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Luke 19:28-40 | the 6th Sunday of Lent | Palm Sunday
It’s week six in our six week journey towards the cross of Jerusalem and the Easter tomb of resurrection. This Lenten journey ends with the beginning of a new journey: Jesus arriving in Jerusalem, the last climactic week of his life. We often call this the “passion” – the events, encounters and teachings that form the core of his word, presence and purpose.
What do you know or remember about Palm Sunday? That title awakens memories of Sunday School as a child, when a member brought their donkey and we would wave folded paper palm leaves as a lucky child paraded around the church campus on the donkey’s back. I always wanted to be that lucky kid, but never got the chance to be selected for that highly envied job. Palm Sunday is about passion and paradox, much like me wanting to be the one to ride the donkey because I thought that was what the day was all about. The disciples and crowds following Jesus think that they know what his arrival at Jerusalem is about, a symbolic proclamation of what is to come – and yet their vision seems to be more based on self-centered expectation rather than prophetic anticipation. Pearl Mae Bailey wrote “People see God every day. They just don’t recognize him.” This paradox is at the heart of this text, the high point of Jesus’ ministry as messiah.
Theological Themes, Interesting Points & Inter-textual links.
All of the gospel contain this episode of Jesus arriving at Jerusalem. You can find it in Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10 & John 12:12-15. Scholars usually date the Mark version as the oldest, a written copy used by the other writers as they wrote their “version” of the gospel message for their specific and intended audience. What’s curious about Luke’s retelling is that he has four primary differences:
Immediate Context in the larger story told by Luke:
Jesus arrives near Jerusalem to acclamations and adoration. It’s an anticipation of the arrival of the long awaited Messiah, the military leader anointed by God who would come to free Israel from its oppressing invader.
The laying down of cloaks on the road was a common way of preparing the way of a visiting king or emperor (which is what Jesus is called in verse 38). Think back to the beginning of Luke’s gospel and the message of John the Baptist: Prepare the way of the Lord in Luke 3:4-6, which is itself a citation of Isaiah 40:3-5.
Jesus is proclaimed and blessed as the coming King or messiah in verse 38, which is a quoting of Psalm 118:26. Curiously, here Jesus is proclaimed as the one who brings peace in heaven, whereas at the birth of Christ the angels sing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Luke 2:14. Jesus seems to have moved from bringing peace to the earth to peace to the universe. What might that mean?
In Luke the Pharisees rebuke Jesus for allowing his disciples to exult him in such a way. Jesus says that is he silences them, the rocks will cry out. What does that mean? That he can’t silence them? That even nature recognizes his messianic nature? That his presence makes the silent speak? How might it relate to Luke 3:8 where Jesus says that God can even raise up children of Abraham from seemingly dead stones? The Pharisees don’t think that it’s appropriate for Jesus to receive such acclamation from his followers. They assert that only God is worthy of such praise. Why are they unable to recognize the presence of God in the Jesus they see before them? What did their expectations have to do with their anticipation for the arrival of the long awaited messiah king?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. What troubles you and/or encourages you in these texts? Why? How does it contain good news for us?
2. When have you been disappointed with God, when God seems to have not met, or responded to your expectations? Was that God’s fault, or your own erroneous expectations? Is it wrong for us to have expectations? Some would say that if we don’t expect anything in life, then we won’t be hurt or disappointed. But is that the kind of relationship God wants for us?; that we want with God?
3. How is it hard for you to recognize the presence of God in your life?; in our church life together?; in our shared ministry?