Firstly, even though we call it Palm Sunday, unlike all of the other 3 Gospels, Luke makes no mention of the people waving branches or leaves.
Secondly, in Luke’s version, no-one in the crowd shouts Hosannas. Instead, Luke tells us the crowd praised God saying: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” These are almost the same words that the angels sing when they tell the shepherds where to find Jesus, a passage that only appears in Luke’s Gospel.
Thirdly, only Luke tells us that the Pharisees tell Jesus to make the crowds stop. Even though Jesus comes as a King of peace, the Pharisees in the crowd do not want the peace that Jesus brings. And so in Luke’s version the crowds are divided between those who welcome Jesus and the Pharisees who oppose him. We do not see this in Matthew and Mark’s version and only get a hint of it in John’s Gospel. And so interestingly, in Luke’s version, the crowds hail Jesus with the word peace, but in this passage, Jesus presence causes division.
Lastly, only Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus starts weeping as he approaches Jerusalem. “If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from you”. Jesus weeps because Jerusalem does not know the way of peace. They do not know the path that will bring peace to the city and so Jesus weeps because he sees them heading for disaster.
The theme of peace is an interesting one in Luke’s Gospel. From the beginning of the Gospel, the coming of Jesus offers us the good news of peace. At the beginning of the Gospel we hear it in the song of Zachariah who praises God who with the coming of the Messiah will “...guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79), and again in the message of the angels: “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to people of good will” (Luke 2:14). The word peace appears 14 times in Luke’s Gospel, but only 1 in Mark, 4 times in Matthew and 6 times in John. Luke’s Gospel could be called the Gospel of peace. Jesus actions throughout the Gospel show him to be a peacemaker. For Luke, salvation means living at peace with God and with ones neighbour, whether Jew, Samaritan or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor.
And yet, in Luke’s Gospel it also becomes clear that this message of peace through justice and fairness brings opposition and division.
In a strange saying, in Luke 12:51 we read: "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!" (12:51). In other words, Jesus knows that the peace that he does bring, a peace based on justice and fairness is not everyone’s cup of tea, and so will cause division.
And we see that division in Luke’s version of the triumphal entry. While the crowds welcome him as king saying peace on earth and glory in the highest, the Pharisees are opposed to him and want him to tell them to be quiet.
In another detail that only appears in Luke’s Gospel, echoing the words of John the Baptist earlier in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:9), Jesus says that if the crowds keep quiet, the stones will cry out. In other words, the whole of creation is crying out for a king who will rule with justice and fairness and will bring true and deep peace to the world. As Paul puts it in Romans, the whole creation is groaning, waiting in expectation for the children of God (the children of peace) to be revealed (Romans 8:22-24).
When Jesus enters Jerusalem, he comes as a king of peace, but his visitation causes a division.
Tom Mullen, from the Society of Friends or Quakers, makes the following statement about his denomination: "They work for peace -- and if you really want to cause conflict, [then] work for peace".
So it was for Jesus riding into Jerusalem.
I close with a question: Why is it that working for peace often causes conflict and division?
(With acknowledgements to Brian Stoffregan for the Tom Mullen quote and his observations on the text).