After saying these things, Jesus headed straight up to Jerusalem. When he got near Bethphage and Bethany at the mountain called Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: "Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you'll find a colt tethered, one that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says anything, asks, 'What are you doing?' say, 'His Master needs him.'"
The two left and found it just as he said. As they were untying the colt, its owners said, "What are you doing untying the colt?"
They said, "His Master needs him."
They brought the colt to Jesus. Then, throwing their coats on its back, they helped Jesus get on. As he rode, the people gave him a grand welcome, throwing their coats on the street.
Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed:
Blessed is he who comes,
the king in God's name!
All's well in heaven!
Glory in the high places!
Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, "Teacher, get your disciples under control!"
But he said, "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise."
On Wednesday nights I have been hosting a virtual gathering called, “Beyond Sunday School.” We have looked a the history of Israel’s monarchy and we are now doing some background stuff on the New Testament. Last night we talked about the New Testament as history. This particular passage is beautiful in its own right, but is even more beautiful when you know a bit of the history.
One of the things that we have been talking about is that engaging with the Bible is to engage with the stories of people and their interactions with the divine. So, as we study it, we want to try to wrap our minds around their stories and see how our story connects to theirs. This moment in the gospel of Luke provides us a great example to do just that.
As they approach the city Jesus sends a couple guys ahead to get a colt for him to ride on. But not just any colt, a colt that hasn’t been ridden. According to Numbers 19:2 and Deuteronomy 21:3, an unbroken beast of burden was considered sacred. So, this colt was fit for a king.
Notice Jesus doesn’t just jump on the colt. He is placed there. The NIV says it this way, “They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.” This was a coronation and enthronement.
Now, we get to this moment where knowing a bit of history is invaluable. Luke tells us, “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:
‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’”
So, what’s the big deal?
Well back in 2 Samuel 15 we have the story of David fleeing from Absalom and we get this line in verse 30, “But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.”
Do you see what’s happening here?
Jesus, “the Son of David”, is reversing or redeeming what happened when David fled. He is enacting a mirror image of what happened. David went up the Mount of Olives weeping and Jesus comes downs the Mount of Olives rejoicing!
The king has returned!
None of this is lost on the Pharisees who knew their scriptures inside and out. They knew exactly what was happening. This is why there is almost a panic in their voices, “Get your disciples under control!” Jesus entering Jersusalem as the King could be catastrophic. The full power and force of the Roman Empire could come down on him, and them. Jesus and the Pharisees agreed on much and they probably saw him as someone who close to their camp. The more I think about it, the more I think their response was out of legitimate concern for him and them. The Pharisees held no love for the Empire but they were no zealots.
The king has returned! The son of David has returned to claim his throne and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That’s kind of the point of the whole, “The rocks will cry out,” bit.
It’s fun to know a bit of history and see the different layers come out of the story.