Prepare to listen. Get ready to listen and pray: Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love. (Psalm 31:16)
Read Luke 19:28-40
28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.”’ 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ 34They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, 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, 38saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ 40He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
We read this story every year on Palm Sunday, each year from a different Gospel. The familiarity with the story tempts us to gloss over it, thinking we know it. But it would be a big mistake to think we know it well. Each Gospel tells it with a different slant, a different emphasis. If we only had Luke’s account, for instance, we wouldn’t have Palm Sunday and neither would we sing songs with hosanna in them. Waving tree branches and shouting loud hosannas were associated with parades and festivals having to do with nationalism; usually when a conquering hero returned after victory over an enemy. Luke omits such overtones because he doesn’t want us to confuse Jesus’ mission with a political or national rescue.
Another interesting point in Luke’s account is the contrast in mood between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples are excited. They joyfully praise God because of all Jesus has said and done. In their euphoria they’ve failed to notice that Jesus is entirely passive, even sombre. If the disciples believed his ride into Jerusalem was a sign of victory over the oppressive Roman regime, Jesus knew he wasn’t riding to victory, but to defeat and death. I wonder what the disciples would have sung if they’d noticed Jesus’ sombre mood? Would they still have sung, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord’? Would we?
What do you think about this?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Jesus, help me get your mission right; help me keep your kingdom and its values ahead of my desires for myself, my country. Help me be attentive to your mood and your goals today, giving all my allegiance to you, the King. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, because Christ is already king.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.