Monday, August 24, 2009

Here Comes the King

Jerusalem was jumping. It always was at Passover as people from all across the region and beyond journeyed to the city on a hill to observe the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. But this was no ordinary year. Jesus of Nazareth, a man who spoke like no one had ever spoken and who did things that no one had ever done was on His way. Just a while back He had been in nearby Bethany and had called Lazarus, a man who had been dead for four days, back to life. More recently, in Jericho, He had given sight to blind Bartimaeus. But the people of Jericho didn’t know what was more amazing: blind Bartimaeus seeing or tax collector Zacchaeus repaying four-fold all the people whom he’d cheated, and also giving half his goods to the poor. Jesus had run into this traitorous extortionist and after He had gone to Zachhaeus’ house, Zacchaeus was never the same.

People were also aware that the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest Him. All of this conspired together to create a sensation as people watched the road, wondered to themselves and asked one another: “What do you think? Do you think that he will come to the feast at all?” (cf. John 11:55-57)

Mark 11:1-11 answers their question! The answer comes in a public and prophecy fulfilling way, and I don’t doubt that the answer caused more than a few chief priest and Pharisaical faces to turn red, with smoke billowing from their ears. They’d wanted to stealthily nab Jesus and destroy Him after the feast, but here He comes; riding into town on a donkey with the crowd going nuts. This was not according to their plan. All of it, however, was according to God’s plan. Everything about Jesus, from His birth to His death to His resurrection and all points in between, it all happened according to divine plan.

His Coming

For some time now Jesus had earnestly prepared His disciples for the week that this momentous ride inaugurated. He was well aware, that the religious and political leaders had likewise been plotting His destruction. We first learned of their murderous intentions way back in Mark 3:6. Still, Jesus resolutely journeyed to Jerusalem. He did so in accordance with the Father’s will (John 4:34) and in fulfillment of OT prophecies (Luke 24:25-27). He had come to save His people from their sins, and that salvation could only be earned by His death (because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin - Hebrews 9:22), burial, and resurrection. This is why Jesus came, and that is why He now entered Jerusalem.

There are three aspects of His coming to Jerusalem that I want you to understand. First, He prophetically came.

Prophetic Entrance

Why is Jesus all of the sudden riding instead of walking? Was He tired? I’m sure He was. Was He stressed? Of course He was; knowing with certainty what awaited Him at week’s end. But Jesus did not triumphantly ride into Jerusalem by accident, coincidence, or for convenience. His riding into Jerusalem was a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

The crowd would not have known that Jesus was riding an animal that had never before been ridden, but the twelve knew. The significance of that fact would’ve been obvious to an ancient culture, while easily overlooked by our own. Any animal devoted to a sacred task must be one which had not been employed in any secular duty. For any and all who had eyes to see this was a deliberate claim to being the One of whom the prophets had so clearly written.

Public Entrance

There were a lot of eyes watching Jesus enter the city, and there were quite a few who participated in it. Mark tells us that the people strawed the road with their garments and palm branches. As they surrounded and escorted Jesus into the city they cried out in praise. Mark may be indicating that there was an antiphonal aspect to their praise. One group may have been shouting, “Hosanna!”; a Hebrew term of praise which meant “Save; save us!” The second group responded by quoting Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord,” and the first group would answer, “Hosanna in the highest.”

In Luke’s telling of this occasion the red-faced Pharisees said, “Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:39-40).

This is a marked departure from past public proclamations of His divinity. We regularly read that early in His ministry demonic spirits would cry out “I know…who thou art, the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24; Mark 5:7), and often we read that when He healed lepers, when Jairus’ daughter was resurrected, and even when Peter confessed that He was the Christ, following all of those proclamations Jesus had required that it not be publicly repeated. Why?! Again, He was operating on a divine timetable! During all of those just mentioned occasions it was not the time to announce the King’s coming.

But now the time had come, and Jesus basically said, “It’s ok; everybody can shout as loud as they like, and if the people were to hush then the rocks would pick up the happy chorus.” The King is coming to establish His kingdom! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord; salvation in the highest!

Not a Pompous Entrance

Publicly and prophetically rode Jesus into Jerusalem but not pompously. By any other standard in the world this Monarch’s entrance was not impressive. Let me provide you with a comparison. David McCullough begins his book 1776 by recounting the October 26, 1775 procession of His Royal Majesty King George III from St. James’ Palace to the Palace of Westminster. There the King addressed Parliament regarding the “rebellion in America.” Here is how McCullough describes the King’s procession:
Two Horse Grenadiers with swords drawn rode in the lead to clear the way, followed by gleaming coaches filled with nobility, then a clattering of Horse Guards…in red and gold livery, and a rank of footmen, also in red and gold. Finally came the King in his colossal golden chariot pulled by eight magnificent…Hanoverian Creams, a single postilion riding the left lead horse, and six footmen at the side.

No mortal on earth rode in such style as their King, the English knew. Twenty-four feet in length and thirteen feet high, the royal coach weighed nearly four tons, enough to make the ground tremble when under way. Three gilded cherubs on top – symbols of England, Scotland, and Ireland – held high a gilded crown, while over the heavy spoked wheels, front and back, loomed four gilded sea gods, formidable reminders that Britannia ruled the waves.

It was as if the very grandeur, wealth, and weight of the British Empire were rolling past.
Jesus, Son of David, King of kings and Lord of lords rode into the Holy City on little more than a borrowed burro, yet there never was a more regal entry into Jerusalem than on that day.

Jesus did not come in earthly majesty or to reign in earthly power. The nature of Jesus’ kingship and of His kingdom always perplexed the people, even the disciples for a time. The kingdom of Jesus was and is not of this world. If it were, His servants would have fought to prevent His being delivered over to Roman authorities. He came in poverty not prosperity. He came humbly and meekly not pompously. He came to save all mankind, not to slay Israel’s enemies; to conquer sin and death not the Romans. He didn’t come to guarantee external peace in the world but to offer the greater blessing of internal peace with God. This He would do by freely offering His life as a ransom for many. He came to establish His kingdom, but by way of the cross before the throne.

The message of Christ’s kingdom is the cross. The focus of Christ’s kingdom is a regime change of the soul not a particular nation, and Christ’s kingdom has grown and will continue to grow among all peoples until the His Second Coming. The kingdom was not for the Jews only. The kingdom is not for us only. The kingdom will not be the domain of one little sub-group of humanity, but individuals from every kindred, tongue, and people group. It may not be apparent to us, but throughout the world today men, women, and children are hearing the Gospel and being brought to King Jesus, whose kingdom reaches to the very ends of the earth. Psalm 2 is a Messianic psalm, and in verse 8 we read, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [for] thy possession.”

How pathetic Jesus must have looked to the high and mighty as He rode into town on that donkey. How pathetic He must have looked a week later as hung on the cross, a bloody, crucified Messiah. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. He was betrayed, abandoned, falsely accused, unjustly condemned, mocked, scourged, and crucified. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Praise God! He only needed it for three days.

This all may have looked weak and pathetic, but it was anything but that. What Jesus did in Jerusalem established a kingdom which will outlast all the kingdoms of this world and break in pieces every man-centered kingdom which sets itself against His kingdom.

At His first coming Jesus came not to be crowned but to be crucified. His coronation will occur at His Second Coming, then “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; and [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

His first coming was in order to save His people from their sin. His second coming will be to display His sovereignty. John saw a vision of this coronation in Revelation 5:6-14:
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain…And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Do you know this King? Do you know Him? Is He your King? Have you bowed before this King and given your life to Him; to His service? This is why life is worth living; not only this life, but especially the next. Is your life about His kingdom or your own? If you have been made a child of the Kingdom you exist to live for it, to herald the Good News about your King to all those who haven’t heard and all those who aren’t listening.

Give up your small ambitions! Serve the King! Bury yourself in service to this Lord. This is eternal business, not temporal matters. Whatever you’re going to do with your life, do it to and for the glory of the King. As Isaac Watts wrote so many years ago
“Jesus shall reign where ’er the sun
Doe his successive journeys run,
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Let every creature rise and bring
Honors peculiar to our King,
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!”

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