Category Archives: Luke

The Triumphal Entry

One of the key events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ is what has become traditionally known as His triumphal entry, taking place on what is sometimes referred to as Palm Sunday – the Sunday before His death and subsequent resurrection.  While only 2 gospel accounts record the birth of our Lord, it seems significant that all four would capture this moment for us.  Clearly then, it is deserving of our attention.  The passages where this account takes place are as follows

  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Luke 19:29-44
  • John 12:12-19

There are several key points which are recorded by each written account and then some key points which are highlighted by a particular gospel, both serving to draw attention to this event.  First, we need to note our time period.  John’s account places us at the beginning of the feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread which began Passover week.

Next, this event is located in Jerusalem, but more specifically, Bethphage on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.  Bethphage is the village that our Lord instructs His disciples to enter into, in order to find the donkey colt.  Several significant items are worthy of mention with regard to the location.  First, Bethphage in Hebrew means, “House of unripe figs.”  This introduces the event recorded in Matthew 21:18-22 where Jesus curses the barren fig tree, symbolic for the lack of fruit found among Israel.  Next, the location of the village on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, places us in the area of some important events from Israel’s past and lays the foundation for some even more important events that are to come.

For instance, In 2 Samuel 15:30-31, we find King David fleeing Jerusalem from his enemies, namely his son Absalom, and finding refuge on the Mount of Olives.  Then, Ezekiel 11:23 describes for us a scene where the glory of God leaves the temple in Jerusalem and comes to rest on the mountain east of the city, clearly a reference to the Mount of Olives.  Towards the end of Ezekiel’s prophecy, we are once again brought to the Mount of Olives and a vision of a new temple, only this time the glory is returning, Ezekiel 43:1-5

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

Note in these passages from Ezekiel the relationship of the Mount of Olives with the temple.  This prepares us for Jesus’ entrance into the temple where He proceeds to cleanse it in Matthew 21:12-17, immediately upon His arrival into Jerusalem as well as the prophecy of the temple’s destruction in Matthew 24:2; Mark 13:2.  Finally, Zechariah 14:4-9

On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique[c] day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.

On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

Christ, by beginning His final week on earth at the Mount of Olives, places Himself as the fulfillment of each of these passages cited above.  As Jesus begins His descent towards the cross from this area, the very location where David retreated from his enemies and wept over His betrayal is the same area where Christ proceeds into Jerusalem to face His enemies.  As the glory of the Lord was seen leaving the temple and coming to rest on the Mount of Olives in the vision of Ezekiel, with Christ, the incarnation of the glory of God returns to the temple to prophesy of its destruction and the resurrection of a New Temple, where the Lord would have permanent residence.  Then, we see that in Ezekiel’s final prophecy the return of the glory to the temple a prophecy, at least fulfilled in part by Christ’s descent into the city at His triumphal entry.  Before we get to the last significant Old Testament passage, there are a few points to note with reference to the final week of Jesus’ life.

The Mount of Olives becomes a central geographic location for the last week of our Lord’s life on earth.  This  triumphal entry is the first of three events located at the mount.  The second was what is traditionally called the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13, Luke 21), while the third occurred on the night of Jesus’ betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane, which was at the foothills of Olivet.  Finally, recorded for us in Luke 24:50-52 and Acts 1:12, is the capstone to our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection, namely His ascension, which also took place on the Mount of Olives.  At His ascension, His disciples were told by the angels that He would return just as He left, a prophecy which many think will be the fulfillment of our passage above from Zechariah 14, i.e. Christ’s literal, earthly return to the Mount of Olives.

Summarizing then, from the Mount of Olives, Jesus begins His descent to face His enemies.  Returning to the mount, He prophesied victory over His enemies only later to return there and be betrayed by His enemies.  After His resurrection, He returned again to the Mount of Olives where He ascended to the right hand of the Father to assume His place of victory and rule over His enemies.  And as we are told, He will one day return to the Mount of Olives to judge His enemies.

Adding to this geographical context are the instructions that our Lord gives to His  disciples to enter into Bethphage and find a donkey colt upon which no one had ridden.  It was on this colt that our Lord would make His descent into Jerusalem.  As with our discussion of the Mount of Olives, so too here with the image of the donkey, there is an Old Testament fulfillment.  First, in the pronouncement of blessing upon Judah in Genesis 49, Jacob says the following

10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.

The former pronouncement is clearly a Messianic reference to the kingship of Christ, however, this latter pronouncement many have also taken as a Messianic reference fulfilled here with the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on the donkey’s colt.  Furthermore, though the donkey was surely a sign of humility, it likewise was a symbol of a Davidic King.  Returning to our scene from earlier where David was fleeing from Absalom, David was brought a donkey to ride on.  In 1 Kings 1:33, David, by now old and weak, gives instructions for Solomon to ride on his very own donkey in a procession announcing Solomon as king (see 1 Kings 1:44).  In our gospel accounts of the triumphal entry, we have an explicit prophecy of the arrival of the king on a donkey, from Zechariah 9:9, a prophecy clearly fulfilled with the arrival of King Jesus.

There is undoubtedly much more that could be said and many more connections to be seen with this momentous occasion in the life of our Lord.  The entire scene involving Jesus, the Mount of Olives, the donkey colt, and the procession into Jerusalem, reaches back into the history Israel’s very origins, coming forward through both David and Solomon.  Furthermore, it was a place and an event signifying the arrival of the King in His humility.  However, as we have seen, it will also be the place for the second arrival of the King, this time in glory.

The Check Engine Light of Worship – Part 3

 

In our study of the doctrine of the church, or ecclesiology, we have come to narrow our focus upon the practices that occur when believers gather in the name of Christ, usually referred to as worship.  A specific area of worship towards which we have drawn our attention is the observance of the Lord’s Supper.  This particular practice, because of its universality, but also because of its widespread differences, is a particularly good litmus test for the evidence of Scriptural authority, not only in matters of faith, but in practice as believer’s gather together.

In this particular series we have been looking at the key text often recited during observances of the Lord’s Supper, namely 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.  In the first post, we outlined the passage as follows:

  1. A Statement of the Problem (11:17-22)
  2. An Appeal to Christ’s Institution of the Lord’s Supper (11:23-26)
  3. Rebuke (11:27-32)
  4. Exhortation (11:33-34)

In that post, we noted that the Apostle Paul was addressing a particular error in the practice of observing the Lord’s Supper that the young church (ekklesia) at Corinth had fallen into.  Recall that the context for his rebuke was a meal, a common meal, perhaps the agape or love feasts that had become a frequent occasion in the early Christian gatherings (see Jude 1:12).  However, these meals had become opportunities for gluttony and excess for the haves and further deprivation for the have nots.  Rather than having all things in common and sharing a meal, or waiting on everyone to arrive, some of the believers in Corinth were seeing these love feasts as an opportunity to indulge.

In the second post we noted the context of the inception of the Lord’s Supper by indicating that it occurred on the night that Jesus was betrayed, which coincided with their own observance of Passover.  Additionally, we saw that Jesus commanded that this observance take place, as often as you do this and that this practice was to continue until His return.

In this post, we will begin with an examination of the institution of the Lord’s Supper by returning to the night that it began, and continue the focus of it coinciding with Passover.  In doing so, let’s return to the Gospels, particularly Luke’s account, where  we read the following

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

Above we have the full context for the institution of the Lord’s Supper according to Luke’s account (please read and compare the other Synoptic gospel accounts).  Harmonizing what we read and concluded from 1 Corinthians with our passage here, we indeed find that on the night he was betrayed was also the night of Passover.  There is some debate as to whether this occurred on our current Wednesday night, which using the Jewish day/night schedule would have been their Thursday (14 Nissan), the official day of Passover, or whether this occurred on our current Thursday night, but that discussion for another day.  

That aside, we find that Jesus instructed His disciples to make preparations for Passover; prophesied about the location of Passover; desired to eat the Passover, which was a reference to the meal they were about to share; prophesied yet again of His own suffering, which He linked with the Passover; then declares that He will one day participate in the Passover again, when He comes into His kingdom; and finally, we see a reference to the particular components of the Passover, which the mention of the cup, after, they had eaten supper, and the bread, unleavened as per the instructions in Exodus 12, each providing for us the elements in which they observed the Lord’s Supper as an actual Passover meal. 

That said, it is the last statement of our Lord’s regarding Passover that is significant because it speaks to the perpetuity of Passover.  Not only does He state His desire to celebrate Passover with His disciples, in which He associates His own body and blood with the elements of the bread and fruit of the vine in one of the cups, but He indicates that there will be another day to come when He will partake of Passover again, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”  The ‘it’ in this verse refers to Passover (it is the nearest antecedent).  

As a noteworthy point here, Jesus doesn’t even refer to this meal as “The Lord’s Supper” but as Passover, the annual Jewish feast of remembrance of the rapid Israelite exodus from Egypt, specifically marked by the Spirit passing over the houses of the firstborn who had placed the shed blood of a lamb on their doorposts.  Passover was to be observed annually when the Israelite’s reached the Promised Land.  It’s institution can be found in Exodus 12:1-28; 43-51.  In addition to serving as a reminder of God’s redemption and salvation, it served as evidence of a present participation in the covenant with the Lord.  One final point is that the Passover was clearly anticipatory, or that it looked forward to the death of Christ and the passing over, by the wrath of God, of those who have been covered by His shed blood (propitiation).  These past, present, and future elements of Passover is not to the neglect of the typological aspects, which sees Christ as the Greater Passover Lamb (John 1 and 1 Cor. 5) and the culmination of the Old Testament priesthood, sacrifices, and covenant practices (see Hebrews).   

Following the order of the Passover, our Lord proceeds into the meal and assigns New Covenant symbolism to the elements of the supper as seen with the reference to the cup filled with the fruit of the vine, and also to the unleavened bread, representing his blood and body respectively.  As a side note, do any of the Gospel accounts refer to the substance in the cup as wine?  Or do they all correspondingly refer to it as the fruit of the vine? The Greek word for wine, oinos, was available and widely used throughout the Gospels, but not here. Though historically a cause for debate and a call-to-arms, it’s an unnecessary point of contention and one that is not focused on the central issue at hand.

The significance of this institution of the Lord’s Supper occurring on Passover is not trivial.  Our Lord takes all of the history, meaning, symbolism, even typology of the Old Covenant, which reaches its zenith with the Passover celebration, and brings it to the threshold of the New Covenant.  In this sense, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a touchstone of continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants.  Has that point been brought out during modern observances of the Lord’s Supper?  Hardly, if ever, because we completely ignore that this occurred on Passover and disconnect the New Covenant meal from the Old Covenant meal.  The practical ramifications of this are that it makes us as best, modern Dispensationalists and at worst, guilty of a Marcionite view of the Lord’s Supper (one that disregards the Old in favor of the New), not to mention the danger of falling into the same category error as the first century Corinthians, that of failing to correctly observe the meal and assign it the historical significance that it demands.  We will re-examine this again in a subsequent post.

Returning to our questions raised from earlier, how would first century believers have observed the Lord’s Supper and interpreted the phrase, as often (1 Cor. 11:25)?  Would they have maintained the association with Passover, or would they have deviated from the established pattern and done what seemed good and expedient to them?  Regardless of the answer, it’s clear that a deviation of the practice had taken place by the time the Apostle penned the letter to Corinth, a sobering reminder of the danger of slipping away or losing sight of Scripture’s authority.