The Arrival of King Jesus
For some time now Jesus had been making his way resolutely towards Jerusalem. He loved the city and he loved its inhabitants. How ready he was to help them but how unprepared they were to receive the help he offered!
Jesus knew that his mission would reach its climax in Jerusalem. He knew that some would acclaim him when he arrived. He knew that some would welcome him as "the one who comes in the name of the Lord". But he knew too that most would reject him and his salvation. He also knew that when he got to Jerusalem on this his final visit there he would be put to a horrible and ignominious death.
Jesus didn’t shrink back at the prospect of such rejection and suffering but instead took deliberate steps to ensure that everyone in the city would know that King Jesus had come.
Jesus had, in fact, just finished telling a parable about a nobleman being made king. It was a story which, as we saw last week, was really all about Jesus himself. And now the next thing we find is that Jesus was making plans for his own very public approach and royal entry into the city of Jerusalem as a king, the king.
Now we must be careful not to import our 21 st century notions of kingship back into our reading of this part of God’s word. Our conception of kingship is coloured by the fact that Britain has, since 1688, been a constitutional monarchy where our kings and queens have had their power severely curtailed by various important laws of parliament - we generally don’t readily think of our Queen as having much political clout.
When the Bible refers to Jesus as a king we must not think of him as some mere figurehead devoid of power and authority. He is a king who really does exercise his full sovereign rights and rule. In the section we’re considering this morning where kingship provides the backdrop to the scene we should not be surprised to find that it is Jesus who takes the lead and directs all that takes place – what else would you expect a king to do?
The Westminster Catechism has this to say concerning how Jesus is a King for his people:
"As a king, Christ brings us under His power, rules and defends us, and restrains and conquers all His and all our enemies."
And yet as we consider the events that unfolded we’ll see that once again the reaction to Jesus was divided. Basically there were two kinds of response: some were for and others against him. Jesus continues to divide men and women, boys and girls today – it is impossible to be neutral concerning him – you too must either be for or against him. Which will it be for you? Which camp are you in?
Jesus Leads the way
v.28 Throughout this little section Jesus is presented to us as the one who is in charge, the one who is driving things forward. He didn’t hide behind his disciples but led the way by himself "going on ahead".
The only other time in the NT the phrase is used it describes the way in which the good shepherd goes on ahead of his sheep. The good shepherd is not like the thief or the robber who don’t have the best interests of the sheep at heart and who are likely to run away at the first sign of danger. No, the good shepherd leads his flock to safety, to good pasture, he defends them against their enemies even going so far as to put his life on the line for them.
Jerusalem was where he was going to secure exactly what his followers needed from him – eternal life. They would be safe in following him though for him it would mean the horror of rejection, suffering and death itself.
Jesus sends two on a mission
v.29 Arriving at Mount Olivet near to a couple of small villages Bethphage and Bethany which were only a forty minute or so walk from Jerusalem, Jesus chose a couple of his followers and sent them on a particular mission. Up until now Jesus had regularly travelled by foot but this was now no ordinary time.
Jesus had already visited Jerusalem a number of times (see John’s gospel) and on one occasion at least he slipped in quietly. But not this time as we find him planning to ride into the city on a young donkey.
Why did he do so now?
Well, he knew that the moment was fast approaching when he would be called upon to give his life as a sacrifice for sin. He wouldn’t have further occasions to visit the city but there were still things that remained to be fulfilled. In the OT the prophet Zechariah had spoken centuries earlier of how the inhabitants of the city would be able to watch the arrival of their king. This king wouldn’t come riding on a horse in an act of war but he would come humbly and proclaiming peace as he rode to the city on a donkey.
Zech.9:9 "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."
Therefore Jesus sent his two followers to secure the donkey that he would need in order that he might ride to the city as the fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy.
The two men are told exactly what they are to do and how they are to proceed. They are even told what to do in the event of them encountering some opposition or resistance to what they are doing.
Then we are told quite simply that they followed their instructions to the letter:
v.32 "So those who were sent went..."
We shouldn’t race pass this. What an important principle is illustrated for us here! How much easier our Christian lives would be if we too were always to follow the example of these two anonymous disciples! They were told what to do and they went off and did it – no delay, no prevarication, no faithless questioning just a speedy act of obedience.
Many of you will know by heart that old song that we often sing:
"Trust and obey
for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus
than to trust and obey"
I fear many of us find it easier to sing the words than to put them into practice.
Jesus had known what he was speaking about
The men had done what they had been told to do. The job they had been was a simple one – they were to go into the village opposite, untie the donkey and bring it back to Jesus. They had even been told how to explain what they were doing should anyone challenge them.
And what did they find as they followed their Lord’s instructions?
They found that Jesus really had known what he had been talking about. Their lord was a special man, one who would prove to be a wonderful king. He had knowledge and wisdom and knew just what had to be done.
We are so different to him – all too often we don’t know where to go, what to do and what to say. Sadly, we all too often try to do what our godless contemporaries do – we just try to muddle through and, like them, what a mess we make of it! And yet because so many around us are doing exactly the same thing we don’t realise that the road we’re on is that broad road that leads to destruction. How we need a king who will bring us under his power and rule over us!
King Jesus is able to do just that for us all – will you let him?
As these two disciples followed his instructions they also found that he protected them – no accusations were brought about "stealing" a donkey for example!
When the disciples had accomplished their task they returned to Jesus bringing the donkey with them. It was time for Jesus to mount and to begin his ride towards Jerusalem.
His followers realised that something special was happening and something unique taking place and they did what they could to enhance the event. Firstly, they put garments on the donkey so that Jesus did not have to ride bareback along the streets. It was a festive occasion and King Jesus should be mounted properly!
As they progressed along the route yet more garments were made available and spread on the ground for Jesus to pass over – it was the red-carpet treatment of their day.
Everything was being done to ensure that Jesus was the centre of attention. Everything was being done to make sure people knew that someone important was on the way. It was all being done so no-one would fail to understand that King Jesus was coming to town.
Jesus drew near Jerusalem & was Recognised
As they drew near the city the crowds were swelling and those in the crowd who were his disciples – a great multitude of them – began to celebrate loudly. They were full of joy and expectation and in their exuberance they were offering praise to God.
In particular they focused upon the great things that God had been doing in their midst through Jesus’ ministry. They had seen many of Jesus’ miracles and doubtless heard of many more.
And as they praised God they declared openly who they believed Jesus to be and they did so in the words of Ps.118 which is a wonderful messianic psalm all about the enduring and steadfast love of God and about his salvation. This psalm also speaks about another significant and relevant matter: it highlighted the rejection of the stone that was designed to become the most important stone of all!
Ps.118:26 "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!"
It seems as though the crowd adapted this psalm in the light of Zechariah’s prophecy for Luke tells us they actually sang:
v.38 "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
So some that day were not only thinking to themselves that Jesus might be the coming King who had been promised for so long they were actually celebrating and proclaiming out loud that he was this King. By their proclamation they were effectively inviting others to come to the same realisation and to recognise in Jesus the King that they needed too.
It soon becomes clear however that not everyone present that day was already a committed follower of Jesus. And not everyone was pleased with what his disciples were calling out. While many were rejoicing others were seething!
There were some Pharisees in the crowd – they are the enemies of the nobleman-made-king referred to in the preceding parable – and they didn’t like what they were hearing now. They had opposed him throughout the three years of his ministry, at times trying to kill him and at other times trying to catch him out in what he said. How they longed to be able to destroy his standing in the eyes of the common people!
They were horrified to hear Jesus’ disciples speaking out as they now were: ‘How could Jesus allow his disciples to behave like this?’ they asked themselves, and so one of them addressed Jesus directly urging Jesus to rebuke his followers.
It is clear that these Pharisees did not agree with the declaration of Jesus’ kingship and they substitute the term ‘Teacher’ as they speak to him.
I wonder if any of you listening to me this morning are happy with the idea of Jesus as a teacher but you too, like those Pharisees, baulk at recognising Jesus as the King. If you are then pay very careful attention to what comes next, you certainly don’t want to stay in the company of those who are dismissed as the enemies of King Jesus.
Jesus responded to the Pharisee who complained but he didn’t do what he wanted. He didn’t tell his disciples to be quiet but rather defended them and so reinforced the truthfulness of what his disciples were saying. Indeed his words suggest very strongly that it was important that his followers did speak out so plainly at this time – it wasn’t enough for them to believe the truth, religion was not something to be simply treated something private and personal – it involved truth that had to be shared.
We can only surmise how the Pharisees must have reacted to being rebuffed in this way. But in Luke’s gospel this is the very last time that the Pharisees will find a mention. It is as though Luke is showing that their time had come and gone and that they are from now on written off. They had been Jesus’ enemies for years and during that time Jesus had continued to teach them the truth and to call them to repentance and true faith. But it is as though Luke in excluding them from the rest of his narrative wants to send us a warning: persistent refusal to repent and persistent hostility towards the King of Kings will have its consequences.
We must be sure to learn from this. How important it is for us to repent of our sin and call upon the name of the Lord now! Stubborn opposition hardens the heart until the day of our opportunity may pass us by and be gone forever.
What a King he is!
Jesus is exactly the King we all need and what a wonderful King he is.
Kings in our world are not necessarily known for their humility and for having a servant spirit but Jesus is!
He left his throne in heaven to stoop and wash his disciples’ smelly feet. He stooped yet further in order to do them and us eternal good: he died in our place paying the debt we could never ever meet ourselves.
Having saved us from eternal loss and destruction he has made us not servants but friends – he protects us now against every enemy and pledges himself never ever to give up on us. He will persevere with; he will guide us; he will strengthen us. Having dealt with our sin he gives us a new status by means of our faith union with him and he gives us a new and wholesome purpose in life.
As King he is no hard task-master but a gentle and tender though firm captain of our souls.
You need him and you won’t be disappointed if you become one of his disciples. He will cleanse you and give you a new start in life and he’ll give you a sure hope of eternal life.
One day everyone will recognise the truth concerning King Jesus and all will bow the knee before him – if he becomes your King now then your knee will bow willingly then; if you refuse him now then know that one day you will bow to him, but then it will be reluctantly and without any of the joy of salvation that is offered to you today. There will be no benefit to you then only loss as you bow before your judge and await the verdict of his disapproval and condemnation. But it need not be like that – today is the day of salvation. Call on the name of King Jesus and you shall be saved.
And to God be the glory.