Vol. 10 — No. 15 April 13, 1969


The Ever Relevant Message for Zion: “Behold,thy King Cometh Unto Thee!”

Matthew 21:1-9

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

In Christ Jesus, our King, who comes and keeps on coming to us, Fellow Redeemed:

Palm Sunday has its roots in the distant past. The palms remind us of that, for when Jesus entered Jerusalem, “a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.” We can see them waving their branches. We can hear them singing their “Hosannas.” It’s a familiar picture, but a picture rooted in the past—almost two thousand years ago.

Even the language of the King James takes us back through the centuries with its “ye’s” and “thy’s” and “thee’s.” “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” That language is musty with age. It isn’t heard on the streets and playgrounds—possibly isn’t even understood by many.

But what of the message that the event and the words of this day bring us? Is that message so old and musty, belonging to another age and ill-fitted to the men and women and children of our modern age? This question we would answer this morning.

We are living in a revolutionary age. The things that are—whether they be in the state or church or school—are called the “establishment.” Many, especially of the youth, are against the establishment, for they are dissatisfied with the things that are, although they have precious little vision of how things should be. But then it always has been easier to be destructive than constructive, to be against rather than for. We’re concerned about religion. We hear leaders of the youth say, “We are FOR Christ, but AGAINST the church.” The “church” is part of the establishment and so it is the thing to be AGAINST. We agree that if one today wants to be FOR Christ, he has to be AGAINST at least most of the established church of today. But if one truly wants to be FOR Christ, one must also be FOR his message to ZION, HIS CHURCH. One cannot separate Christ from His Church. We have that message before us today—in language that is musty with age, but with meaning that is fitting and necessary for the men on the street, the youth on the playground and the emancipated modern woman who carves out her niche in modern society. Let us consider—

The Ever Relevant Message for Zion: “Behold,thy King Cometh Unto Thee!”

The “Behold” attracts our attention and bids us listen to each word of that message carefully. Let us observe first of all that the—

I. “Thy” makes the message individual and personal.

“Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee!” “Thy King,” your King, Comes unto you! Zion has a King. The Church has a King. Each member of the Church has a King! That sounds like a throw-back to ages past. Kings are few and far between today. This is the age of democracy—of government of the people and by the people and for the people. Who wants a king? That sounds like tyranny. Freedom, equality, rights, self-determination are the battle cries of today. Where and how does a “king” fit in?

Man wants to be free. The beatniks and yippies want to be free from soap and water, free from hair cuts, free from duty and responsibility. Many young people today want freedom to enjoy sex without the responsibility of marriage. Churches and churchmen want freedom from the restraints of the Bible. People want to be free from controls and restraints that curb them from doing what they want to when they want to do it. In a word—most people don’t want a king—anyone or anything to rule over them. But such freedom is a delusion. The beatnik is a slave to filth, pot, vice, anarchy. The sexual freedom seeker is a slave to his own lusts and passions. The ecclesiastical freedom seeker, who seeks to be free of the Word of the Lord, becomes enslaved to his own opinion or the tyranny of the majority. Rejecting THE KING does not bring or guarantee freedom; it merely multiplies taskmasters and tyrants who enslave.

In contrast to this self—enslaving illusion of freedom the message for Zion is: “Thy King cometh unto thee!” Are you part of the Body of Christ? Are you a member of the Holy Christian Church? Are you a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ? If you answer in the affirmative, you have a King. You, as an individual—you, as a person, have a King. You’re not lost in a faceless crowd. You’re not anonymous. You’re not a number. You have a King, who would come to you individually and personally. He would make you truly free—from all enslavement to self, free from enslavement to others, free from enslavement to minorities or majorities—subject only to Him. This great King, promised by the prophets of old and sent in the fullness of time, is your King. That is the message for you today. But more—that—

II. “King cometh” brings expectation of blessing.

“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee!” What an honor it was in olden days when the king came to a city or hamlet. When oppression and tyranny were designed, the king would generally send his representatives to do the dirty work. But when the king came personally, it augured well. He would come with blessing.

But what is the nature of those blessings? Today the cry is for social justice. That is further defined as equal opportunity for all, equal political and economic rights, a fair share of the nation’s wealth for all, more and more for those that have little or nothing. Are these the blessings that the King would bring you? The King taught His subjects to pray for bread, not cake. He sent out His apostles with the assurance that they were worthy of their food He said nothing of fringe benefits. The King told His subjects that if they had food and raiment they should be content. He said that the poor would always be there—necessarily so, to give His subjects opportunity to exercise their love. He refused to settle a civil matter, such as the dividing of an estate. He gathered many slaves—chattel property of other—into His Kingdom. He declined all use of force. He urged only one form of social security—implicit trust in Himself. He entered His city on the borrowed colt of an ass. It would seem from all of this that the blessings He came to bring were of a different nature. And they were and still are!

He came to bring the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a sense higher and nobler than that envisioned by our founding fathers. His concern was not the defense of the nation, safety on the highways, air and water pollution controls, surgical and hospital care—all for the preservation of this life. His concern was to give a new dimension to this life, an eternal dimension, for which there is an entirely distinctive word in the language that Jesus spoke. All the activities of all the governments of the world do not prevent their citizens from dying. Many of the activities of governments hasten the death of their citizens. The King came to extend the life of His citizens beyond the normal threescore and ten years. He came to tackle the problem that defies human solution—death. And He succeeded. He met that enemy of each individual and conquered him. And so He brings the blessing of life—rich, full, unending.

He came to bring the blessing of liberty. With all his chants of liberty and freedom, man remains a slave of his own sin—coarse sin, socially unacceptable and acceptable sins, secret sins, public sins. The King came to liberate, and that He has. He has broken the consequence of sin, which is guilt—by removing that guilt. He has broken the enslaving power of sin by giving a countervailing power for righteousness. He has given man power to break the tyranny of his own self. What a liberator is not our King!

He has ushered in the pursuit of happiness. Happiness means many things to many people, but when happiness revolves about the gratification of self, it sooner or later turns sour. Happiness finds its greatest outlet in serving. The King encourages that. If we find those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, we are to feed them with His righteousness. If we find those who hunger and thirst, we are to share our food and drink with them, knowing that we are thus giving unto the Lord. If we find those who are sick in spirit, we are to administer the healing balm of Gilead—the assurance of a Father’s love for His wayward children. If we find those who are sick in body or human spirit, we are to visit them, assist in whatever way possible—always knowing that we are thereby serving the Lord. This is the blessing of the pursuit of happiness that our Lord would give us. “Thy King cometh!” That message cannot but bring expectation of blessing, even as the close of that message brings a realization of responsibility, for—

III. “Thee” looks for a warm reception.

“Thy King cometh unto thee!” How will you receive Him? There was joy and rejoicing that day when He entered Jerusalem. There was singing and palm swinging. It was a warm reception that they gave Him, but there were also ominous overtones. There were also complaints about the singing and rejoicing. These complaints developed into coordinated opposition which broke forth into the blood thirsty shrieks of “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”

Let no one deceive himself! The King, your King, is again this day coming unto you! Each one of us will either cry “Hosanna” or “Crucify Him!” There is no middle ground. There can be no polite rejection of the King. What are you saying in your heart and in your life: “Hosanna” or “Crucify Him”?

If we claim to be willing to bow to His Word, but prove unwilling because that Word conflicts with some personal opinion that we hold dear, we are crucifying Him anew. If we join in the confession of sins but are determined to hold fast to our little hates and nurse along our pet sins, we are crucifying Him anew. If we confess that Christ must be and is first in our lives, but if we then permit business or professional or social ties to outrank our Lord, we are crucifying Him anew. If we are swift to profess our love for Him in word, but slow to demonstrate that love in deed, we are crucifying Him anew. How many times do we not that which we want to do least of all—Crucify our Lord? “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” No, but, sad to say, I crucify Him all too often in my life. Lord, forgive.

Lord, open thou my heart, so that I receive Thee, my King, warmly, sincerely, earnestly. When we gladly hear and learn the Word of our Lord, we are welcoming the King with “Hosannas.” When we take our reason captive and tune our ears to His Word, we are welcoming Him with “Hosannasa” When we make use of the water by the Word in Holy Baptism and when we eat and drink the bread and wine connected with the Word in Holy Communion, we are welcoming the King with our “Hosannas.” When we keep turning from ourselves and our own little deeds and put our trust and confidence in Him, His blood and righteousness, we are receiving our King with “Hosannas.” When we one day close our eyes in death with His cross before our eyes and in our hearts, we are shouting our “Hosannas.” And then shall we hear the refrain: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” Amen.

—Pastor Paul F. Nolting

Preached March 30, 1969
Holy Trinity Independent
Evangelical Lutheran Church
West Columbia, South Carolina

Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.