The Ascent of the King, Part I

Notice in Luke's gospel how careful and deliberate Jesus's move towards Jerusalem is.

Luke 9:51, 52a When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him.

This is a turning point in his ministry. He is clearly choosing a road that leads to a final confrontation in Jerusalem itself.

The first thing to notice is that this has a clear prophetic parallel in Ezekiel

Ezekiel 21:1-5 1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries; prophesy against the land of Israel.

An earlier passage makes the nature of the prophecy, the destruction of the city, even more clear:

Ezekiel 4:1-7 1 "And you, O son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and portray upon it a city, even Jerusalem; 2 and put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it; set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it round about. 3 And take an iron plate, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel. 4 "Then lie upon your left side, and I will lay the punishment of the house of Israel upon you; for the number of the days that you lie upon it, you shall bear their punishment. 5 For I assign to you a number of days, three hundred and ninety days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment; so long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. 6 And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, a day for each year. 7 And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared; and you shall prophesy against the city.

So Jesus, "The Son of Man," a prophetic figure, sets his face towards Jerusalem in a statement of judgment.

But Luke also tells us that this has something to do with the days drawing near for him to be "received up."

Notice the movement in Luke 19. He comes to Jericho (elevation -800 ft) and gets ready to head to Jerusalem (elevation 2500 ft).

On the way, he and his disciples consciously act out Psalm 118, one of Psalms of Ascent!

Psalm 118 1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever! 2 Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures for ever." 3 Let the house of Aaron say, "His steadfast love endures for ever." 4 Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures for ever." 5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. 6 With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. 10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 12 They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: "The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, 16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!" 17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has chastened me sorely, but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank thee that thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation. 22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. 23 This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech thee, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech thee, give us success! 26 Blessed be he who enters in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar! 28 Thou art my God, and I will give thanks to thee; thou art my God, I will extol thee. 29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!

The disciples go ahead of Jesus as an advance team, the way a King's emmisaries would prepare for his visitation to a city.

They get a donkey in order to echo the Messianic message of Zecharaiah 9.

They break out the palm branches to make it super clear what they're up to and he enters the gates of Jerusalem declaring himself to be the Messianic King. But in order to complete the Psalm, as King or pilgrim celebrant, he should have gone to the horns of the altar and made sacrifice.

But what does he do? He unites the prophetic judgment with the Kingly ascent. He takes authority to himself and shuts down the sacrificial system in the temple during the week of passover!

A shocking turn of events.

(To be continued...)



The determination was something that was supposed to be contagious. This comes out in the end of the chapter, where Jesus admonishes the three half-hearted followers, and says:
"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

JPB said...