Tuesday, April 18, 2017
"Your King is Coming" Sermon: Matthew 21:1-11
“Your King is Coming”
April 9, 2017, Second Reformed Church
Who is the King of the United States?
“We don’t have a king; we have a president.”
Well, actually we have a king as well, a king Who is over our president. Jesus is our King – He is the Sovereign King over all of Creation. And it’s important that we recognize that as we go through the good times and the bad, so we look to the right ruler and understand the extent of the power our rulers have.
As we turn to our Scripture, we are near Jerusalem, about a week before the Crucifixion. Jesus is preparing to enter the city and complete the work that He came to earth to do. And Jesus and His disciples stop on the Mount of Olives. And Jesus sends two of His disciples to a nearby village and tells them that when they get to the village, they will see a donkey – a female donkey, with a young colt with her. And Jesus tells the disciples to take them and bring them to Him, and, if anyone should question what they are doing, they were to say, “The Lord needs them.”
How did Jesus know there would be a mother donkey with her colt in the nearby village? How did Jesus know that the owner would respond positively to the disciples cryptically saying “The Lord needs them”?
We’re not told anything more about this interchange and the gathering of the donkey and the colt; it happens just as Jesus says it will. So, here we have a glimpse at the Divinity and the Authority of Jesus. Jesus knows what animals there will be and where they will be and that the owner will let them go with the simple command, “The Lord needs them.”
More importantly than how Jesus knows what He knows and why the owner of the donkey and the colt responds the way he does, is the question of why Jesus tells the disciples to get the donkey and the colt in the first place. It certainly wasn’t too far for Jesus to walk from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem; He was use to walking all over Israel. Why, now, did He command the disciples to bring Him a donkey and her colt?
There are at least three reasons, and the first one is quite explicit in our text:
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord needs them,” and he will send them at once.’ This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
Jesus tells them to get the donkey and her colt to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The people of Jesus’ day knew the Scripture well enough that they would see Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey, with her colt, and they would associate what He was doing with this prophecy – the King of Israel is coming to claim His Throne and deliver them.
We will remember that Israel was under Roman rule at this time and a large percentage of the population was looking forward to the day when they would throw off their oppressors and be the people of God, under His Rule alone. So, this and other Scriptures like it would have been particularly on the minds of the Jews.
The second reason follows naturally from the first – after three years of telling people not to tell anyone Who He was, now the time has come – Jesus seeks to draw attention to Himself – He is finally, publically, proclaiming that He is the King of Israel, the long-awaited Savior.
“The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’”
As Jesus rides into Jerusalem with the crowd around Him, praising Him and glorifying God, all of Jerusalem is swept up in the procession – some welcome Jesus, others want to know Who He thinks He is.
The third reason Jesus commands them to bring the donkey and her colt, can be found in understanding that our God is a God Who cares about the Creation He created. So, knowing that the donkey had a young colt with her, which would be upset – to say the least – to have her mother taken away from her while she was yet so young, Jesus compassionately instructs the disciples not to separate the donkey and her colt, but to bring both of them for His Triumphal Entry.
And so, they bring the donkey and the colt to Jesus, and they put their cloaks on the donkey, and as they begin to make their way toward Jerusalem, many other people throw their cloaks on the ground and cut branches from the trees to cushion the donkey’s way as she carries Jesus, God the King and Savior, into Jerusalem.
Let us notice the type of people that laud Jesus and march with Him into Jerusalem – they are not the rich, the politicians, the influential members of society, and the religious leaders – at least the majority of them are not. How do we know that? Well, no one had a saddle for the donkey – they spread cloaks for Jesus to sit on. No one offered a horse and chariot for this Triumphal Entry. Their offerings – physically – are extremely modest. Jesus is welcomed and lauded by the poor, the outcasts, and the sick – the people He had spent most of His time ministering to.
And the crowds announce Jesus and praise Him by quoting the Psalmist:
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
What are they saying? What does “hosanna” mean?
The word “hosanna” means “Save, we pray” And it is implied in the word that the salvation that people are looking for is deliverance from the corrupt rule of humans and the restoration of the Rule of God. The intent of the word “hosanna” is the same as when we pray “Thy Kingdom come.”
When the people cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they are crying out, “Save, we pray! Through Jesus, God’s King and Savior, the Rightful Heir to the Throne of David, bring us under Your Rule, God, and Yours alone.”
The poor, at least, have grown tired of being under Roman rule and even under the rule of bad kings in Israel and Judah. They have had enough – they want to return to the days before Saul when God alone ruled over them.
Are you tired of petty politics? Are you tired of wars? Are you tired of following God and then following after sin and then following after God and then following after sin? The day is coming when the cry of the people of Israel before Jesus will come in all its fullness. John describes it this way:
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessings!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:11-14, ESV).
We live under sinful rulers in this world, but we also live under King Jesus – our soon coming King. We are to pray for the rulers God has given us and hold them to biblical standards, and we are to pray that God’s Kingdom will come to earth – and since that is what God has planned and promised, if we pray for it, we know that God will do it!
The announcement has been made: Jesus is the Legitimate Heir to the throne of David, and He will restore the Kingdom of God in all its fullness, with God as the Sovereign Ruler over all in His Kingdom on earth and throughout Creation.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Jesus comes in the Name of the Almighty God – that is, Jesus comes with authority which comes from God because He is sent by God and He is God.
Luke records, “One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, ‘Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who is it that gave you this authority.’ He answered them, ‘I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?’ And they discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say, “Why did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’” (Luke 20:1-8, ESV).
The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).
Do we remember what it means to be “seated at the right hand”? To be “seated at the right hand” means “this person’s authority comes from.” So, what the scribes and elders and chief priests could not admit, and what the author of Hebrews explains to us, and what the crowd cries out to Jesus as He makes His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is, “Jesus’ Authority comes from God”; “the Authority of Jesus is the Authority of God.”
Thirdly, in emphasis, the crowd cried out, “Hosanna in the highest” “Save, we pray, in and from the heavens!” “The salvation that we require is from God – and that is the salvation that we receive through Jesus, our Redeemer and Savior.”
The nobodies of Israel flock around Jesus as He rides into Jerusalem, calling attention to Himself, bringing to mind the prophecy of the God-King Who would come and restore the Sovereign Reign of God on earth.
And they cried out from the Scripture:
Jesus is the Legitimate Heir to the Throne of David.
Jesus’ Authority is the Authority of God.
Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer that has been sent from heaven.
But some of the people of Jerusalem couldn’t see – they didn’t understand what was happening, “Who is this?” “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
The Only Answer that God provides to the request – the petition – “Hosanna” – is Jesus. Jesus restores and brings the Kingdom of God among us and fulfills it in its fullness in the Kingdom.
Why didn’t everyone understand Who Jesus is? Why didn’t everyone welcome Him as He rode into Jerusalem? Why do the rich and the powerful and the knowledgeable tend to dismiss Him or minimize Him, while the poor and the rejected and the common person more likely see Him for Who He is and receives Him and His Salvation?
Hear this history:
“One of the Pharisees asked [Jesus] to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and he took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing beside him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of a woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he answered, ’Say it, Teacher.’
“‘A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now, which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning to the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at the table began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you, go in peace’” (Luke 7:36-50, ESV).
A person who says he has no sins to confess – that he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness – does not understand reality. But a person who has been confronted with their wretchedness sees Jesus and cries out to Him as their only hope, “Hosanna – save, we pray.”
I pray we all recognize Him as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey with her colt in tow and as He prepares to return in glory with His Kingdom.
Let us pray:
Almighty God and Savior, You Who hold all authority as the Sovereign God and Only Ruler for all of eternity, we praise You and rejoice that You chose to send Your Son to live among us under Your Law and then to obediently follow You into Jerusalem, announcing that He is Immanuel – “God with us” – knowing the horror He would face at the hands of sinful human being – like us – for revealing Who He is. Help us day by day to become bolder in proclaiming Who You are, for we have much to be forgiven for, and You are the Mighty Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.