Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! Luke 19:38
Earlier this month a photo of a man sitting on his sailboat off the coast of Redondo Beach, CA spread in pandemic fashion on Instagram and numerous media news sites. CBS News of Los Angeles posted the headline: “Viral Photo Shows Man So Distracted by Cellphone That He Misses Massive Whales Just Feet Away” and the internet community weighed in with their incredulous statements concerning how “clueless” this man was for missing such a rare and momentous sight. In Luke 19:37-40, we find a similar instance—a divine encounter that serves as a poignant reminder of how easily our attention can be diverted from that which has eternal significance.
When you read “The Triumphal Entry” passage of Luke 19:37-40, do you wonder why the Pharisees were offended by the disciples’ praise as the procession reached Jerusalem? “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” was their retort. Why were they so vigorously opposed to this very common proclamation that was used annually to greet travelers coming to the temple for the Passover? The proclamation itself pointed back to a Solomonic tradition in which the king, riding on a mule, would lead the people in a praise procession to the temple.
Maybe the second part of the disciples’ proclamation raised the Pharisees’ hackles even more—“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”—a book-end statement that echoed the angelic announcement of the coming of the Messiah in Luke 2:14. Here, during Jesus’ final week on earth, the Pharisees were vividly confronted with the truth that Jesus, the promised King and Messiah, was right there—in front of their faces. How could that truth be any more obvious? Yet, they missed it!
As I consider Jesus’ response to their “cluelessness”, I also wonder why he chose the image of “stones.” Is he subtly intimating that the Pharisees are “block-heads”—that rocks would have more sense to acknowledge him as Messiah and King in the absence of the disciples’ praise? I find humor in this thought. And yet, his words were prophetic as well, pointing forward to the time of his crucifixion when “the earth shook and the rocks split” (Matt. 27:51) and to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when the city of Jerusalem along with the temple was reduced to a pile of stones.
Jesus’ words also accentuate the truth found throughout Scripture that all of creation glorifies God. May we not get so distracted by our own pursuits, agendas and religiosity that we miss the significance of encountering our Savior and King. Instead, let us join with all of creation, with “the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea,” in proclaiming, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth (Psalm 8:8-9).”