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“Something the Lord Needs”

Luke 19:28-44
Bob DeGray
March 20, 2005

Key Sentence

Do you have something the Lord needs?

Outline

I. Your Possessions (Luke 19:28-34)
II. Your Praise (Luke 19:35-40)
III. Your Peace (Luke 19:41l-44)


Message

        For months now we’ve been in the book of Acts, traveling with Paul around the Mediterranean, watching and listening as he shares the Good News about Jesus with ever more diverse audiences. As such, we’re dozens of years and hundreds of miles removed from the central event that compelled Paul to take those trips. Yet that event is never far from his mind. Even in Corinth he resolved to preach only ‘Christ, and him crucified’. And in every city and circumstance he returns to the Good News that God raised this Jesus from the dead. Those central events drive Paul, and fuel his passion. And what Jesus did should drive our passion as well.

        So let’s step back. The setting is a small village in the Judean hills, on slopes of the Mount of Olives, across the Hebron valley from the sacred city of Jerusalem. The time is about a week before the Passover in the spring of what was probably 33 A.D., and the event we’re going to join in today is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In fact, throughout this Easter season we’re going to be using Luke’s account to guide us in our contemplation and celebration, partly because Luke is also the author of Acts, and partly because of his emphasis on peace. After Easter we’re going to have a very practical five week series about peace, a subject of great significance to believers and tremendous importance to those who do not yet believe. In preparations for that we’re going to be noticing the emphasis Jesus places on peace in the outworking of these Easter events.

        So let’s step back into Jesus’ world. As we do I want you to keep in mind for yourself one question: ‘Do you have something the Lord needs?’ Your initial answer is probably no, either because you feel you’re not important or worthy enough to have anything Jesus would need, or because you know theologically that he is God and we are not; he is creator, we are creation. Yet Scripture does talk about our responsibilities to God, and sometimes it portrays that as God needing something, asking for something, longing for something from us. I contend that you do have things that the Lord needs, and today I want you to think about three of them: your possessions, your praise and your peace.

I. Your Possessions (Luke 19:28-34)

        Let’s step back to Luke 19, verses 28 to 34.After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30"Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.' " 32Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" 34They replied, "The Lord needs it."

        Jesus has been on the way to Jerusalem for some time. Luke’s Gospel records that Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem back in chapter 9. Now, in chapter 19, he is almost there. As the chapter begins he’s in Jericho, one day’s walk from his goal. There he encounters Zacchaeus, and stays at his house, receives his repentance, and recognizes his faith. There also he tells the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants, including a sub-plot of loyalty or opposition to the one who was going away to be made king. And after saying this Jesus sets out from Jericho, heading over the Mount of Olives, down the other side and across the Kidron valley to the gate of Jerusalem called the Sheep Gate. On the way across the Mount of Olives he would go through Bethany, where his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived.

        But on this day he only pauses at Bethany long enough to send two of his disciples into another little town called Bethphage, probably just a step or two closer to Jerusalem on the same road. The mission of these two disciples is to bring him a young donkey, a colt, to ride on. They will find it tied up there, and they are to take it, and if anyone asks them why, they are to simply say “The Lord has need of it.”

        And that’s what happens. The owners quite naturally ask ‘why are you untying the colt?’. And the two disciples give the answer Jesus required ‘The Lord has need of it.’ Apparently that solves the problem: the colt is free to be used. It seems clear that Jesus did not have his disciples steal this colt from an unwilling set of owners. Though his knowledge of the presence of the donkey and what would happen when they untied it was clearly supernatural, that doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t know these people and they him. As one commentator said, these were probably folks who had already encountered Jesus and had said to him at some point ‘Lord, if you ask me anything, anything, I will do it.’ What’s remarkable is that when the time came, when he said to them through the disciples ‘the Lord has need of this specific thing’, they were willing to let it go.

        Which brings me to my point for this section. How do you and I respond when the Lord needs something? The Greek word behind ‘need’ is ‘chreia’, and it implies needing something to make use of it, to employ it for some good purpose. So does God need something? No - he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, as well as the donkeys. But God often wants to make use of, to employ for his purposes something he has given us to care for. And as people who have probably at one time said ‘Lord, anything you ask of me I will do’, we need to be ready to give up that which we call our own so he can use it for his work. We call this ‘stewardship’, recognizing that all we have is his, and we are to manage it and expend it not for our own gain, but for his purpose and his benefit.

        I heard two examples of this on Tuesday at our local Free Church Pastors lunch. Bob Rowley, our District Superintendent, is days away from closing on the sale of his house in Laredo, but months away from moving into his new house in the hill country. In the interim he has been offered a low cost rental of a house, by a couple who are Wycliffe missionaries. They bought this house on their last furlough, but haven’t returned from the field yet. As stewards they looked for someone with a need that matched their resources and when they heard about the Rowleys they offered them the house. The second example came from Andy Ramos, a young man who is in the early stages of planting a church on the west side of Houston. If you were here for the District Conference you may have met him. Like most church planters, his income is really low, yet he needed to live in his target area, Sienna Plantation, which is not a low cost community. Andy has a huge family, and he recently discovered that one of his cousins owns a home in Sienna Plantation, and that cousin was willing to rent him the home for the cost of the taxes and insurance. God’s purposes are being accomplished through someone who saw a need and responded when the Holy Spirit said ‘the Lord needs it’.

        Notice that in all these cases the fact of the need was made known through a normal human channel, and then it was the Holy Spirit who convinced the appropriate person they were in a position to meet that need. And in our capitalistic society that usually means we need to give money: a colt, a car, a house, occasionally, but a lot of the needs around us are financial. That’s one of the reason we present financial needs and prayer requests to the body, so that the Lord can tap you on the shoulder to respond. Even the ten percent increase in the budget we use to serve the Lord in Friendwood is an opportunity to see a need and respond with increased giving. Looking at your own circumstances this might seem unreasonable; certainly the owners of that colt did not consider themselves able to give it away. But because the Lord had need, they responded.

II. Your Praise (Luke 19:35-40)

        So do you have something the Lord needs? Yea. He needs your money. He needs your possessions. Not in the sense that he lacks something, but in the sense that these things are his and you are his steward and he wants you to employ everything you have for his purposes. But that’s not all. The second section of our text reminds us that the followers of Jesus the king should feel compelled to praise him. Luke 19:35-40 35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" 40"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

        
This is the scene we know as ‘the triumphal entry’, and it calls us to recognize and praise our king. Notice that though Jesus had requested the colt, it was the disciples who, after having made a saddle with their own cloaks, put him on it. Others honored Jesus by spreading their garments on the road, making a triumphal carpet on which Jesus rode. Luke says nothing about the spreading of branches as well, but all the other Gospels do mention this, and John specifically says ‘palm branches’. And all four Gospels emphasize the praises of the crowd, rejoicing, Luke says, over the mighty works they had seen Jesus do. Remember we’re still within a stone’s throw of Bethany, and many of these followers had probably seen the resurrected Lazarus. And that was only one of the miraculous things Jesus had done throughout his ministry and they remembered them, and praised God.

        The crowd probably also recognized Jesus’ action as the fulfillment of prophecy. Both Matthew and John quote Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The details we’ve seen in Luke reinforce the conviction that this prophecy was being fulfilled before their eyes. Yet Zechariah’s prophecy saw the Messiah as the Prince of Peace. The donkey was the mount of a man of peace, a merchant or scholar, not a king on a warhorse. The problem was that these pilgrims had waited a long time, hoping Jesus would proclaim himself as the Messiah of their dreams. They didn’t reflect that he was really proclaiming himself at that moment a man of peace, and giving no support to their nationalistic fervor.

        But all they really misunderstood was the timing. They were certainly not wrong to praise him. All four Gospels tell us that the crowd cried ‘blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Luke and John add that they called Jesus the King. That’s not wrong, just premature. Almost nobody saw that Jesus had come this time to suffer and die as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. They didn’t really see that he was the king they longed for, and his reign would mean ‘peace in heaven’ or ‘peace with heaven’ as God reconciled himself to the human race through Jesus; and that it would mean glory in the highest, glory. It was in fact wonderfully true that this blessed king, coming in the name of the Lord would bring peace with God and glory to God. The coming of the Messiah, the Savior, the King calls forth praise. And it’s true for us even more than it was for them, because we know the price he paid in his death and we know the victory he won in his resurrection and we know the forgiveness he offers and the eternal life he brings to those who by faith believe. We should be the first to sing ‘glory in the highest’ and ‘hosanna to the king’.

        But does God need this praise? Does Jesus need this praise? The next incident Luke records tells me that at least on some level, he does. Verse 39 says that ‘Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"’

        The Pharisees, for political and pragmatic reasons, did not want to see Jesus proclaimed as Messiah. They didn’t want armed rebellion, unless the practice of their religion was directly threatened, as in the times of the Maccabees. So they opposed anything that might provoke Roman intervention. There was no hope of stilling the tumult by their own appeal to the people, so they asked Jesus to calm them down.

        In a striking response, Jesus affirms that the praise is inevitable. If the people would keep quiet the very stones would cry out. This implies not only the kingship of Jesus but also his deity. It is common in the Old Testament to see creation praising God. Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 98:8 “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” But the object of creation’s praise is always God. So when Jesus accepts this praise, from men and from creation, he is making a claim of diety.

        So he is worthy of our praise and it seems, in a sense, that our praise fulfills a need within God. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking in theological terms here, saying God is dependent on man. I am saying that the appropriateness of praise, and the depth to which God and Jesus are worthy of praise makes it right for God to feel something’s lacking if we’re not praising. If we, redeemed, rescued, saved, don’t respond to our salvation with grateful praise, the rest of the created order will have to lift its voice to cover our shame. We need to be people of praise, people who focus our hearts on the glory of God as our sovereign loving creator, and on Jesus as our self-sacrificing Savior. It’s shameful to let stones do what we ought to do.

III. Your Peace (Luke 19:41l-45)

        Does God need something from you? Your possessions? Yes! Your praise? Yes! Your peace? Verses 41- 44 show us that is something Jesus longs for. 41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

        This isn’t the first time Jesus has wept over Jerusalem. Back in Luke 13 he cried out: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Even as he was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus knew the city had refused his good news. The people of the crowd were saying ‘blessed is’, but Jesus knew the limited value of their declaration. He knew the people of Jerusalem had lost their opportunity; they did not know the things that would bring them peace.

        Leon Morris explains in his commentary: “In the Hebrew understanding of peace . . .one especially important component is peace with God, right relationship between the creature and the creator.” In two weeks, when we start our series on ‘The Missing Peace”, the first thing we’ll focus on is peace with God, which comes, according to Romans 5, when we are justified by faith in Christ. It comes when we believe by faith that Christ is the promised redeemer who died to pay the price of our sin, and in whom we find the forgiveness we desperately need. All through the Gospels, especially in the gospel of John, we find people who by faith believe in Jesus, even though he has not yet died on the cross. And Jesus repeatedly affirms that such people have eternal life. But the city of Jerusalem and most of it’s people did not receive that message, did not have that faith, and did not experience life and peace.

        And that opportunity to find peace in Jesus was now ending Jesus knows that in the week to come, this crowd will turn against him, cry out for his crucifixion, and call down his blood on their own heads. Further, he knows that destruction will come in not too many years. He describes in detail what will happen in 66 A.D. when the Romans finally destroy the rebellious city. He speaks of the bank the enemies would build to encircle the city; Josephus tells us that when the Romans besieged Jerusalem they set up siege works and surrounded the city with a wall. Jesus says the enemy “will dash you to the ground, you and your children within you.” That implies complete destruction. In fact so great was the destruction that even single stones from the temple mount of that day are a rare archaeological find.

        Jesus finishes with the reason: because you did not know the time of your visitation. This last word implies a divine visitation; God’s messiah had come among them and the people had failed to know him. These people had the revelation God had made known in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. They had continuing evidence that God was active in the life and ministry of Jesus. They can see in him that God has not forgotten his people. There was every reason for them to welcome Jesus. But they refused to accept the evidence. They rejected God’s Messiah. Now they will have to deal with the consequences of their rejection. Is this that makes Jesus weep.

        So what does Jesus need here, to satisfy the anguish of his soul? He needs Jerusalem to embrace his peace. And there is little doubt in my mind that Jesus continues to have a deep heart need for his people to embrace his peace. He says “come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He says “peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” That’s his heart’s desire - his need, if you will. And when we will not embrace his peace, we break his heart. You can sense that not only in the words and actions of Jesus, but in God’s words and actions throughout the Old Testament.

        Listen to this one example in Ezekiel 33 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” That’s God’s heart - we break it when we will not turn to him in faith for salvation. Paul teaches that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” He earnestly desires your peace. And he teaches us how to find it: Isaiah says to God “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” That’s the secret of peace with God. It comes by faith, by trusting him for salvation.

        That’s also the secret of peace in daily life - trusting him and believing his promises, promises of peace with him, peace within, peace in your family, peace with others, peace that lasts. These are the topics we’re going to be exploring in our ‘missing peace’ series, and all I want to say right now is that this peace that we’re going to be discussing is no small part of God’s passion. Look at Jesus: he’s supposed to be entering the city in triumph, but he’s weeping, because they won’t receive the peace he’s offering. They won’t listen to the things that would bring them peace. May we not break God’s heart by being like them.

        So do you have something the Lord needs? I’ll bet you do. Maybe it’s your possessions. Is there something you’re holding back, where the Lord has said ‘I need it’. Maybe it’s your praise. Heaven forbid that the stones of the earth put us to shame because they who have never been redeemed out-praise us. Maybe it’s your peace. Does God weep because you won’t take the peace he’s offering. He makes peace with us through the death of his Son. Will you trust him by faith? He gives ongoing peace to those who walk with him by faith. Will you take that walk? You break his heart if you won’t. You’ve got something to give him. You’ve got something he needs.