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Paul’s Missionary Journeys

March 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Jesus’ Final Week: Initial Reflections

January 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Although Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday is somewhat better-known, I feel drawn to the account in Luke 19.

The geography of Jesus’ trip into Jerusalem is interesting. He starts by passing through Jericho. This is where he stops to spend time with Zacchaeus. Then he approaches Bethphage (on the Mount of Olives) and Bethany (lit. house of unripe figs). There are about two miles remaining from this point in the journey.

Jesus uses this road in his Parable of the Good Samaritan. Clearly it had a reputation for being a dangerous route.

This trip is a total of 17 miles. I wonder how early Jesus started his trip, and how he was able to arrive at Jerusalem before sundown. How long did Jesus stay at Zacchaeus’ house? Did Jesus’ disciples ride uphill on camels or horses? Mark 11:11 indicates that it was already late when Jesus got into the city, so this appears consistent.

Jesus directs two of his disciples (which two?) to go ahead into Jerusalem and get a colt which had never before been ridden. According to Max Lucado, the phrasing of their request, “The Lord needs it,” indicates royal privilege. This is a king’s trip, but on a commoner’s ride, clearly prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

The Pharisees are upset by the praise Jesus is receiving, but Jesus tells them that even the stones will praise him, if necessary, in Luke 19:39-40.

In verses 41-44, Jesus prophesies the upcoming siege of Jerusalem and persecution of God’s chosen people. I wonder what he means by the phrase, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Why is it hidden? Who is hiding this truth? There appears to be a complex relationship among good and evil, natural and spiritual, free will and predestination.

One of my earliest memories in church is singing the song, “Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man.” It’s a simple story of the profound change Jesus can bring to anyone open to his forgiveness. But I’d never realized that this happened early on Palm Sunday.

How incredible that before participating in his public inauguration he would spend a significant amount of time at a tax collector’s home.

There are striking parallels between the atmosphere describing Palm Sunday and the anticipation I sense around the United States in anticipation of Obama’s inauguration next Tuesday. The excitement is palpable.

However, there is a strong note of caution. Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Minas, what I’ve always thought of as a darker version of the Parable of the Talents. In Luke 19:11 (NIV), we read:

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

This parable parallels a historical event from Jesus’ boyhood:

“The historical background for the parable was the visit of Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, to Rome to secure permission to reign as a so-called client king, i.e., over a territory actually subject to Rome. This petition was opposed by a delegation of Archelaus’ own subjects” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

By implication, the kingdom of God is not intended to “appear at once.” Just as Archelaus was not accepted by his subjects, neither is Jesus.

This is an incredibly full and rich day, and there are an infinite number of lessons available to those who dig into the historical and spiritual record of Jesus’ final week of life before his crucifixion and resurrection.

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