The Triumphal Entry (Matthew Sermon 98 of 151)
May 10, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Glory of God, Bible Prophecy, Exaltation of Christ, Prophecy, Worship
Well, I was commenting to somebody before worship today, that we may be one of the few Southern Baptist churches that's preaching a Palm Sunday theme on Mother's Day. We're not behind schedule, we're just going on to the next text in Matthew. Those of you that have been with us for a while are not surprised by this at all, but others may be. So we're not off, it's not Easter next week, this is just the triumphal entry I'm preaching on.
One of the most encouraging things for me in the Christian life is to meditate on this one truth, and that is that we were created for a purpose. Our lives here on Earth are absolutely enriched and surrounded by that purpose. And that's good to know, I think, because we live in a day and an age that's diffused with evolutionary principles, within scientific principles, and materialism and all that that teaches us that basically, life is meaningless.
That there is no purpose to any of this. That some time in the primordial age of the earth, billions of years ago or something like that, some volcanic vent at the bottom of the ocean, enabled the temperature to be just right. And suddenly, the first living cell appeared, and we don't know what happened after that, but lots of increasingly complex organisms, evolved eventually and then along came the fish, and then the primates. And then, man evolved from that, and basically, our life is meaningless. And if that's true, then I think that the New Testament captures the proper response, if that's true, if life is meaningless, and there's no real purpose and that when we die our molecules are just kind of reabsorbed in the earth and kind of get recycled in some way, and that there really isn't anything such as spirit or soul. Then let us eat, and drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. That's the best way to live.
But thanks be to God, it's not true, amen. Thanks be to God, we actually have a purpose that God created us for a very real and rich and full purpose. And that purpose, I think, can be summed up in one word and that word is worship. We were created to take in the truth of God, to know who he is, to scan the breadth and the depth and the height of all that he has achieved in history, to take it in to reason it over and to have our hearts moved by it, powerfully. And to give it back in worship. To just be kindled in our hearts, in our affections, and give God praise and glory and honor for who He is and what He has done. God created the universe for this purpose to display His glory. We can't say it enough. And so, we were created to receive that display and to take it in and to let it change us, so that we would be able to give it back in praise and worship. Therefore Heaven is a world filled with praise to God. It's just filled with it, it resounds with praise to the living God, they're just constantly giving up praise to God. But on earth, not so much. Not as it should be. And why is this?
Well, our hearts, so designed for praise and glory and honor and worship made a dreadful exchange some time ago, and it's described in Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator -- who is forever praised. Amen.” That is the central dreadful exchange of the human race. And that is why Jesus came to Earth, that we might be reclaimed from bondage to worship of material things, of created things, and give our true heart devotion where it really belongs to the triune God. And that we would spend eternity doing that, that we would delight in it, that it would make us happy to do so.
Now, in today's passage Jesus enters Jerusalem to begin the climactic last week of his life. And as he enters the city, there's a huge throng of Jewish pilgrims that are going up for the Passover celebration. They're enthusiastically greeting him, they are lavishing some kind of praise on him, or worship in some sense. They welcome him and they shout his praises, but my friends, for the most part, it was merely idolatry, because they really didn't know who he was, and they really didn't know why he came, and the kingdom they thought he was bringing was not what he was really bringing. They were worshipping and serving rather an image of what kind of life they would have when Jesus brought in the kind of kingdom they thought he should bring in.
And so this is probably one of the most ironic passages in the entire Bible. Because outwardly there's something very right about this huge throng of people worshipping and praising Jesus. It is very right and proper to do so. He is infinitely worthy of praise. He's entering the city of David, and he's being praised by his people. So, outwardly something very, very right, but inwardly there was something very, very wrong and therefore it's ironic. And so as we come to this passage, we come to be challenged in our own hearts, I think ultimately concerning our own worship for Jesus. And to have some idols stripped away from our hearts and to focus on who Jesus really was, and is. And what he has really come to do and give him, truly, praise and glory and honor for that. To me that's worth spending our time on, don't you think? And so let's look at the details of the triumphal entry.
The Details of the Triumphal Entry
The Triumphal Entry Described
The triumphal entry is described in numerous places in the New Testament. The circumstances, as I've already mentioned is the passover, this is one of the three great Jewish festivals, and all Jewish men were commanded to leave their homes and come from all over Israel, up to the single place that God had chosen out of all their tribes. It would be Jerusalem, they would come up to Jerusalem. So there were huge crowds, multitudes flowing into the city. During a census taken about 10 years after the life of Jesus, the number of sacrificial lambs slaughtered at the Passover time, in Jerusalem was 260,000. A little over a quarter of a million lambs sacrificed. Now, according to Jewish custom, one lamb could be offered for up to ten people. So there might be as many as two million Jewish pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for the time of the Passover. Now you can imagine what that would have been like for the Roman authorities who are there to dominate the Jews, rule over them, keep the peace.
And what could they do? They wanted to uphold the religion so the people would be happy and peaceful, and not cause the Romans any trouble. But three times a year, they had two million Jews to deal with all at once, and so it was a time of heightened alert and intensity and the Romans would be very, very careful concerning any kind of patriotism or any kind of movement or riot that would spark up among the people. And frankly, the Jewish leaders were maybe even more zealous that that kind of thing wouldn't take place. Now, in our account, Jesus is passing on the Mount of Olives, a little place called Bethpage. We don't know anything about it other than that it's near Bethany. And so Jesus, as you put the gospel accounts together, has just finished a time in Bethany, of refuge and refreshment. Bethany was the home of Martha and Mary, and Lazarus. And John's Gospel tells us that Jesus visited that home in Bethany, six days before the Passover.
So this was probably then, a Sabbath day, a Saturday, that they visited, now, during that visit, as you remember Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, spikenard, it was called, and the aroma filled the house with just a pungent sense and it was very expensive. And you remember that Judas and the other disciples, but primarily, Judas was very upset about the expenditure of this money. And it was at this moment that Judas decides that he's got to part company with Jesus. If they're gonna be lavishing a year's worth of wages on Jesus' feet and Jesus says it was proper to do this, she's preparing me for my burial, it's time Judas thinks to go on his way, because Judas didn't care about the poor, John's Gospel tells us. But he was a thief. As keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was in it. And so it's right at this time that he goes and makes arrangements with the Jewish authorities to betray Jesus into their hands and have him arrested.
“But not during the feast,” they said, “Or there may be a riot among the people.” Now, just a short time before that, of course, Jesus had done his most spectacular miracle of all, and that was the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for four days, and Jesus spoke those words, “Lazarus come forth,” and Lazarus came out of that tomb. And it was electrifying because it was so near to Jerusalem. A mighty miracle. And so this is the back drop. And so in Verse 1-3, we see Jesus initiating everything. “Jesus sent,” verse 1, “two disciples, saying to them, ;Go to the village ahead of you and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with a colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell them that the Lord needs them and he will send them right away.’” Now, with all of these events swirling around Jesus, how serenely Jesus orchestrates the events of the final week of his life on Earth.
How peaceful he is. And you see this in all the accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It doesn't matter what's going on. His betrayal, His arrest, the events surrounding the Last Supper, all of these things, Jesus is at peace and knows exactly what He's doing and is initiating like a king everything that must happen. And this view of the calm, serene Jesus who's in charge of everything, who initiates everything, is so important to keep in our minds. John 10, “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and to take it back up again.”
And why is it so important, because enemies of our faith, say that Jesus was a good man, a religious leader who got caught up in events too big for him, beyond his understanding, politics and all these kinds of things. He wasn't that kind of a leader and so he was out of his depth, he was in over his head, and je just gets kind of sucked into this and somewhat like goes down the drain, beyond his power, he gets killed. And what can you do? Is that the Jesus of the gospels? 'cause I tell you it is not. Jesus, is sovereign, He's in control, He's in charge. And he is taking the initiative here.
Notice also Jesus' astonishing foreknowledge, the detailed knowledge of what they're gonna find ahead of them in this little area. There's this village and there's gonna be a donkey, and the colt tied there, and if anyone should say anything to you, have this conversation. It's a bit eerie actually. And in Luke's gospel, when he goes, he sends some disciples ahead to prepare the upper room, it gets even more detailed. There's a man entering the city carrying a jug of water, when you see that man go up and tell him, ask him about the Upper Room.
Jesus has an exhaustive detailed foreknowledge of the future, he knows exactly what's going to happen. We see also the issue of fulfilled prophecy. I think there were two overwhelming concerns in Jesus' life as he goes through. Concern number one was that at every moment, he should obey the commands of His father. That his food was to do the will of him who sent him and finish His work. He's always wanted to obey God, the laws of Moses, all of God's commands, that he would obey completely. Secondly, he's always concerned to fulfill prophecy, that the Scripture would be fulfilled, that say it must happen in this way.
And so this prophecy from Zechariah is one of these great predictions. Look at Verse 4 and five. As Jesus sends the disciples in there to go. It says, “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.’” Now, many of the prophecies that came true in Jesus' life really we would have to say at the human level were beyond his control, like when he's crucified, and there's a little jar of wine vinegar, at the foot of the cross, who put it there, and Jesus couldn't have orchestrated that there was no way he could have done it, so that was something beyond his control. This is a little different. I think Jesus actually could have orchestrated this fulfillment. He could have read in Zechariah and said, “Let's be sure that there's a donkey waiting for me, so I can ride it into the city in fulfillment of that.”
Well, look at the disciples' obedience. In verse 6 and 7 it says, “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.” So the disciples did everything Jesus had said. There were indeed two animals of donkey and a colt, Matthew tells us. Both animals are brought to Jesus, he chose the colt, the younger and stronger animal. No, he didn't ride two animals at once. I don't know how you could do that and how undignified would the attempt be.
Jesus was always dignified, but rather both the animals were there, and he chose one of the two. It says they put their cloaks on them and Jesus sat on them, meaning the cloaks, not on the two animals. So you just have to be clear about that. And it's interesting because some hostile and unbelieving commentators will say that what Matthew is doing here is he failed to understand Hebrew parallelism in Zechariah's prophecy. There only ever was one animal, but in Hebrew repetition in poetry, they just... Matthew just made a mistake. And so then he writes into the history that there were two animals because he made a mistake.
Oh, friends, don't you believe it. Who would you rather go with, a Jewish man, Matthew, who was an eyewitness to the events, who wrote down, filled with the Spirit, this account, or some liberal commentators who come years later, and tells us, “Oh, I know why he said this.” I'm gonna go with Matthew. He was there, friends, and there were two animals and Jesus rides on the colt, the foal of the donkey. Notice also the disciples obey even though they really had no idea what was going on.
By the way, that's a good thing for us too. One of the central messages of this sermon is you're not always going to understand what God's doing to bring in His kingdom. And those unfulfilled expectations where you really don't know what's happening in the midst of that time please continue to obey the clear commands God's given you. So even if you don't know what he's doing, just do what he tells you and later it will be clear, it says in John 12:16, “At first His disciples did not understand all this, only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.”
Well, meanwhile, as this is happening, and Jesus is riding in, the crowd takes over. Look at verses 8-11, “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!’"” Well, this huge crowd as I said, these would be Jewish pilgrims going in just in obedience to the law of Moses.
But also there would have been a large number of Jesus's own disciples who were going in with him and surrounding him, and I think Jesus' disciples really kind of kicked this whole thing off. I think they were just so excited by what they thought was going to happen and by their expectations and thinking about Lazarus and thinking about all the miracles Jesus had done. Luke's gospel tells us that they were celebrating all the mighty signs and wonders that Jesus had done. I think it just served as kind of an igniting combustion of excitement with all of these pilgrims going in. And so they go ahead of Jesus and they're spreading their cloaks on the road, in front of Jesus' animal as he rides it. And it really is a show of... A display of humility.
A display of submission, to take a cloak off your own shoulders and lay it on the dusty ground and have an animal ride across it, in effect, saying, what John the Baptist had said some years earlier concerning Jesus, “I'm not worthy to untie his shoes.” But again, I don't think they understood him, I don't think they understood who he was. It was just a show, it was a display of... They were saying, “He's our king. We're willing to follow his leadership.” And they were... And the palm branches that are cut down in particular symbols of celebration and of salvation and joy.
I remember when I was raised in the Roman Catholic church, Palm Sunday was probably one of my favorite Sundays. We got to hold these palm branches and walk around in procession around the church and parents all took pictures, and this kind of special day, it was a happy day, it was a day of celebration. And so it was for these people as well, they were celebrating. It was a time of happiness because of what they expected that Jesus was going to do.
And look at their words of praise, “‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’” Luke gives us this, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” They're very clear what's going on. Jesus is King, and he's coming to take his throne, at last, we'll have a Jewish king again. Peace in Heaven, they say, and glory in the highest. Now, the cry Hosanna literally means, “Oh, save” or “Save now.” But this urgent cry that they're crying, the whole crowd around Jesus crying, is not for this kind of salvation they really needed.
It was for a different kind of salvation. They yearned, like all patriotic Jews, to have the yoke of Gentile authority finally thrown off their shoulders. From the time of Jeremiah on, when Nebuchadnezzar came in, and conquered Babylon, or conquered Jerusalem, the king of Babylon, from that time forward, Jerusalem was under the heel of Gentile rulers, and they thought, “Today's the day when at last, we can throw off the Roman yoke of oppression.”
They did not realize that there was a far more bitter yoke of oppression on them, the yoke of sin, the bondage to sin, the judgment under the holy sight and gaze of God. The threat of Hell. This is what they needed deliverance from, but they're crying out, “Oh save.” And by saying “Hosanna in the highest,” they're really crying out to Almighty God saying, “Oh God, in conjunction with this messenger of yours, do something great, come down like Psalm 18 with fire in your eyes and smoke coming out of your nostrils and whoop up on those Romans at last.”
That's what they were saying, that's what they were thinking. “Oh, save. Hosanna, in the highest.” And they said, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” quoting another Messianic psalm, Psalm 118, and they're saying, “This is the Messiah. Blessed is the Messiah, the king, who comes in the name of the Lord.” We'll come back to that statement in a moment. Well, the city reacts, Jerusalem reacts. Jerusalem was kind of combustible anyway, all the time, with the zealots, and the Jewish patriotism and all that. But this was especially combustible at this particular time. And so the city reacts in Verse 10-11, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked “Who is this?” And the crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth, in Galilee.” Now, you can imagine just the human side. A quarter-of-a-million, a million people, I have no idea how many would have been even aware, but just huge numbers, but that most of them probably couldn't see Jesus, or even know what it was about.
Now, think about it in Acts 19 with that terrible riot in Ephesus, and it says right in the text most of them didn't even know why they were there. They were just saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” and then, “Why are we here?” “I don't know, something happened.” “Well, what happened?” Well, so it was, I think at this time I don't think they really knew what was going on, and then maybe they were just focused on that person, “Who is that?” They don't know who he is. And look at the answer. The answer is mild at best. “This is Jesus, the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.” Well, all of it's true, it's just inadequate.
It was Jesus. He was a prophet, my friends, he was the greatest prophet that ever lived. He's in some sense, the final prophet, the one to whom all prophets and apostles point. And yes, he was from Nazareth and Galilee. But if that's all the credentials you can give Him, you've really missed the point. He is the eternal God in human flesh, that's who he is. And so they did not understand who he really was.
Opposition to Jesus
Well, around this time there's opposition to Jesus, it's not right in the 11 verses that we read, but in all the accounts there is, and we'll get to it later in Matthew. So I bring it up. The Jewish leaders are deeply alarmed at this display, they're terrified of Roman intervention that would cause them to lose their place and their nation. Afraid of it. Specifically, their own cushy lifestyles, their own pleasure-seeking lifestyles, they're afraid of losing all that. They had indeed been planning on killing Jesus, but this was not in their minds at this particular moment, frankly, this was not their timetable.
And so, they rebuked Jesus for the crowds actions, in Luke 19, it says, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” And you remember what Jesus said, he said, “If these remain quiet, I tell you, even the stones will cry out.” Later in Matthew 21, just look down a few verses lower, “When the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna, to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus. ‘Have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?”’”
The Significance of the Triumphal Entry
And so Jesus defends the praise. Well, that's the account. That's what happens, but what is the significance? Remember how it says in John 12, “His disciples did not understand all these things at the time, only later on reflection, did all the symbolism come through to them.” Well, now we have the time to reflect: What is the significance of these things? Well, I wanna point out four things.
Jesus Forces the Issue
Number one, notice how Jesus forces the issue. I think he intentionally fulfills this prophecy by choosing this manner of entering Jerusalem. This was directly in his control, he did it on purpose, to inflame the city. And why?
Well, he did it because the timetable of the Jewish leaders was the wrong one. Jesus ceases control at this particular moment because he must fulfill prophecy, more on that in a moment. But Jesus is being extremely provocative here to the Romans and to the Jewish leaders, and he is pushing the timetable so that they will actually kill him before they're ready to do it. Notice that Jesus does not react to his enemies, they must react to him. And how appropriate is that because he is the king, he sets the agenda, he sets the pace and the timetable, he's in charge and we're not, he knows exactly what he's doing and he's going to do it in his own manner.
Jesus Fulfills Prophecy
Secondly, as we've just touched on, Jesus fulfills prophecy. He fulfills prophecy in a number of ways, but let's focus on the manner of his entry. Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” So we see the symbolism of Jesus riding on the donkey. This was a messianic act, he was fulfilling this prophecy. There is a deeper issue and that's the rest of this prophecy. I'll come back to that in a moment, 'cause the prophecy said more than just that he'd ride on a donkey.
The second aspect of the fulfillment is the timing of his death. It was the time of the Passover. And I tell you that every one of the animal sacrifices, all of the animal sacrificial system, all of it were prophecies pointing ahead to the cross. All of them taught the lessons we needed to know for our salvation. All sin deserves the death penalty, the death penalty can be paid by a substitute. The substitute cannot be an animal. We're waiting for the Christ to come. John the Baptist points at him and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
And so Jesus must fulfill the animal sacrificial system, but especially the passover sacrifice, perhaps the clearest of all in terms of the substitutionary aspect in which the angel of death was going to pass over the Jewish homes and he would see the blood painted on the doorposts and the lintels and he would seeing the blood, passover and not kill the firstborn, substitutionary atonement definitely pictured in that. And so Jesus must die, as the passover lamb, he must die at Passover.And so He ceases control, and pushes the timetable so that he can fulfill that prophecy.
Jesus Accepts Worship
Thirdly, notice that Jesus accepts worship. The significance of this is that Jesus accepts worship because that's what he came to get, he came to fix our worship problem, he came to heal us from our sinful idolatry and wickedness. Jesus said, “If these disciples, if all of them remain silent, I'll raise up rocks and stones to do the praising.” Friends hasn't he done that anyway, in our salvation? Didn't he take out the heart of stone and give us the heart of flesh? Wasn't that us? Ignorant of God, not thinking about him, blind hardened in our transgressions, not seeing any good reason to praise him, and so he's raising up from these stones praise to the living God.
Jesus Exposes Israel’s Unbelief
And so Jesus defends the praise. And fourthly Jesus exposes Israel's unbelief, he exposes their rejection and rebellion. Now, as we've talked about, and you've heard many, many times before, I think I'd been a Christian for three months when I heard the first time that the Jews were expecting a different kind of kingdom than Jesus came to, we know about that. But it's true. What I wanna say to you is they had good reason to expect it. There were actually numbers of prophecies that predicted that the son of David would rule on a throne that would go to the ends of the earth and that his dominion would extend, his scepter would extend to the distant islands and that all of His enemies would be made a foot stool for his feet. It said all of that.
Listen to Zechariah 9:8, which is the verse before Zechariah 9:9. Listen to this, “I will defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people for now, I am keeping watch.” Behold your King comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey. They emphasize verse 8, they're saying, “Alright, marauding forces, those are the Gentiles, we all know that.” He's gonna throw off the marauding forces, for now, he is watching over His people.
The verse after, Zechariah 9:10, “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war horses from Jerusalem and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations, His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Now, the reason that the crowds were cheering so much, the reason that they were so excited about Jesus coming was they expected that this kind of a kingdom would be brought in. And I say to you that their expectations were idolatrous. They were woven up with their own visions of peace and prosperity and comfort and pleasure, and they thought Jesus would do it for them.
And they considered that his miracle working power was enough to defeat the Romans, and it really would have been, even just as a prince of peace. Look at Lazarus, for example. Lazarus is raised from the dead after four days. Imagine you're fighting the Jewish zealots and their army, you're a Roman soldier, and you kill a man, you run him through with a sword and he drops down to the ground, some Jews run and get him and bring him to Jesus, and up he pops again. And you've got to fight the same man again and again.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Jesus could throw off the Romans, or about this, Jesus spoke to the winds and the waves, and they obeyed him. You know just a little hail storm, a little thunder and lightning, and the Romans are done. Well, could Jesus have done that? Absolutely. Will he do something like that? Absolutely, read about it in Revelation 19. We'll get to that in a moment. Was he gonna do that now? Absolutely not. Because they did not understand the real threat.
They didn't understand the real tyranny. Jesus said it very plainly in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body and after that can do nothing to you. I'll tell you the one to fear. Fear the one who after the death of the body has power to destroy both soul and body in hell. Yes, I'd tell you, fear him.” The real threat, if you can understand this, I speak with great reverence, the real threat was God. The real threat was the judgment of God.
It was the wrath of God for them, against their sins, that was the threat he came to save them from. So it was right for them to say, “Hosanna, Hosanna. Save us now.” He was doing that, he was saving them from that which threatened them ultimately. If Jesus had brought in that kind of a kingdom, they would not have been able to receive it, they would have glutted themselves, they would have increased their idolatry and their wickedness, they were not ready for that kind of a kingdom. And so their hearts had to be changed, the heart of stone had to be taken out, and the heart of flesh given in. So Jesus was going there to bring in a different kind of kingdom and work a different kind of salvation.
He was going to shed his blood on the cross, as a substitute for us, that any who looks to Him and believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. He came to give us that kind of work, that kind of salvation. But Jesus entered the city to expose their unbelief, and they rejected him, they did not embrace him, he started to act strangely. He goes in and cleanses the temple, he says seven woes over the Jewish leaders, He preaches fire and brimstone and the destruction and not one stone left on another, and they're just utterly bewildered, they have no idea and, even worse, he gets arrested, he doesn't fight it and then goes and suffers and dies. It's absolutely not what they expected.
Now, I don't know for a fact that there was any single individual that said, “Hosanna,” on one day and then five days later, said, “Crucify” the next, but it wouldn't surprise me. How fickle are human hearts. And it really doesn't matter to me whether there was any single individual that did both. The Jewish nation was represented at both places. The expectation of the Jewish nation when he rode into Jerusalem, and then the fact that they so bitterly ignored him when he was dying for the sins of the world. There's just his mother and a couple of other women and John, and then the Romans, and those that passed by hurled an insult and kept going on their way, the greatest work in the history of the world, and they ignored it because they hated Jesus for what he had done, they felt betrayed.
The Greatness of Christ Revealed
And so what do we see in this? Well we see the greatness of Jesus revealed, we see His omniscience, that he knew all things, all details. We see His sovereignty and His power displayed in His control over major and minor events. And we see, especially his humility and his gentleness and his meekness. These are the very attributes that the Zechariah prophecy focuses on. He's meek and lowly, maybe even physically low. I don't know how high a donkey is but I'm thinking you could have looked Jesus in the face while he was riding on the donkey. I'd picture that anyway.
And you know, great conquerors, they ride on mighty steeds. Like Alexander the Great rode on Bucephalus, Ox Head, he had such a big head that they called them Ox Head. What a mighty horse he was. Or El Cid, the 11th century conqueror of the Moors at Valencia. He rode an Andalusian charger into battle. Or Napoleon at Waterloo, in 1815, rode a charger, a white stallion named Marengo. Imagine Napoleon riding into Waterloo on a donkey. Hard to command from a donkey. And so Jesus is riding humble and lowly and meek, saying, “I'm not going to do what you think I'm going to do. It's not what I'm here for. I'm here for meekness and lowliness, and for peace.”
Jesus the Prince of Peace would come in and would humble himself. Now, I say to you the second coming will be vastly different. I won't go into any great detail, but just listen to this from Revelation 19:11 and following, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called faithful and true. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire and on his head are many crowns, and he has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God and out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he destroys the anti-Christ and all of the anti-Christ forces that have arrayed themselves against God and his people, he comes back and destroys them, slaying them with the sword coming out of his mouth.
It's coming. It just wasn't coming in the first coming. It's definitely part of what was prophesied in the Jewish prophets, it just wasn't time yet. Rather, Jesus in his first coming, opened up for something called the day of salvation and in gentleness and humility stands there and says this, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you'll find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
How many times, oh Christian, have you thought about the gentleness and tenderness of Christ? When you'd been in a sinful state, and needed to come back to Jesus and his gentleness wooed you back into grace? Oh, how sweet is this day of salvation. And to you who are not believers yet, let the gentleness of Jesus invite you to the foot of the cross and look up and see him gentle and humble taking your sins on himself, and shedding his blood for you that you might not stand under the wrath of God finally. That's the gentleness of Jesus, that's what he came to do, that's the salvation He came to work.
The Praise of Men Exposed
We've seen the praise of men exposed positively, human praise is appropriate, some of the disciples I think we're praising them rightly but not fully, just like us. Negatively, we see human praise as a weak, frothy vain thing that pops like a bubble when disappointments and false expectations get popped. And so we see some of that sadly in our lives as well.
The Future Prefigured
And we see the future prefigured in this, immediate future is the death of Jesus because he's whipping this crowd into a frenzy, and the authorities are not gonna let it stand.
The long range future for Israel was suffering. That's why in the other accounts, in Luke, that Jesus wept at this time, what a strange thing, they're all celebrating and Jesus is defending the praise, the rocks are gonna cry out and, meanwhile, he's weeping over Jerusalem. And in Luke 19, it says, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace -- but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They'll not leave one stone on another because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.”
The clear implication is 'cause they did not understand who he was, because he was Jesus, the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee rather than God the Son, because they did not recognize the time of God's coming to them that they would be destroyed by the Romans. Crushed by the Romans as a judgment for their sin. Now, it's no use to us, to speculate what would have happened if the nation had received Jesus at that point. Just like there's no point in speculating what would have happened if Adam hadn't eaten the fruit. It was part of God's sovereign plan that both of those things happen: That Adam eat the fruit and sin and death enter the world, and that Jesus come to His own and His own received Him not.
The Final Stage of History: Conversion for Israel
And there is even now, a spirit of stupor, and hardening over the Jewish nation though they exist in our midst and we have Jewish friends and co-workers, and neighbors, but their minds are covered with a veil and they can't see the light or the glory of God in the face of Christ and until that veil is removed, they're not going to see it. But the good news is, in the future, at a future time, in a mystery, God, the Sovereign God is going to remove that veil from the nation's eyes and they'll see it at once and they will be converted and they will cry, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
But they'll do it from their hearts and they'll understand who he is. And it says in another verse in Zechariah, Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. And they will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for me as one mourns for an only son, and salvation will come that day to Israel.”
So yes, future destruction for Israel from that point on. But I say from this point on, future salvation, as it says in Romans 11, “All Israel will be saved through faith in Christ.”
Our Heavenly Future: The New Jerusalem, and Heavenly Worship
One final future prefigured and that's us standing around the throne. We've quoted this verse many times before, but it says in Revelation 7, “Then I saw a great multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation, standing before the throne in front of the lamb.”
And it says, “And they're holding in their hands palm branches.” So I guess I get to do that again. I get to walk around the throne again, and hold the palm branch, again, and I'll be dressed in a white robe and so will you, if you have faith in Jesus. If you trust in him, he's gonna cleanse you of all your sin, and you get to celebrate forever, the entry of Jesus, not into the old Jerusalem, but into the new Jerusalem, the perfect Holy City where we will dwell with him forever and ever and see his face.
Alright, well, what application can we take from this? I had a bunch, I just wanna do two. The first I wanna speak to you about is unmet expectations. Is there a person here that has not been disappointed by God, at least one time in your life? And you ought not to be, but it's happened, it happens again and again. You had some expectation that God would do something in your life, and he didn't do it. I'm speaking now even to non-Christians, I can't tell you the number of times I've witnessed, and people tell me, “Well when I was a child, my grandmother was sick, and I prayed for her and she died, and from that point on, my heart's been hard toward God.” They don't use that language, but that's about what they say.
Because this bad thing happened to them when they were young or something happened in a church or whatever from that point on, their heart was hard toward God. Unmet expectations, you know? They had hopes, “Hosanna, Hosanna,” they're thinking that this time has come and God's gonna do this thing for me, and when he doesn't do exactly what they expect, then it's “Crucify, Crucify” a week later. All of us are like that. Even we Christians struggle with that don't we? Expecting God to do something in your life.
You're struggling with sin. Somebody even told me this recently, “I prayed and prayed that this sin would be taken from me and it hasn't, now I'm just starting to get hard toward God, I think he ought to do such and such with my sin.” God doesn't work that way. He expects you by the Spirit to put to death the misdeeds of the body, he wants you to fight, he gives you the strength if you ask him.
But unmet expectations. Let me say a tender word to mothers. I think this is maybe where you live. Especially as you go on and your children get older and things aren't quite what you expected, and it can be disappointing, and you look at how it turned out, and it's not what you thought when you were a young mother, when you were a young bride, and it's not going exactly how you hoped and all I wanna say to you is don't turn at that point and think that God has in some way done you a disservice, rather say God called you to this ministry, you sowed in tears, you're gonna reap in joy. Don't let unmet expectations cut off your ministry as a mother.
Well let me speak to men who are in their midlife crisis. Unmet expectations, you hoped your life would be different. You look at it and it's not quite what you hoped for. Don't think that God has done you any great disservice. You wanna know the one thing, you need to get out of this world, faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. If you have that you have the victory that has overcome the world. Center your life then around that victory and you will be satisfied, it will be a good life.
But we all have those unmet expectations. Tragedy, you expected God to heal somebody, and he didn't, trust in God, at those times. And secondly, worship in spirit and truth. That's where we began, it's where we're going to end. The reason the Jews did not worship Him properly is they didn't understand who he was. So I say worship in spirit and in truth. The better you understand the truth of who Jesus is, his person, he is the Son of God, he is flawless, he is perfect, he is omniscient, omnipotent. Focus on that and worship him in spirit and truth.
Look at his work with new eyes, he came to die, he came to rise again, he came to bring a kingdom with the second coming that will be beyond our wildest dreams. Focus on his work, focus on his future when you get to see him around that throne and worship him in spirit and in truth. Don't let your misunderstandings make your worship idolatrous, but rather, fill your minds with scripture, so that you can worship him, rightly. Let's close in prayer.