"Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord
!"
Luke 19:28-40
Text is from the New Revised Standard Version 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

 

  

Entrance

         Here begins a whole new section in Luke's gospel. The journey to Jerusalem (9:51 - 19:27) is over. Recall the words of "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'..." (Luke 3:4-6). The long, crooked, and rough road to this day is now a b-line. The destination is no longer distant. The time has come to enter the city of Shalom (Jeru-shalem), which hasn't a clue as to what truly makes for God's peace (19:41-42) - does it even today? Remember the words of Isaiah which Jesus claimed as his own, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2) The hour has arrived when the stones that greeted those words earlier (4:28-30) will not miss.
         However, that moment is not yet. The One anointed to bring good news comes to the gates of the city, to the doors of the temple. There is a festal procession. Is this crowd consciously greeting this rabbi from Nazareth as a triumphant king, as the coming Messiah, or are they just all wrapped up in the celebration of a religious festival? Here comes yet another pilgrim. "Blessings!" Luke hints that there is a bit of awareness of his "king"-ship, but all too quickly those around him will dissipate, even his closest disciples, leaving him alone among enemies with a sarcastic sign above his head "This is the king of the Jews," and the bitter question and comment from soldier and criminal, "Are you the Messiah?" and "Save yourself !"  (23:35-39)
         For now, though, the sun shines above a bright day. Whether those around him truly know what they are saying, Jesus is welcomed into David's city as God's anointed. Before reading, perhaps we should lay down our own "cloaks" before him.

{28} After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
{29}         When he had come near Bethphage
                                                and Bethany, at the place called
                                                 the Mount of Olives,
                              he sent two of the disciples,
{30}                                saying,
                      "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it
                                  you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden.
                                              Untie it and bring it here.
{31}                                               If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?'
                                                                  just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'"
{32}                          So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.
{33}                                 As they were untying the colt,
                                                  its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
{34}                                                              They said, "The Lord needs it."
{35}          Then they brought it to Jesus; and
                                                     after throwing  their cloaks on the colt,
                                  they set Jesus on it.
{36}                  As he rode along,
                                          people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
{37}                  As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives,
                                    the whole multitude of the disciples
                                                  began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice
                                                               for all the deeds of power that they had seen,
{38}                                                                   saying,
                                          "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
                                                        Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"
{39}                        Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
                                         "Teacher, order your disciples to stop."
{40}                        He answered,
                                          "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

 

 

 

 Parallels

There is considerable agreement between the four gospels as to the events of this day. Jesus arrived with his disciples. He entered Jerusalem seated on either a colt or a donkey (or both), surrounded by a multitude. This crowd shouted a blessing of this one "who comes in the name of the Lord." A connection to Psalm 118:25-27 seems obvious for all four accounts.

Psalm 118:19-29

{19} Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. {20} This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.{21} I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. {22} The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. {23} This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. {24} This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. {25} Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! {26} Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. {27} The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. {28} You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. {29} O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

         This Psalm is the last of a group of Psalms (113-118) known as "the Egyptian Hallel" (hallel = praise), and was used as part of joyous festivals, such as the Feast of Tabernacles or Passover. The language of these Psalms looks back to the Exodus, but the whole history of God's preservation of Israel is included. A service of thanksgiving, this Psalm is centered "in a person who has survived a dangerous crisis. This celebrant stands at the gates of the temple courts accompanied by a congregation of worshipers. There he gives testimony of his escape. After a ritual of admission, he enters with (them) and gives thanks to the Lord in a liturgy in which (all) participate." (Mays, Psalms, p. 375)
         The New Testament has drawn heavily from the well of this particular section of Psalm 118 (for verses 22-23, see Mt. 21:42-44/Mk. 12:10-11/Lk. 20:17-18, Acts 4:11-12, Eph. 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:6-10). Verses 25-27 provide the backdrop for Jesus' entry into Jerusalem - a fitting connection, since the time frame for the gospel story is the beginning of Passover, and this Psalm functions in that setting. Pilgrims to Jerusalem would have been familiar with the liturgy. "Save us" in Hebrew is "Hosi anna" (in short form, "Hosanna"). A cry for help, it is also an affirmation of faith in God who saves - who passes over the children of Israel (Exodus 12:21-32), who parts the waters (Exodus 14:21-32), who provides a deliverer (like Moses or David), and who brings home the exiles.
         "Blessed is the one who comes," who enters the temple "in the name of the Lord" - i.e. the pilgrim coming to return thanks or seek deliverance, the Davidic king entering as God's anointed, or (as in later Judaism) the coming Messiah. (for more on Messianic expectations in Ps. 22, 118, and 102, see The Messiah in the OT in the light of rabbinical writings)  The "festal procession" (literally the "sacrifice," though this rendering is unlikely) is to be "bound  with branches." The Mishnah (Sukkah iv:5f) "describes how on the Feast of Tabernacles the procession of worshippers used to go around the altar. They also carried the "lulab," a bundle of branches made up from myrtles, willows, and palms. During the procession the altar was covered with branches." (Anderson, Psalms, p. 804) "...as the branches touch each other, as well as the 'horns of the altar,' its quality of holiness (is imparted on the participants). Other commentators translate 'ropes' instead of 'branches' and see in this the widespread custom of using ropes to mark the congregation off as a holy people, thus separating them from what is regarded as profane." (Weiser, The Psalms, p. 729)

Other resources on Psalm 118 can be found at  "The Text this Week."

         Of course, the differences between the gospel accounts are obvious. In Mark and Luke the beast of burden carrying Jesus is a young colt ("polon") that has never been ridden, while John pictures a young donkey ("onarion"), and Matthew presents both a donkey ("onon") and a young colt ("polon"). This detail is tied with a passage from the prophet Zechariah (9:9), which Matthew and John quote. If one follows the Hebrew text (MT) of Zechariah, the "triumphant king" will come seated "upon an ass, even upon a colt, the foal of an ass." The Greek version (LXX) says he will arrive "upon a draft animal ("hypozygion," similar to an ass "onon") and a new ("neon") colt or foal ("polon"). Matthew's quote follows the LXX rendering (substituting "onon" for "hypozygion"), as well as the "and," while John translates the Hebrew, making it singular, "a donkey's colt."
         The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) agree that the disciples are sent with instructions, concerning what to do and say, from Jesus to obtain the beast(s), where John simply says "having found (one) Jesus sat upon" it. He doesn't mention the cloaks thrown upon the back(s) of  the animal(s), whereas the others do. The three also tell that people spread their cloaks upon the ground. Luke makes no mention of vegetation also strewed in the way. For Matthew, it's "branches ("kladous") cut from the trees ("denodron")." With Mark, it's "wisps of twigs ("stibadas"), cutting from the fields ("kopsantes ek ton agron")."  John is the only one who writes of "branches of palm trees" ("baia ton phoinikon"), though there is no mention of laying them on the ground. The crowd went out to meet him with the palm branches. Is the crowd surrounding Jesus, in Luke's gospel, any more than his own disciples? One wonders.
         With words from the festive psalm, all (disciples, crowd?) shout a blessing to this one "who comes in the name of the Lord," whom Luke and John identify as the "king." Luke omits the "Hosanna!" The synoptics add some extra material, each slightly different, but John is short and sweet. Luke and John add a section (though each is different) of addedum to this entrance scene, where Matthew and Mark head straight into the city, and the passion that there awaits.

Parallels (in NRSV) are highlighted in this way:
in all four (yellow), in three of four (green), in two of four (blue)

Matthew 21:1-9

Mark 11:1-10

Luke 19:29-38

John 12:12-15

{1} When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, {2} saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. {3} If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." {1} When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples {2} and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. {3} If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'"  {29} When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, {30} saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. {31} If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'"  
{4} This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, {5} "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Old Testament quote not in Mark/Luke

(Zechariah 9:9)
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on:
- (MT) a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
- (LXX) a draft animal and a new foal."

(from end of section below)

as it is written: {15} "Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" 

(end of section)

{6} The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; {4} They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, {5} some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" {6} They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.  {32} So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. {33} As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" {34} They said, "The Lord needs it."  
{7} they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.

{8} A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

{7} Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.

{8} Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.

{35} Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

{36} As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.

     (from end of section below)
{14} Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it;
           
(continues above)

{12} The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. {13} So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him,

{9} The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" {9} Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! {10} Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" {37} As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, {38} saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord-- the King of Israel!"

(continues above)

More resources on Matthew 21:1-9 can be found at
"The Text this Week."

More resources on Mark 11:1-10 can be found at
"The Text this Week."

 

More resources on John 12:12-15 can be found at
"The Text this Week."

Luke 19:39-44

John 12:16-19

{39} Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." {40} He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." {41} As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, {42} saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. {43} Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. {44} They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God." {16} His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. {17} So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. {18} It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. {19} The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!"

 


Other resources on this passage can be found at  "The Text this Week."

comments 2001 Peter L. Haynes

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