Scripture: Luke 19:29-44
Since Christmas we’ve been working our way through the Gospel of Luke. We’ve looked at a lot of different stories along the way. Some are unique to Luke, some are shared in other gospels.
As we approach the end of the Gospel, we start to see some things we might remember from earlier on. There are some little statements Jesus makes which make us think, “Haven’t I heard something like this before?”
Of course we may say to ourselves, “Well, I’ve heard the story many time, so that must be it.”
But is it? Are there little markers in the Gospel of Luke which cause us to pause and rethink the entirety of what Luke wrote? I think there is. And we see an example of that in our reading of Jesus entering into Jerusalem.
But first, we recount the story we read and celebrate every Sunday before Easter. Today we waved our palm branches. We sang of the return of Jesus to Jerusalem. We remember the story of the crowds which have lined the road to welcome him.
In the Gospel of Luke, there’s no mention of any branches at all. We’re told people spread their coats out before him, like a makeshift red carpet as Jesus is paraded by on the colt.
The closer he gets to the city, the bigger the crowd gets. What about this crowd, who are they? Luke tells us they are all his disciples. For Luke, a disciple is anyone who follows Jesus, so here we have all kinds of people who have met Jesus, people who have seen him and what he has done, maybe even some people who have only heard about the things he has done. And as he passes them all by, they are shouting out the things, the miracles, the wonders he has done.
So clearly Jesus has progressed beyond just 12 disciples.
This huge crowd is now considered his followers as a people who have been changed through an encounter, or even a story, with Jesus.
I can imagine a boisterous group of this size is causing quite a stir, and I’m sure those in power and leadership are taking notice. So the Pharisees who have been tagging along with Jesus ask him to tell the crowd to keep it down.
But Jesus won’t oblige them. What does he say?
“I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
Even the stones would cry out!
Does this ring a bell at all?
Let’s go back and revisit Luke 3 for a moment. We looked at this passage back in early January. It’s the story of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus.
John is preaching the need for repentance from sin. He’s proclaiming that people need to be ready because the Messiah is coming very soon. At one point people ask him “Why bother? We’re all children of Abraham.” They assume that just because they are Jewish everything is, and will be, fine.
Do you remember what John says in response? He says, “For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Luke 3:8)
He’s talking about stones.
John says, rocks with no use, with no purpose, can be children of Abraham.
And now Jesus says that the stones will cry out the deeds he has done.
If the crowd lining the road into Jerusalem is made up of disciples of Jesus, then who is in there? Who are his disciples? What began as 12, how has it grown to be hundreds or maybe even thousands of disciples lining the road?
Let’s remember some of the stories we’ve looked at in the Gospel of Luke the last 4 months. There’s the Roman centurion, a gentile, a foreigner, and Jesus healed his servant, another foreigner. Jesus says, no where in all of Israel has he seen such great faith, as the servant is healed. It seems the centurion is a follower.
There’s the widow’s son that Jesus brought back to life. In doing so, saved the widow’s life as well as she would have most certainly struggled in a patriarchal society where single women, especially widows, are forgotten.
There’s the blind beggar we looked at last week. Jesus gave him back his sight and we’re told he then followed Jesus, praising God all the way.
These are just a couple of examples of many in the gospel. Jesus healing people. Bringing people back to life. Restoring relationships, healing families and communities.
And in pretty much all these stories we read that the people were amazed and word spread about what they had seen. Which of course drew more crowds.
Jesus, in his encounters with all these people, drew more disciples to himself. And who are these people? Well, if we look at the examples of the people who’s lives he touched and changed, most were people who were unwelcome among the general public. They were people with disabilities, they were foreigners, they were undesirable, unclean, untouchable, seen as useless…
Like stones lying in a field.
And now these stones are lined up along the parade route into Jerusalem and they are crying out all that Jesus has done, and they will not keep silent.
It seems as though Jesus, as the Son of God, the Messiah, he has raised up children of Abraham from the unwanted and the useless. He has brought “stones” into the family of God.
Now that’s an interesting thing to consider. Jesus has brought people into the family of God who felt like they had no family. Many of them were outcasts in society. Some of them, like Zacchaeus we looked at last week, were outcasts, even if they seemed to have it right.
Yet all of these people were welcomed into the family of God. It made no lick of difference how society viewed them, it only mattered how God viewed them.
Who are the stones in Cape Breton? Who are the people we see as in the way, as useless, as not worthy to be among us?
Drug addicts? Drug dealers? Drunks? People who are too poor? Maybe even people who are too rich? Those we may think who are disabled? We have many people who feel useless, maybe even hopeless in our neighbourhoods.
Yet, how does God see them?
I think Jesus showed us over and over again the answer to that question.
God sees every single one of us as his precious child. He created this earth and everything in it, including every breathing person on this planet.
And he loves us like his precious children.
The next question I want to ask is, “How does God see you?”
What has Jesus done in your life?
Is it worth sharing? I bet it is!
Think about all those people lined up on the side of the road, laying down their coats as if they are welcoming royalty into the city as they shout “Here comes the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Is Jesus your king?
What’s funny is, it’s the reference to Jesus being a king which spurred the pharisees to ask Jesus to quiet the crowd. The Romans would not take kindly to a new king moving in on their turf. If people are going to treat Jesus as a king, then the Romans would be forced to do something about it.
As you read through the Gospel of Luke you see Jesus tell people over and over again to not say who he is. He tells them not to tell anyone what he has done for them.
Well, all of that’s out the window now. Here they are, all lined up along the side of the road making a huge noise. Their king has returned!
And Jesus doesn’t say a word to them this time.
It’s almost as if Jesus had been waiting for something, do you think? All those times he told people to be quiet, do you think that maybe he was preparing for something? Maybe he was preparing for a final call, a final declaration as he was about to achieve what he had come to do.
Of course it’s not what anyone expects. People are expecting a new king. A new king comes into the land and takes over, driving out the old regime. A new king comes to overturn the government and make sweeping changes. A new king comes to free the people from their oppression.
Well, at least one of those expectations is true in the case of Jesus.
Jesus is not going to overthrow the government. He’s not going to drive out the Romans.
But he is going to set the people free.
Well, how do you do that without taking down the oppressors? How do you do that without dismantling the army that holds you down?
That’s not the battle Jesus came to fight.
Jesus came to fight the battle that rages on within us. He came to set us free from the wars we fight on our own. He came to defeat an enemy, most certainly he did.
The enemy he came to fight… well, it’s in us.
The enemy is our sin.
It’s our selfish desires. It’s our inability to love our neighbours. It’s our greed, our pride, our drive for control and power.
It’s all within us.
Sure, Jesus came to defeat the devil, but part of that evil is what has been planted in ourselves.
It’s been taught to us by the corporate world. It’s been driven into our brains by society. “Look out for #1!” we’re told.
And that’s what Jesus came to fight against. That’s what Jesus came to save us from.
Jesus showed us that we all have a piece of God within us. We all carry His mark inside our hearts. He created us, He loves us, and He wants us to realize how we have broken away from His family through our sin.
But all is not lost! There is a way back. There is a way we can return to God and know for certain we are part of his family, even though we may have wandered far away.
It’s to celebrate the return of Jesus as he does battle with the evil and sin in our lives. It’s to allow Jesus to come into our lives and show us the lies we have been believing. Those things we like to think… things like:
“I’m not good enough to be loved by God.”
“I’ve done too many terrible things.”
“I can’t come back to someone I’ve rejected.”
“He won’t love me because no one could love me if they truly knew me.”
Well, I’m sorry to let you know, Jesus does truly know you. It’s why he came. It’s why, even today, he will come for you.
Jesus wants you to know God’s incredible love for you. Despite your sin, your evil ways, Jesus wants you to know God’s love. And he wants to heal you of this evil and this sin.
What happens after Jesus passes the crowd and enters the gates of Jerusalem? The people are expecting him to be like their new king, throwing out the Romans and bringing the nation back to the people. He’s going to make Israel great again!
But that’s not what he came to do.
Jesus enters the city to do battle, but it’s not an earthly battle. It’s spiritual warfare, which means it’s far more important than getting rid of the Romans.
Spiritual warfare is an eternal battle. It’s a battle for souls and what’s at stake is their place for eternity.
So Jesus has come to save God’s people, but he’s thinking far more long term. His sights are on God’s heavenly kingdom, which is, of course, far greater than the great city of Jerusalem.
To do so means things aren’t going to go as one might expect. If you’re going to win the victory, it means you fight the battles, you win those battles, you beat down the enemy. And it most certainly means you don’t die.
Yet we know what this week holds. We know Jesus will be betrayed. He will be captured. He will be beaten. And we know he will die in what could be the most inhumane torture device ever concocted. The cross.
The new king, at the end of the week is not wearing a golden crown. He’s wearing a crown of thorns.
He’s not wearing great robes. He’s stripped and beaten.
He’s not lifted up on the throne. He’s lifted up on the cross.
He’s not shouting words of victory. He’s saying “It is finished” with his final breath.
Everything we are taught tells us this is no way to win a war. I’m pretty sure it’s the complete opposite. But we also know the cross is not the end. It may seem like the end, but that’s just the battle, the war is not over.
I’m sorry if this is a spoiler for you, but Jesus is going to win the war.
He’s going to win this thing once and for all. Death, evil, sin, none of it can win this war, because Jesus is the one who will set us free.
Just wait and see. As we enter this darkened week, know that it is not over. Victory is still to come.
Let us pray,
You are our king. But not like any earthly king with faults and flaws. You are the perfect king, you are flawless.
Help us to see that you have come not just to save the people who lined the road into Jerusalem, but you have come to save us too. You have come to help us win our own battles with our sin.
Reassure us, that when we go into those battles with you at our side, we will be victorious, we will defeat the sin and evil in our own lives. You will set us free.
And we will come even closer into the family of our Father God.
As this family grows, this family swells with abundant love. This family is not just for us, but for all God’s children.
We ask you to begin in us, so that we may offer the love of God to others, so that they will welcome you into their lives and so you can set them free as well.
We thank you Lord Jesus for fighting for us, and even when the battle looked done, you still win the war.
We praise you, we thank you, and we welcome you into our presence, as we pray in your most Holy Name.
Amen and amen.