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The Entrance of the King (Matthew 21:1-11)

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: Jesus: The True King of the Universe

I recently found this illustration in a sermon by pastor Andy Cook. He writes:

Did you know the United States once had an emperor? Believe it or not, it’s true – at least, it was in the rather confused mind of Joshua A. Norton.

Norton lived in San Francisco during the gold-rush days of the 1800’s. He was a colorful character, to say the least. When speculation in the rice market brought him to financial ruin, something happened to Norton’s mind. He declared himself “Emperor of These United States.” It might have been a practical joke, or it might have been the result of a clouded mind. Whatever the initial reason, Norton’s pretending soon grew into a delusion.

In 1859 he published a proclamation that he was emperor according to an act of the California legislature. He found a sword, stuck a plume in his hat, and found a cape.

There were some amused by this ploy and so they played the game with him. They gave him recognition with free tickets to special events. He was invited to gala opening nights. In fact, they allowed him to collect a small tax and issue his own currency. It was all done in the spirit of fun. But to Norton it was serious business. In fact, he expanded his authority to "Emperor of These United States and Protector of Mexico.

When he died in 1880, more than ten thousand curious people attended Norton’s funeral service – one of the largest funerals ever to take place in California. He lived and died in his own delusion of grandeur. He didn't hurt anyone; in fact, he brought a bit of a smile and a chuckle to people who came across his path.

But make no mistake about it. Joshua A. Norton was never really the emperor. Had he really insisted on a confrontation with the United States government, he would have been disposed of rather quickly. More than likely, he would have been confined to an insane asylum for the rest of his life.

Unlike Norton, there is really a King. He is not a king of the United States alone but of the entire universe. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. And He is not just a King. He is God the Son, the Second person of the Trinity who came to this earth to save us from sin, death and Hell.

In all 4 Gospels we see an event that took place near the end of Jesus' life here on this earth. It happened just a week before his crucifixion by the Roman government on the cross of Calvary. The event has become known as the Triumphal Entry because it was the day that the Lord entered Jerusalem, presenting Himself as the rightful King of Israel who was to sit on David's throne and bring blessing to the world. This had been prophesied in the Old Testament.

According to promises given to Abraham and the other Jewish patriarch's, Israel was God's chosen people through whom all other nations were to be blessed. And every orthodox Jew was looking for a Messiah, the anointed King, who would lead them into their glorious future promised to them by God Himself.

During Jesus' time on earth, Israel, rather than ruling, were being controlled by the government of Rome and it had been many centuries since they were totally free. As we look at the triumphal entry we see that there were multitudes who thought that the time had finally come and that Jesus would be the one who would bring about the victory over the enemies of Israel. Maybe God's promises were being fulfilled right before their very eyes.

However, what they didn't realize was that Jesus had come, not just to rescue Israel from some earthly sovereign. He had come to deliver them from their sins and eternal separation from a holy God (Matthew 1:21).

Let us summarize the various accounts of the Triumphal Entry, found in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:12-19 and see what the Lord has for us to glean from them for our lives today.

I. Preparing for the Entry

We see this major event in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ beginning with Jesus' preparing to go into Jerusalem for the Passover, that wonderful celebration that commemorated one of the greatest salvation events in Jewish history.

Yahweh, during the Exodus from Egypt, sent 10 plagues to persuade Israel's captor Egypt to let God's people go so the Lord could take them to the land that He had promised their forefathers. The final plague was the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians. God would send His angel to kill the firstborn of each Egyptian family but he passed-over the families of the Israelites who marked their doors with lamb's blood, leaving their children unharmed.

It is with this plague that the Pharaoh finally relented to let the people of Israel go. Unbeknownst to Jesus' followers, our Lord was coming to Jerusalem to be the final Passover lamb who would take away the sins of the world, saving them from spiritual death and God's eternal wrath.

For the three years of Jesus' ministry He had said more than once that His time had not yet come (John 2:4; John 7:6-8). And He had often foreshadowed His own death. He talked about giving His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45 ). Now that time was finally here.

A week before his crucifixion Jesus approached Jerusalem, arriving at Bethany 6 days before the Passover. Over that weekend the Lord was anointed at Simon the Leper's house by a woman whom Jesus said was preparing Him for His burial (Matthew 26:12). Jesus had told His disciples that He was going to die but they didn't understand yet what He meant.

After this woman anoints Jesus, a crowd of disciples came to see Him in Bethany. The Lord gave words of hope and life to these seeking people. And it was the next day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

Earlier, the Lord had sent two of his disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage which was about a mile away from Jerusalem at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Their mission was to find a donkey tied to a house with its unbroken colt.

Jesus had told his disciples that if the owner questioned them about why they were taking the animal that they were to tell him that: "The Lord has need of it." (Luke 19:31). And it worked because the owner let them take the mother donkey and colt.

The men who had found the donkey brought them both to Jesus. They placed their cloaks on the colt for Jesus to ride. This was in complete fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 which tells us:

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

With this Jesus was prepared to enter Jerusalem.

The Entry into Jerusalem

It is interesting the humility with which the King of Kings entered the City from which He will one day reign. The Romans, who were more than likely monitoring this event, looking for trouble that might occur, probably thought it laughable that a person claiming to be a great king would ride on a young donkey. They had seen their kings and generals riding into their city in golden chariots as priests burned incense and the people shouted their names in praise. They'd have trophies of war and the prisoners they captured being exhibited. The procession would end at the arena. There the captives would fight wild animals until their death.

Compared to all of that, this was nothing. Or so the Romans thought.

Meanwhile, the Jewish leadership was out to kill Jesus. They hated this man who claimed to be God and claimed to be the King of Israel. These religious leaders thought that He was a blasphemer and were waiting for the perfect moment to get rid of Him.

But it appeared that the people loved Him. Jesus had arrived in the city during a time when His entrance would make the greatest impact on the most people. Passover time in Jerusalem meant that the streets were crowded with people from all over.

During that time a quarter of a million lambs were being slain. Because the Law required that there be a minimum of 10 people to a lamb, that meant that there were 2 1/2 million people present. It was required that every adult male within 20 miles had to be there. Jerusalem was indeed very crowded! And their eyes became focused on the King riding a donkey's colt.

The pilgrims welcomed Jesus by spreading their garments in front of Him and by waving palm branches to symbolize peace and victory. It is this practice from which we get our term "Palm Sunday" for the Church's celebration of this historical event in the life of our Lord.

In the book of Matthew we get another detail about how the people welcomed their King into Jerusalem. The people shouted:

"Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9).

Here is what the website 'GotQuestions.org' has to say about the word 'hosanna':

The word comes from a Hebrew word meaning “save now” or “save us, we pray.” The first word of Psalm 118:25 is howosiah-na, translated “Save us!” and the crowd’s use of this word at the triumphal entry was significant—especially as they waved palm branches (Psalm 118 was associated with the Feast of Tabernacles). By saying “hosanna” as Jesus passed through the gates of Jerusalem and referring to David and David’s kingdom, the Jews were acknowledging Jesus as their Messiah."

The city was in an uproar during this time. No doubt, there were some Galileans there who had earlier seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead and were spreading news of that miracle as well. The people who lived in the city asked:

"Who is this?" (Matthew 21:10).

The crowds answered back:

"This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee!" (Matthew 21:11).

We find out in Luke 19:39,40 that Jesus has an altercation with the Pharisees. The Pharisees, who were jealous of Jesus and afraid of the Romans, said: "'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.' He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'"

Wouldn't that have been interesting to hear the stones cry out in recognition of the King of the Jews and of the whole universe!

We see, a few verses later, that while the crowd applauds Jesus as He gets closer to Jerusalem, He weeps. He sees that they don't really understand what they have in Him and He sees what lay ahead for His people. Jesus sees war, suffering and destruction. This all would finally lead to the people's scattering over the face of the earth. All because they didn't see Jesus for who He and what He was.

They were looking for a mere earthly king to destroy their enemies and restore their power as a nation. However, He wanted to give them so much more. What He was going to give them was eternal spiritual life and a chance to be Sons and daughters of the living God.

The first major act of Jesus. as he demonstrated His Kingly authority, is found in Matthew 21:12,13. These verses tell us:

Then Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves. And He declared to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer.’ But you are making it ‘a den of robbers."

Jesus then proceeds to heal the blind and the lame who came to Him. And when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw all of this and heard some children shouting: "Hosanna to the Son of David." They got angry and said:

"Do you hear what these children are saying?"

Jesus replies with an Old Testament quote from Psalm 8:2. He asked them:

"Have you never read: 'From the lips of children and infants, you Lord have called forth praise?"

The bottom line from all of this is that Jesus was not a helpless victim in all that happened. He was using all of these incidents that took place during His entry into Jerusalem and the altercations that happened the day of His entry to fulfill His mission to die for the sins of the world. He was forcing the hand of the Jewish leaders to go forward with their evil plot to kill Him. As the people were preparing their lambs for the upcoming Passover celebration, the Lord was preparing to become the Paschal lamb.

And just a few days later, the same people who were praising Him as a King, suddenly realized that Jesus wasn't going to be the type of King that they were looking for. So, in place of:

'Hosanna in the highest!'

Jesus later hears the words:

"Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar!"

Never underestimate the fickleness of a crowd!

Conclusion

However, the real question is not what all those people of the past thought of Jesus but what do you think of Him? Danny Goddard, Senior pastor of New Castle First Church of the Nazarene, has this to say about the Lord:

"Jesus was on His Way to Calvary to pay the price for our salvation! His Triumphal Entry was on Sunday. On Monday He cleansed the temple. Tuesday saw controversies with the Jewish leaders. Apparently, Wednesday was a day of rest. On Thursday there was preparation for the Passover. Friday held the so-called Trial and Crucifixion of Christ. On Saturday Jesus rests in the tomb. But on Sunday Christ was raised from the dead! With whatever you’re facing this Palm Sunday, remember, Easter’s coming!"

To that I can add a hearty amen! For those who know Jesus Christ as Savior, and King there is no true fear in life, in death or what lies beyond the grave. Our Sovereign Lord has triumphed over the tomb and over Hell itself. However, you have to believe in Him and the fact that His death, burial and resurrection was on your behalf. Further, you must accept His sacrifice for your sins. It truly isn't what you know that matters most in this life. It is who you know.

As the song goes:

"Do you know my Jesus? Do you know my friend? Have you heard He loves you, and that He will abide till the end?"

Jesus came the first time as a lowly baby, and later as a humble King riding on a donkey's colt. The next time He comes it will be as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Don't make the mistake of the Jewish leaders who had too much pride in their own positions and power to notice that they were fighting with the Sovereign of the universe. They had so much pride that they rejected the Lord as their Messiah. And don't commit the sin of the crowds who were looking for someone to give them merely earthly deliverance from oppression, healing, as well as power and status in this world. They were searching for an earthly king who would give them merely temporal blessings that will vanish away some day.

We need to see Jesus as the God and Savior that He is. And with that insight, we must allow Him to be what He actually already is, the Lord of our lives.

Jesus revealed Himself as King and Savior by the Triumphal entry. Let us never forget the lesson that He taught us on that day!

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

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