Behold Your King
The time had finally arrived for Jesus Christ to be publicly acknowledged as King of Israel (Mt 21; Mk 11; Lk 19; Jn 12). He had previously refused the endorsement of the devil (Mt 4; Lk 4) and the free lunch crowd (Jn 6:15). By accepting the peoples’ recognition, at this time, Jesus was heightening the hatred of those who rejected His Messianic Kingship (Lk 19:39–40; Jn 12:19). It was Passover week in late March A.D. 33. Zion was being tested (Lk 19:41–42). Were they ready for their King? He is coming again. Are you ready for your King? My proposition should be clear: we must receive Christ our King better than Jerusalem did.
It was the prophet Zechariah who set the stage for this day’s event, 520 years before the day arrived, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech 9:9).” The prophecy is quoted by Matthew (21:5) and John (12:15). The prophesied event, now being fulfilled, was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, five days before the Passover in April A.D. 33 (Jn 12:1). With this much lead time, and a few other prophecies from other prophets (Is 62:11; Ps 118:25–26), Israel should have been ready.
As the Passover week was nearing, Jesus ascended the twenty-five-mile road from Jericho to Bethany and Bethphage, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem. It was His final trek through the Judean Wilderness, one of the many places of temptation. He had already set His sight on going up to Jerusalem when He departed the Mount of Transfiguration in Galilee (Lk 9:51). He knew He was going to be arrested, tried, and killed (Lk 9:22).
Avoiding Samaria, He journeyed with His disciples through the Jordan River Valley. This was the road appointed for the salvation of Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus. Would Jerusalem receive Jesus the way these ragamuffins did? Would the rulers and elders welcome Him as King? Would Jesus’ disciples trust Him as Lord? How about you?
First, the disciples seemed to be in the Spirit that Sunday. Festival time in Jerusalem was always a great celebration. It was a holy party to remember Yahweh and His goodness to Israel. Jesus had never entered Jerusalem in this fashion. He was now doing what the disciples had always hoped He would do. They wanted Jesus to be in the public spotlight. Three years of incubation was released with force on this one day. Everything in Zechariah’s prophecy should have exclamation points. Psalm 24:7 seems to anticipate this event, too, “Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!” Zeal, hope, exuberance, new life, and spring were in the air.
Jesus had already put the disciples to work for this event. Securing a donkey and colt in the next town came with peculiar instructions. The animals were to be found without trouble. They were to be taken without inquiry or payment. If anyone questioned the disciples’ actions, they were simply to say, “The Lord has need of it.” This is exactly what happened, just as He said. How reassuring for us to find the Word of Christ so reliable in our lives, too. If He is faithful in a little thing like donkey appointments, He will be faithful in greater things.
The imagery of a donkey is sometimes one of stubbornness against the one who would lead or ride the beast of burden (Num 23). There is another image, one of royalty. Kings and princes employed donkeys for travel. Moses rode a donkey (Ex 4:20). A king riding on a donkey came in peace, for he was not equipped for war. This is important for our understanding of the Son of David’s triumphal entry into the royal city (Mt 21:9). Jesus was coming to cut a peace agreement between Israel and God. It would be a new covenant in His blood (Jer 31:31–34; Mt 26:28; 1 Cor 11:25), and Israel would be identified as those who came under the blood of Jesus’ covenant with the Father, from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9).
Since the ascension and enthronement of our Lord, the church’s singular task has been to act as wise virgins waiting for the man of their dreams (Mt 25). Preparing for the wedding banquet (Mt 22), the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19), who will come at some unknown time (Acts 1:7), serves as the metaphor of work in the church before He comes.
The bride must make herself ready for the surprise appearance of her Groom (Rev 19:7). We must issue the Gospel call for God’s elect to be ready for His coming. The elect are identified as those who actually respond to the call and who actually prepare themselves. Put on Christ and be dressed in readiness is our current work.
When Jesus makes His grand re-entrance into the world, He will not be mounted on an ass. He will ride in on a white horse, the image of a victorious warrior (Rev 19:11). Jesus rode into Jerusalem in the humility of the blessed peacemaker, endowed with salvation (Zech 9:9), and just in all His ways.
The peace agreement is heralded with a shout. Shout in triumph, O Jerusalem (Zech 9:9)! Reconciliation is at your door! And the crowds were shouting when He came (Mt 21:9), “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord (Mk 11:9)!” There will be a shout when He comes again (Mt 25:6), “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thess 4:16).”
Second, the crowd, not just Jesus’ disciples, was excited about Jesus coming to town. Jews were arriving from all parts of the Roman world to celebrate the commemoration of deliverance from death by the blood of the sacrificial lamb during the Exodus from Egypt. Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims. The crowd had been appointed for this particular gathering by the news of Jesus and Lazarus being at Bethany. The Mount of Olives was packed with people wanting to see the man raised from the dead, and the One who raised him up. With perfect orchestration, Jesus and the happy throng met one another on the western slope of Olivet.
Jesus had already claimed, “I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25),” and He promised, “If I go away, I will come back to you (Jn 14:28; 16:7).” Thus, these triumphal entry events foreshadow the time in which Jesus will come from heaven a second time, with His feet landing on the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4), and all will be raised from the dead by Him, some to judgment and some to life eternal (Jn 5:29). The angels will gather in the harvest from the four corners of the earth (Mt 24:31). What should we do? Prepare to meet your King!
We must labor, like the apostle Paul, for the sake of the elect (2 Tim 2:10). Like the trumpet blast and herald’s shout, we must proclaim, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel (Jn 12:13).” He is coming back for His bride, the church, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16; Eph 5:25). The whole multitude of the disciples boldly proclaimed, “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! (Lk 19:38)…Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest! (Mk 11:10).” The Gospel of King Jesus must go out into all the world (Mt 24:14), with His disciples to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Third, the religious leaders were greatly troubled by the events of Palm Sunday. They watched the growing crowd and their acts of homage to Jesus. They listened to the exalted rhetoric. They confronted Jesus for His disciples’ blasphemous proclamations, “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ 40 But Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out (Lk 19:39–40)!’
Stones possess the motif of being rupestrine witnesses. They remain from ancient days. Stones were there when noteworthy events occurred. They are sometimes piled up in memorial. If the living stones (1 Pet 2:6) would not announce the coming King, then the rocks all about the land were there as witnesses, too.
“If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation (Jn 11:48).” So, the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him (Jn 12:19).”
The truth about Jesus Christ is very disturbing to those who remain the object of God’s wrath (Jn 3:36; Rom 1:18–32; Col 3:6), for God is angry with the wicked every day (Prv 7:11). The religious leaders had their own self-interest and an agenda to match their political aspirations. Jesus was competition for their power structure. He is a disappointment for every human power structure.
The Sadducees had the support of Rome. The Pharisees wanted independence from Rome, but they wanted peaceful negotiations. Zealot troublemakers were irritants to Rome, and Rome did not like large crowds of people gathered in any one place. Everyone had a reason to get rid of Jesus, and so they were all there when they crucified Him on the eve of Passover.
Whoever has a power structure not submitting to Jesus Christ, whether it is a business, a cartel, a nation, or league of nations, they will always be disappointed with Jesus because He is not about their power, wealth, and glory. The kingdom of God arrived with King Jesus, and the kingdom of this world is not happy. Although He came to bring a peace deal, the terms of peace require kings and nations to submit to Him. Which nations have bowed the knee to King Jesus? There is only one nation under God, and it is the holy nation, the chosen nation, the royal priesthood of kings, which is the church (1 Pet 2:9).
Ethnic Israel, today, meaning the nation state of Israel, has the same interest in King Jesus Messiah’s second advent, as did their fathers, who killed Jesus when he came the first time. Their fathers before them killed the prophets, too (Lk 11:47). The Jewish disappointment with Jesus Messiah is reflective of the Israelite disappointment with Yahweh through the Old Testament.
With such love and devotion for the Pentateuch, the writings, and the prophets, one would imagine they would see the 350 Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures foretelling of Jesus Christ. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Jews are no better off than the Gentiles, who form their nations and rage against God and against His anointed One (Ps 2:2).
Men devise their own schemes to avoid being disappointed with Jesus. They craft Jesus into a fertility god, who prospers them. They configure Jesus as a community organizer and social worker, who will transform this world. They relegate Him to the status of great guy and prophet. They make Him out to be one of many great teachers or one of many gods. What they refuse to ascribe to Him is His true identity, His true position, and the honor due His name.
Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim 6:15), the singular Sovereign and Ruler over all. He is exalted on the throne of God in heaven (Ps 110:1). He is coming again to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5), and His kingdom will have no end. Are you ready to receive Him on the coming day of His triumphal entry (Rev 22:12)?
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 15, 2021