Luke 19:28–44 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
People Rejoice While the Savior Weeps
Today's three-scene passage [as shown in all four gospels] certainly has its tension. We see the great contrast between the joyful praise of the crowds and Jesus' weeping: Why does the entrance of our Lord seem so triumphal, when our Lord's assessment of it implies the opposite? Why do the people rejoice while the Savior weeps?
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a foal of a donkey that day, it meant different things to different people. For Jesus, it signified his official presentation to the nation as King and Messiah, although he knew that he'd be rejected and crucified. The Twelve and other followers of Jesus saw him as Messiah and King, but they mistakenly thought that he'd immediately set up his rule on the throne of David. Others in the crowd saw the event in strictly political terms: They were enamored by Jesus' miracles, especially the recent raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 12:17–18); they hoped that Jesus would lead the revolt against Rome and restore independence to Israel; the Jewish leaders were frustrated by the acclaim Jesus was receiving because he threatened their power base (John 11:47–48).
But less than a week later, one of the disciples had betrayed Jesus, another had denied knowing him, and his followers were scattered and confused. The fickle crowd had changed their shouts form "Hosanna!" to "Crucify Him!" . . . Why? What happened? Why the defection? The failure? The change? There's a good chance that it was because all those people had a wrong conception of who Jesus was, and they were following him for what they thought he'd do for them. Because they had a faulty notion of spiritual truth regarding the person of Jesus Christ, along with a man-centered theology, they fell away in a time of difficulty when things didn't go as they'd hoped. If we want a hearty faith that endures hardship and trials, we need to understand this: We should follow Jesus because he is Lord, not just because of what he can do for us.
Scene 1: Putting Everything in Place (vv. 28–34)
The Mount of Olives is a hill outside of Jerusalem, which Luke tells us is a "Sabbath day's journey" from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12, about 5/8 mile or about 1 kilometer). It's a place of great significance: It was on the Mount of Olives that king David wept, along with his faithful followers, as he fled from Jerusalem and from his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15:30); according to Zechariah 14:4, the Messiah was to appear on the Mount of Olives, which would be split in half, forming a great valley; it's there that this "triumphal entry" was staged; and during his last week, Jesus spent his nights on the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37); it seems also to be from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended (cf. Acts 1:6–12).
Jesus likely paused on the Mount of Olives, before entering Jerusalem. He sent two of his disciples ahead to procure a mount. It wasn't that Jesus needed a ride, for it wasn't a long walk into Jerusalem. The purpose for riding into Jerusalem on a never-ridden foal of a donkey was to fulfill prophecy (Zech. 9:9), and thereby to proclaim his identity as Messiah.
There's an entire paragraph devoted to a detailed description of the procurement of this donkey and its foal (similarly in Matthew and Mark). Why such detail in the gospel accounts? We must first realize that this was an important fulfillment of prophecy, which our Lord was intent on fulfilling precisely. Second, the miraculous power of the Lord Jesus was portrayed. Third, Jesus' knowledge of the exact whereabouts of the animals, and of the response of the owners, indicates that our Lord was completely aware of and in control of his environment and his Father's plan.
We learn that the two disciples went into the village and, without previously asking permission, started to take the animal(s). All this was done in the sight of the animals' owners. The two disciples did precisely what Jesus instructed them to do: to locate the animals, take them, and give an explanation only if they were challenged, which they were. Amazingly, once told, "The Lord has need of it," the owners ceased to protest, allowing the two disciples to lead the two animals away, with no statement being made about their return. Our understanding of their response must begin with an understanding of the value of these two animals to their owners. Wealth in that part of the world was often measured in terms of livestock possession. Put into today's culture, the donkey and its colt would have been something like a red Corvette convertible. Can you imagine allowing two strangers to get into it and drive off, with only the words, "The Lord has need of it"? What was it about these words that satisfied the animals' owners?
That question's answer is found in the word, "Lord," which, in every gospel account is identical. Likely, the term "Lord" was understood by the animals' owners to refer to Jesus of Nazareth. Further, based upon its Old Testament roots, "Lord" implied the deity of our Lord, and thus his sovereignty over all creation. To these animal owners, the term "Lord" conveyed that Jesus wasn't only Messiah, but God; thus he had every right to possess these animals, whether he returned them or not. It was this same authority that enabled and empowered him to be in perfect control over the little colt, which had never been "broken," and which would normally have refused to bear Jesus as a burden or go where he led it to go. Not only the act of riding this animal into Jerusalem, but also the way in which the animal was obtained, became a statement by our Lord of his authority.
Scene 2: Jesus' Triumphal Entry (vv. 35–40)
Let's first recognize a few important details about this "triumphal entry" passage. First, this incident was the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy (9:9, shown above), even though Luke didn't make that point as Matthew and John had. Second, not everyone in Jerusalem participated in Jesus' entry; it was mainly those who could be called his disciples. From all four accounts, it's evident that while there was a great crowd involved in welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem, most of the Jerusalemites weren't actively involved. Third, no one really understood the meaning and significance of what they were doing while they welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. John informs us that even the Twelve disciples didn't understand what they (or Jesus) were doing; when asked by the Jerusalemites what was going on and who this "Jesus" was, the crowd responded that he was a prophet, not that he was the Messiah. And, fourth, the "triumphal entry" of Jesus provided a forceful impetus to the Jewish religious leaders to get rid of Jesus, convincing the Pharisees that they must act both quickly and decisively to get rid of Jesus because he was winning over the masses and must be stopped quickly.
The sound is increasing. The enthusiasm is building. The pathway is carpeted with clothing and branches. There's much singing and rejoicing. People in the crowd are now shouting out clearly messianic phrases: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Luke 19:38); "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:9); "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" (Mark 11:10b); "Blessed is the King of Israel!" (John 12:13). The Pharisees present in the crowd are scowling. They're deeply offended, unable to suppress their disdain, ordering Jesus to rebuke his boastful followers. He responds, "I tell you . . . if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." That is, if the disciples become silent, the stones themselves would be forced to offer praise.
Scene 3: Jesus' Response to His Reception (vv. 41–44)
Reading these four verses now . . . we clearly see an amazing contrast between "the crowd's joyful reception of Jesus" and "our Lord's tears." The crowds thought that they'd received Jesus in a way that was appropriate and fitting; Jesus viewed the event as an event leading to disaster for Jerusalem. Jesus wept as he approached the city of Jerusalem (v. 41). The reason for his tears is shown in vv. 42–44. First and foremost, the Jerusalemites failed to grasp "what would bring [them] peace."
How was this peace to be accomplished? Seemingly, the majority of people thought that this peace would be accomplished by a forceful sword. They therefore supposed that when the Messiah came, he'd utilize military might and throw off the shackles of Rome. Because Jerusalem didn't know what would bring peace, Jesus wept knowing what laid ahead for this wayward, wrong-thinking nation. Instead of Messiah's entry bringing about the demise of Rome, his upcoming rejection as being the Messiah meant the destruction of Jerusalem, at the hand of Roman soldiers in 70 AD.
If Jesus is Lord (that is, God), then not only does he have the right to possess man's possessions (vv. 28–34) and man's praise and worship (vv. 35–40), he also has the right to institute his kingdom in the way that he sovereignly chooses, rather than by those means that men might prefer. Messiah will come to possess what is his, to receive man's praise, and to bring about the kingdom in his own way. Men seemed to suppose that the kingdom would be founded on acts of power and might and by the performance of more miracles (cf. v. 37). But Jesus was intent on fulfilling the will of the Father, and thus to bring about the kingdom by personal pain, rejection, and suffering. Such is the way of his cross.
- Q. 1 Does Jesus weep at the sight of the Jerusalemites' blindness or their fate?
- Q. 2 Why are the Jewish leaders unwilling or unable to recognize Jesus as Messiah and King?
New International Version (NIV)
[To view it in a different version, click here; also listen to chapter 19]
† Watch this passage-specific video clip from Jesus Film Project titled "Jesus' Triumphal Entry."
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
28After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30"Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say, 'The Lord needs it.'"
32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
34They replied, "The Lord needs it."
35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37When 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:
38"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
40"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."