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03.24.13 Powerful Deeds Yet to Come Luke 19.28-44 Sermon Summary

by on March 25, 2013

From the beginning of his gospel, Luke has been about peace. But it isn’t the kind of peace we immediately think of.

Summary Points

  • Peace throughout the Gospel of Luke
  • Why peace isn’t easily found
  • The surprising peace of the Kingdom of God

For Luke, the coming of Jesus is about the coming of peace. Before Jesus is born, his relative John (the baptist) was born and his father announced that John would proclaim the new day dawning when God would “guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79 Upon Jesus’ birth, the angelic choir sang about “peace on earth” Luke 2:14 When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple, Simon praised God saying, “Dismiss your servant in peace, my eyes have seen your salvation” Luke 2:29

In today’s passage, as Jesus enters Jerusalem, the people acclaim, “Peace in heaven” Luke 19:38 And yet, Jesus laments over Jerusalem that “Peace is hidden from their eyes” Luke 19:42 The peace Luke invites us to in his gospel is one not easily recognized, and that’s still the case today.

In our world it’s hard to grasp the peace of the Kingdom of God. We’ve been told that peace can be achieved through a pre-emptive strike. We’re told that more weapons leads to less violence. We teach our children that competition breeds broader success than collaboration. And we govern our lives by the law that more possessions lead to personal satisfaction.

But the peace offered by God is a “peace that transcends understanding.” Philippians 4:7 It is beyond our comprehension and explanation. It’s not the kind of peace we think about. Which is why in the middle of Luke, Jesus astounds us by saying, “I came to bring not peace, but division” Luke 12:51

The people of Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday might have seen it coming—this new definition of peace. Luke tells us they “praised God for the many miracles they had seen.” Luke 19:37 These included healings, exorcisms, resuscitations from the dead, feeding the five thousand, and calming the storm. Luke tells us the people were “filled with awe,” experienced “fear and amazement,” were “overcome with fear,” and “amazed at the greatness of God” (Luke 7:16; 8:25; 8:37; 9:43). The people were “delighted with his wonderful deeds” Luke 13:17 because they were so unusual. Why then would they expect a normal kind of peace?

Jesus himself tried to make it obvious by the way he came into Jerusalem. He came as a king, but not as the world’s kings. At the same time Jesus entered from the East, Pilate was entering from the West. Pilate came with all the regalia of a powerful worldly empire: mighty horses, soldiers, weaponry—all the things he needed to keep the peace in Jerusalem during Passover.

In the mean time, Jesus enters riding on a donkey, a beast of burden, in fulfillment of a vision created by Zechariah 9:9. And what is more, the donkey was borrowed! It’s a double humiliation in direct contrast with and contradiction to the peacekeeping force of this world’s king.

There is another clue. The people shout out in the words of Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD,” except Luke deliberately changes “he” to “the king.” Even more, the psalm proclaims that “The stone the builder’s rejected has become the cornerstone” in verse 22. The people don’t say this, according to Luke, but his readers would have understood. Plus, in the next chapter Jesus himself quotes this verse against the religious leaders of his day.

For all these reasons, the people of Jerusalem (which means, by the way, the “city of peace”) might have anticipated that God’s peace comes differently than what we expect. But the greatest clues are revealed in the powerful deeds yet to come. In this “holy week,” Jesus will silence the chief priests, elders, and teachers of the law. He will reinterpret the Passover meal around himself. Then he will be arrested, tortured, executed, and buried. None of which anyone would have expected of the one they hoped was the messiah.

No this, is a different kind of peace. Luke’s gospel starts out with a proclamation of peace on earth, but by the beginning of Holy Week it has changed to peace in heaven. And Jesus finds he must lament over Jerusalem’s blindness to this peace.

We, too, are blind to this peace. We don’t recognize because it appears so contradictory to us. Like Psalm 118, Paul reminds us that God chooses what is foolish to shame the wise, what is weak to overcome the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27 And we are left questioning, “Does God know what he’s doing?” Luke’s answer is, “Yes,” and he offers it to us in the way he sets up this story—namely Jesus predicting with precise detail the events that about to unfold. In this way Luke is assuring us that God is in control and can be trusted through these unexpected events.

But the clue that reveals it all is the topic of the hymn Paul quotes in our Philippians passage. The bottom line, final judgement upon Jesus’ life is the fact that God exalted him. This reveals something both about God and about humanity. About humanity, the exaltation of Christ reveals that his life represents true humanity. This life is the paradigmatic life. This life is the one God could not tolerate being ended by sin and death. This life, Jesus’ life, is so perfect and full, God had to rescue it from death.

And about God, the exaltation of Christ reveals that God is interested in our lives, in redeeming our lives, in guiding our lives, because God loves us as his children even as he loved Jesus as his son. Baptism unites us to this perfect life of the Son of God, to Christ’s death and resurrection, so that we may live in newness of life (Romans 6:1-14). God is revealed as the God who saves, who doesn’t abandon us to sin and death even as he didn’t abandon Christ. And for this reason Paul says our attitudes and actions should be, because they can be, like those of Christ.

Don’t think you can do it? Neither did some of the Pharisees that first Palm Sunday. They tell Jesus to stop his disciples from such exuberant worship. It is out of place because it is not possible. Peace cannot be achieved by a king riding on a donkey. Jesus responds that if the people will not worship this way, the rocks themselves will cry out. John the baptist warned the people who relied on their religiosity for assurance that if they didn’t repent God would raise up children from the stones. Luke 3:8

One metaphor for the human heart found in scripture is the stone. And one promise tied to the coming of God’s kingdom is that our hearts of stone will be replaced with hearts of flesh—the heart of true humanity, accomplished in accordance with the heart of true divinity (see Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26). This Holy Week, let us look for and embrace the path of peace revealed in Jesus Christ, in the powerful deeds yet to come.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • Think of some other ways that we misunderstand the concept of “peace” as the world and God’s kingdom define it. How have you looked for peace in unproductive ways?
  • In what ways has God surprised you by providing peace in unexpected ways? How has Jesus “ridden into your life on a donkey?”
  • How is God calling you to embrace the attitudes and actions of Christ as a means to peace? How stoney is your heart? What do you need to do to show you have the heart of flesh God provides in Christ?

 

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