It’s no wonder, then, that the large crowd of disciples that Jesus had gathered along the way were so excited. Because they knew the ancient promise of the Messiah. The ancestor of King David. Son of David, long promised by God, who would free them from this new bondage through Roman occupation. Who promised to restore Israel once again.
The symbolism of Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem, riding a donkey over a path strewn with cloaks and branches, was not lost on those who were witnesses to this event. This was exactly how Israel’s kings would enter the city. It was exactly how the prophet Zechariah had foretold the entry of God’s future ruler. “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The people were certain this Jesus, this Nazarene, was he. The Christ. The Messiah.
But, here’s the problem. We heard a hint of this problem near the end of the processional gospel we listened to earlier, when the Pharisees want the people once again to “Shush!” The problem is that the people do not understand the nature of this promised king, thinking that he will be a conqueror. One who will come with authority. One who will dominate. One who will overthrow Rome. Because that is what kings do, right? That is what great leaders do, right? That is what this Messiah will do, right?
There is a political implication to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It’s why the Pharisees want Jesus to tell the crowd to be quiet. They understand that this is a politically charged situation. That Jesus’ disciples and, eventually, Jesus himself must be silenced. Because to do otherwise would mean rebellion. The Pharisees are trying to walk a fine political line between open rebellion and complete capitulation before Roman authorities. The response Jesus gives them is paradoxical. He does not want to claim the kingdom his disciples understand or desire. Yet, he accepts their acclamation, justified as it is, yet recognizing that in the coming week he will define for them his kingdom by his example.
Which brings us to the last portion of today’s text in chapter 19. A scene that is found only in the gospel of Luke. Beginning at verse 41.
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”
If you, even you, Jerusalem, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace.
Jesus knows that, in spite of the welcome he has received, things will not go well for him in Jerusalem. Because, Jerusalem and its people. Because Jerusalem, its people, and all of the believers do not understand who Jesus is. What the peace is that he is ushering in. And what this peace will bring.
Because, they desire a different kind of peace. One that does not last for eternity. It is a peace that comes out of rebellion and war. Domination and victory. It is no different than our present attempts at peace. We trust the peace of weapons and armaments - that comes from violence. We trust the peace of vigilance and self-protection, the peace of isolation from those we fear. We find it difficult to practice the peace of trusting one another. The peace of generosity and abundance. The peace of love. Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem that day still weeps over us. Our cities. Our nations.
But, the reign of this king, this Messiah-king, is a reign of freedom from our ways of violence and all else that keeps us in captivity. It is a universal reign of freedom. Release to the captives. Recovery of sight to the blind. Good news to the poor. Wholeness and abundance for all people.
This king’s crown is a crown of thorns. His throne, a splintered wooden cross. His exaltation, not coming in a horse-drawn chariot amidst the cheer of the crowd, but in being raised upon a cross amidst the jeers and ridicule of the masses. Through his death and resurrection, this king, who refuses to be an earthly king, makes his royal entry by way of a cross and an empty tomb. For this kind of king, even if all people - and we - were silent, the very stones themselves would cry out.
Thanks be to God for this kind of king. Amen.