In Luke 19:28-48 (ESV), Jesus was portrayed as someone who was a severe contrast from the expectations of the Jewish people, in terms of the traits and behavior that the Promised One would possess. Jesus was a remarkable prophet who some believed was the Messiah, but in this passage Jesus had begun to show the differentiation between the gospel that the people had created within their own minds and the gospel promised by God from the days of the prophets. It is revealed that Jesus was different from the expectations of the teachers of the Law, commoners of Israel, and even the disciples that followed Jesus for the three years of His ministry.
Clearly, this is the turning point of the gospel story as we approach the final days of Christ’s first coming. This is when we see what Christ is like and how we are to truly study Him. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Luke intended to show that the cultural expectation of Jesus (even when it is with good intention) can become inaccurate to the Scriptures and to the nature of God. The expectations that the people of Israel had were as follows:
- Jesus Was Expected to Agree With the People’s Desire
The closest disciples of Christ, those who would later become apostles, were mostly from Galilee (save for Judas Iscariot). Galileans were the rednecks of our day; they were well known for their unique enunciation, their zeal for the state of Israel, and their rebellion against the Roman government that had conquered the land. Galileans also had a long taught principle that the Messiah who was to come would be a rebel against the reigning government, and that He would restore the throne of David for the people of Israel. So with that, imagine the frustration that the disciples must’ve had when the events of Luke 19:28-35 (ESV) had occurred as follows:
“And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olive, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.”
A King riding on a colt was a universal symbol of peace and gentleness. Rather than being a warrior on a noble steed, according to the disciples’ assumption, Jesus was instead a figure representing salvation. Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 (ESV), which said, “…your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt…” Jesus’ intention was not to restore a faulted government, but to bring an everlasting covenant that would be sealed with His death on the cross. The disciples were wrong about Jesus, for they refused to look beyond their desires of a renewed Kingdom of Israel and see the glorious reunion that God had prepared for sinful men and Himself through the atonement provided by the One whom they had followed.
- Jesus Was Expected to Submit to Opposing Authority
Conflicts between the religious leaders and Jesus were not uncommon and nor were they unheard of, but the most overwhelming confrontation was between Jesus and the religious leaders of the temple during Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. Luke 19:36-38 (ESV) described Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as a joyous one, and it was accompanied with praises unto God. The disciples and residents of the city who greeted Jesus cried out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The problem was that the authorities didn’t recognize His divine Kingship. Luke 19:39 (ESV) describes the encounter: “…the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.'”
Now Jesus could have simply honored the Pharisees requests and submitted to their ‘spiritual’ authority, but it stood against His glory. Christ replied to them in Luke 19:40 (ESV): “‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'” Christ would not submit to any authority, no matter the spiritual or worldly recognition they may have. He would not allow anything to stand against His glory and the Father’s plan from coming to halt because of the traditions and legalism of the teachers of the Law.
- Jesus Was Expected to Be Lenient With Sin
Christ came to be the ultimate sacrifice, so that potentially anyone could be brought to faith and be saved.The people that should have best understood this were the people to whom God revealed His entire plan of salvation: the nation of Israel. God had established a covenant with them that would foreshadow a greater covenant; this covenant would not be based on works, but on the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, thereby cleansing anyone who comes to believe from bondage to sin. However, Israel rejected Christ even before His coming, and God brought judgement upon them.
Christ makes it clear that Israel’s sin had caught up with them, and not only did it affect the demise of the old covenant, but also the city of Jerusalem. In Luke 19:41-44 (ESV), Christ describes the invasion of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D. by the Romans, but Christ says the reason for it is because, speaking to Israel, “…you did not know the time of your visitation.” On the previous sins of the nation, Christ says in Luke 19:42 (ESV), ” “‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.'” Israel thought that the Messiah would ignore the past sins of Israel and the collective rejection of Christ that occurred during His visitation. It is made evident in scripture that the nation of Israel did not repent of its mistake from the past or present when it came to the rejection of Jesus, thereby making God’s original covenant conditional and obsolete, with God no longer bearing any partiality to the nation of Israel.
Another occurrence of Christ’s disdain is in one of my personal favorite stories of Jesus: the cleansing of the temple. It was when we got to see Jesus’ righteous anger on display and His impatience towards blasphemy and misuse of God’s temple. The event is described in Luke 19:45-46 (ESV): “And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.'” Christ will not stand by and watch sin unfold under any circumstances.
John Calvin once wrote in his book Institutes of the Christian Religion, “In forming an estimate of sins, we are often imposed upon by imagining that the more hidden the less heinous they are.” No sin is hidden from God’s eyes, and sometimes the most hidden sins are the most heinous. Even in this culture we see people who are not frightened by a God judging them for their sins, and instead believing that their good will outweigh the bad that they have committed. The truth is that Christ is never lenient with sin, and apart from His grace we stand defenseless against the judgement of God.
- Jesus Was Expected to Be a Seasonal Rabbi
Even when Christ was shown to be the farthest thing from the cultural expectation of the people that knew of His name, Jesus was growing in popularity and the people could not stop hearing His every word. In Luke 19:47-48 (ESV) it says, “And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.” The authorities and the people who Christ offended were hoping that they could stop Jesus; they had hoped that Christ’s following would only be temporary.
John Lennon once spoke of Christ: ” Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.” There was also an anonymous historian during the middle ages who wrote that the Bible would eventually die out and the name Jesus would be forgotten. Nevertheless, despite the will of Lord John Lennon and Anonymous, the name Jesus is very much still around and His Kingdom still reigns, though not on this earth.
Christ is not a seasonal rabbi, but the everlasting God. He is the reason for creation and all creation is subject to Him. Everything declares His glory and honor and it will never be taken from Him. No matter the expectations that people have of Christ, He will forever be the glorified and divine Savior of the world.
Soli Deo Gloria.