Luke 19:28-40, Common English Bible
After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If someone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’”Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “Its master needs it.” They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. They said, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!” He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”
Is it possible that in the church year it’s only been three months since we heard the announcement of the birth of Jesus by the angels in the heavens to the shepherds? Remember their message?
“Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
And here we are today remembering the day when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. Instead of angels announcing his birth, a multitude of his disciples are now shouting:
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
Now on this day in Jesus’ life the earth, through God’s people, echo back to the heavens, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
It is a contrast, isn’t it? From angels announcing peace on earth to God’s people announcing peace in heaven.
Why do we need this contrast? What’s the point?
There were two kings arriving in Jerusalem that day. One was the Roman king, Herod. Pomp and circumstance and a red carpet with soldiers to ensure that peace would be kept. If anyone dared to lead a revolt against the Roman Empire, it would be squashed and the rebels would be killed. Peace in the Roman Empire was a necessity. The Empire could not allow that peace to be overcome. This peace is a peace that comes about because of force and power of an earthly king who requires that people, because they are afraid of death and know that this king, his government and his soldiers can take their lives at any moment. All that’s required is his order.
Jesus, the other king who is arriving in Jerusalem on this same day, has arrived and given orders to his followers, too. His orders are also clear, and his followers—those who see him as their king—are going to do what he tells them to do. There are no soldiers; there is no pomp and circumstance, red carpet for him. Instead, people take off their clothes on the road to be his red carpet. For most of these followers, their clothes—their cloaks—their outer garments that protected them from the weather—were the most expensive thing they owned. They were willing to use their garments so the one they recognized as their king, the Messiah, the one sent from God to save them from the evil Roman Empire had arrived. Jesus’ followers were celebrating that the one who had healed so many, the one who treated them like they were really God’s people, the one who loved them unconditionally, and the one who taught them as none of the Pharisees and Rabbis had ever taught them was finally arriving in Jerusalem and would set the world right. There could be an army forming to support him. Was there? They were hoping so.
That’s why the other king was there. He was there to ensure that if there were an uprising with this man, this Jesus, it would be stopped immediately. The Pharisees knew this—at least the ones we hear from in this passage. They are fearful that King Herod is not going to wait to see what happens next. They are fearful that the soldiers will be turned loose and they, too, could die.
Peace…peace…peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens? Maybe so, because it certainly isn’t looking too peaceful on earth right now.
Which crowd would you be with? Would you be with those watching King Herod arrive in Jerusalem—being a good and dutiful Roman citizen pretending, because you really are one of God’s people, to worship the Roman king—because you don’t want to lose your life and have your family suffer?
Or would you be with the crowd watching Jesus arrive hoping that he was going to wage war on Rome with soldiers waiting behind the scenes because you’re ready to see that fight. You’re ready for God’s peace to reign on earth, and if it takes violence from Jesus and his soldiers—you’re in because it will put an end to the terror and power of Rome.
That is the contrast for this day. Jesus’ disciples, this multitude of disciples welcoming him into Jerusalem, did not believe that he would soon be on a Roman cross dying.
Which crowd would you be in on this day? What kind of peace would you be hungry for and desiring so badly? The peace of the Roman king that allowed you to live and breathe as long as you compromised who you professed to be in the world? Or the peace of Jesus—the peace that you assumed was about to take place because Jesus was going to put an end to all the compromising. You would now be able to quit pretending to be something you’re not just so you could live and breath and have peace provided by Rome. Jesus was about to bring in his kingdom—God’s kingdom on earth—the old days of normal would return. God’s people would again have their own king who would lead them as Moses had led them. Slavery to this empire would end. God’s reign was coming. Jesus was bringing it.
This is the peace on earth that this crowd was expecting. Which crowd are you in today as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem? Which crowd will you be in as Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ life, unfolds? What is the price of peace on earth? Let us leave today wondering which crowd, which king would we support. Let us leave here today knowing that on Palm Sunday, the story was yet to be finished; and peace in heaven seems much more likely than peace on earth.