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Triumphal Entry

Luke 19:29 -- 48

Lesson audio

(Frequent readers will know that a more conventional treatment of this topic can be found in the Life of Christ, Mark and John series. All are titled the same way. My apologies to those who came looking for the obvious; there’s a lot in this passage.)

We must begin this morning with some common misconceptions about prophecy. Most Christians are not scholars of the Scripture; even those who are often shy away from prophecy. These are some of the thoughts you would encounter if you asked the typical Christian about prophecy:

  • Prophecy is far too obscure to understand. This usually happens to anyone following a study of the book of Revelation. Many teachers will attempt the first three chapters – and hide the rest. This is not God’s intention, I think – that’s why we have the book of Daniel. God’s prophecies are meant to be understood – but they are not meant to be a daily guide to the stock market. God’s prophecies are for God’s purposes.
  • Prophecy seems to lack cohesion or coherency. Bits and dabs of prophecy are stuck here and there throughout the Bible. How’s a man to know which is which? This is largely due to our ignorance of the Old Testament. God often taught his prophets in prophetic ways. It’s not uncommon for God to issue a prophecy which has short term (in the prophet’s lifetime) and long term elements. It is often expressed in poetic language. More to the point, its fulfillment is not explicit – until it happens.
  • Prophecy seems something which would interest only the preacher or teacher – or the fanatic. This is not strange, nor is it incorrect. The scholars of the Scripture are to share their learning with others. Teacher and preacher are gifts from the Holy Spirit. It is their task to make sure that the Scripture as taught is indeed profitable.[1]

Prophecy Fulfilled

Prophecy often seems to be something which would not touch the common man. We see the fulfillment of prophecy to be in the hands of the world’s great men, not the average guy. Listen to this dialog from Tolkien’s The Hobbit:

“Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.

“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? …”

It expresses the case rather well. Prophecy must be fulfilled, and therefore it must be fulfilled by somebody. And sometimes that somebody is a nobody in the world’s eye.

God establishes the time for prophecy. He often works in providence rather than in miracle. We shall see that in today’s Scripture:

As He approached Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of the disciples and said, "Go into the village ahead of you. As you enter it, you will find a young donkey tied there, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say this: 'The Lord needs it.'"So those who were sent left and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the young donkey, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the donkey?" "The Lord needs it," they said. Then they brought it to Jesus, and after throwing their robes on the donkey, they helped Jesus get on it. As He was going along, they were spreading their robes on the road. Now He came near the path down the Mount of Olives, and the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven! Some of the Pharisees from the crowd told Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!"As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, "If you knew this day what would bring peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those who were selling, and He said, "It is written, My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!"Every day He was teaching in the temple complex. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people were looking for a way to destroy Him, but they could not find a way to do it, because all the people were captivated by what they heard.

(Luk 19:29-48 HCSB)

The colt

I know of no better example of prophetic fulfillment by the nobodies of this world than Jesus’ colt. It appears to be entirely of human work – in God’s time.

  • First, the colt doesn’t just magically appear, nor does someone appear suddenly with it. Two of his disciples are sent to get it.
  • Jesus gives them the password for this. Do you not see that this implies some prior arrangement? Someone must have gone to the owners and arranged this. (Though many scholars dispute this, thinking that all prophecy must have a mystic quality to it.)
  • They meet the expected owners, retrieve the colt and bring it back. It is altogether worldly.

But it is also altogether fulfilling the prophecy concerning it.[2] It is the first of many prophecies to be fulfilled on this date.


We have, in our society, lost this kind of thinking. When television can give you car crashes by the dozen, it’s hard to remember that those car crashes were just a voice during the days of radio – and words before that. Here is the meaning of the Triumphal Entry – a meaning that the Pharisees, at least, understood perfectly.

  • The fact that he rode a foal which had not been used for any other purpose before makes it fit for sacrifice for sins.[3]
  • The foal of a donkey is the sign of a king entering in peace; a horse is the symbol for war.
  • The crowd spreads their cloaks on the road, an honor given to kings.[4]
  • More to the point, the crowd is singing the “Conqueror’s Psalm.” This was associated with the last successful rebellion of the Jews, that of Judas Maccabeus.
  • And – of great significance – he comes in through the East Gate. Ezekiel tells us that this is the gate through which the glory of God will enter – and it will never be used again.[5]

Prophecies Made

It is a day of prophecy to which Christ adds his own warning. He makes four points:

  • First, that enemies will surround the city and build up an embankment against it. This was fulfilled in the sack of Jerusalem in AD 70. The embankment was the standard method of taking a fortified city. The Romans took the city. They sacrificed a pig on the altar of the Temple, which (by some) was fulfillment of the “abomination of desolation” prophecy of Jesus.[6]
  • Next, that these conquerors would crush the Jews and their children to the ground. Recall that, prophetically, “ground” or “earth” is a symbol of the mass of humanity at large. The Jews were going to be crushed down until they are simply like the rest of us. They indeed were dispersed over the world, suffering persecution.
  • They would not leave one stone on another. The prophetic use of stones is usually to indicate those who are “stones in the Temple.”[7] The Jews would have no place to govern for many long years, until 1947. (Much is made of this in prophetic speculation).
  • Why? They did not receive the offer of Christ as King. Instead, they called out that “his blood be upon us and our children.”[8] This plea has certainly been accorded to them.

(I should point out that, whatever the Jews of the first century did, the Jews of our time didn’t. The Scripture has too often been used as a warrant to rob and persecute them.)

Christ then takes the next step: he draws a line.

Righteous Anger

It is fruitful to note that Christ’s anger is reserved exclusively for the hypocrites. As he said, blasphemy against the Son of Man will be forgiven; blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not. And what is this unpardonable sin? It is to say that the Spirit is wrong; you have no guilt. Evidently they were well practiced at this, for they unblushingly turned the Temple into a market place.

The house of God is to be a house of prayer.[9] This is not the first time this has happened; if you look up the “den of thieves” quotation,[10] you will see that it comes from an earlier, fulfilled prophecy concerning the idolatry of Israel. Christ is making the situation to be seen in black and white. The crowd wants gray; the Pharisees want it white and black.

There is a lesson for us in that. In the house of God there can be no gray; His house, His color scheme. Many today have abandoned the idea that there can be something which is objectively true. But I ask you: how did one man, Jesus of Nazareth, drive all those merchants out? I submit that they knew the truth as well; it just wasn’t convenient or profitable to obey it.

[1] 2 Timothy 3:16

[2] Zechariah 9:9

[3] Numbers 19:1-9

[4] 2 Kings 9:13

[5] Ezekiel 43:4

[6] Matthew 24:15

[7] See 1 Peter 2:4-5

[8] Matthew 27:25

[9] Isaiah 56:7

[10] Jeremiah 7:11

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