It has been a long journey with Jesus through the gospel of Luke, but we are nearing the finish line: Jerusalem. Luke 19.28 connects us to the previous context which is Zacchaeus’ house. He just spoke to them the parable of the ten minas as an indictment of the Jews. But now it is time to move on. “He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” On his way he has some other cities to visit which his route will take him. So he leaves Jericho (19.1) and moves onto Bethphage (“house of (unripened) figs”) and Bethany (“house of affliction” or “house of dates”). As he nears these towns, he stops on mount Olivet. The Mount of Olives is a ridge of hills that runs north-to-south east of Jerusalem. It will be here that he comes to pray Thursday night and here he will be arrested. But right now, it is here that he sends two of the disciples (the Twelve) to fetch his ride.
The Command from Jesus
Jesus gives these two very specific orders for securing his vehicle. First, they are to go into the village in front of them. I believe this is Bethany Jesus is speaking about. One would go through Bethany, then Bethphage (the legal property of Jerusalem and in closer proximity than Bethany) before coming to Jerusalem. So these disciples enter Bethany and will straightway find a colt (or a young donkey) that has never been ridden. This is the animal that will carry the Savior of the world into Jerusalem. But this has greater significance…
God, through the prophet Zechariah, has already recorded this as history centuries before the gospel writers put pen to parchment. Zechariah 9.9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Matthew, who, it would seem, wrote his gospel for Jews, quotes this passage. Hence, prophecy fulfilled. When Jesus makes this request, he is seeking to fulfill prophetic mandate from Jehovah concerning his entrance into Jerusalem. Jesus concludes his request by saying if anyone asks why these disciples are doing what they are doing the disciples are to say, “The Lord has need of it.” The Lord…the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Yahweh (see Septuagint). This is who needs the colt.
Armed with their orders, the disciples obey. And the events which Jesus foresaw took place, including the questioning from the owners. Imagine their surprise when two men begin to take their colt. Imagine their even greater surprise when they find out “The Lord” needs it. These disciples bring the colt to Jesus, but before he mounts the beast, they place their cloaks on the colt. Here is an improvisation. Having no regal trappings for the colt, the very cloaks off their backs will suffice as the regal mount. Moreover, the disciples, as Jesus rode, would cast their remaining cloaks on the ground before the Lord as he rode along (about 2 miles from Bethany to Jerusalem) as a sign of repect.
The Celebration for Jesus
“As he was drawing near” – that is drawing near to Jerusalem. So we traverse the path from Bethany and to Bethphage. Now we are coming down off the mount…and a large of disciples has formed. And at the sight of the King coming to Zion their hearts erupt in rejoicing and loud cries. They have seen mighty deeds, miracles and now they are overwhelmed and in a loud voice cry out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Here we come nearly full circle from where we started with Luke. At the birth of the King is angelic proclamation of “Glory to God in the highest” and peace on earth (2.14). Now the people proclaim much the same as Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem.
But not every will enter into the celebration. Indeed, the “older son” so to speak is standing outside in the field, refusing to come. The Pharisees, some of them being in the crowd, in a way, rebuke Jesus. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” In other words, make ’em shut up. The Pharisees hear this and it down-right heresy. The people are saying Jesus is the King. And every good Israelite knows that Israel is a theocracy, God being their king. So, Jesus, stop this at once.
If Jesus is not God, then this would be a blasphemous thing the people are doing. But as Jesus points out, should the creatures refuse to praise the King, the creation would cry out. The idea of the rocks or stones crying out is that of screaming, shouting, even possibly implying that it would be so loud it would hurt the ears. Either way, creature or creation, the Creator must be honored!