Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes at

Luke 19.28-40
Palm Sunday - Year C

Other texts:

You may also want to check the Overview of Palm Sunday texts or the Passion Sunday notes to Luke 22.1-23.56

It is quite ironic to read this as the processional gospel on "Palm" Sunday. There are no "branches of palms" mentioned in Luke's account as in John (12:13). There are no "leaves from the field" as in Mark (11:8). There are no "branches from the trees" as in Matthew (21:8). There are no leaves or branches of any type mentioned in Luke. (Note that only John talks about "palms"!)

In these notes I want to briefly highlight some of the other uniquely Lukan features of the "triumphant entrance into Jerusalem."

First of all, Luke has inserted two stories prior to this event. All three of the synoptics have the healing of a blind man (two blind men in Mt) in Jericho (Mk 10:46-52; Mt 20:29-34). Mt & Mk follow this with the triumphant entrance. Luke follows this healing with the story of Zacchaeus (19:1-10) and his version of the Parable of the Pounds (19:11-27 -- Mt has a slightly different version of this parable 25:14-30).

How might these stories relate to the entrance into Jerusalem and Jesus' passion?

There are contrasting pictures given in these two stories. With Zacchaeus (19:1-10), Jesus comes and stays at his house. It is a story about what happens when Jesus is present. In the parable (19:11-27), the "nobleman" goes away to a distant country. It is a parable about what should happen while the ruler is temporarily away.

With Zacchaeus, the emphasis is on the "salvation" that has come to his house -- the fact that "the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost" (19:9-10). In the parable, the emphasis is on destruction: "As for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them -- bring them here and slaughter them in my presence" (19:27).

There are some similarities in these accounts. Both deal with the proper use of money. Zacchaeus gives away half of his possessions. The good slaves make money for their owner.

In both stories there are antagonists. There are those who grumble at the fact that Jesus goes to Zacchaeus' house. There are those citizens who hate the king and do not want him to return to rule over them.

The entire passion story is prefigured in the parable as Luke tells it. Jesus is the landowner who goes away to receive royal power and then will return. We are still waiting for the return. In the mean time, we have been graced with gifts which have become our responsibility to use for the good of the king who will return. At his return there will be a judgment: rewards for the faithful; punishment for the enemies. The early chapters of Acts give illustrations of this responsible living while the king is gone.

Our text has some similarities to the Zacchaeus story, Jesus is inviting himself into Jerusalem. Will he be welcomed or will people grumble? Will his presence be a moment of salvation for the lost or not?

What I see emphasized in these two inserted stories and Luke's version of the triumphant entrance is that Jesus causes a division. Zacchaeus, a son of Abraham receives salvation; while the grumblers, whom I would assume were also offspring of Abraham, receive nothing. Some citizens (the faithful slaves) of the returning king are rewarded. Others are punished.

When Jesus enters Jerusalem only Luke tells us:

  1. ...the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen (v. 37).

  2. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out" (vv. 39-40).

In Luke, the entrance of Jesus causes a division among the crowd which is not found in the other gospels.

Related to this emphasis, the disciples in Luke do not shout "hosanna" -- an Aramaic phrase meaning, "Save us, I pray." What is anticipated at the coming of the king is "peace in heaven and glory in the highest."

"Peace" (eirene) is emphasized in Luke (14 occurrences in Luke, 6 in John, 4 in Matthew, and 1 in Mark; 7 in Acts).

This theme begins at the end of Zechariah's song: "to guide our feet into the way of peace. (1:79).

It continues with the angels song: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" (2:14).

It shows up in Simeon's song: "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; (2:29)

An emphasis for Luke is that salvation consists partly in living at peace with God and with each other -- Jews and Gentiles, male and female, rich and poor, slaves and free.

At the same time, he is aware that Jesus' peace causes divisions: "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!" (12:51). What is interesting about this verse is that in its parallel in Matthew, Jesus brings not peace, "but a sword" (Mt 10:34).

Just as Luke precedes the triumphant entrance with stories unique to his writing, he also concludes the with a unique account (19:41-44). As Jesus comes near and sees the city, he weeps over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.... you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God" (19:42, 44b).

When Jesus enters Jerusalem, his disciples pray for peace in heaven (and, presumably on earth, which will bring glory in the highest), but his visitation causes a division.

Tom Mullen (Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences) makes this statement about his denomination (Society of Friends or Quakers): "They work for peace -- and if you really want to cause conflict, work for peace" [p. 50]

So it was for Jesus riding into Jerusalem.

Brian Stoffregen
Faith Lutheran Church, 1000 D St., Marysville, CA 95901