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God’s Word for You

Luke 19:28-34 The Lord needs it

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 23, 2019

28 After Jesus said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Our chronology needs to dip into John’s Gospel, where we see that after Jesus left Jericho, he walked to Bethany “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1) and spent the Sabbath with Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. It was “the next day,” Sunday, (John 12:12) when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Luke doesn’t mention the stop in Bethany, but he continues right away with the event we call Palm Sunday.

29 When he came near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the hill called the Mount of Olives,

The Mount of Olives stands to the east of Jerusalem. The villages of Bethany and Bethphage were on the far side of the hill, out of sight of the city. The exact location of Bethphage is not known, but it seems as if it was less than “a sabbath day’s walk” from Jerusalem (2,000 cubits, or 1,000 yards). There is a large stone Franciscan church called “The Church of Bethphage” in that area today which is probably very close to the actual location of the village.

The Mount of Olives is a tall peak. From it, one can look down on Jerusalem, and it was capped with an olive grove and an olive press, which is the meaning of the name Gethsemane. In 1849, Lt. William Lynch of the U.S. Navy was on a survey of the Jordan and the Dead Sea when he wrote: “On the summit of the mount are many wheat-fields, and it is crowned with a paltry village… From the summit, the view was magnificent. On the one hand lay Jerusalem, with its yellow walls, its towers, its churches, its dome-roof houses, and its hills and valleys, covered with orchards and fields of green and golden grain…. On the other hand was the valley of Jordan, a barren plain, with a line of verdure marking the course of the sacred river, until it was lost in an expanse of sluggish water.” (Narrative of the U.S. Expedition to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, Chap. 21).

he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tied there that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

Two of the disciples are sent into the village ahead. This was almost certainly Bethphage, since John tells us that they had spent the Sabbath in Bethany. They were sent to untie a donkey colt. Matthew tells us that Jesus also told them to bring the colt’s mother along (Matthew 21:2).

Is there a special significance to the detail that the colt for Jesus had never been ridden? Is this an echo of the sacrifices in the Old Testament, where animals were offered that had never been used for another purpose? For example, red heifers that had never been under the yoke were to be used for a sacrifice for purification from sin (Numbers 19:1-9) and also when a town wanted to show that it was innocent of an unsolved murder (Deuteronomy 21:1-7). But since there is no connection to these laws here, it seems as if Jesus was using the common sense of the onlookers to illustrate his own divinity. Who would ever ride an unbroken horse or donkey? Would you step up to a wild zebra and try to climb on her back? Yet Jesus climbs this young animal, large enough to be ridden yet never ridden, and it was perfectly submissive, obedient, and willing. It is a model for us of Christian life. Am I as perfectly submissive, obedient, and willing to carry my Lord into the world, even into a hostile city?

31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say this: ‘The Lord needs it.’”  32 So those who were sent ahead went and found it as he had told them.  33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”

Jesus foresees the moment when his disciples would be questioned about the animal. For the first time in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus refers to himself by the title more and more people were using to express their faith: “The Lord needs it.” Jesus knew through his divine omniscience that this question would need to be answered, and he also knew that the reply he gave would be exactly enough. If the colt had belonged to friends of theirs, the Gospel writers (Matthew and Mark also mention this) would not have written what we have here. Jesus would have said, “Go and borrow Roger and Nola’s colt. They’re fine Christians and good friends of ours—they’ll surely let you borrow it.” No, Jesus said: “The Lord needs it.”

“Lord,” Greek kyrios (κύριος), is the New Testament translation of the Hebrew word Yahweh or Jehovah. From Genesis 2:4 to Psalm 1:2 to Malachi 4:5, God’s special name Jehovah is translated “the Lord.” When this title is used in the New Testament, the people realized and fully believed what they were saying. Jesus Christ is truly Jehovah, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus was acknowledging our faith by agreeing that this title belongs to him. Christ “is God over all, forever praised” (Romans 9:5). Jude said that Jesus is “our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). There are many times were Paul stresses the unity of God and Father and God the Son, especially as the source of grace and peace, “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 3). Jesus is truly God, and crowds of people were about to line the road to Jerusalem to proclaim exactly that. Praise God with your life today and tonight, and plan how you will do it again tomorrow.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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