We have a saying which has been a saying for a long time in human history. Seize the day! Carpe diem! Take advantage of the opportunities given to you. Make the most of what you have. These are common proverbs and ideals in our time, statements that the Lord himself emphasized to his people while he was on the earth. Luke 19:28-48 pictures of the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. Luke is going to teach us the need to take advantage of our opportunities before it is too late.
Jesus Approaches Jerusalem
Jesus is continuing to move toward the city of Jerusalem. Verse 29 tells us that he has come to the Mount of Olives, so he is standing across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. But before entering Jerusalem, Jesus is about to fulfill prophecy. He tells two of his disciples to go into the nearby town where they will find a colt that no one has ever rode. Untie it and bring it to him. Further, if anyone asks why they are untying the colt, they are to answer that the Lord has need of it. So the two disciples enter the town and “found it just as he had told them.” The owner then asks why they are untying the colt, and they answer that the Lord has need of it. Luke is making an emphatic point to his readers: Jesus is in control of the Jerusalem events. Everything is going according to the plan of God. This colt is prepared for the Lord’s use. Jesus has everything prepared. When they ask what you are doing, you tell them that the Lord needs it. Every detail just as Jesus had told them.
The gospel accounts of Matthew and John point out to us that these events are to show the fulfillment in Zechariah 9. However, Luke does not make this connection. Luke is not interested in us turning to Zechariah and seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Luke does not draw attention to the prophecy so we will not either except to notice that Luke didn’t quote the scripture. So what does Luke want us to see? What are we supposed to learn about the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem? Let’s continue reading.
Jesus Proclaimed As King
The disciples bring the colt to Jesus. They throw their cloaks on the colt and Jesus begins to ride the colt toward the city of Jerusalem. Verse 37 tells us that Jesus is riding the colt down the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley to the city of Jerusalem. Luke gives us an interesting and useful detail about this parade for Jesus. We have already noted that Jesus is not Jerusalem and it is not the inhabitants of Jerusalem who are participating in this parade. Further, verse 37 tells us who is in the multitude following Jesus into Jerusalem. The whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. It is a whole multitude of his disciples, not the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who are rejoicing and praising God at the arrival of Jesus. This may help us consider that we do not have a fickle crowd that will turn on Jesus later in the week and shout, “Crucify him.” Rather, Jerusalem represents the citizens that we saw in the parable back in verse 14 who do not want Jesus to be their king. They will be the ones who will shout that we have no king but Caesar. But that is not these people who are participating in the triumphal entry. These are Jesus’ disciples. This is a whole multitude of Jesus’ disciples who have been following him through Judea. Remember what we saw back in Luke 19:3 that the crowd that was following Jesus was so great as Jesus came into Jericho that there was a man of short stature who climbed a tree to have a better view of Jesus.
Listen to what this crowd is proclaiming with a loud voice: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This is a quotation from Psalm 118:26. Notice what the psalmist said: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 118:26 ESV) Notice that Luke emphasizes something for his readers. None of the other gospel writers quote the crowd this way. But Luke says, “Blessed is the King!” Your king has arrived. In Luke 13:35 we saw Jesus say to Jerusalem that they will not see him until they say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Interesting to notice that these words are being said, but it is not Jerusalem that is saying those words, according to Luke. Jesus had afforded the people an opportunity to repent and greet with a blessing the one who comes in the name of the Lord. This is an unfortunate conclusion that Luke is drawing for us, which will be explored more fully in verse 42. But Jesus has returned with the accolades and praise that he is the king. Jesus has come and is entering the city as the proclaimed king, fulfilling the hopes of the nation. In one week he will taken outside of the city and killed as a messianic impostor. The proclamation of this crowd of disciples is accurate. “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” God’s work of reconciliation is happening through the life and kingship of Jesus. God is reconciling himself to humanity as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem to declare his rule. This king has come not only to rule but to save.
In the midst of this glory and honor from the multitude of disciples, some Pharisees who are following Jesus in the crowd approach Jesus and says, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Again, this tells us that it is Jesus’ disciples that are following and praising Jesus as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Listen to what Jesus says to their request. “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out!” What a tremendous statement! Jesus’ arrival is so momentous and important that it requires a response. This moment must be recognized. The king has come! The creation is aware of who Jesus is, but the leadership of the nation of Israel, those who were to teach and lead God’s people, did not know who Jesus was. The people Jesus came to save do not even know that the King has arrived. The primary point is that silencing the disciples or even silencing Jesus by killing him will not negate the fact that Jesus is the King.
Jesus and The Temple
Verses 41-48 contain the thrust of what all of this means. Jesus begins to weep for the city of Jerusalem. Notice the reason why. Today was the day that peace could have been made. John had preached the message to repent and prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. The people were not prepared for the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem and had not repented. Rather than yielding to Jesus as the king, they are rebuking Jesus for allowing his disciples to call him the king. This reveals the high cost of sin. Sin causes us remain blind from the means of peace with God. Sin blinds us so that we fail to respond at the moment of salvation, thus allowing darkness to remain in our lives. Verse 44 presses the thought further. They missed the opportunity for salvation. They did not recognize the time of visitation from the Messiah. Jesus has come for salvation to the people but their rejection is going to lead to their judgment instead.
Here is where I want to bring their story to us directly. Why did they miss this? Why have they missed the moment of salvation so that now judgment will fall on them? If we can see the failure of these people and learn from them, then we will not miss our moment of salvation like they did. So let’s look at what Luke puts together for us so that we learn from their error.
The first act of Jesus in entering Jerusalem is to enter the temple and drive out the sellers. Here’s the reason why. They have taken the “house of prayer” and turned it into a “den of robbers.” They had turned the place that was supposed to be spiritual, full of prayer, and holy and turned it into something physical and greedy. Rather than the focus being on God, the focus was on themselves. It was on turning a profit. Their focus was on making money. Their focus was not on helping the people worship God or to teach spiritual things to the people. Their focus was earthly. Their concern was not for the things of God. In fact, look at what Jesus does while he is in the temple once he drives out the sellers. Notice verse 47: “He was teaching daily in the temple.” He cleanses the temple and does what should have been done in the temple: teaching the things of God every day.
But there is something much greater going on here. The phrase, “den of robbers” is not an innocent phrase. It is a prophetically loaded term. It is a phrase that is used one other place in the scriptures. The prophet Jeremiah was speaking to the people and notice what he told them.
Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 7:9–11 ESV)
Listen to what Jeremiah condemns the people for doing. They are living how they want to live, full of sin, following their idols and gods, only to stand before God in worship at the temple and say, “We are delivered,” or, “We are saved!” They go to the temple to worship, claimed to be saved, only to continue in those abominations. Notice what God says about what they are doing. This kind of activity has turned the house of the Lord, where God’s name was, into a den of robbers and God himself has seen it. What does this mean? A den of robbers was a place where robbers hid. It was a cave where they would hide until they would strike another home and rob it of its goods. Then they would run and hide in the den/cave until their next attack. They saw the den as their place of safety while they committed their evil acts. Do you see the idea? Because the people in Jeremiah’s day are coming to the temple to worship, they think they are saved even though they are committing all kinds of sins. Jesus imports that imagery into his day and tells them that nothing has changed.
In our last lesson we noted how the gospel cannot terminate on ourselves. We have been given a great gift and we must use that gift of the gospel. We noted doing nothing with the gospel is considered rebellion to our Lord. Notice what we learn here. Just because we perform some kind of religious act or profess some sort of piety does not mean that we are not operating like a den of robbers. We can treat attending services as this refuge that justifies us to commit sin and maintain our idolatrous behavior. We can treat baptism like some kind of talisman that means we are saved even though we refuse to put away our sinful ways. There are all kinds of spiritual activities we can perform that turn this into a den of robbers. We pray and then go right back into the same sinful behaviors. The people have missed the moment of salvation because their sinful ways had blinded them from seeing the darkness of their hearts so as to reject the arrival of the king who came to save them.
Verses 47-48 show the difference in the hearts. One group sees Jesus in the temple and they do not want to listen to anything he has to say. They just want him to be quiet and they are willing to destroy him to silence him. The other group of people is “hanging on his words.” The people are not just listening but they are listening with great anticipation and desire. They want to know everything that Jesus has to say. So Jesus comes, drives out the sellers, and begins teaching everyday. Jesus is forcing the people to recognize that they cannot keep living sinful, selfish lives and come to the temple and think they are fine. It is not going to happen. This truth is the same for us.
Will we miss this moment for salvation right now because we think we are fine because of some sort of religious or spiritual activity we engage in but all the while continue in our sinful living? Jesus is the king and he knows your heart. We can fool everyone in this room to believe that we are strong faithful Christians. But God knows and he sees, just as he told the people in Jeremiah’s day. God says that he sees what we are doing. God knows and you know if you are coming to hear the teachings of the Lord and worshiping him or if you are coming and your activity is like a den of thieves. Coming here or doing something spiritual makes you feel safe when in reality you are doomed and you refuse to see it. Jesus is weeping for your to know on this day the things that make for peace. Listen to his words and turn to him before it is too late. There is a time when it is too late. Jesus declares that the time Jerusalem had come. Our time will come to stand in judgment. Turn your heart to the Lord Jesus and yield to the king.