St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Behold Jesus, Our King

Sermon on Matthew 21:1-11

Text: As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

God called the prophet Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel. He was told to go to the town of Bethlehem to the house of Jesse. The eldest son of Jesse, Eliab, was presented to Samuel. When Samuel saw him, he thought that surely this was the next king. He looked like a king. Instead, God told him that Eliab was not the one. Samuel then went through the next six sons, but none of them was the one God had in mind. When Jesse was questioned as to whether or not these were all of his sons, he said that there was one more, but he was out tending the flocks. Samuel had him called in and God told Samuel that this was the next king. That young man’s name was David. Sometimes, appearances can be deceiving. This was the case on Palm Sunday. As Jesus enters into Jerusalem, the crowd asked whom he was. As we study this account, we BEHOLD JESUS, OUR KING. We note that 1. He Does Not Look Like Other Kings, 2. He Does Not Act Like Other Kings, and 3. He Does Not Rule Like Other Kings.

The roads to Jerusalem would have been crowded at this time of year. Pilgrims from all over the world were on their way into the city to celebrate Passover. Jesus and his disciples were nearly to Jerusalem, when Jesus sent two of his disciples into Bethphage on a mission. They were told that once they entered the village, they would find a donkey with her colt tied up beside her. They were to untie them and bring them back to Jesus. When the owners of the animals questioned the disciples as to what they were doing, the disciples answered as Jesus had told them and the owners let the disciples take the animals back to Jesus. The disciples put their robes upon the animal and Jesus sat upon them. Now, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, we read that some of the people put their robes on the road in front of Jesus, while others cut palm branches and put them in the road. This is similar to the red carpet treatment that we see when dignitaries come to a country.

The people that went ahead of Jesus and those that followed sang their praises to God. They were singing parts of Psalm 118, which was a customary psalm that pilgrims sang as they went to Jerusalem. They sang, “Hosanna,” which literally means, “Save us, we pray.” It came to be an expression of praise to God. They referred to Jesus as “the Son of David.” He was a descendant of King David. It also was a designation for the promised Messiah. They said that he had come “in the name of the Lord.” He was here on the Lord’s business. They called upon the angels to join in the songs of praise, “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” What a sight this must have been as Jesus entered Jerusalem. There were crowds singing praises to God. There were people who were waving palm branches, which were a symbol of victory. What a way to welcome a king!

However, when you look at Jesus, you would have to admit that he does not look much like other kings. You might think that he would come into Jerusalem on a mighty stallion or in a war chariot. Instead, he is seated on a humble beast of burden. He does not have a regal robe or crown. He is not carrying a scepter. Rather, he is wearing the clothing of the common person of his day. He is not surrounded by an honor guard, with shining armor. His disciples are his attendants. Some of them were fishermen. One was a former tax collector. Even though there is an obvious and undeniable majesty about him, this certainly does not look like a royal procession. Jesus does not look like other kings.

Many people today would have a hard time identifying Jesus as a king, as well. Assuming that they believe that Jesus existed in the first place, they would look at his life and have a difficult time seeing Jesus as a king. From his humble beginnings in Bethlehem, to his youth in Nazareth, to his life in ancient Palestine, he does not look like a king. He never had a palace. He never actually reigned over any portion of land. They will point to his teachings and say that he had some good ideas about how to make the world a better place. He spoke of loving one another. They know that he said that we are not to judge others, lest we ourselves be judged. He had many good things to say. He had good advice on how to live a better, happier life, but a king? He certainly doesn’t look like a king.

More than that, Jesus does not act much like a king. He is meek and lowly. He does not wield great political power. The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a king. They wanted someone who would start a revolution so that they could get rid of those hated Romans, who were occupying their land. They wanted someone who would restore the nation of Israel to the prominence she enjoyed under King David and King Solomon. When Jesus did not do this, when he said that they were to obey those who governed them, that they were to pay their taxes, they quickly turned away from him. When Jesus pointed out to the religious leaders that what they were teaching was leading people away from God and straight to hell, they not only turned away from him, but they also hated him and sought to put him to death.

Moreover, look at the way that Jesus’ established his kingdom. He did not establish his kingdom by shedding the blood of his enemies and taking their territory, as an earthly king would do. Rather, he shed his own blood and rescued us from the clutches of that ancient enemy, the devil. We were held in the clutches of the devil. We were born outside of the kingdom of God. We have committed acts of rebellion against him through our words, thoughts and actions. We have wanted to do things our way rather than God’s way. God demands that he be number one in our lives. We have allowed other things – people, possessions, leisure time, the sinful pleasures of the world – to take that spot. By all rights, we should have been outside of the kingdom of God for all eternity, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

However, Jesus came to establish his kingdom by shedding his own blood. The throne he ascended was a wooden cross. The crown he wore was made of thorns. Instead of the adoration of the crowds, there was the mocking and jeering of his enemies. Yet, through the blood that was shed, his kingdom has been established. By his resurrection, his victory was declared for time and for eternity. It is not through the annexation of territory that Jesus’ kingdom grows. Rather, every time a person is brought to faith, that kingdom grows. As Jesus said in Luke 17:20,21, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Elsewhere, when Pontius Pilate asked Jesus about his kingdom, Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) No, Jesus does not act much like other kings, but he most definitely is a king.

We also note that he does not rule like other kings. Even the greatest of all of the rulers of the world are sinners. They will, at times, do things for selfish or spiteful reasons. How different is our King. He is perfect. Earthly rulers are ultimately limited in their power. In spite of their best efforts, there are certain things that are beyond their control. Contrast that with Jesus. We read in Ephesians 1:22,23, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” He always does what is best for us. Everything in the world must serve his purposes. Everything must work out for our benefit. While earthly rulers promise that they will take care of their subjects, they can only go so far. Jesus has promised to care for all of our needs. He not only makes the promise, but, as the almighty Son of God, he can actually carry it out.

There is one more point that I would like to bring to your attention that differentiates Jesus’ reign from that of all other rulers. That difference is the length of his reign. The longest earthly reign that I was able to find was about 83 years. That is a long time for someone to be the ruler. However, compare that to the reign of Jesus. Jesus is the eternal Son of God. He has always been reigning, before the world was created. He will continue to reign for all eternity. As the inhabitants of heaven sing in Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Jesus rules like no other king.

In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. In it, he saw the next four empires that would rise to prominence: the Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, and the Roman. Then, he saw a rock, which struck the statue, which symbolized the four empires. That rock smashed the statue and became a mighty mountain. God gave Daniel the interpretation of this part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, saying, “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44) Kingdoms rise and fall, but the kingdom of Jesus lasts forever. We are here at the beginning of Holy Week. As we go through this week, Jesus will not appear as a king to our eyes. We will see him spat upon, beaten, whipped, and bloody. We will listen as he is falsely accused, mocked, and jeered. We will watch as he is nailed to a cross. May it be, as we observe all of these things, that we keep the songs of triumph and praise in our ears that were sung on Palm Sunday. We know that Jesus is a King, that he is our King. We will celebrate his victory, our victory, next Sunday. My dear friends, behold Jesus, the King! We lift up our Hosannas to him. Amen.