April 2, 2023
The Promised King!
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying 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. 3If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them and Jesus sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The 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!”
10When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Pick any head of state: a president, a prime minister, a king. One would hope that as the head of state they care about the people over whom they have authority. But all too often, even though they may indeed care about the people, they live and operate above the people. The British royals live in a palace, not a three-bedroom ranch. The President does not fly coach. He has a very comfortable seat with lots of leg room on Air Force One. There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with this. Their offices are worthy of high respect. The point is that these rulers live and operate above us. For example, if someone is breaking into your home in the middle of the night and you call 911— who is going to show up at your door? The President? The Governor? The Mayor? Probably not! They probably don’t even know your name— and that certainly doesn’t surprise us!
As we enter into that special time of the year known as Holy Week, God the Holy Spirit once again uses a very familiar portion of Scripture to focus our attention on one of our Greatest Needs. Today as we gather together to celebrate Palm Sunday let’s see that one of our greatest needs is: The Promised King!
Whenever an earthly leader makes an entrance into a city it is usually pretty impressive and extremely elaborate. The more “important” the leader is the more elaborate their entrance will be! A similar situation unfolded as Jesus made His grand victorious entrance into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The ancient historian Josephus (who was born about 37 A.D. and died about 100 A.D.) tells us that the population of Jerusalem swelled to some two million people during the Passover celebration. That helps us to visualize what Matthew describes as “a very large crowd.” It also helps us to appreciate Matthew’s statement, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” Since Jesus had conducted most of His three-year public ministry in Galilee and only made periodic visits to Jerusalem, it seems like the people living in Jerusalem may not have been as familiar with Jesus as many of the pilgrims from Galilee were.
“Who is this?” Since that is a question that many people are asking right down to this very day, let’s look at how the Holy Spirit led Matthew to answer that question for us. Look at the opening verses of our text. Matthew writes, “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’”
“Who is this?” This obviously is not just any ordinary king! Think about it. Jesus gave two of His disciples what could have seemed like some very strange-sounding orders. They were to go into Bethphage where they would immediately find a donkey with her colt. They were to immediately untie them and bring them to Jesus. And if anyone questioned them they were to very simply say, “The Lord needs them,” and they would immediately let them take the donkeys.
“Who is this?” This is the King who clearly demonstrated His divine omniscience. He knew exactly where the animals would be. He knew exactly how the animal’s owner would respond— once he knew why the disciples needed to take those donkeys! Think about the comfort and the confidence this brings to us, my friends. Not only does Jesus know every last detail of what is going on in our life, but Jesus knows why these things are happening as well as how He is going to deal with them! This gives us the assurance of knowing that Jesus is the King we want— and need!
Turning back to our text we see very clearly that Jesus is the King that the Lord God promised to send into this world. Matthew writes, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’”
Matthew’s quotation combines part of a prophecy Isaiah spoke some 700 years before Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes!’” (Isaiah 62:11), with the words Zechariah proclaimed some 500 years before Palm Sunday, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Not only do these Old Testament prophecies affirm the divine verbal inspiration of God’s holy revealed Word, but they also testify as to why we need the King whom God promised to send into this world!
We needed a King who could serve as our “Savior”! We needed a King who was “righteous and having salvation”! What more important gift could any king of any time ever give to us! Our King brings to us a gift that is infinitely more important than even world peace. Our King brings to us a gift that is more useful than a 100% cure for all cancers! What our King freely gives to us is the only gift that lasts throughout eternity— “salvation” for our souls!
“Who is this?” This is the King who was promised to us. This is the King who has the power to fulfill every last Messianic prophecy recorded in the Old Testament. This is the King who is humble and meek, gentle and caring. This is the King who watches over us— and because He is watching over us we have no reason to be afraid of anything. We can trust Him with all the things that happen to us in our lives— both the little things as well as the big things. We can trust that He is never looking out for His own personal gain. We can trust Him when He says to us, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). (Pointing to the cross) Yes, this is the “righteous” King we can trust with our eternity.
“Who is this?” The large crowds who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover— some of whom had seen the miracles Jesus had performed (Luke 19:37), some of whom had seen or at least heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 12:9, 10)— the large crowds openly recognized Jesus as the Promised King! Matthew continues, “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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!’”
With both their actions and their words this “very large crowd” gave the Lord’s Promised King the honor and the glory He so rightfully deserves! Placing one’s cloak and placing branches on the road for a king to ride on was a sign of royal homage that dates back to at least the time of King Jehu in the days of the prophet Elisha. (See 2 Kings 9) And the words of praise that rang out from this “very large crowd”? These words clearly reveal that this “very large crowd” was acknowledging Jesus as the Promised Messiah-King! Just look at what they proclaimed!
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” These words were taken directly from Psalm 118— a psalm that was directed to the Lord, the covenant Savior-God of Israel. It’s worth noting that while the word “hosanna” was used as a form of joyful acclamation, it is also the Hebrew cry for “Help!” Very literally this word means, “Save us!” It’s also worth noting that this “large crowd” addressed this cry for help to Jesus, the “Son of David.” Ever since the Lord God of Israel promised King David that He would “establish a house” for David, a kingdom that would never end, the term “Son of David” was synonymous with the Messiah— great King David’s greater Son! By using that term for Jesus the “large crowd” was clearly confessing their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, as the Promised King.
The crowd’s second hymn of praise to Jesus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” also contains a messianic title. “The coming One” was a well-known designation for the Promised Messiah. It is the same term that John the Baptist used when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come (or very literally, “Are you the coming one) or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 10:2)
“Hosanna! Save us!” That is the prayer that we still offer up to our God in our lives today, isn’t it. When we find ourselves overwhelmed by the difficulties and the hardships of life, when the doctor sits down to give us the results of the medical tests we have been taking, when we are struggling with the challenges of rehab after a stroke or a heart attack or a surgery, we lift up our eyes to the cross and cry out to the Lord: “Hosanna! Save us!” It’s the cry we make on behalf of the elderly person whose body is beginning to wear out or the young couple who is struggling to make ends meet. “Hosanna! Save us!” That is the prayer we bring to Jesus because we know that He is the Promised King! He is the powerful King who is humble and gentle, compassionate and caring.
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” While we don’t know how many of the people in this “large crowd” later joined in shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” we know that on this day they were proclaiming the truth about Jesus with both their words and their actions. Can we say the same as we gather together to celebrate Palm Sunday? Look back over the course of the last month, the last week, just the last day. Have our words and our actions openly given to Jesus the honor and the praise that He deserves to receive? That is a very good question for each of us to ponder in our own heart.
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Save us, you who come in the name of the Lord!” That is a fitting cry for all of us to make, my friends. Why? Because we know! We know the complete correct answer to the question, “Who is this?” We know that Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem as the Promised King paved the way for Jesus to be nailed to the cross on Calvary’s hill with a sign above His head, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Matthew 27:37) We know that as the Promised King, the cross was always Jesus’ goal. We know that the Son of God came into this world as the Son of David in order to save us from our sins. (See Matthew 1:21) We know that through faith in what our Promised King has done for us we will one day join all the saints and all the angels in heaven and sing a new song of praise to our King: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)
To God be the glory!