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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Not-So-Triumphant Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple: Thoughts on Trinity 10

Of all the Gospels, Luke alone makes explicit the connection between Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the judgment of God on the city, which begins in the cleansing of the Temple. Jesus said:

"And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, 'Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.'" (Luke 19:41-44)

The day that Jesus is referring to when he says "on this day" is the same thing as "the time of your visitation." And that day is the day he enters Jerusalem on a donkey, the day he is hailed specifically as "the King who comes in the name of the Lord" (Luke 19:38).

Typically we view our Lord's entry into Jerusalem as his triumphal entry. But if this is the case, why does he then curse the city of Jerusalem who just greeted and received him as the King who comes in the name of the Lord? Why does he pronounce God's judgment instead of God's blessing upon the city?

In ancient times, it was common for important people to be welcomed into cities by a long line people, who lined up outside of the city gates to greet and laud the person as they entered into the city. This is especially true if the visitor was the King or the Emperor or the Ruler. This type of visitation was called a parousia (see TDNT, V:858ff). When a ruler would make a parousia, he would expect to be received by the religious and political elite from the city as well as other members of the city, adorned in ornamental clothing, to escort him into the city. The visitor would be brought into the square where he would be lauded by speeches of gratitude for the privilege of being visited. And finally, the parousia would end when the members of the city gave the visitor a tour of the local temple. And if an important person came to a city and wasn't welcomed with a parousia, there would be hell to pay. For this was a statement of ingratitude for previous benefaction. That city would be cut off from the visitor's benefaction (the previous analysis is from Brent Kinman, "Parousia, Jesus' 'A-Triumphal' Entry, and the Fate of Jerusalem," JBL 118:2 [Summer 1999] 279-294).

Luke's account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is anti-climactic compared to those of the other Gospels. And noticeably absent in the welcoming committee are all the Jewish leaders, and if they are present, they are hostile. Where are the Scribes? Where are the Pharisees? Where are the Chief Priests? Where are Herod and the Herodians? They "were seeking to destroy him" (Luke 19:47). They were snubbing the King who comes in the name of the Lord. And so they were snubbing the Lord himself. They did not on that day, the day of the King's parousia visitation, welcome him, speak well of him, and thank him for his gifts. Instead they treated his and his Father's house as a den of robbers.

What if the King who comes in the name of the Lord came to your city? Would they know on that day the things that make for peace? Would they recognize the time of their visitation, the time of his parousia? Would they celebrate the gifts he has given? Would they be dressed for the occasion? Would they know? Would they care?

He came them, not to bring peace but a sword, so that when He comes now, he does not come with a sword but with the peace of God. He comes not to condemn, but to forgive and to give life. He comes to give his body and his blood into your mouths to open your throats and lips to sing of His glorious deeds. He comes to give. He comes for you.