The Coming of the King
Matthew 21:1-11 (see also Zechariah 9:9-12)
This is Jesus’ first, and last, visit to Jerusalem in Matthew’s story. Ever since Matt. 16:21 this has been the goal in view, and now the story reaches its climax, as the Galilean prophet approaches the capital city of Israel, whose temple was the focus of the earthly worship of the one true God. His arrival was marked by three symbolic actions in vv1-22 which sets the scene for the conflicts to follow.
Among the crowds of Galilean pilgrims arriving on foot in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, Jesus chose to make a conspicuous entry on a donkey. Since we have no other record of Jesus riding, this must have been a deliberate act, meant to be noticed. The instructions in the opening verses suggest that it had been carefully prepared. It was, as Matthew makes clear, a fulfilment to Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming of the Messianic King (Zech. 9:9-10).
The disciples and the Galilean crowd recognized the allusion and turned the arrival into a triumphal procession. Their shouts in v9 made no secret of their belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, now coming to set up his reign in Israel’s capital.
The people of Jerusalem were, however, taken aback, and the whole city was stirred, not with enthusiasm but with concern: ‘Who is this?’ Jesus was to them an unknown countryman, little better than a foreigner, from the remote northern province. But the Galilean crowds responded by asserting the claim of ‘their’ prophet, from Nazareth of Galilee.
The ‘whole multitude of disciples’ join in the pageant of Jesus’ arrival. It is a public disclosure of Jesus’ Kingship, as the crowd hails him in the shout of Psalm 118:26a, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” And that is the cry of the crowd of disciples as Jesus rides down the Mount of Olives. They had seen his mighty works and now they take up the cry of the Psalm, welcoming the victorious Davidic (messianic) King.
Luke tells us in his Gospel (chap. 19) that at this point some of the Pharisees vent their displeasure at this enthusiastic demonstration. ‘Teacher,’ they demand, ‘rebuke your disciples.’ That is, don’t let them carry on like this, making such audacious, inflammatory claims. The rebuke of the Pharisees represents the real attitude of Jerusalem toward Jesus.
But Jesus is not about to ‘shush up’ the acclaim of this throng of disciples. He tells these Pharisees, ‘If they keep silence, the stones will cry out’ (Luke 19:40). It’s as if Jesus says:
This is a ‘have-to’ situation; it simply has to come out. If you stifle their praise, it will break out elsewhere – you can’t stop it; you suppress that acclaim, and the stones will let loose with it. Is that what you want – rocks screaming at you? That may seem a bit over the top, but you must catch this note of ‘unstoppability’ in Jesus’ answer, notes Ralph Davis.
‘It’s like the 1954 Cotton Bowl football game between Alabama and Rice,’ notes Dr. Davis. He continues:
“Rice was backed up near the end zone, but one of their backs ran around end down the right side of the field eluding and outdistancing defenders – he was going to go all the way for a touchdown. But suddenly, as he ran past the Alabama bench, a figure darted out and tackled the runner. It was Tommy Lewis, an Alabama player who was not currently in the game. It was illegal, of course, and they awarded Rice the touchdown. But look at it from Tommy Lewis’ perspective: here’s an opponent, racing in the clear for a score, going right by the Alabama bench; Tommy Lewis simply can’t stand it; to think this fellow will score; a compulsion seizes him; he must stop him! It had to be done. Illegality aside, the principle stands. Jesus was saying there was plainly this necessity, this inevitability, about the acclaim he was receiving.”
Do we sense that kind of necessity? Are we joining in the chorus of God people giving acclaim to King Jesus? This Palm Sunday we will look at Matthew 21:1-11 to learn what kind of King is King Jesus. Will you come out and join in the great throng of people from the ages in proclaiming, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’?
Don’t forget our churchwide luncheon this Sunday immediately following our morning service. The church will provide the meat and drinks and we ask that you bring a delicious side dish or two. The meat will be a delicious mix of BBQ beef and pork along with some grilled chicken.