Luke 19:29-40 ESV
When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, 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. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (ESV).
Humility in the Triumphal Entry
As Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on the back of a colt the crowds laid their cloaks and palm branches (John 12:13) along the road to prepare the way before Him. They sang His praises and hailed Him as God’s promised eternal King. In ancient times, a king would often ride a donkey as a sign of the peace they had achieved. After all, a horse and chariot were no longer needed when a king had won all his battles and there were no remaining threats.
Jesus was doing more than fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9) when He entered the city on a donkey. He was very intentionally announcing the establishment of God’s kingdom of peace and His identity as the long awaited King. The Pharisees, observing all of this, urged Jesus to silence the people’s praises, but He refused. Where is the humility of Jesus?
The Pharisees were well aware of the significance of the claims that were being made about Jesus’s Kingship, and they called on Jesus to show some humility by refusing to accept such praises. However, their request was a guise. John’s account of this same story says that “the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him’” (John 12:19, ESV). What they wanted more than Jesus’s humility was the support and allegiance of the people for their own gain and political agenda, and this whole scene was threatening to their own sway over the crowds.
Whatever Jesus’s followers celebrated and understood about Jesus’s announcement, they certainly didn’t expect what would transpire over the next week. They had no idea that they would praise Him as King on that day only to deny Him, reject Him, and call for His execution within days. They were enamoured by His miracles, the moment, and the prospect that their plight as a lowly people under Roman rule might soon change. Like the Pharisees, they were out for themselves, and when Jesus was taken into custody later in the week they would shift their allegiance to whoever gave them more confidence in the moment about their future well being.
We can easily mistake confidence for pride and power. So often political leaders, business executives, and even pastors and other religious leaders rouse the praises of the people but turn out to be nothing more than prideful and arrogant, ultimately exploiting their sway of the people for their own selfish gain. Jesus is different.
Jesus didn’t come to gain power, He is all powerful. Paul says in Philippians 2:7-8 that Jesus, who is God, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (ESV). Jesus came to lay His life down for the people in the crowd, for the Pharisees, and for all who were going to mock Him and attempt to rob Him of His kingship. He would give His life to forgive them knowing they didn’t have a clue, knowing they were captive to sin and idolatry, and knowing they were ultimately robbing themselves and others of knowing true peace and joy. Jesus would die on a cross within the week so that they could finally have peace with God. This is the humility of Jesus.
The humility of Jesus bears better confidence than the pride and arrogance of this world. Only Jesus, who is God incarnate, could rightly and humbly ride through that crowd with confidence. When Jesus refused to silence the crowds He knew that to deny their praises and proclamations would be to deny the truth. Jesus knew what nobody else knew; the price He would pay within a week to establish peace with God on their behalf. He would confidently give away everything for the sake of the world, knowing that everything that He is would remain for eternity.
Prayerfully consider these few questions:
- What are you afraid to lose or let go of that keeps you from confidently and humbly living like Jesus? Any selfish ambition, material possession, or personal relationship?
- Jesus’s humility is rooted in a confidence that He can lose everything and still have everything. How has He made that true for you also?
- The humble confidence of Jesus is yours as an heir with Christ (Phil 2:5, Rom. 8:17). If your heart could grasp that and believe it, how would you live differently?