WHAT SIMON SAW ON SUNDAY
by Pastor Mike Fortune
March 24, 2007
Our Scripture reading today comes from Luke 19:28–31 [NIV] which reads, “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, 30Go 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?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them.”
So begins the description of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. John’s parallel passage of this account makes it clear that this occurred on the first day of the week. Sunday #1. The one before the Resurrection. We know this is true because John 12:1 [NIV] says “Six days before Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” It was there on the Sabbath you may remember that an elaborate dinner was hosted in Jesus’ honor. Where Mary took an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ body 6 days before He died. Cutting off those who might criticize her for such extravagant gift, verse 5 says it was worth the salary of what you or I would make in one year, Jesus tells her critics in John 12:7, “Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Mary had heard Jesus’ warnings. As had the disciples. That the Son of Man would be going up to Jerusalem. To fulfill everything the prophets of old had predicted. That Jesus would be handed over to Gentiles. Who would mock him. Insult him. Spit on him. Flog him. And kill him. But that on the third day, he would rise again. So she anointed Jesus with perfume normally reserved for royalty before He died. So while Mary was apparently preparing for the day when Jesus would no longer be with them, the disciples were not.
Jesus borrows a colt. . .
Not even after Jesus sent 2 of them in search of the main thing required for a royal entry that at the end of the week would culminate at the cross. Which may be because the disciples were used to hearing Jesus ask to borrow things. First it was a manger. Though he didn’t actually ask for that did He? Later it was a boat. A little boy’s lunch. The one he used as a platform to preach. The other as food for a miracle. In a week, it will be a tomb He borrows. Because He who owns the cattle on a thousand hills but has no place to lay His head. In life and in death. The one through whom all things created came into being according to Colossians 1 Himself has nothing. Primarily because He gave everything. Can you imagine? A King without a colt to ride on? A King without a single coin to rent one?
So He sends two disciples to go borrow one. Maybe Simon Peter was one of them. Maybe it was James and John. Which two we don’t know. But whoever they were, when they showed up at the next village, what they found was exactly as Jesus described. Which had to blow their minds. Sure, they’d seen Jesus do some amazing things. The dead brought back to life like Lazarus. The blind made to see like Bartamaus. The 9 Jewish lepers healed with the 1 foreign leper that came back to thank Him. But this. This was practically clairvoyance. Another evidence that Jesus really was the Messiah. Someone whose divinity would become obvious to everyone from as far away as Cyrene in Northern Africa to the seat of political power in Rome.
So just as Jesus had said, in the next village, they saw a colt, a little donkey, tied up. Luke 19:33 [NIV] says, “33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’” The owner’s thinking: You two seriously thinking about stealing my donkey in broad daylight? What’s wrong with you? The disciples, caught red handed, remembered what Jesus had told them to say and replied sheepishly “The Lord needs it.” And sometimes friends, that’s all that needs to be said. Some of us might have been thinking, “Who’s the Lord? How long does He need it? Tell him to get His own donkey!” Right? But who says everything has to make sense before you let the Lord use you or your stuff? Why can’t the Lord choose to use whoever and whatever whenever He wants? And this day, He needed a colt. A little donkey. So this anonymous owner allows Jesus to borrow his colt.
. . .to fulfill prophecy and to make an entrance
But why does the Lord need it? Prior to today, Jesus had always walked everywhere He went. Two miles from Jerusalem to Bethany. Twenty miles from Nazareth to Capernaum. Didn’t matter. If He was talking, He was walking. And He’d get there sooner or later. But not today. He needed it. For at least two reasons. To fulfill prophecy. And to make an entrance. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah, 500 years before Jesus was even born, in Zechariah 9:9 [NIV] predicted, “9Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Seated not on a proud Arabian horse. As any earthly king would be. As was the Jewish custom for royalty. But on a humble little donkey. That had never been ridden before. Which couldn’t be more appropriate. Because Jesus had never done anything like this before either. Until now, Jesus had refused any attempts to make him King. When the feeding of the 5,000 crowd wanted to crown Him King, he escaped to a quiet hillside. When His family challenged Him one Passover to reveal Himself to Jerusalem, He declined. When John the Baptist’s disciples pleaded with Him to become King, He passed. But this Passover is different. This Passover He’s on a mission. Not only to fulfill a 500 year old prophecy, but to make an entrance. For the first time in His life, Jesus actually wanted to attract attention. If there were some red carpet, He probably wouldn’t have minded if that had been rolled out too. The papparazi would’ve been all over this coming out party.
Blessed is the King Who comes in the name of the Lord!
But even then, it would’ve seemed a little odd. Because for all the pomp and circumstance, this was still an unkingly sight. Almost comic really. Can you picture a grown man riding not in a chariot but on a borrowed donkey with his legs dangling on either side and His feet almost dragging the ground? Instead of costly gifts, verse 36 says the crowd whipped off their cloaks and laid them down on the dusty ground. Jesus got his red carpet after all! They could not lead the parade with royal standards bearing the insignia of the King, so they cut down palm branches and waved them like flags of victory. Which was fine with Jesus. Because people were always more important to Him than appearances. And the people lining the road like a parade knew that too. Because Jesus had become precious to numerous widows and orphans the last 3 ½ years. He was already King of the cripples and the deaf and dumb. Little children probably dragged their parents out to see Him. And the Bible says in Luke 19:38 [NIV] that as soon as the thousands in the multitude saw Jesus crest the top of hill on the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of widows and orphans and cripples and deaf and dumb shouted “38Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” John 12:17-19 [NIV] adds, “17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’” Mark’s account says by the time the triumphal entry was finished it was late, which means it was probably after the 3pm evening sacrifice. Getting closer to sunset.
Which didn’t stop thousands of additional pilgrims who had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover from emptying Jerusalem’s narrow streets. But alongside the road, also present, were some Pharisees. Verse 39 says, “39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’” Apparently, what is expressive to some is offensive to others. For what was a spontaneous moment of worship to the multitude, to the Pharisees it was not a joy but a judgement. They were probably worried Jesus would disrupt the solemn Passover ceremonies. How impressionable Pilgrims might misunderstand. And be drawn away from their faith in God. At least those were the reasons they were probably sharing with the crowd. But deep down, John 12:48 explains the real reason. “48If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation!”
Matthew 21:10-11 [NIV] adds these words. “10When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ 11The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” They could’ve added: This is the seed of the woman that shall bruise the serpent’s head. Ask Adam. This is Melchizedek, King of Salem. Prince of Peace. Ask Abraham. This is Shiloh of the Tribe of Judah. Ask Judah. He is Immanuel. Wonderful Counselor. The Mighty God. Ask Isaiah. He is The Branch of David. The Lord our Righteousness. Ask Jeremiah. Daniel will tell you. He is the Messiah. Hosea will tell you. He is the Lord God of Hosts. John the Baptist told you. He is the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world. The great God in heaven Himself proclaimed in a voice you heard from His throne that THIS is My Beloved Son. Even the demon in Capernaum knew all this from day one. He shouted in Mark 1:24 “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
But the mouth speaks that from which the heart is filled. And apparently, what filled the hearts of the Pharisees was judgement and rebuke. To them, the crowd was misinformed. Their emotion misguided. Their gifts, like Mary’s perfume, a mistake. A mistake they insisted Jesus correct. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples they demanded.”
But ceremonies are meant to be celebrations aimed at Jesus. Reverent worship can also be spontaneous and expressive. From happy hearts grateful for Who God is and what He’s done for them. So Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 19:40 [NIV], “‘40I tell you,’ He replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Which is ironic isn’t it? The Pharisees were educated. But they lacked the simple understanding of what it means to truly worship. The Pharisees had lots of learning. But they needed to get a life worth living. And the only way of getting that is receiving it as a gift of God’s grace. It is in knowing Jesus that we receive a life worth living. He gives our life meaning. And purpose. And direction. Some of Jesus is better than all of anything else.
They approach Jerusalem
But the little donkey understands none of this. It knows only that the shift in weight going downhill now to Jerusalem is a welcome relief. And as they descend upon the Holy City, amidst shouts of joy and spontaneous worship, flowers and palm branches waving, the sparkling city graces Mount Zion like a tiara. Behind the walls are lush gardens and lavish palaces. There is Herod’s palace with the majestic stone columns. There is the Fort of Antonia from which the regiment of hired mercenary soldiers would be later sent to arrest the Prince of Peace in Gethsemane. And of course there was the temple. With its gleaming white marble and shining gold. For every Jew who ever walked that road all the way to Jerusalem, it was a photo op. And still is. A place to pause and take it all in. Breathtaking. But not to Jesus. At least not that day. Because as that colt which had never been ridden was struggling with the shifting weight upon its back, Jesus was also struggling with the weight He was carrying. And the closer He traveled to Jerusalem, the heavier that weight becomes.
Luke 19:41 [NIV] says, “41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” What that literally means is He burst into tears. How long He cried we don’t know. How hard we cried we do. Because the word Luke uses in this verse is a strong one. Used to describe convulsive sobbing. And if you’ve ever seen a grown man suddenly burst into tears and start crying uncontrollably, you know how uncomfortable that had to have been to watch. It’s interesting. The Savior’s tears are mentioned sparingly in the Scriptures. And then only in passing. Recently, we know Jesus wept over a friend who died. But now, Jesus is weeping over an entire nation about to die. He called them both out of their tombs. In John 11, Lazarus came forth. But in Luke 19, Jesus knew Jerusalem would not. So in the midst of a scene of rejoicing, the crowd’s King burst into tears. Not silent tears of gladness. But tears and groans of agony and overwhelming loss.
Maybe some of you remember this news story. On March 20, 1991 at 11 a.m., four‑and‑a‑half‑year‑old Conor Clapton died when he fell from a 53rd‑story window in a New York City apartment. He landed on the roof of an adjacent four‑story building. Conor was in the custody of his mother, Italian actress Lori Del Santo, and they were staying in the apartment during a visit to New York from Italy. The boy’s father, Eric Clapton, was also in New York and was staying at a nearby hotel at the time of the tragedy. The death of Conor Clapton was one of those accidents that seem so preventable with hindsight yet aren’t imaginable until they happen. The housekeeper had just finished cleaning the window and left it open to air the room when Conor ran past him and fell out the 4‑by‑6 opening.
By law, New York City apartments must have window guards installed on every window in all residential buildings with three or more tenants, but a 1984 ruling exempted condominiums from this regulation, placing the onus upon the owners of such units to install such safety devices, and the apartment Del Santos and her son were staying in was a condo unit, thus the window Conor fell through lacked a guard.
As one might expect, the death of his son had a deep impact on Eric Clapton. For nine months the grieving father concentrated on coming to terms with his loss rather than on performing. When he returned to the stage, critics decided his music had changed, becoming softer, more powerful, and more reflective. Tears in Heaven, the name of the song he wrote after Conor’s death, was Clapton’s way of pouring his grief and growing acceptance of Conor’s loss into his music.
Jesus wept for the multitudes who would be lost
Luke 15:7 says there is much rejoicing in heaven when just one sinner repents. If that’s true, imagine how many tears there are in heaven when a multitude does not! Listening to a few Pharisees criticize you is one thing. Watching an entire nation reject you is quite another. I imagine there were tears in heaven and on earth that day don’t you? But let’s be clear. The tears of Jesus were not in anticipation of His own suffering and mourning and loss. Yes, Gethsemane was just before Him. Where tears and groans of personal agony and loss would be shed. The sheep gate was also in sight through which for centuries animals for sacrifice had been led and through which Jesus would be later led on His way to Golgotha. Which was also visible from there. But none of that is why Jesus cried. His was no selfish sorrow. He was mourning for the multitudes.
Gazing into the future with prophetic clarity, Jesus said in Luke 19: 42-44 [NIV], “42If 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.”
He who had seen 500 years into the past was now gazing nearly 40 years into the future. Maybe longer. Through a mist of remorse and heart ache, not for Himself, but for what was coming upon those He still loved like crazy, who He’d been wooing through the prophets like Isaiah and Daniel and Jeremiah for 1,000 years. He saw what was in store for Jerusalem. He saw with prophetic clarity the legions of Roman soldiers surrounding the city. Their swords drawn. Their battering rams positioned. Their catapults ready to heave huge boulders at the walls. He saw the bloodshed. He heard the tortured cries. He feels the pain not of His crucifixion, but of the many more who like Him would be crucified by the conquering Romans outside those very walls.
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Roman Titus besieged Jerusalem in 70 AD when it was jam packed full of pilgrims coming for Passover. Legions of Roman troops surrounded the city and kept anyone from entering or leaving for months. Cut off from supplies, many of the Jews resorted to eating the leather on their belts and sandals. Many starved to death. By August, soldiers stormed the city and tore down the temple leaving not a stone left upon another. Over a million Jews died. It was for these that Jesus wept. It was for these that there were tears in heaven that day.
His entrance drew attention to His exit
Yes, Jesus was coming to fulfill prophecy. To make an entrance. But He was only fulfilling that prophecy and making that entrance so that every eye would see Him make His exit. One that involved an extra ordinary invitation on the cross. One that everyone would remember. One that would force everyone to reconsider the possibility that He was the world’s Redeemer. He wanted to call attention to the sacrifice that was to crown His mission to a fallen world.
While everyone was gathering to sacrifice a Lamb for Passover, the real Lamb of God was prepared to become that sacrifice. Voluntarily. He wept not because He didn’t want to go through with it, but because He knew that even after He did, some of us would still reject Him. That even then the invitation would be ignored. But that doesn’t have to be the case for you today. There is still time. You can ask Jesus to come into your life before you leave here today. You can accept by faith the sacrificial Lamb of God. The peace that Jesus talked about and offered to the multitudes of Jerusalem can be yours. Don’t think for a minute that the Lord can’t use you. Or that He doesn’t want you. He doesn’t just want you. He needs you. There are still millions of people that need to be invited to consider Christ. And if they’ve already been invited, there are millions that need to be invited again! He’d rather die than spend eternity without any of them. Their infinite value was forever settled at the cross.
Will you accept Christ's peace?
What Simon saw prior one Sunday not only fulfilled a 500 year old predictive prophecy, it also forced the hand of everyone around Him—including ours. After this public act, everyone had to cast a public vote. No more meetings behind closed doors. No more plotting in private. No more sermons on the mount. Or fishing lessons on the sea. Everything was nearly done. Everyone would have to come out in the open. The time had come to confess Him or curse Him. To crown Him or kill Him. They had to decide. And so do we.
The same challenging words Jesus spoke while weeping over Jerusalem He is also speaking to us today. “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace.” So what are you going to do with Jesus? Will you let the Lord use you? I hope you’ll decide or decide again today to follow Jesus. It is so worth it. The words to our closing song go like this: “All the way my Savior leads me. What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy? Who through life has been my guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell. For I know whatever befall me, Jesus doeth all things well. This my song through endless ages, Jesus led me all the way.”
Dear Jesus, Sometimes we forget that you too understood what it was like to live in a violent war torn world. Full of unspeakable genocide and atrocities. Which is one reason we can’t wait for your return. This is not our home. And the death of even 1 child is not your will. Much less the millions more still dying and going to Christless graves.In the next few weeks, as we zero in on the closing episodes of your life on earth, would you please help us to better understand the weight that you carried on that road to Jerusalem? So we can join the multitudes of those who are still praising you in the midst of incredible mourning and loss. Would you send your peace that passes understanding into our hearts? So we can better appreciate the incredible value you place on just one soul. Maybe even our own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.