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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Passion Week - Beginning

Luke 19:28-41, John 12:12-25

Lesson audio

The reader will note that this section of Scripture has other lessons on the website; this lesson points out some of the lesser noticed aspects of the Triumphal Entry.

Triumphal Entry

Luk 19:28-40 NIV After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. (29) As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, (30) "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. (31) If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.' " (32) Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. (33) As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" (34) They replied, "The Lord needs it." (35) They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. (36) As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. (37) When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: (38) "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"[2]

"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (39) Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" (40) "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

The Lord needs it

It is sometimes presumed that Jesus must have made the arrangements for the foal at some previous time. It seems logical, but it really doesn’t follow the sense of the passage. There are any number of ways to arrange it, but it appears that Jesus arranged it by not arranging it.

He sends the disciples for a colt with only the words, “the Lord needs it.” Ever the gentleman who woos instead of forces, he petitions some unknown disciple with a call: he needs the colt. Apparently no explanation is given as to why he needs it; he just needs it. It is likely a test of faith; if the Master asks you for something, what do you do?

Note, please, the instant response. No objection. Also, no committee meeting, no request for further information, just an obedient response. Perhaps no more than the nod of the head – and your property disappears into the parade. Will it be returned? Who can say – but the Lord needs it, and that is enough. And our response?

Comes in the name of the Lord

So much of our Lord’s life is exemplary – that is, he did what he did, how he did, as an example to us. Even our Lord does not come in his own pride, pomp and power – but he comes in the name of God the Father, to do his will. We, therefore, should proceed in the name of Christ – following his example. It is not our glory, but his.

More than that, our Lord does his works in the name of the Father. Let us consider that phrase, “the name of.” One of the great pleasures in life is to be able to tell someone, “Just give them my name – they’ll take good care of you.” It’s a pleasant thing to be known as a “somebody” – especially a somebody whose name gets things done. How much more, then, is the power in the name of the Lord?

But do we really work in the name of the Lord? We pray “in the name of the Lord” quite a bit, but do we honestly take upon ourselves the burden of his holy name, explaining our cause thereby, and crediting the results to it?

I’m afraid that “the name of the Lord” has become a ritual phrase. The sense that we are commissioned by God, working in His power and bringing glory to him seems, to me, a rare thing these days.

The humility of Christ

Christ here presents his claim to be the true king of Israel. It is a moment which we would adorn with pomp, but he goes in humility. For example:

  • This is the only time recorded in Scripture when Christ rides. Other than this, he walks his entire adult life.
  • And what does he ride on? A colt. A foal. The lowest form of transportation available. It is servant leadership; no pomp for me, but doing what the leader must do.
  • Ominously, his entry into Jerusalem is on the same day that the Jew was told to bring the Passover lamb into his house.[1] The colt brings our sacrifice to the Passover. Like the lamb, the Lamb of God goes meekly.
  • But, one might think, consider all the cheers. Is this humility? It is – when the option is to have the very stones in the walls cry out.

Cleansing the Temple

Luk 19:45-46 NIV Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. (46) "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be a house of prayer'[3]; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.'[4]"

The Son’s first stop

Must be in his Father’s house.[2] Is it not simple? The Son and the Father are one; therefore anything offending the Father offends the Son.

But this brings up the main question. Why is Christ’s anger directed at those in the Temple? Surely there was plenty of other sin for him to condemn!

  • This is a sin against the pure. Consider it this way: if you read of a gang shooting where one drug dealer shoots another, you are not too perturbed. But if the victim were, say, an infant shot during a drive by shooting, you are much more outraged. Those who came great distances to devoutly present their sacrifices were being mugged, financially, by those whom they should be able to trust.
  • This is a sin against God. All sins are ultimately so, but the connection is very direct. His Temple, his instructions to his people – and now the thieves.
  • This sin is being committed by the leadership of the nation. We try to hold our politicians to higher standards, or at least have the hypocrisy to say so.

That last is important, for (as one ancient author put it), “When the priesthood is sound, the church flourishes, but if it is corrupt, faith is impaired.”[3]

The Temple as metaphor

Rarely does a physical place have such metaphoric importance as the Temple. Ask yourself this: what does corruption do to the Temple as described in these metaphors:

  • The Temple is the body of Christ, as in the sense that Communion is the body of Christ.[4] What does it do to the church when the Lord’s Supper is neglected or distorted?
  • The Temple is the metaphor for the body of the believer – the temple of the Holy Spirit.[5] If the Spirit is not welcome within you?
  • The Temple is the metaphor for the church.[6] If the church is corrupted, then what is the impact on the believer?

(The reader will note that we have excluded other metaphoric uses found in Revelation, as this subject is rather lengthy.)

The example of one man

Perhaps more than anything else, this is the example of what one man with courage and righteousness can accomplish in the face of evil. Permit me a parallel example:

In the 1930s a riot erupted in a west Texas oil town.  The riot soon turned into looting, and the sheriff and mayor appealed to the governor for help.  The governor wired back that help would arrive by special train the next morning.

The next morning the train arrived.  The sheriff was amazed to see that the governor sent only one man:  Henry M. T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzualles.  The sheriff blurted out, “You mean they only sent one man?”

“There’s only one riot, ain’t there?”

 

Over the headquarters of the Texas Rangers to this day is the motto:  “One riot, one man.”  There is a moral authority in this world.  We seldom use it;  indeed, “when what is vile is honored among men, how the wicked strut!”  But here we see such authority displayed. 

Greek Inquiry

Joh 12:20-25 NIV Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. (21) They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." (22) Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. (23) Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. (24) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (25) The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

“Greek”

We need to remember what “Greek” meant to the ancient world. These anonymous Greeks are symbolic of the Greek system of belief, which underlies much of the modern world. I would bring to you three specific points:

  • Philosophy. This was the primary way in which ancient man explored the truth – and indeed the church kept Aristotle around for over a thousand years. Think of it as logic and rational thought.
  • Science. Aristotle and other Greeks established much of science, though this is not recognized today. The idea that nature could be categorized and described, with cause and effect, is a Greek idea.
  • Freedom. Particularly in Athens, we have the roots of what today would be called democracy. Into this fertile ground Christ will plant the idea of the fatherhood of God and the resultant brotherhood of man.
Power of Paradox

So what answer does Christ give to the Greeks (note, without hearing their questions)? He brings to them the challenge of Christian living in a philosophical, scientific world: the power of paradox. He who loses his life, will save it. It is no secret; the Christian often appears the fool to the world.[7] The Apostles themselves were examples of this; they suffered greatly for the privilege of bringing the Gospel to the world. To the worldly, this seems madness – but it’s the only thing that works, in ultimate reality. The key to truth is in the form of “who,” not “what.” Only in this paradox do we see the solution to the deep questions of life.

The Church today

This point has largely been lost by the church today. We are, one author reminded us, in the most anti-intellectual age the church has ever known. It is common to hear a Christian – particularly an evangelical – dismiss an argument with, “Oh, that’s only a philosophical argument.” Philosophical now means “false.” With this we throw away much wisdom – and the background which helps us understand that ultimate reality is in God, not philosophy. The paradox makes no sense to those who do not understand man’s view.

We have also gone from freedom to license (think about sex and marriage) today for a much similar reason. We accept that “science proves” can be applied to such things as, “an affair is good for your marriage.” We don’t ask what the limits of science just might be; we just accept it.

Would you see the paradox clearly? Look at Christ; the greatest man ever to live did so humbly, in a conquered country – and his main purpose was to die. He should, by human standards, be forgotten. But in his meek lowliness of heart he shows us that losing your life saves it. Perhaps he meant it when he told us to take up the Cross.


[1] Exodus 12:3

[2] Note that this is the second cleansing of the Temple; the one described in John comes at the beginning of Christ’s ministry.

[3] Pseudo-Chyrsostom, as quoted in the Catena Au

rea.

[4] John 2:19

[5] 1st Corinthians 3:16-17

[6] Ephesians 2:21

[7] 1st Corinthians 3:18

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