When did Jesus’ Triumphal Entry end? The Gospel writers tell two stories. One narrative has Jesus entering the city, walking around and looking at the Temple and then going to Bethany to return the next day to “cleanse” the Temple. The other story has Jesus entering the city and chasing the money changers out of the Temple immediately.
“Here, hold the colt while I take care of Temple pollution.”
Since Jesus orchestrated the Triumphal Entry, I wonder what his intention was—what outcome? He had avoided the applause and told people to tone down the rhetoric. He usually left town when the crowds started making noise about declaring him king. But on Palm Sunday things changed. For what purpose?
The Entry didn’t end there, but when the parade reached the overlook and Jesus saw the city, the cheering stopped and Jesus wept. He predicts what is going to happen. The last phrase of Luke 19:41-44 sets my soul on edge. “…you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.” Other writers quote Jesus saying, “…you didn’t recognize your opportunity.”
Henry Clay from Kentucky was a professional presidential candidate. His life focus for nearly thirty years was running for president. I am not surprised that the United States survived the Civil War as much as I am surprised she survived Henry Clay. In the 1824 election, Clay swung the election away from Jackson, who had won the popular vote, to John Quincy Adams through an electoral college maneuver. It was called “the corrupt bargain.” On his death bed, Andrew Jackson said one of his regrets was that he did not shoot Henry Clay.
Not much has been said about the election of 1840. Over three decades Clay ran for and lost the presidential election three times in three different political parties. He was still actively looking for ways to move into the White House. In 1840 William Henry Harrison was selected to be the presidential candidate and the party offered the Vice-Presidential slot to Henry Clay. He refused. “Disdainfully,” the historian says. He would not be shuttled off to a secondary position. He had worked for the nomination and above everything and everyone, he deserved it. The establishment, therefore, selected John Tyler as Harrison’s running mate.
One month after the election, William Henry Harrison died and the vice-president John Tyler became President. Henry Clay had missed his opportunity.
Back to that hill overlooking Jerusalem. Jesus weeps over missed opportunities and the unavoidable consequences. Was he talking about the single mother or the Jewish fellow who operated the neighborhood deli? What could they have done to shift outcomes? What did Jesus want from them? How had they sealed the fate of this city—“you of all people would understand the way to peace” (Luke 19:42b)?
Henry Clay would run for the presidency again in 1844. He lost. Novelist-historian Irving Stone says,
“He blamed his defeat on fraud, foreigners, Catholics, abolitionists, Tyler-ites, renegade Whigs—on everything except the life, career and character of Henry Clay.”
The King James Version translates Luke 19:44: “…because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
I don’t know what to do on Palm Sunday. We cannot duplicate it with a great worship event. I worry about the colt getting home and how Jesus’ words impact that Jerusalem deli owner. What am I to do with the palm branches—it feels so awkward and unnatural. So I get stuck with Jesus overlooking the city and weeping. It is easy to tuck Matthew 23:37 into the story:
“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, and you were not willing.”
I don’t want to miss the “visitation.” So, I calculate my life, actions, character and contemplate what needs correction or adjustment. I stand as close to the colt as security allows and say to Jesus, “I don’t get all of this. But, I’m willing. What? Where? With whom? I’m willing.” Jesus is Lord!
What is the appropriate Palm Sunday gift?
©2018 D. Dean Benton—first published March 2016—firstname.lastname@example.org