Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem (Luke’s Perspective)

Luke is unique in his reporting of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.

It is unique in that it shares commonality with the other three but is also distinctly different from their reports.

Luke presents a short, joyous entry into Jerusalem by Jesus that is turned sour by the opposition of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Along with a shift from Jesus fulfilling prophecy to Jesus prophecying about Jerusalem.

To further compound our challenge in understanding the historical event is the scholarly understanding that Mark’s gospel was written first, and Luke was familiar with this gospel when he wrote his. Raising the question of why?

Why did Luke report the event differently?

Was there information that Luke discovered while researching (Lk.1:1-3)?

Or was he trying to explain the event to a different audience?

Simply put, what gives?

Why did Luke not just report the same event as Mark with only minor wordsmithing that often happens when retelling historical events?

That is what I am seeking to understand.

But before we get to the answer, how does Luke’s account differ from the others?

Let’s review what they have in common.

Similarities Shared between the Gospel of Luke and the other Gospels?

Before we dive into the differences, let’s first acknowledge the similarities between Luke’s account and the other gospels.

All four gospels mention Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, which is also known as the “Triumphal Entry”. This event is unique in itself.

The feeding of the 5,000 and cleansing of the temple are a few of the events reported by all four Gospels.

A significant event in Jesus’ life and ministry, marking his arrival in Jerusalem leading up to his ultimate rejection.

All four gospels agree that as Jesus approached Jerusalem. He mounted a colt and rode it as the crowd excitedly welcomed him.

Matthew, Mark and Luke

We have a few more shared reports if we just focus on the synoptic gospel.

Jesus asked two of his disciples to go ahead of them and bring a colt back from the village ahead. Mark and Luke include two villages, Bethany and Bethphage, but Matthew narrows it down to only Bethphage.

The disciples find the donkey and tell the people watching it, “The Lord needs it.”

After the disciples returned, placing their cloaks on the donkey, Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The crowd was excited and welcomed him, laying their cloaks on the ground while shouting. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus went straight to the temple.

That is the shared story of Jesus entering Jerusalem.

Differences in the Gospel of Luke and the Other Reports

As with any good historical report, we have variations. Variations adding to the story with additional information while changing the story to Luke’s perspective.

Luke Adding to the Story Improving Our Understanding

There is some information that Luke’s extra investigation does help to better define and explain Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.

One is when the shouting starts.

Luke specifically tells us that as the entourage started down the Mount of Olives, the disciples began joyfully praising God for all the miracles they had seen.

Limiting the length of the event.

Road Down Hill of Olive Trees

The other reports could leave you thinking this was a whole-day event. Possibly a “Palm Sunday” kind of thing.

It requires additional research to grasp the limit, but it helps.

Acts 1:12 (same author) locates the Mount of Olives a “Sabbath day’s walk ” away, which is a limit of 2,000 cubits, or about 1.2 km (¾ mile). You can also get this from a map of the Jerusalem area, but my point is the parade’s length.

This whole event could be less than 20 minutes, 1 hour tops.

Helping to explain the lack of response from the authorities.

Including this information as we contemplate the triumphant entrance is helpful.

Things Only in Luke

I don’t believe these differences should be harmonized with the other accounts.

No, we should let Luke speak.

Then, see what he is trying to portray with his report of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.

Dropping the Prophecy

Luke omits.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

Jesus is not “fulfilling prophecy”.

No, for all we know from Luke. Jesus is tired and borrows a colt for the last bit of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The response is all spontaneous.

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the “disciples” walking beside Jesus. Think of all the amazing things that Jesus has done and start to praise God for him.

This is a very “joyful” occasion.

Contrasting with Mark and Matthew’s plea for salvation. For the son of David to save them.

Maybe this is where we get the idea that “Hosanna” was a celebrative shout, not the original Hebrew petition.

Luke changes the mood of the crowd.

Contrasting with Jesus’ sudden change of emotions as he sees Jerusalem.

Crowding Celebrating Jesus Arrival

What did the Crowd Yell?

This is nothing like the other gospels.

There are some common themes, or as some historians would say, “memories behind these words”. But clearly, either Luke changed it, or the other writers misreported.

If we go with the premise that Luke knew the gospel of Mark and, therefore, intentionally changed its words.

I think this might be some of his thought process.

The meaning of “Hosanna,” please save us, does not fit with his celebration scene.

So he drops it to not distract from the disciples praising God for what he did, Jesus’ miracles.

Starting with a line that is similar to Matthew, Mark and John and even the original Psalm 118:26 but with a slight twist.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!

Luke 19:38a

The change is merging the blessings. Where Mark blesses the “one” and “the kingdom of David,” Luke blends these two together. Blessing the “king”.

The next line follows the idea of Jesus coming in peace and praising God. With a throwback to the song of praise, the angels sang to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus, according to Luke.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14

Compare with.

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Luke 19:38b

All contrast beautifully with religious leaders’ response and Jesus’ prophecy.

Religious Leaders Response

To highlight the lack of response from Jerusalem, Luke has the Pharisees telling Jesus to calm the crowd down.

That is never reported in Mark.

And Jesus responds that the events that are happening cannot be stopped.

“if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:40

Reinforcing the prophetic nature of Jesus. Understanding that humans and nature all work together to bring about God’s plan. That if one does not do its part, the other will.

But the most significant change is the cry of the Crowd.

Jesus’ Prophecy

Matthew includes and expands on much of this prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, but he places it in a separate conversation between Jesus and the disciples (Matt.23,24).

Without going into the details of his prophecy.

The contrast is great.

The disciples, who we can assume came with him from Galilee, celebrate Jesus and God’s work through him.

But not Jerusalem.

Because they did not recognize what Jesus was offering. That he came in peace. They would soon be destroyed. Adding weight to Jesus’ words.

This also fits better with Jesus’ prophecy.

If the Jerusalem crowd cried out for Jesus to save them, why did God respond with destruction?

Luke presents the disciples praising God, but the religious leaders in Jerusalem rejecting the responses make more sense. They had their chance but failed, and now God would let them reap what they had sowed. Jesus knew this and told them so.

Conclusion

The triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem was a pivotal moment in the Gospel of Luke.

If one was telling a harmonization of the triumphant entry, the addition of when the crowds start shouting helps to develop the story by limiting the size of the event.

But as we said in the beginning, there are elements unique to Luke that cannot and should not be integrated into an overarching historical re-creation. They are uniquely different and possible for good reason. Luke’s reasons.

Not including Zechariah’s prophecy doesn’t dramatically change the story. Luke still presents Jesus as coming to Jerusalem as a king. It’s just not in fulfillment of ancient prophecy.

Luke significantly changes the mood of the event with the crowd’s shouts. And somewhat minimize the messianic nature of the event. Creating a joyous mood that celebrates the miraculous nature of Jesus’ ministry, not that he is now claiming kingship over Isreal.

Setting up beautifully for the conflict between the religious leaders. First, the Pharisees on his way and ultimately in the temple.

Possibly, Luke was trying to justify why Jesus caused his commotion in the temple after being so welcomed to Jerusalem.

Presenting an emotional Jesus weeping and prophesying against Jerusalem, which is more impactful than Matthew’s longer telling of the prophecy. At the same time, emphasizes the loving character of Jesus, who was not looking forward to nor celebrating the city’s destruction, but he was hurting knowing what would happen.

Resources

  • https://www.oxfordreference.com/display/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100435434
  • https://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/sabbath-days-journey.html

Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

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