March 28, 2010
Text: Luke 19:28-40
Dear Friends in Christ,
In Philippians 2 we read: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Our first reaction is to say that’s nice, which also shows that we don’t have clue what St. Paul is saying. This is a chilling statement. To see this we must clarify one point. The ESV renders the Greek word “should bow.” But the sense of it is will or shall bow. This will happen. It not something that would nice if it did happen. Rather, the day will come when every knee will bow to Christ - willingly or unwillingly. The devil, all the demons, and all the unbelievers will be compelled to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord before being sent to hell for all eternity. St. Paul’s statement is not just one of praise, but one of judgement.
Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem was functioning on a number of levels. It was Christ’s coronation entrance into Jerusalem and the temple. It was a direct challenge to the priestly authorities. It was, in a more subtle way, a challenge to the authority of Rome and all earthly rulers. And it was an act of judgement.
We see Christ’s words of judgement in our last verse. “And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Here we see God’s judgement. And it is a chilling thing, if we know what it is that we are hearing. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus followers were lauding Him as a king. Matthew adds they were calling Jesus the “Son of David”. This is clear messianic language. That Jesus was accepting this praise was a direct claim that He was indeed the Messiah. It has been noted that Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. The Pharisees were voting for liar or lunatic. They could not accept Lord. But this is what the people were saying. This is the messianic king that God had sent to His people. To accept such praise, if it were not true, would be blasphemy - a death penalty offense under Jewish law. Thus the Pharisees are there demanding that Jesus not accept such praise from the crowd. Jesus then speaks to them words of judgement - words that are not much different than those written later by St. Paul.
People read this and think of the stones of the city. Even the stones in the walls would cry out. But this is not what Jesus meant at all. Either Jerusalem accepts Jesus as its king, or the Gentiles would cry out God’s praises. Stones was a common expression in Jesus day. It was how they referred to Gentiles. What Jesus was saying to the Pharisees is that they were about to be replaced. This echoes the earlier warning of John the Baptist that God could raise up children for Abraham from the stones. Either they would accept Jesus as Lord, that is as Yahweh, or they would know God’s wrath. But there would still be those who sing God’s praises. There would still be sons for Abraham. And they would be found among the Gentiles.
This too is warning for us. We must remember that it was the religious leaders that opposed Christ. It was the people who had made religion their business that crucified Christ. We must be clear on this. You cannot, reasonably, lay blame on Rome. Pilate was put in an impossible situation. John gives the key detail. Pilate would not allow the Jewish leaders to skate. He gave Jesus something approaching a Roman citizen’s trial. Finally, the Jews came clean and charged that Jesus was guilty of violating their religious law. Pilate would have set Jesus free. We must remember that not much has changed. There are religious people, people in leadership positions in the church who are working at cross purposes to Christ. They are more interesting in promoting their private hobby horses than in Christ and His kingdom. They might even try to justify their nonsense by claiming it is to build up the Kingdom of God. Now we need to see this in others. But we also need to see in ourselves. Where do we get to religious to trust in Christ? Sometimes our own religious ideas get in the way of Christ. It was the religious people who killed Christ. We can kill Christ among us, if we turn from the Word to our own religious ideas and practices.
Christ in our text is entering Jerusalem as its King. Christ is also among us as our King. No place is this more literally true than in the Divine Service, which takes place in the kingly court of our Lord. We too need to see where Christ is among us as our King. For Christ is our King of Grace. He makes us His subjects by forgiving our sins. He covers us in garments of His righteousness. When we understand this, we should greatly desire Christ’s gifts and Christ’s presence among us. Everything we do should be focused upon Christ. Christ is our King who saves us from our enemies. So what gets in the way? We do. We get in the way when we try to make religion about us instead of about Christ. This is what the Pharisees did. For the religion was about them. It wasn’t about God.
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus here comes into Jerusalem to take His place as our King. He comes in the Lord’s name. That means He carries with Him, in His person, the name Yahweh. He is God in the flesh. All previous kings and prophets, were mere regents. They were caretakers. So also today. All pastors, all church officials, are mere regents. Christ is the King. We need always to be focused upon Christ and His Word. For He is the King and He is the One who saves. We don’t save our ourselves. That is the glory of Christ - that He saves His people. When we are focused upon Christ we are focused upon His saving work. That’s why we praise Him. And indeed if we do not, the very stones will cry out.