Lesson 1: Holy Week

Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience. 

– Thomas Merton

Over the next two weeks, we will explore the last seven days of Jesus’ life, commonly referred to as “Holy Week,” and his resurrection. Today we read about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, otherwise known as “Palm Sunday.”

Devotion: Read Luke 19:28-44. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is filled with joy and celebration. However, the crowd praising God will turn on Jesus later in the week when it is clear he is not interested in casting off Roman oppression through political and military force. As Jesus says while weeping for the city, “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God” (Lk 19:44). God arrives in Jesus, but they do not receive the Word. Their religion has limited their ability to receive God. Their words of praise are correct, but their hearts are not open to what God is doing. Their preconceived notions about the Messiah and salvation are incomplete. If the crowd had grasped who Jesus is, how would they have responded to his arrival? Why are religious leaders naturally cautious about new ideas? What can we do to be both cautious and open to God?

Personal Worship Option: Pray for our congregation, that we might be grounded in good, orthodox teaching and open to the new things God is calling us to do. Are you open to God calling you to a new idea, ministry, or sacrifice?

Dig A Little Deeper:

19:28 Bethphage is difficult to find today. Bethany is located two miles outside Jerusalem. Jesus makes these preparations to fulfill prophecies about the Messiah (1 Kgs 1:38; Zech 9:9). Does it make the fulfillment of prophecy more or less powerful if Jesus chooses to fulfill it?

19:29 Jesus approaches the city from the Mount of Olives, west of the city. Every year at Passover, Herod Antipas enters the city from the east riding a warhorse and escorted by armed Roman soldiers. What are the messages Herod and Jesus are communicating by their arrival? What is the difference in their kingdoms they represent? What creates loyalty to each realm?

19:34 People disagree if Jesus knows the owner is willing to allow the colt to be used because he is a prophet or if he has prearranged this service. If prophetic, this is a statement of his power. If prearranged, it emphasizes his decision to fulfill messianic prophecies. 

19:35 Luke omits the palm branches but still recounts that Jesus is treated as Soverign (2 Kgs 9:13).  Why do people lay down branches, robes, red carpets, etc. for royalty?

19:38 The crowd’s songs also reflect images of kingship and peace (Ps 118:26; Lk 2:14).

19:39 The Pharisees fear Herod will think this celebration mocks his entry into Jerusalem and Roman authority. They worry he will retaliate against the entire city. They are not paranoid. In 70 CE, tired of Jewish uprisings, Rome destroys the city and razes the Temple.  

19:40 Compare this passage to Habakkuk 2:6-14. Given Jesus’ words about peace in 19:42, how might the prophet’s words reflect Jesus’ thoughts as he enters?  Jesus claims his entry has cosmic ramifications. The earth itself has a stake in God’s activity and redemption (Rom 8:22).

19:41 The descending road from the Mount of Olives provides a view of the entire city. This entire scene, including Jesus’ lament, takes place outside the city walls.

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