Palm Procession: Luke 19:28b-40
The King Enters His City
28b Jesus went ahead toward Jerusalem. 29 When he was near to Bethphage and Bethany, and faced the Mount of Olives, he sent two followers. 30 “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find a colt no one has ever ridden before. Untie it and bring it back here. 31 If anyone should ask you why you untied it, tell them the Master needs it.”
32 After they left, they found the colt just as Jesus told them. 33 When they untied the colt, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying our colt?”
34 “The Lord needs it,” they replied. 35 They took the animal back to Jesus, put some of their garment on the it like a saddle. Then, they put Jesus on the colt’s back.
36 As Jesus rode, the people spread some of their garments along the road. 37 As he was close to Jerusalem, he rode down the Mount of Olives. There, all his followers praised God about all the miracles they had seen. They shouted,
38 “Blessed is the King. This is the one God sent us. He comes in the Lord’s name. May God’s peace reign in heaven! May God be praised!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said, “Silence your followers!”
40 “If they were quiet, the stones on the road would shout the news!” Jesus replied.
28b (Jesus) traveled ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 It happened as he approached Bethphage and Bethany, toward the hill called (Mount of) Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go forth into the opposing village, in which, entering, you will a colt having been tied up, upon which no one among men has ever ridden, and having untied it, bring (it here). 31 If someone should ask you, ‘Why did you untie (it)?’ you should say, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’” 32 Having left, the ones sent found (it) just as he told (them). 33 When they untied the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why do you untie the colt?” 34 They said, “Because the Lord has need of it.” 35 They led it to Jesus and having set their clothes on the colt, they mounted Jesus (on it). 36 As he traveled, they spread their clothes on the road.
37 As he approached (Jerusalem) already descending the Mount of Olives, the entire multitude of his disciples began to praise God, rejoicing in loud voices, about all (the works of) power which they saw, 38 saying,
“Blessed (is) the (One) approaching,
the King, in the name of the Lord.
In heaven, peace, and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, censure your disciples!” 40 Having answered, he said, “I say to you, if these (people) will be silent, the stones will shout out.”
19:30 “upon which no one among men has ever ridden” The verb “ridden” is literally “sat.”
19:33 “the owners of it” is literally “the lords of it.”
19:35 This sentence is a transition point between the mission of the two disciples who were sent to fetch the colt and the adulation of the crowd who welcomed into Jerusalem. In context, the two disciples (they) put their outer garments on the colt, then mounted Jesus on it. The crowd (“they” in 19:36) responded in kind by spreading their outer garments on the road.
19:38 “the (One) approaching” This was a title for the Messiah who would come at the end of time to usher in the Kingdom. It could also be loosely translated, “Expected One.” The title is the same as “King” in the next line. These titles explained the objections of the Pharisees in the next verse.
“In heaven, peace, and glory in the highest!” This phrase has two parts in opposition to each other: “peace in heaven” and “glory in the highest.” Peace was Shalom, the realization of God’s will. The “highest” was the place-state where God dwelt. In other words, the coming Messiah was God’s will that would bring his peace. The event itself would cause praise, giving glory to God. Shalom and praise were to be reactions to the appearance of the Messiah. (See Luke 2:14 for similar shouts by the angels.)
19:40 “I say to you, if these (people) will be silent, the stones will shout out.” Jesus’ response echoed Habakkuk 2:11 (RSV): “The very stones and wood in your home will testify against you.”
It is understatement to say that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem marked a turning point for his ministry. Jesus began his journey to the City of David with the Peter’s confession about his identity and his prophecy about his death. But, until the moment he entered the city, Jesus had a mobile ministry. From this point on, Jesus ministered in one place. Jerusalem and its Temple were the end game for the preacher from Nazareth.
The narrative is well known. Jesus instructed two followers to fetch him a colt from a village that lay on the outskirts. Then he made his entrance in a way that echoed the way the newly crowned Solomon made his way into the city (1 King 1:38). It also reflected Zechariah’s prophecy about the Messiah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.
Zechariah 9:9 (RSV)
The crowd reacted to the Messianic symbolism as expected. They spread their outer cloaks for the king (echoing Jehu’s acclamation in 2 Kings 9:13) and shouted their praises. Luke omitted two features found in Matthew and Mark: the use of branches and the Aramaic phrase “Hosanna.” Still, the acclamation repeated that of Psalm 118:26 (RSV):
Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.
Clearly this scene had royal overtones. Luke presented the image of the King entering his city, with the populace giving him a warm welcome. Only Luke gives a negative undertow with the objections of the Pharisees. Still, the entry into Jerusalem was positive. It established the tone for Jesus’ Temple ministry, his arrest, execution, and resurrection. When Jesus mounted the colt, the divine plan was set in motion.
The entry was a fitting beginning to the revelation and crowning of the King. Jesus would present himself, yet be rejected. Only to show God’s power. But, in the end, Jesus would give his followers Shalom when he appeared to them after his death. They would respond with praise to God.
How can the palm procession begin your Holy Week? How can it help you prepare to celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter?