Palm Sunday April 4, 2004
160, 162, 725, 161
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’
Dear friends in Christ:
Today we join with the worshippers in Jerusalem and shout hosannas to our Heavenly King. Today is, however, a bittersweet day. We know that just like 2000 years ago we switch gears again on Good Friday, saddened by the death of our Savior, a death for which we are responsible.
After that first Palm Sunday things were turned sour by Tuesday as the Jewish leaders were in a last-ditch effort to trip up Jesus in His words. By Thursday, Jesus was betrayed and arrested and then crucified on Friday. Yet, on that first Palm Sunday people had that brief glimpse of Jesus as King. In our examination of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem we’ll find that He is a King of seeming contradictions just as was prophesied by Zechariah. Jesus is righteous and victorious, but at the same time lowly. Jesus rules and extends His Kingdom with peace instead of violence and intimidation. Last week we learned of Jesus’ work as our High Priest, today, fellow believers, Behold! Your King! I. He is righteous and victorious, yet lowly and II. He uses peace to extend His kingdom.
In our time when we think of royalty we think of England. It is one of the few countries that is still ruled by a king or queen, and even in England the position is mostly a figurehead. Even though the royal family is a huge drain on England’s tax money, the royal family is largely loved and respected. There is a history there. There is the tradition that their kings and queens have God-given authority to act. They have what is called the “divine right of kings.” While they are indeed God’s representatives, we have seen in recent years that this family is as dysfunctional and immoral as any other.
Compare England’s royalty (or any other) to our King, Jesus. who has true divine rights—not given to Him, but which always belonged to Him as true God. Nobody created Jesus. He created all. Revelation 5:13 presents this scene: “And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’” This is the King of which our text speaks. “He is just and having salvation.” [v.9]
Jesus is a perfect king. Jesus always made the right decision. That is true before He became man, during His time on earth, and it continues to be true. While on this earth He never gave up these qualities. His justness is seen from His treatment of the poor and the sick. His righteousness is evident in His fending off the Devil in the wilderness by using the Word of God as His weapon.
Jesus is a victorious king. He has never lost a battle with His enemies. He was on a mission to rescue lost sinners and was fully prepared for the task. To the outside observer what we celebrate in Lent appears to be a losing battle. His humiliation and death appeared to be the end, and by all accounts a triumph for Satan. But all of that was part of the plan. It was for this very reason that He was entering Jerusalem. Jesus came “In lowly pomp to die” [TLH #162]. Jesus was laying down His life for the lost, but He Himself has never been on the losing end of a battle.
It was not Jesus who lost in that great battle between Satan and God when Satan chose to rebel shortly after creation. Satan was cast out of heaven. It was not Jesus who failed in the Garden of Eden. That was our first parents. It was not Jesus who constantly gives in to temptation. That describes you and I. His subjects may have lost many battles on their own, but the King Himself has never erred.
When you discover the greatness of Jesus, the lowliness that we observe on Palm Sunday is a big contradiction. Yes, it is true that the people were singing praises to Jesus and acknowledging Him as their King, but in His entrance there was not a lot, if any, pomp and circumstance. First of all, His very mode of transportation was a give-away. Horses were favored by royalty. Jesus was riding on a young donkey, unbroken, still following its mother. Could you imagine our President or any head of state abandoning a limo to instead ride in a rusty Yugo? Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem captures in one scene the lowly nature of His entire life. He was poor. He literally owned only the clothes on His back. He came from a small town. He was an unknown. His humility is not found in the fact that He became Man, but it is found in the type of Man that He became—poor and low. Look beyond appearances and Behold! Your King!
The second point that we wish to consider is that contrary to what works in this world, Jesus uses peace to extend His Kingdom. Generally, peace is established and maintained by having a position of strength. Earthly kingdoms are widened by sheer force and terror. Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great did not become conquerors because they were nice guys, but because they had armies that were fighting machines. The Berlin Wall was not torn down out of love, but because the United States had a military arsenal that the Eastern Bloc could not counter.
I read recently of an Indian group in Mexico which practiced human sacrifice hundreds of years ago. As they approached a group which they wished to conquer they encamped within view for a year or two, and sacrificed whomever they could capture out in the field. One day they simply walked into the city and took over without any resistance because of the sheer terror that they evoked.
Our King Jesus did not conquer us so much as He released us from captivity. He did not fight against us to dominate us. Instead He attacked our captors of sin and the Devil. His fight was there because in the victory over sin He would establish peace between people and God, and it would be this peace upon which His Kingdom would be based. As long as we were stained with sin God would not and could not have a relationship with us. As long as holiness eluded us we could not approach our Lord. By removing sin from us Jesus turned us from being enemies of God into being part of God’s Kingdom, and yes, even part of His family.
When the angels at Bethlehem spoke of the Christ-child bringing peace on earth, this was the peace of which they spoke. Many of you have lived through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and you know from experience how great peace is compared to war. The peace that Jesus brings is many times better than worldly peace because it is a peace that lasts forever. Because you are now holy in God’s sight—a holiness that we will not see nor fully experience until heaven—you are His people. Despite all the guilt that you have accumulated, the Judge declare you “not guilty.” You have inner peace as well because you can go to bed at night knowing that you have been cleansed from all your unrighteousness. It is this peace with God which extends and enlarges His Kingdom.
The Good News of Jesus is not a club by which people are beaten into believers. Once when Elijah was hiding in a cave, God told him to stand on the mountain before the Lord. A strong wind arose, and then an earthquake, and then fire, but the Lord was not in any of these. Then He approached Elijah in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11ff). It is that still, small voice of the Gospel of Christ that changes hearts. Men have failed by using such means as the inquisition in an attempt to change hearts. We fail in the same way when we neglect using the means of grace that God has given us. It is truly only the news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified that will make a difference in lives.
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask for God’s Kingdom to come, and this is not merely a request for the final judgment to occur. God’s Kingdom comes when the King rules, and He rules through the preaching of His Word. In this way when we ask for His Kingdom to come we are asking for the Gospel to be proclaimed—mission work. We are also asking the Holy Spirit to work through the Gospel and change hearts, allowing Jesus to rule there instead of Satan. This is the gentle yet effective way in which your Heavenly King rules, by peace and not by force.
When you view your Savior riding into Jerusalem, triumphant but lowly, it is easy to think of Him as your King. When you view Him on the cross that view of Him as King is not so easy to see, yet at that time He is in battle defeating your enemies, bringing about a peace with God. Jesus is victorious, though for a time lowly. Jesus extends His Kingdom by the peace that He has won. Fellow Christians look to Christ, and behold, your King! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.