Faithlife Sermons

The King and I

Palm Sunday 2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Familiarity can be a good thing. Have you ever been so familiar with something that doing it is almost second nature? Do you have someone in your life with whom you’re so familiar that you finish each other’s sentences? Is there anything you know so well, you don’t even have to think about it?
For instance, growing up I watched the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” starring Robin Williams so many times that I have large portions memorized almost entirely. I’m so familiar with “Mrs. Doubtfire” I can sing a bit of Italian opera because Robin Williams opens the movie singing a bit of Italian opera.
There’s a lot to be said for familiarity. Just last week in Sunday School, I had only two kids in class. But these two kids were so familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth that they could give me the details as I was reading along:
“Since Joseph was a descendant of King ________ (David)”
“Joseph and Mary left Nazareth and traveled to ______________ (Bethlehem), the city of David.”
“Mary had her baby, Jesus. She wrapped Him in ______________ (swaddling clothes).”
“The wise men found Jesus and they fell to their knees and _____________ (worshipped Him). Then they gave Him gifts of _____________ (gold, frankincense, and myrrh).”
Familiarity with something means its hidden away in your heart; familiarity with something means you know it in the depths of your being.
So it is for most of us with the events of this week—Holy Week. We are so familiar, we could fill-in any or all of the blanks, so to speak.
This week, there will be more people in church across the country than any other time of the year. And what a gift! What a wonderful blessing! We won’t draw any attention to the fact that someone comes just this week, or just one Sunday. We will give thanks and praise the Lord that they get to hear this familiar story all over again.
Those who attend church this week will hear (hopefully) the whole story: from triumphal entry to the last supper to the arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
And, oh, to be familiar with that story, the best story in the wide world…to have that story embedded in your heart, deep, deep down. If people are going to hear any Bible during the year, I’d want it to be this week (of course with a view to them becoming fully-devoted followers of Christ).
O, for people to be familiar with the wondrous story of the Christ who died for people like me, the wondrous story of the Christ who died for them.
Familiarity is a great gift. Familiarity can be a good thing...
And, as we know, familiarity may well breed contempt, or, at the very least, familiarity sometimes leads to shrugs and sighs.
This is my 34th Holy Week. I’ve never missed a one. I know this story inside and out. I have a Bachelor’s degree in this stuff. Like most people, I know every bit of this story; I’ve heard it no less than 34 times.
Heaven forbid I’m anything less than astounded by what’s going on here. May it never be that I approach these events with a yawn or an “Oh, yeah, it’s that time of year again.”
May it ever be that I am always, every time—upon every hearing of this wonderful story—astounded, amazed, and shaken by the fact that Jesus condescended, that Jesus stooped down to our level; took on flesh and blood and came to save us.
Whether you’re familiar with this Bible passage or not, I pray you’re astounded and even a little shaken by what you hear this morning—not that my silly thoughts would astound you or shake you, but that you’d be astounded and shaken by the Lord.
If you have your Bible (and I hope you do), turn with me to Matthew chapter 21. If you’re able and willing, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word:
Matthew 21:1–11 NIV
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 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 heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus, along with His disciples, and a whole host of men, women, and children from Galilee, Judea, and the other side of the Jordan, are traveling the 17-mile-long road from Jericho to Jerusalem, through the town of Bethany and they come to a village named Bethphage (beth-fuh-gee).
Upon coming to Bethphage, Jesus sends two of His disciples into town to fetch a donkey and her colt. Jesus is going to ride the donkey’s colt into Jerusalem; this is a deliberate choice on His part.
Here’s Jesus among a great crowd of pilgrims; the travelers/pilgrims are on foot. As a rider on a donkey, Jesus is going to be noticed. Jesus intends to be noticed. He intends to be noticed and expects the crowd to make the appropriate conclusion.
Jesus makes a deliberately provocative, noticeable approach to the city. Jesus won’t be surprised or upset when the crowd lay down their cloaks in the road before Him, when the crowd cuts branches from the trees and spreads them on the road before Him. All of this is what Jesus intended.
We never hear of Jesus riding an animal elsewhere in the gospels. According to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus and His disciples walked everywhere—as did most people in first-century Palestine, unless they were wealthy.
Jesus’ decision to ride a donkey for the last mile or two of a one-hundred-mile trip was not a physical necessity—Jesus isn’t so tuckered-out after walking 98 miles that He needs to ride the last two miles.
To ride the last mile to the city among an entirely pedestrian crowd is a deliberate gesture—everyone except Jesus is walking.
Jesus is, here, making a deliberate gesture. Jesus has intentionally, deliberately designed His entrance into Jerusalem: the crowd around Him walking, and He Himself riding a donkey.
Jesus is entering Jerusalem as King.
Everything about Jesus’ entry is kingly.
When King David returned to the city, he did so by way of the Mount of Olives, possibly coming through Bethphage (beth-fuh-gee)—the same as Jesus—in triumph as king, yet humbly and in peace.
A donkey was, and is, a ride fit for a king. Solomon rode his father David’s “own donkey” on his way to become king. Royalty rode donkeys. Kings ride donkeys.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, “a very large crowd” spreads their cloaks on the road, just like when Jehu was anointed king over Israel, the people took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. They blew the trumpet and shouted “Jehu is king!” (2 Kings 9:13)
The crowd in Jerusalem is, here and now, acknowledging Jesus’ kingship. They sang shouts of “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest heaven”—words of the Psalmist, chanted at major festivals, now directed toward Jesus.
Everything about Jesus’ entry is kingly.
All of this begs for us to ask what kind of King Jesus is.
And Matthew 21 gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ attributes as King. What’s great about the coming of this king is that His reign has no end. Jesus comes into Jerusalem as King—and He is King still: over the entire universe, over the earth, over my life and yours.
Jesus is our King. His attributes are present realities. Who Jesus was then is who Jesus is now. And that, my friends, is good news—great news.

Jesus is our Promised King

This is the peak of Matthew, the culmination of the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus is the Promised One, the Anointed One, the Messiah of God; He is who the crowds refer to as “Son of David”, “He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
The very word Christ is the translated and anglicized version of Messiah. So when we speak about Jesus Christ, Christ is not His last name. When we say Jesus Christ, we are saying Jesus-Messiah—the One Promised from long ago.
All the promises of Scripture point to Jesus. The hope of the Old Testament saints is realized in Jesus, the Messiah.
Verse 4 here is very important: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet”
Jesus borrowing a donkey, riding the donkey, all takes place to fulfill prophecy.
The prophecy here in Matthew 21 is from Zechariah 9—a passage Jews certainly understood to refer to the Messiah.
There is One mentioned in Zechariah 9 who is righteous and who has salvation; One who will proclaim peace to the nations, whose rule will extend from sea to sea; One who will free prisoners and restore His people; One who will save and shepherd His people.
Who does this sound like? It sounds just like Jesus, doesn’t it?
And now, in the most visible representation of Zechariah’s prophecy, Jesus comes into Jerusalem. Just as it is written:
Zechariah 9:9 NIV
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The crowds surrounding Jesus on this Sunday those many years ago shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
Son of David—a very interesting phrase. Son of David is a reference to the promised messianic deliverer from the line of David whose kingdom would continue forever (2 Sam. 7:12–16).
By this point in Matthew, Jesus has been called the Son of David several times: by two blind men, by a large number of people, by a woman from Canaan. A little later in Matthew, Jesus will ask the Pharisees about the Messiah and ask, “Whose son is the Messiah?” They quickly answer, “The son of David.”
Jesus was proclaiming His messiahship and His fulfillment of Scripture.
What this means for us is this: all of our hope, all of our faith, every promise finds its answer and fulfillment in Jesus. Every bit of the Bible points to and finds realization in the person of Jesus Christ (we’re going to look at this in more depth next week).
Jesus is our Promised King. He is the object of our hope and faith and trust and salvation. He is the One who had been promised for generations, the One in whom all the promises come true—promises from Abraham to Zechariah, from A to Z.
We don’t need another earthly king with another temporary reign. We need the King who was promised to us, One with a forever kingdom and a forever reign: Jesus Christ, Jesus Messiah, the Promised One.

Jesus is our Sovereign King

We can see this truth on every page of Scripture, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
As we’ve been going through Daniel, we’ve seen the Sovereignty of God clearly. He is sovereign, that is God possesses all power and is the ruler of all things. God is sovereign; He and He alone is sovereign: not Nebuchadnezzar, not Belshazzar, not Darius—God. God is sovereign over His people, over the enemies of His people, over all creation.
God is sovereign.
In Matthew 21, I think it’s especially evident.
Jesus sends two of His disciples into the village. He tells them that they will, upon arrival, find a donkey tied there with her colt next to her.
How does Jesus know this? Is it His best guess? Has Jesus pre-planned this encounter?
Some would say that Jesus knew the owner of the donkeys; that Jesus let the owner know He was coming on this particular day; that this was arranged ahead-of-time.
For me, I think that’s unlikely; possible, but unlikely. That theory takes a rather limited view of Jesus, a rather humanized view of the Son of God.
In Matthew 21:3 Jesus plainly refers to Himself as the Lord, the sovereign orchestrator of these events.
Matthew 21:3 NIV
3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
Jesus is absolutely sovereign. He knows—without prior planning or prearrangement—that in this village there will be a donkey tied up with her colt, that His disciples will find them there. Jesus knew. He orchestrated the whole thing.
He has an intimate knowledge of all things—past, present, and future. He is sovereign—all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present. He is firmly in control of all things. The children’s song: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” is a little cheesy, but it’s spot-on.
The eternally-existing Son of God, the One by whom all things exists and hold together, the One who spoke all things into being, the One who keeps all things in ordered existence…the One who keeps His eye on the sparrow and dresses-up the flowers of the field…well, that very same One keeps His people safely, securely, forever in the palm of His hand.
The One who knows a donkey and her colt will be tied there in that village is the One who knows just exactly what my tomorrow looks like.
This should be of great comfort to us.
What is it you’re facing? What are you up against? What’s coming ‘round the mountain? Christian, let your worry and fear slip away in light of this truth: Your King, the King you serve—He is Sovereign. He knows exactly what tomorrow holds, and good, bad, happy, sad, or in-between, He will work it all together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His great purpose.
Jesus is Sovereign.
How comforting it is to realize that Jesus knows us, really knows us—in every way we can be known—and still He loves us, still He came down, still He marches on to Jerusalem, knowing full well, in His sovereignty, what awaits Him a few days from entering town.
You realize it’s not just now dawning on Jesus what’s awaiting Him in Jerusalem? This is not new information. This is the reason for which He came. From eternity past, Jesus knew He would suffer and bleed and die a brutal death for our sake, to satisfy the wrath of God, to reconcile us to God the Father.
Jesus, the Sovereign of the Universe, in all His sovereign wisdom, is here knowingly, willingly, willfully entering the city where He knew He’d be crucified.
We need a sovereign King, not another unknowing ruler. Our King has come, and He is sovereign. His name is Jesus.

Our Savior King

Zechariah clearly states that Jesus comes to us as king and tells us that He is “righteous and has salvation…He will proclaim peace…He will free prisoners…He will restore all things…The Lord will save His people.”
This is, I know, is something we know well (again: familiarity—and what a wonderful truth to be so familiar with).
Matthew chapter 2 tells us that Jesus was given the name Jesus, which means the Lord saves, because “He will save His people from their sins.”
The prophecies that Jesus fulfills here, particularly this one from Zechariah, make it clear that Jesus is the Savior King: He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to usher in a kingdom with no end, a kingdom people can only enter through Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus came, “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus does not come as a King who seeks to be served. Our King serves, gives His life. Our King is Savior.
The shouts of the people as Jesus rides into the city are (21:9)Hosanna to the Son of David…Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Later on in the chapter, after Jesus makes a mess of the temple courts, the chief priests and teachers of the law heard children shouting Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Why all the fuss? What’s the big deal?
I’ll tell you this much: the chief priests and the teachers of the law aren’t upset because those darn kids are making way too much noise.
No, no. They are upset because of what those darn kids are saying. “Hosanna!” is a shout of praise, a shout that means: “Save!” “Save, please!”
This shout, directed at Jesus was a clear indication that He was the One come to bring salvation. When Jesus didn’t correct the children and the crowds of people shouting “Hosanna!” the religious leaders got their knickers all bunched-up.
Jesus is Savior. The Hosanna shouts of the people are right on, even if unintentionally so. They are shouting “Save, save please!” to the One—the only One—who could save them.
For everything else Jesus is, He is Savior.
>This is a familiar story, isn’t it? Palm Sunday.
I hope and pray you aren’t tired of hearing this story year after year (because I’m going to preach some version of it every year, fair warning).
It’s a familiar story, but it has direct bearing on and application to our lives. It’s not just about rehearsing and repeating the details and events of this Sunday every year the week before Easter.
No, here’s the point of this familiar story. Here’s the bearing on our lives and the application:
We’re a perfectly imperfect people for whom the Perfect, Sovereign, Promised Savior has come.
That’s what this week is about. We need to absorb this truth. You, friend, are perfectly imperfect, which is just a nicer way to say that you’re not even close to perfect. You’re not even close to perfect; you’re as far away from perfect as you could get. But there’s hope...
We’re a perfectly imperfect people for whom the Perfect, Sovereign, Promised Savior has come.
That Jesus is riding into the city on a donkey is just the prelude, just the intro. He’s arriving in Jerusalem rather humbly, just as He was born. But His entry into the city, greeted by the Hosanna shouts of the people, the cloaks and palm branches on the road before Him, under the hooves of the donkey He rode—all of it points to His kingship, His delivering people, His saving people.
And here’s the wonderful/offensive truth: Jesus didn’t come for the good people. Jesus didn’t come for the healthy. Jesus didn’t come for those who have everything together (as if any of those people—good, healthy, have-it-all-together people even exist).
Jesus came for us—sinners, scumbags. Jesus came for people who have made a complete wreck of their lives. Jesus came for perfectly imperfect people.
That’ me—perfectly imperfect. Flawed. Sinful. Sick. Jesus came because He knew I needed saving; He knew I needed a physician. He knew I needed a righteousness that is not my own, a righteousness I could never muster.
We’re a perfectly imperfect people for whom the Perfect, Sovereign, Promised Savior has come.
You’re going to hear this more and more in the days and weeks ahead.
I think we, as part of the church in Rich Hill, need to make something clear. I might take out an ad in the newspaper. I might order signs to put around the church building, letting people know that we aren’t perfect. We aren’t better than anyone else. We aren’t holier than or more righteous than anyone else (not on our own, anyhow).
We are a perfectly imperfect people for whom the Perfect, Sovereign, Promised Savior has come.
This is the Good News—the Gospel. This is the Good News that saves. It’s this Good News we preach: the Perfect, Sovereign, Promised Savior has come to save perfectly imperfect people like me.
Step 1: Believe this.
Step 2: Preach it to yourself every day.
Step 3: Tell someone about your imperfection and your Perfect, Sovereign, Promised Savior.
(Let’s Pray)
>Who is this?
Jerusalem was shaken, disturbed. This was the talk of the town—some guy riding into town on a donkey.
“Who is this?” they asked.
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
That’s not a bad answer, but it’s not a complete answer.
We have the complete answer. Who is this Jesus? Who do you say He is? Life and death hangs in the balance. What’s your answer?
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