Friday, April 30, 2010
A Donkey, Old Clothes and Broken Trees
It was Palm Sunday. A donkey had been enlisted. Jubilant people were waving palm branches and singing. Some might have remembered Zechariah's prophecy. In olden times the Hebrews had seen royalty on such a mount. The Roman occupiers found it laughable.
Hear some of Campbell Morgan's comments on Luke 19:
A procession of old clothes and broken trees! The patrician Roman would have called it distinctly plebeian, and so have dismissed it as unimportant. Jesus came to teach men that the plebeian is the patrician in the Kingdom of God.
And then I watch the entry from the standpoint of the Hebrew rulers, and I do not think their attitude was that of contempt for it. I think rather that they were strangely perturbed. They knew enough of their Scriptures to remember certain things like those I read from Zechariah; they knew some popular movement was on foot; they were afraid they were losing their authority, and they were making up their mind that before the week was over, they would deal with this situation. I have no doubt His method of entry on the human level precipitated their action, the action that ended from their standpoint in His murder.
Now look at it once more, not from the standpoint of the Roman, or the Hebrew rulers, but from the standpoint of its actuality. It was full of majesty. Go back to Zechariah again.
"Rejoice, O daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee."
"He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass.”
The riding upon the ass did not prove the lowliness, but stood in contrast to it. Lowly, and yet riding as a King.
Then carefully mark the descriptive words: "just - having salvation - lowly." Compare this with what the proud patrician Roman had seen, passing along the streets of the imperial city in one of those triumphal processions of Rome, famous through the world. Mark them, those military imperators, who had bludgeoned some part of the world into submission; and then look at Jesus; "just, having salvation, lowly.” That is true majesty. Contrast it with the tawdry tinseled stupidity of shining armour and mailed fists. The King, "just, having salvation: lowly."
To return to Luke's actual story. I do not think that much need be said about that procession. The poetic beauty of Luke's language carries the effect to our minds. But notice particularly that He was surrounded by His disciples, and it was they who raised the song.
"The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God.”
That means far more than the twelve. Jesus had hundreds of disciples before He left this world, none of them perfectly instructed until after Pentecost. There were one hundred and twenty gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost, and before that He had met five hundred brethren at once in Galilee, after His resurrection. Jerusalem at this time was filled with people from the whole region round about, and among them would be many of His disciples. They raised the song of jubilation as He approached the city.
Now, there is something very significant in what they said. I confess, the more I ponder it, the more I am surprised; because it seems to me to indicate a spiritual apprehension which I should be inclined to say they had not gained at the time. But perhaps they sang better than they knew.
"Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven. and glory in the highest."
They did not say, Peace on earth. One's mind goes back immediately to the beginning of Luke, to the second chapter, and to the fourteenth verse. In that verse we hear the song of the angels,
"Glory to God in the highest, peace among men in whom He is well pleased."
Now, here the disciples were singing round Him on His way to Jerusalem for the last time, and they did not say a word about peace on earth. They sang rather of
"Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.”
Swept by the emotion of a real devotion to Jesus, they sang, " Peace in heaven." At His birth angels sang,
"Peace on earth among men in whom He is well pleased."
As He went to death men sang,
"Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest."
There can be no peace on earth that does not result from peace in heaven. It is when there is peace with God, that man finds peace on earth.
Then Luke tells us that the hostile Pharisees and rulers were angry with these men. Why were they angry at what they were saying? Because it would only mean one thing, the complete recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus.
"Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord."
To sing that on the highways leading to Jerusalem was approaching high treason against the Roman power; and so they said to Jesus,
"Teacher, rebuke Thy disciples."
Now notice it very carefully. Our Lord accepted the homage, and refused to silence the voices of His loyal subjects. He even went so far as to say,
"I tell you, that if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out."
Thus is evident His recognition of the significance of that hour; the tremendous issues of it, the eternal necessity for it, the vastness of it. Jesus said in effect, Rebuke them? The thing happening is so great that if there are no human voices, the stones will become vocal, the stones will cry out. What a wonderful movement it was towards the city.