Bible Study March 4 for Worship March 24

Bible Study March 4 for Worship March 24

Luke 19: 28 And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples,
30 saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.
31 If any one asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, ‘The Lord has need of it.’”
32 So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them.
33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”
35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it.
36 And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.
37 As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,
38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

COMMENTARY

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. This is the central drama of the Christian Faith. We are at the beginning of an emotional roller coaster that will take fus rom the high point of the crowds hailing Jesus as King, through the intimacy of the Last Supper, the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane to the low point of the crowd demanding Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. Then we wait at the foot of the cross sinking ever deeper into despair, until we take his poor dead body off the cross and place it in the tomb. We travel through the emotional wrench of Holy Week to arrive at Easter Sunday, when the Empty Tomb proclaims the joy of resurrection. And we can’t get to the joy of Easter without experiencing that roller coaster of Holy Week. And so we begin at the beginning with the Palm Sunday Parade.

The Mount of Olives is a large hill/small mountain that lies to the East opposite Mt. Moriah that was the high place where the Temple was located, and today is the location of the Dome of the Rock. The Mount of Olives is somewhat higher than Mt. Moriah, so the view from the top of the Mount of Olives looks somewhat down upon the Dome of the Rock, and in the time of Jesus as he crested the top of the Mount of Olives he was looking down on the Temple.

The Mount of Olives is the peak of a climb from Jericho up to Jerusalem. This is a considerable incline that rises from about 1400 feet below sea level to approximately 2700 feet above sea level. So over a distance of about 20 miles the road rises over 4,000 feet. The Mount of Olives was home to two villages Bethphage on the Eastward slope of the mountain facing away from Jerusalem and Bethany lying almost on the crest of the mountain.

Jesus had several friends and followers who lived in Bethany, Mary, Martha Lazarus, Simon the Leper. Bethany may have been the center of Jesus’ mission to Judea. We should note that every evening during Holy Week, he left Jerusalem to spend the night in a different undisclosed location in Bethany. If Jesus had not been betrayed into the hands of the Temple police by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, the authorities would have had a hard time locating him to arrest him.

Jesus arranged for the colt to ride in advance, because he wanted his entrance into the City to call to mind the words of the prophet: Zechariah 9: 9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” Now we have to try to discern whether Jesus made these arrangements in advance in order that his entrance into the City should fulfill this scripture, or did the early church tell the story in such a way as to have the story fulfill the scripture. Many prominent commentators believe the early church embellished the stories of Jesus’ life to make them appear to fulfill the Hebrew Scriptures. But we can argue persuasively that a mass demonstration accompanying his entrance into Jerusalem would have been a good strategy for confronting both the Romans and the Temple Authorities. Messianic Jews would have been familiar with all kinds of scriptures like Zechariah 9:9 and Zechariah 14: 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which 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 withdraw northward, and the other half southward.
5 And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. This passage may have also provided the template for the earthquake reported to have accompanied Jesus’ death.

Jerusalem was crowded for Passover. Many Passover Pilgrims camped on the sides of the mountains surrounding the City. As Jesus and his disciples came over the Mount of Olives creating a “demonstration of support” for Jesus, thousands of other Passover Pilgrims may have joined the parade, if for no other reason than to see what was going on. This enthusiasm then created a kind of circle of protection for Jesus as he proceeded to challenge the authorities in the Temple itself. They could not arrest him for fear of the crowd. This also explains why he left the City each night to spend the night in an undisclosed location, so he could not be arrested without a crowd around him.

Jesus’ purpose then appears not to have been to foment violent rebellion but to engage the people and the Temple authorities in honest confrontation about the future of the Jewish people. Did he know when he led the Palm Sunday Parade that his effort would result in his death? Very possibly, after all he had the example of the execution of John the Baptist. But maybe he still had a glimmer of hope like so many other non-violent heroes after him that peaceful change might still be possible.

Every year we travel the same journey of Holy Week, but each time if we keep our eyes and ears wide open, God can reveal something we have never seen or heard before. Maybe this is the year we finally understand Peter’s fear, when he is accused of being a follower of Jesus. Or maybe we can see the screaming unwashed mob from the point of view of the more established leaders, who were afraid things were getting out of hand. Maybe we finally come to an appreciation of the man who lent Jesus the donkey for the ride into the City. Let us pray that somewhere in the course of Holy Week, God will give us new understanding of the story that lies at the center of our faith.

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. Where was Jesus coming from when he “came up to Jerusalem?”

2. How many disciples did Jesus send to find a donkey?

3. Where did he send them to find the donkey?

4. What were the disciples supposed to tell the owner of the donkey?

5. How did Jesus’ disciples initiate a demonstration?

6. What did the disciples shout to stir up the crowd?

7. According to the text in the midst of the demonstration, who rebukes Jesus?

8. Why do they rebuke him?

9. How did Jesus answer their rebuke?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. Do you think Jesus had arranged for the donkey in advance?

2. Do you think the donkey actually happened, or was it an embellishment to the story provided by the early church?

3. What do you think might have motivated the donkey owner to cooperate?

4. If you had been one of the disciples how would you have felt about borrowing someone’s donkey?

5. Do you think members of the crowd spontaneously joined the Jesus demonstration, or do you think they were “stirred up” by the disciples?

6. Have you ever found yourself swept up in a public demonstration?

7. If you had been a Passover Pilgrim do you think you would have joined the Jesus demonstration?

8. If you had been one of the disciples what would you have thought about the large crowd following your teacher into the Temple?

9. What do you think motivated the Pharisees to rebuke Jesus?

10. If you had been a member of the crowd, when you arrived at the Temple, how would you have felt about Jesus over turning the tables of the money changers and driving out the sellers of the sacrificial animals?

11. What detail of the Holy Week Story do you find most compelling?

Week of March 18 – March 24: Palm Sunday – Luke 19:28-40 – Into Jerusalem – Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 22:14-23, Luke 23:1-49.

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