John12v12to19: JESUS' TRIUMPHANT ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM
Introduction. (Read the reference)
Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem is recorded by all four gospel writers. It was the only occasion that Jesus enlisted the support of the crowd for his Messianic role. There is no doubt that the event was something Jesus planned. I will try to explain why Jesus stage-managed this celebratory ride into Jerusalem and then describe the differing reactions to it.
(A) The purpose of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
(1) Jesus was forcing the issue.
(a) Unlike the spontaneous decision of the crowd to make Jesus King after the feeding of the five thousand the triumphant entry was something Jesus planned. It did not just happen. Jesus was not a victim of popular enthusiasm. He had arranged for his disciples to pick up a donkey and its foal from a sympathiser. Jesus even gave the owner of the animals a password by which the disciples identified themselves: "The Lord needs them." Mt21v3.
(b) The very public proclamation of Jesus as King of Israel guaranteed his death. He could have remained hidden for years in Galilee or in the desert. If Jesus had remained content to be an obscure rabbi with a revolutionary message he could have avoided the cross. But he was more than that! He was great David's greater son. But he was more than even that. Jesus was the Saviour of the world! By riding into Jerusalem as the King of Peace Christ was courageously bringing matters to a head. He was precipitating a crisis, the outcome of which was inevitable and in the will and purpose of his father in heaven.
(c) Jesus was working to God's timetable. He forced the hand of his enemies. Jesus was going to die at Passover - the ultimate Passover lamb slain for us - to bring deliverance - to set us free - to bring us to the Promised Land.
There remain times that God forces the issue. Many years ago my brother Paul was at Pioneer Camp. His tent leader, Paul Roe, asked my brother directly: "Are you saved?" This question marked a turning point in Paul's life. The Holy Spirit used it to bring him to Jesus for salvation and eternal life.
(2) Jesus was presenting himself as Messiah.
(a) Jesus knew that Zechariah9v8to13 was a messianic prophecy and he deliberately acted out the passage: See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zech9v9. The donkey ride into Jerusalem was a dramatic, visual, emphatic statement that Jesus was Messiah - the King of Israel.
(b) Jesus made no effort to stop the crowd acclaiming him. His supporter's cries were entirely appropriate:
"Hosanna to the Son of David. Mt21v9.
Hosanna means: save now. The excited throng was shouting out the equivalent of our, 'God save the king.'
The entry of the Son of Man into the holy city was a cause for celebration both on earth and in heaven:
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest." Lk19v38.
When the Pharisees told Jesus to shut his disciples up he replied: "I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Lk19v40.
The triumphant entry is the surest of indications that Jesus was not just a rabbi or a prophet. The Jews would never have engineered his death for being a radical, maverick rabbi. The people were correct in all they called him. But he was more than even they realised - the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Heb1v3.
Let us never forget how great he is. Jesus is the supreme head of the universal church. He has no rivals - Mary, the saints or a living charismatic leader whether it be the Pope or a forceful puritan pastor. We cannot exalt Christ enough!
(B) Jesus was indicating the nature of his kingdom.
(a) It is established and extended by peaceful means. Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! ..... See your king comes to you righteous and having salvation gentle and riding on a donkey. Zech9v9.
These are wonderful words. Jesus did not ride into Jerusalem on a horse as a warrior king but he entered on a donkey, in gentleness and peace to give salvation. Today - 2000 years later - he comes quietly and gently to sinful men - rebellious, alienated men and women - the depraved and degenerate - and offers salvation and peace with God. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John3v17.
Consider how Jesus dealt with Zacchaeus, the little tax collector, stooge of the occupying power, the Romans. Most religious Jews condemned Zacchaeus. Jesus invited himself to tea! What did Jesus say to the people who muttered: "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."? Lk19v7 He said "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Lk19v9and10.
On Sept 10th 2005 Songs of Praise came from the north coast of Scotland. Mark Macdonald was for many years a hopeless alcoholic. Eventually he foreswore alcohol and dried out. However, it left a great void in his life. An old friend and a true friend visited him and prayed with him. He left a Gideon's Bible for Mark to read. Mark thought the Bible was for softies and put it in a draw - out of sight but not quite out of mind - for from time to time he read it. One day he read the words of Jesus: "Come unto 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 will find rest for your souls." Mt11v28and29. Jesus did not condemn Mark but in gentleness and humility invited him to come and find rest. Mark did and the void was filled. It has remained filled! He is happy; folk call him the singing postman. Mark concluded his testimony by saying that it was marvellous to have Jesus in his life.
(b) Christ's kingdom is universal in extent. The Pharisees said with some despair and a lot of contempt: "Look how the whole world has gone after him." v19. These words were prophetic! The whole world has gone after Jesus. This is something Zechariah forecast: His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River (Euphrates) to the ends of the earth. Zech9v10.
There is nowhere on earth where there are not Christians. My friend Pastor John Skull told me when we were last out walking together that even in North Africa, after many, many fruitless years, men and women are being converted to Christianity. Praise God.
(c) It is a violently opposed kingdom. It is incredible that a Saviour who comes gently and riding on a donkey should be opposed with such violence. The opponents of Christianity use the very methods renounced by Jesus - coercion, force, discrimination, ostracism, imprisonment and murder. Such was the chief priests' and Pharisees' hatred of Jesus that they planned to kill Lazarus as well as the Master.
This violent opposition to Christ's kingdom was forecast: "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." John15v20. Jesus also said: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No I tell you but division." Lk12v51.
In Evangelicals Now for September 2005 trouble for the church was reported for Belarus, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nagorno-Karabakt, Pakistan and Paraguay. I was particularly distressed to read how Hindu fundamentalists use the anti-conversion laws to harass Christian evangelists.
(C) Reactions to Christ's entry into Jerusalem.
The joyous enthusiasm of the crowd was good! The clothes strewn in the way, the waving palm branches and shouts of acclamation were no more than Jesus deserved. He was God's anointed, the King of Israel, the righteous one and blessed Saviour of the World.
Nonetheless true followers are those who remain true in times of disappointment and defeat. When Jesus was arrested where were his rapturous disciples then? All forsook him and fled. A football club always has plenty of fans when it is successful. Many drop away in the lean times. But there are some who don't and they are known as die hard supporters. Those are the sort the church needs! I am afraid that there are so called believers - generally found in the larger fellowships - who are little more than good time Christians.
People still expect Jesus to do things he never promised to do. They hope for deliverance from: a failed marriage, a dead end job, a friendless existence, low spirits, a sensitive disposition, the poverty trap, a dying church and their aches and pains. Jesus came to save us from sin and its consequences, to reconcile us to God, to confer on us new status as children of God, to impart his Spirit and to give us eternal life. This is a treasure trove of riches.
Jesus said to Peter: And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Mt16v18. The strange expression 'gates of Hades' probably means the power of death. The gates of Hades, like some prison door, keep the dead locked in - they cannot be breached.
Jesus broke free and overcame death. Peter said on the Day of Pentecost: "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." Acts2v24. Jesus threw down the gates of Hades and defeated death. So death has no power to destroy the church - neither the fear of it nor the fact of it. Jesus gained the victory over death and so will all who believe in him.