The Servant King
We are beginning a series this week where we are going to look at the last week of Jesus’ life through the lens of the gospel of Luke. All the gospel accounts center on Jesus’ death. Very little is written about his early life. The focus is on his ministry and all the gospels are weighted on his death and last days in Jerusalem. In Luke 9:51 we are told that at that point Jesus set out resolutely to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy city. The center of God’s people, the temple, and the throne. All of which Jesus claims central importance. So today we look at what happens when Jesus enters the holy city, and we see several points of who he is.
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!” “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.”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” 45 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’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” 47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words. (Luke 19:28-48 NIV)
Prop: Jesus is the true king whose praise will not be silenced, his judgments will not be stopped and his word will not fail.
- He is the true Servant King
This passage is often called the triumphal entry. Jesus enters the holy city with a great celebration that is unique to his ministry. Jesus has been walking wherever he goes, but he does something very unusual to enter Jerusalem.
Before entering he sends his disciples to get a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Why would he decide to a ride in on a donkey? Royalty was known for riding in on animals. In 1 Kings when Solomon is crowned king his father king David sends Solomon to ride on his own mule. The mule was King David’s, so him being on the mule was a sign of possessing what was the kings. The owner of this donkey is unknown and lacked that significance.
Other kings would ride on chariots. It’s largely unknown that a king would ride on a donkey. Donkeys were an animal often held in contempt. Stubborn beast of burden and not one for showing off. Donkeys are not as well thought of as stallions.
There is much irony here. There is a note of prestige. He rides in. But also a demonstration of lowliness here. The great king comes riding on a donkey.
Even what happens as he rides in demonstrates great adoration but also great humiliation. His disciples put their cloaks on the animal for him to sit on. That is nice, but a saddle would be better! They have no saddle and he comes riding on a donkey.
They either didn’t have or couldn’t afford a saddle. Obviously, he could have acquired one but for some reason it was deemed not necessary.
This also seems to be a spontaneous celebration. People begin laying their clothes on the ground like a red carpet event. They are grabbing palm branches, whatever they can find. In one sense there is deep reverence, and in another sense there is humility.
This fulfills a Scripture passage about the savior.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zec 9:9 CSB)
Jesus is the king. Humble. But also remember righteous and victorious. Not show. The crowd has seen his miracles. It is said this is a crowd of disciples. Probably a different group than what will shout “crucify him” in just a few days.
And when they see Jesus coming a worship service begins. Did they see him on the colt and remember the prophetic word? They could have been very cognizant of that. Or they may simply be seeing the one whom they marveled at his teaching, saw him heal people, and they have trusted in.
They praise him as their king. They praise him as one coming in the name of the Lord. They praise him as one who will bring peace to heaven and earth. They are laying their garments before him like a red carpet event that he will ride his donkey over. Would you take your jacket off and let a donkey walk over it. There is tons of irony in this where it is probably the lowly ordinary people who have very little and honoring a man on a donkey, and yet they are giving some of the highest adoration possible to this man.
This certainly seems to be in line with Jesus’ intention. He could have walked the rest of the way. He had already walked a great distance so he could have walked the last bit. Up to now he has pushed aside recognition for who he is, but now, just before his betrayal and trial he sees it is fitting to be acknowledged for who he is.
Jesus will not silence his followers. If they do not praise him then the rocks will cry out. Creation recognizes the King and his people should, too. The pharisees see this scene and critique it. Dismiss it. Nonsensical. It’s below their sophisticated level of maturity. Some see him and recognize what they are beholding.
-All of those are ways to put unbelief in a nice suit.
A lot of times people who have the most sophisticated critiques of the things of God have simply dressed up unbelief.
A multitude of obscure persons, by cutting down trees and throwing their garments, bestowed on Christ the empty title of king. They have no authority to make him king, but they show he has become king of their hearts.
He is the true king, and he is a humble king. Fully in control and not striving for power. Fully resting in the Father.
There is certainly a lesson here on substance over style. Many of Jesus’ followers would never dream to arrive to such an event without more decor. Jesus is the king, but he has come to lay down his life. He will reign in power, but that time is not yet.
Keller said that “In so many ways human life has been transformed, and yet though we are unimaginably wealthier and more comfortable than our ancestors, no one is arguing that we are significantly happier than they were. We are struggling and seeking happiness in essentially the same way our forebears did and doing a worse job of it, if we use the rise of depression and suicide as an indicator.”
Keller is saying with our focus on ourselves and comfort we are more unhappy than ever. We want to live like kings, but we do better to recognize we are not the king. Things don’t make you worthy. Jesus is a King, but his kingdom and mission are spiritual. You are not the king. True happiness is found serving the King and not in being worshiped as the king.
They see that he is the King, he is worthy! Worthy of praise. Worthy of adoration. It never ceases to amaze me that the one person in the history of the world that deserves all praise, adoration and recognition, is the one person who declines it. He humbled himself, became obedient to the point of death. It is amazing. He is the true king. His kingdom is heavenly and not earthly, he is leading people to honor the father.
But as always, Jesus is not received by everyone.
- Jesus is the Compassionate Judge
The Pharisees, the religious leaders, see this worship service and tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Stop them from doing this. The Pharisees have no interest in Jesus. They really have no interest in God. They are interested in themselves and their religion is a way to protect their interest.
Cities often represent the best and worst of a group of people. The same is here too. The opposition Jesus has felt will be intensified here. Unbelief is codified in Jerusalem, and he will encounter it. This is seen in temple practices, ways of leadership, etc.
The temple should be a house of prayer, but it has become a den of robbers. A place that robbers are protected and nurtured. If we are not focused on the right things then it is very possible churches become a catalysts of hypocrisy, selfishness.
Jesus, after being rebuked by the Pharisees, comes to Jerusalem and pronounces judgment on it. It is remarkable what is done here. It is a prophetic pronouncement of future doom. We read about the destruction of the first temple in 586 BC by the Babylonians. That temple was rebuilt and finished in about 20 BC. At this time, the second temple has stood about 50 years. But God’s people continued to disregard God, and Jesus is predicting another destruction of it.
He says ramparts will be built on Jerusalem. This is exactly what Rome will do. The people rebelled in 66AD and in 70AD the temple is completely destroyed by the Roman army.
V44. they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luk 19:44 CSB)
This is a prophetic utterance like no other in religious literature. Mohammed, Buddha, Gandi, Joseph Smith, none of them predicted future events like Jesus did. He is clearly a judge like no other. He has revealed hearts. He now reveals future times. All of this should lead us to trust him.
There is power in these words. *But there is also compassion.* BB Warfield in the “Emotional Life of Jesus” said his chief emotion is compassion.
He weeps. The word used for cry here is used to indicate the noise accompanying the weeping. This is a wailing, a loud and audible cry. Probably unlike anything you have experienced in American culture.
When was the last time you saw a grown man cry? Cry out loud and sob? How about a man who had just been worshipped as God? How about one who would cry for those who are opposing him.
Wordsworth: “Christ here proves his twofold nature, by shedding tears for what he foretold as God.”
There is a warning here about playing games with God. He knows your heart. He sees right through the pharisees. He has no weakness. But there is also an encouragement that should give assurance that when we genuinely turn to him, he forgives us.
Jesus is the one we trust to judge all things. We all know there are problems in the world. The question is how or who will deal with them? Jesus has promised to return and judge the world. If we are hurt in this life it will be made right. If anyone has not treated us right he can take care of it. You don’t have to make everything right. You don’t have to make everyone else make sure everyone else is right. We rest in that. He will judge those in the world and in the church.
His compassion tells us that if we turn to him he will help us. Do you need assurance he accepts sinners- he is crying over them. Do you need assurance he has power to judge- look at the judgment on the temple. Still down to this day. But that’s Ok, because he is the true priest and the true temple.
- His Words Can Hold You.
It’s hard to find things to trust in today. People will tell you anything. Take this pill and you will look younger, thinner, happier, and smarter. Even studies are hard to trust. Part of that is the limitation of science. People treat science as though it is omniscient. It is not. It is limited to what a person can observe. If you are studying horses and ten brown horses come, by then you conclude all horses are brown. That 11 might be white, black, speckled. People say all kinds of things to get us to buy their product or vote for them. But you can trust in Jesus words.
V48 The priests and teachers are looking for a way to kill him, but they cannot do it because the people are hanging on his words.
Most scholars today point out that this crowd is different than the crowd that will be at his crucifixion. This crowd is dominated by his followers and not Pharisees, priests, and their followers. Probably some here who in a few days will shout crucify him. But some here who probably ran in confusion from that.
His followers follow his word. Even in the beginning he told his disciples to do something they probably didn’t fully understand. “You want me to just go into this city, untie a colt, and bring it here. That’s like taking a person’s truck for a spin, and if he says anything, threatens to call the police, then just tell him “The Lord needs it.” And yet it went just as he said. You need to trust God’s ways over your ways.
So those who were sent left and found it just as He had told them. (Luke 19:32 CSB)
The Pharisees and religious leaders are rebuked for diverging from his word. His Temple will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers. It was intended to be where the family of God gathered for strength and fellowship, but now it is the lair for thieves.
Are you hanging on his words? Dependent on them? Trusting them even when you don’t fully understand? We all have uncertainty in life. Things we are not sure what to do. Fears come because of those. Are you in his word seeking to understand him and hear his voice? You may feel like you are falling, we hang on his word. It can hold you up. Many things we grab on to and it lets us down. Food, entertainment, sports, music, culture. Good things. Terrible things for us to hang our lives on.
People often get into messy situations because they are not following Jesus’ words. If you find yourself there don’t try to fix it with the same decision making that got you there. Stop. Humble yourself. See what he calls you to do. Talk with godly friends. And be patient. Get into a group of people teaching God’s word, applying God’s word…
Let me make an aside here. Notice the severe assessment Jesus is bringing to the temple and his people. They are calling him to rebuke people who praise Jesus, are enabling the defiling of the temple, and actively plotting to kill Jesus. Now you thought your church had problems. Despite this Jesus never turned from God’s design for the gathering of God’s people. He continued to meet there every day. Trying to bring it back to his original design.
They were not reverencing God’s temple. Den of robbers. That happens today, but I think far more often our desecrating the temple is we just don’t think it matters. What do I need that for?
We live in a time where people are abandoning church. And I do think churches need to change or become irrelevant. But there is no perfect church. And often people’s lack of commitment reveals their own wavering faith. It often reveals an unhealthy spiritual diet that has left them starving. People ignore God’s word and suffer for it, and then question God’s goodness. Stop ignoring him. We need to be a hospital to help them. But if you are in that place you have to be willing to see the doctor. To admit your need for help. To stop running away from fellowship and intimacy.
Let’s also be reminded of our mission. It’s the last week of Jesus’ life and he is not taking a Mediterranean cruise or going bungee jumping. Those things are fantastic, but they are not worth centering your life on. It will leave you empty.
Jesus is giving himself to teaching others God’s word. This is the attitude that we need in the church today. Praying for others, being together, hearing and apply God’s word is the ordinary way God works in people.
We can hang on his words. This is the true king, the true judge. He has our best in mind and his words are effective. We can hang on his words because he hung on the cross for us. This true king, servant king, the compassionate judge gave his life for us. He was resolute and determined. He loved you to the very end.
Potential Youth Discussion Questions
- What did Jesus riding in on a donkey represent?
- What does Jesus weeping over Jerusalem tell us about who he is?
- In what ways were the people hanging on Jesus’ words? In what ways were they not hanging on his words?
- What does Jesus’ commitment to the temple tell us about the importance of our commitment to church?