Luke 19:28-40 New International Version (NIV)
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
I have exciting news for you today. It turns out that there is going to be another royal wedding. Watch out, Will and Kate! There is a new couple making headlines. The word on the street is that Burger King is going to marry Dairy Queen. They are planning to live at White Castle.
As Christians we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and our Savior. Believing those things should affect how we live. But he is more than that. Jesus is Lord; Jesus is our king. He might not be the kind of king that we expect by our earthly standards and qualifications. But he is the King of kings and therefore we owe our allegiance to none but him.
This kingly role of Jesus’ is one that we see come to the forefront in a number of passages in the New Testament. For instance, there is no doubt in my mind that the Jewish people were inviting Jesus to be king on the day that we know as Palm Sunday; this isn’t the way they welcomed just anyone into Jerusalem. No, not everyone received their own parade. Not every visitor elicited cries of “Hosanna in the highest” from the crowds. They didn’t wave their palm branches and cast their cloaks upon the ground for the average person. This man riding into town to celebrate the Passover meal was the one that they believed would rule their nation and lead them in an overthrow of their Roman occupiers.
Luke even records the people in verse 38 as saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Even Jesus’ method of transportation, which seems less than kingly, was a sign of who he was. Zechariah 9:9 tells us “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The people saw this great teacher, healer, and man of God as the liberator of Israel. They expected him to march right in and kick that lazy bum Herod off the throne. They would not have been concerned that he did not have an army or weapons because they knew what he was capable of. Anyone that can bring Lazarus back from the dead, anyone who can feed thousands from one little boy’s lunch, anyone who can control the wind and the waves would surely be able to defeat Herod and then take on the entire Roman army. And this is true. Jesus himself suggests at one point that he could call down legions of angels to fight for him.
It is clear that the people saw Jesus as the next king. But often you will hear people say that Jesus was not political. So perhaps it would be helpful to ask how Jesus saw himself.
I find it interesting that Luke records a response from the Pharisees as Jesus rides into town. As the people are calling out “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” and casting their cloaks before Jesus, the Pharisees yell out, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop” (v.39).
If Jesus didn’t come into town to be king, he would have stopped them. He would have set them straight. But he didn’t. And it is his silence on the matter that seems to speak the loudest. But there is still more to the story. I believe that the Pharisees did have the best interest of the people in mind in suggesting that Jesus hush the crowd. They didn’t want to see things get ugly.
We have to remember that this was a politically unstable time. The Jewish people had been under Roman occupation for over 90 years and they weren’t getting used to the company. The Romans had overstayed their welcome by about…90 years. There were a number of mini-revolts and uprisings throughout the years, the most notable coming in the year 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple. The Roman soldiers in their city, God’s holy city, were not welcomed.
That’s why every time there was a Jewish festival, the Roman presence was increased. The Romans knew that around holy days, like Passover, that the Jewish population swelled in Jerusalem. And anytime you get that many ticked off people together, there is always a possibility for trouble.
So soldiers were brought in from the surrounding territories to beef up security. The governor himself, Pontius Pilate, was even in town for crowd-control purposes. Pilate generally didn’t worry about piddly little places like Jerusalem. No, Pilate spent most of his time in a large port city. He only came to Jerusalem when there was a special need.
Again, I believe that the Pharisees had the best interest of the people in mind when they asked Jesus to quiet the crowd. If the Roman soldiers thought that there was going to be an uprising or a coup attempt, they would put that city in lockdown.
But how does Jesus answer? He says, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Jesus never tries to correct the people. He never says, “Shh. Come on, now. It’s just me, Jesus!” No, he says that if the people aren’t allowed to call him king, then the rocks will do it.
Let it be known, there is indeed a revolution taking place here. There is a new king in town. He just wasn’t going to be the kind of king that the people expected.
One of the earliest confessions of faith was a two-word phrase that many Christians used as a greeting: Kurios Iesous, Jesus is Lord. Walk up to someone on the street this afternoon, stick out your hand, and say “Kurios Iesous.” See what happens.
This phrase is extremely powerful, not only in the biblical text, but in our modern world. To say that Jesus is Lord is to state who you follow. And as Paul reminds us in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Often we misunderstand some of these biblical terms because on one hand we hear them all of the time, yet on the other, we don’t use them outside of a church context. Unless you grew up as a part of a feudal system, you probably didn’t hear many people called “lord.” So for some of us who grew up only calling Jesus lord automatically associate the term “lord” with divinity. The same is true with words like “Christ” and “Messiah.” I do believe that Jesus is fully divine, the son of the Living God. But to call Jesus lord is not a statement about Jesus’ divinity. It is a statement of his authority.
I emphasize that calling Jesus lord is a statement of authority and not divinity because in the first century it would not have been a problem to call Jesus divine. The monotheistic Jews might have a problem with that statement, but not their Roman occupiers.
The culture in first century Palestine included a mixture of Greek and Roman influences. And when you talk about religion in Ancient Greece or Rome, you don’t talk about God, you talk about “the gods.” Indeed this was a pluralistic society where many gods were worshipped: Athena, Zeus, Jupiter, and Mars, just to name a few. So if calling Jesus lord was a statement of divinity, the Roman occupiers in Jerusalem and in the surrounding area wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Oh, Jesus is a god, too? Okay, add him to the list.
But to say that Jesus is lord is to claim that Jesus is the ultimate authority over you, your family, your town; over everything.
The reason that this was an issue is because there was someone else in the role of lord: Caesar was lord. When Romans would meet one another on the road, they would call out, “Caesar is lord!” As you can imagine, Caesar wasn’t any too interested in sharing his authority. To call Jesus Lord subverts the leadership of the Roman Empire. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords.
To say that Jesus is Lord means that Caesar isn’t.
I wanted to find a contemporary example of what a lord is, and it was more challenging than I had anticipated. We in the United States have a President. He is the highest ranking official in the nation. The Senate, House of Representatives, Pentagon, etc., etc. all come under the President. But he is not lord. The President is powerful, but we have something called “checks and balances” in place that keep the President from having too much power. So to call Jesus our president doesn’t really capture the essence of his lordship.
I thought about dictators. A dictator has all power and authority over a country. But the title of dictator carries with it a few negative connotations. And in all honesty “Jesus is dictator” isn’t all that catchy.
What I have come back to on a number of occasions is the title of “boss.” And it is true that this title has some problems of its own, especially if you don’t like your boss. But I kind of like “Jesus is my boss” as a slogan.
A boss is a person who needs to have a vision. Let’s say that you are starting a company. I have a friend that recently started a coffee shop and café in Ohio, so let’s use him as an example. If you were to ask Dustin a few months ago what he was planning, he wouldn’t just say, “Uh, I think we are going to sell coffee.” He probably would never have been able to get a small business loan if that was all he had planned.
If you were to ask Dustin what his vision was, you would have to pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. He would tell you about how they plan to hand select their coffee beans from small, local roasters and brew their coffee on a made-to-order basis. He would tell you about the plans for the location of the coffee shop. He would tell you about the large, reclaimed wood countertop that would be the centerpiece of the room. He would tell you about how it was going to be arranged like an old fashioned diner, with everyone facing toward one another to promote conversation. This wasn’t just a place to grab a good cup of Joe. It was going to be a place where community is built. Dustin had a vision, and he has seen that vision through.
I like to think of Jesus as my boss because I know that he has a vision as well. He called it “The Kingdom of God.” People would ask him about this vision all the time and he would tell them, “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,” “The Kingdom of God is like a father that had two sons,” or even “The Kingdom of God is within you.” And ultimately, Jesus’ vision ends in the restoration of all things. A pretty big goal, indeed, but I think we have the right boss for the job. Jesus is my boss and he has a vision.
A good boss is ultimately the one who makes the decisions. When Dustin started his coffee shop, he had some choices to make. He needed to decide on the name of the shop. He needed to find a location. He needed to decide on what they would serve, when they would be open, what kind of napkins they would use. The list goes on and on. Along the way people could make suggestions and help with some of the details. But ultimately, the authority on these matters is the boss.
When Jesus is our boss, he is the authority how we are to live. Some of us don’t like to think about it like that, but that is because I have a problem with power. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. He says to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile. Sure, we have some say in how this is lived out. But it is ultimately the boss’ call in what he expects. And Jesus is the boss of everything!
I found myself in a challenging situation this week when the transmission of my car went out. I’ve known it was coming, I just didn’t know when. So we have been in the used car market for about seven days now.
I’ll say this: I have no problem finding cars that I like. I don’t even have a problem finding a car that I can afford. But there is this “s” word that keeps coming into my mind: stewardship.
Multiple times now salesmen have told me, “For just a couple thousand dollars more, I can put you in this vehicle. You can have this feature, that extra space, and peace of mind. You can’t put a price tag on peace of mind.” Yet they did. When did a couple thousand dollars become a small thing?
After wasting three hours test driving and haggling with salesmen, and I despise haggling, I made the mistake of doing an internet search for how much it costs to feed a starving child in Africa each day.
If Jesus is my boss, he is the boss of my checkbook as well. Jesus has authority in my car-buying choices. I maybe can afford to finance a brand-new car for five years, but is that really how I should be using this resource?
I’m not saying that it is never okay to buy a new car. What I am saying is that if Jesus is Lord, he is Lord over all: all of my finances, all of my relationships, all of my being.
We need make decisions based on what the boss expects of us. And I know that isn’t a popular message. The Jews that met Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday had certain expectations of their incoming king. And when he shared his vision for leading the people, their cries of “Hosanna in the highest” soon turned to shouts of “Crucify him.”
Jesus was the kind of boss who washed his enemies’ feet. He was the kind of boss who rejected the sword. He was the kind of boss that overturned money changers’ tables. He was, is, and always will be the kind of boss that desires our full allegiance. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords, boss of bosses.