it’s all or nothing.