Welcome Your King
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, April 5, 1998
Copyright © 1998, P. G. Mathew
If you ever watch television, you probably have heard the so-called talking heads ask, "What is your take on this?" or "How do you feel about that?" What do you think these people mean by those questions? They are saying that to them truth is subjective. To such people, truth is whatever a person constructs in his or her mind. This type of speech demonstrates the sad fact that many people today do not believe there is any absolute truth.
As Christians, we do not agree with the talking heads. We believe in our God, who is truth, and in his word, which is absolute truth. Therefore when I preach as a minister of the gospel, please do not say, "That is just Pastor Mathew's take on it, but I have my own take on it." God speaks the truth to us from his holy word, and we need to take it as absolute truth.
This sermon is titled, "Welcome Your King!" Why do you think I chose that title? Because St. John tells us in John 1 that Jesus Christ came to his own, meaning his own people, but his own did not welcome him. In fact, the vast majority of people in the world have rejected, not welcomed, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. But I am praying that you will welcome him, not reject him. Why? Because John also tells us that as many as received him, as many as believed on his name, he gave the authority to become children of God. I challenge you, therefore, as you read this sermon, to welcome your King!
God Visits His People
The first thing we notice in this passage is that in the person of Jesus Christ God came to visit his people. When God comes to visit us who are miserable, sinful, guilt-ridden, lost, sick, confused, dying, and dead, it is a time of great joy.
Long ago Joseph told his brothers just before his death, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Gen. 50:24). After hundreds of years, God came in the burning bush and spoke to Moses, as we read in Exodus 3. What was the purpose of this visitation of God? The Lord came to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and slavery and into a land flowing with milk and honey.
In Exodus 4 we read that Moses told his people that God was finally visiting them to deliver them. In Exodus 4:31 we read, "When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped." God had come to help his people.
The Greater Visitation
The visitation of God in the burning bush pointed to the greater visitation of God in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ God came to deliver his people from the greater burden and greater affliction of sin, Satan, death, hell, and the law. This purpose is clearly stated in Matthew 1:21 where we read, "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
In the fullness of time God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. God was once again visiting his people, not to condemn them but to be gracious to them. He came to heal his people and, ultimately, to save them. How? Through his death. God in Jesus Christ came to die for us.
Jesus was fully aware of the saving purpose of his coming, and he revealed it many times to his disciples, including in Matthew 20:28 where he said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Satan tempted Jesus not to go to the cross, and in Matthew 16 we read how Peter also tried to persuade him not to chose the path of suffering. But Jesus refused to disobey his Father. At age thirty-three he set his face like flint and began to travel toward Jerusalem to fulfill God's eternal plan for him by dying on the cross. In this passage we see him approaching the city with the crowds of pilgrims from Galilee who were coming to celebrate the Passover festival in Jerusalem.
The Perfect Lamb of God
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate the festival of Passover. During this time a quarter of a million lambs without any physical defects were slaughtered as part of the festival. But at this Passover celebration the most perfect lamb in Jerusalem was not an animal without physical defect. God was visiting in the person of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ, the perfect man in whom there is no sin, became the Passover lamb for us.
Not only is Jesus the victim without sin, the perfect Lamb of God, but he is also the priest without sin. Jesus Christ alone is very God and very man, the Prophet, the great High Priest, and the King of kings. He alone is the Messiah, in other words, and now the time had come to reveal that to the world.
Up to this point Jesus had revealed his identity as the Messiah only to a few people, such as the sinful Samaritan woman. Each time he told these people not to publicize that he was the Messiah. But now Jesus' time had come. He had often told his disciples, "My time has not yet come," but now, at the end of his life, he was saying, "My time is come," meaning the time of his saving death had come.
This, then, was the time for publicity. Jesus wanted everyone to know that he is the Messiah, so he entered the city of Jerusalem as the Messiah of God's people.
The Entrance of the King
How did Jesus make his entrance? First, he came into Jerusalem riding on a young colt which had never been ridden before. That is a miracle, isn't it? But Jesus is the King of the universe, and, therefore, he can control an unbroken donkey. We could call this donkey "Christopher," which means bearer of Christ.
The thousands of pilgrims had been excited when they saw Jesus coming. Finally, in Jesus of Nazareth they had a Messiah, they thought. So they had thrown their outer garments upon Christopher and seated Jesus on him. Then they spread their colorful outer garments on the road and began to acclaim Jesus as King as he rode past. They were giving him the same kind of royal treatment that Jehu, king of Israel, received in centuries past. "Jesus is King! Jesus is the Messiah!" they cried as he passed them.
Did Jesus make any attempt to restrain the crowd from giving him such royal treatment? No. He made no effort to keep them from crying out, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David!" Why do you think he did nothing? Because the crowd was telling the truth. They were declaring that their Messiah had finally come, and that Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth.
When the Pharisees heard what the crowd was saying, they demanded that Jesus restrain the people. I am sure they said something like this, "Jesus, you know that you are not the Messiah. You are just a man named Jesus from Nazareth. We know you are a sinner, that you are poor, that you are uneducated. In fact, we say you are a Samaritan, a glutton, a drunkard, and a demon-possessed person. We know that you even perform miracles, but we think that you do so by the agency of demons, not by God. These ignorant people are calling you Messiah, and you must stop them from doing so!" Jesus refused to obey these Pharisees. He told them that if the people did not praise him, the very stones would begin to cry out.
Even the little children in the crowd joined in waving palm fronds in celebration of Jesus. "Hosanna! Son of David, King of Israel!" they shouted. What were these children doing? The word "hosanna" means "save us." It is a prayer to God taken from Psalm 118, one of the Hallel psalms. In other words, these children were praying, "Jesus, save us! We are in trouble--save us!" In Psalm 107 we read several times, "They cried to the Lord in their trouble." What were they crying? "Hosanna, Lord! Save us!'"
These children were fulfilling the prophecy found in Psalm 8:2, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Jesus is hated and rejected by those who are sophisticated, educated, rich, famous, powerful and mighty. Yet, as we see here, God perfects praise for his Son from the lips of children and infants.
Jesus Fulfills Scriptures
Why do you think Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey in such a public manner and accept such royal treatment and acclamation? Because he was deliberately provoking the leaders of Israel. He wanted to prod his enemies into doing what they had planned all along to do and he wanted them to do it quickly, during the Passover festival.
What was the plan of the leaders? To kill Jesus. A few weeks earlier Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. At that time the high priest Caiaphas told the Sanhedrin, "You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." And in John 11:53 we read, "From that day on they plotted to take his life." These leaders wanted Jesus to die.
Jesus came to do the will of God the Father as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and he knew God's will included his death on the cross. Psalm 40:7-8 tells us, "Here I am, I have come--it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart," and we find this applied to Jesus in Hebrews 10:7.
Jesus had read the psalms, the prophets and the writings of Moses. He had read Daniel 9, which speaks about the time of the Messiah's death, and he knew that now that time had come. Jesus had also read the prophecy of Zechariah which spoke about riding into Jerusalem on a donkey before dying there. He had read Isaiah 53 and knew that his death would be a substitutionary death, meaning he would die for the sins of his people. Jesus also knew that he was the eternal God in human flesh, and thus he was able to declare to the Pharisees, "Before Abraham was, I am."
What, then, was Jesus doing, riding into Jerusalem on an unbroken colt? He was doing the will of his Father by fulfilling the Scriptures, specifically Zechariah 9:9 which says, "Rejoice great, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem. See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
What can we learn from this picture of Jesus? We learn that he was a student of Scripture and lived his whole life for the sole purpose of fulfilling it. Shouldn't this give us a pattern for our lives as well? Why don't we become people of the book and listen to what God has spoken so that we know the will of God and do it? God's word is absolute truth, and we must study the Bible so that we can put it into practice.
Jesus did not come to do his own will but to do the will of the Father. We are told throughout the New Testament that he always did what was pleasing to his Father. Thus, Jesus made this royal, triumphal entry into Jerusalem in fulfillment of God's will as disclosed by Zechariah the prophet centuries before.
A False Understanding of the Messiah
"Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" the pilgrims cried out, and as we said before, what they were saying was absolutely true. Jesus is the King of Israel and the Son of David. But the pilgrims' expectations of Jesus were totally false. There was a mass misunderstanding about what the Messiah was coming to do. Not one person in this crowd, even Jesus' own disciples, understood the real purpose of Jesus' royal entrance, even though Jesus had disclosed that purpose several times to them. But the apostles, as well as all the others, only believed what they wanted to believe, and so they had a very wrong picture of Jesus as Messiah.
Luke 19:37 tells us that the pilgrims were very aware of the miracles Jesus had performed, especially the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. I am sure they were thinking, "Finally, we have a Messiah who has supernatural powers. After all, hasn't he fed the multitudes, healed the sick, cleansed lepers and raised a dead man to life? We can't wait to see what this Messiah will do for us."
I am sure Judas Iscariot was among those who cried out. What do you think Judas was expecting from Jesus? Judas was a greedy man, so no doubt he was reasoning that the time had finally come when he could make a lot of money based on his association with this Messiah.
Peter was also crying out, "Hosanna, Son of David, King of Israel!" What do you think Peter was looking for? Peter was probably expecting that he would be named the Messiah's chief spokesman. He was looking for power.
What about James and John? I am sure they were also crying out as Jesus entered Jerusalem. What was their desire? They were hoping to be seated on the left and on the right of this great Messiah, Jesus Christ.
So there was mass misunderstanding of the intentions and purposes of this King who came riding on a donkey into Jerusalem, even among Jesus' own disciples. In John 12:12-15 we also read about this triumphal entry of Jesus and in John 12:16 we read, "At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him." In other words, only when the Holy Spirit was poured upon them on the day of Pentecost did Jesus' disciples begin to understand what had happened that day Jesus rode on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem.
Even in today's evangelical world there exists mass misunderstanding about Christianity and salvation in Jesus Christ. Many modern evangelicals are looking only for a political and economic Messiah. They are not interested in the greater freedom Jesus Christ gives to his people. They are quite happy and satisfied as long as the stock market is up and their wallets are overflowing with money. In fact, many people will believe in Jesus Christ, but only as long as they experience certain freedoms, especially the freedom of wealth and health. That is what I call mass misunderstanding.
This one riding on a horse--Jesus of Nazareth, the King of Israel, the Messiah--was coming into the city to secure a different kind of freedom for us. His purpose was to bring us freedom from sin, death, Satan, hell, and the law. Do you find yourself to be weak when you face temptation? Don't you realize that Jesus came to save us from sin? May God help us to receive this greater freedom that only Jesus can give!
Weeping Over Jerusalem
As Jesus came up the Mount of Olives and saw the city of Jerusalem looming before his eyes, he began to weep, Luke tells us. Why was this great Messiah weeping? Because the nation of Israel had failed to understand the significance of his visitation. Jesus came riding on a donkey, not a war horse. He was not coming as a political Messiah to wage war against Rome. In fact, Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world." Jesus came to wage war against a greater enemy--Satan, sin, and death--and to bring us peace through his own sacrifice. He was entering Jerusalem at this auspicious moment as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
In Luke 19:41 we read that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem and said, "If you, even you, had known on this day what would bring you peace"--ta pros eirhnhn, meaning the things of peace, the things that would justify you, the things that would save you, the things that would secure you complete forgiveness of all your sins! "If only you knew," Jesus was saying, "what is written in Isaiah 53, Daniel 9, Zechariah 9, and Psalm 22! If only you knew that I am your Messiah, the one who will suffer for your salvation! If only you knew that my name is Jesus, which comes from the word 'yasha' meaning to save! If only you knew that I am Jesus your Savior!"
God was visiting his people in Jesus Christ to save his people from their sins. I am sure Jesus would tell these people their prayer, "Hosanna, save us!" had the wrong significance. They were only desiring political and economic salvation, not spiritual freedom. But Jesus came to save people from their most serious bondage, which is bondage to sin.
At this point I must ask you: Do you understand the heart of the gospel? If not, maybe Jesus is also weeping over you as he wept over the city of Jerusalem.
Jesus Saves Some
The hour of Jesus' death had finally come. He entered triumphantly into the city at the exact time of God's appointment, not to defeat the Romans but to defeat death and the devil once for all by his own death. This was the most significant time in the history of the people of Israel, but they failed to recognize it.
In John 1 we read that Jesus came to his own but his own did not receive him. But we must also realize one thing: Jesus did not come to save the entire nation of Israel. As Zechariah prophesied, Jesus came to save only the Daughter of Zion.
What do you think that means? It means that Jesus came to save only the elect of God. He came to save only those whom God has chosen to save from the foundation of the world.
In John 1 we read that although the nation of Israel as a whole rejected Jesus, to those who do receive him and believe on his name he gives the right to become children of God. We see this clearly demonstrated in Acts 2. On the day of Pentecost those in the crowd who were convicted by the Holy Spirit cried out to Peter, saying, "What must we do?" In other words, they were telling Peter, "Peter, we now realize that we murdered our Messiah. We acknowledge that we have committed the greatest crime possible, crucifying the Lord of glory, God himself! Is there any hope for us?" What was Peter's answer? "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Or as Paul told the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31, "Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."
"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!" Zechariah tells us. Jesus didn't come to save everyone, but he did come to save all whom the Father has chosen. And in Acts 2:41 we read that three thousand people in one day confessed Jesus Christ and were saved.
Four hundred years earlier Zechariah prophesied what Jesus was fulfilling at this moment. Long before it came to pass Zechariah foresaw the visitation of God in Jesus of Nazareth to save his people who were frightened and living in misery and shame. What does this teach us? That God loves his people throughout the ages and in his time according to his word he will visit them, deliver them and save them.
Galatians 4:4 tells us that in the fullness of time God sent his Son, born of a woman, born to obey all his law, and born to procure salvation for his people. Zechariah saw this prophetically, and so in Zechariah 9 he announced this good news, this gospel, to his people. In Zechariah 9:9 we read, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!" Zechariah was saying, in other words, "Fear not, O Daughter of Zion. Your days of fear and misery are over." This is certainly a message for us also, is it not?
What else did Zechariah say? Rejoice? No, "Rejoice greatly." In other words, "Daughter of Zion, God's elect, beloved of the Lord, rejoice greatly! Shout at the top of your lungs, O Daughter of Zion! Why? The day of your salvation is dawning."
Then the prophet said, "See," meaning, "Lift up your eyes! Behold! See!" The prophet could see something and he wanted the Daughter of Zion to look at it as well. Just as Moses told those who were bitten by serpents, "Look and live," we must also lift up our eyes and look. This is the look of faith. "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth," God says through the prophet Isaiah (Is. 45:22). That is what Zechariah is saying.
At this point, let me ask you: Are you miserable? Are you frightened? Are you fearful and guilt-ridden? Let me tell you, the days of your troubles are over. Whom are you to behold? The so-called gurus of the world? The philosophers of the world? The talking heads of the world? The preachers of the world? Oh, no. They can do nothing. Behold your King, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Friend, do you know Jesus Christ as your King? Have you trusted in him by faith? If you have done that, then he is your King. Then you can say with David, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want" (Ps. 23:1).
"Behold your King!" Zechariah was saying. This is the visitation of God to the sick, the troubled, the frightened, the dying, and the miserable of the world. God was visiting his people as he visited them in the burning bush long ago. Just as God came to deliver his people from Egypt, he has now come to those who are captive to sin and guilt. By nature we cannot go to him because we are far from him, filled with guilt, but he can send his Son to us.
This is the visitation of God. Jesus Christ has come to us. He is the physician who comes to the dying patient. He is the one who comes to the dead just as he came to the tomb of Lazarus. What could Lazarus do to save himself? Nothing. But someone did come to him, and that one is the resurrection and the life. God sent his Son to visit us.
What else did Zechariah say about this King? He is righteous. Jesus Christ alone is righteous and he alone is characterized by justice. This perfect Lamb of God alone is without sin, and as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, this one who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.
What was Zechariah's message? "Daughter of Zion--you who are guilt-ridden, miserable, wretched, fearful, and anxious--rejoice greatly! Shout! Behold, your righteous King comes. The eternal Son of God is making a personal visit to you because he loves you personally. He is coming to see you, to visit you, and he is coming, not to condemn you but to be gracious to you. This is truly the miracle of miracles, that the King of kings will come on a donkey in peace. He is coming to make you righteous in him." Therefore, Zechariah is saying, "Do not fear, but behold!" As we read in Psalm 40, the faces of those who look to him will become radiant.
Finally, Zechariah said, this King comes to you having salvation. We must realize the great truth that Jesus Christ alone possesses salvation and only Jesus Christ can save us.
What is the most serious need of every human being? Salvation. But can anyone save another person or even himself? No. No other human being can save you and you cannot save yourself. Only this King, the Lord Jesus Christ, can save, and he comes in order to do just that.
Do you remember Simeon? He was about to die, but he came into the temple one day, saw the baby Jesus, and took him into his arms. As he worshiped God, what did he pray? "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory of your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32). Simeon recognized that salvation was found in this child, Jesus of Nazareth.
Have You Welcomed the King?
The Lord Jesus Christ came triumphantly into Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and he is still coming to his people even today. Are you burdened with problems? Don't worry. The greatest problem-solver in the entire universe is coming to you. Do you say you are unrighteous? No problem. He is righteous, and you can be righteous in him. Do you say you need to be saved from hell and death and misery and guilt and punishment? Let me assure you, Jesus Christ is coming to you with salvation from all those things.
Only this King possesses what we really need, which is salvation. In Acts 4:12 we read, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Jesus Christ alone can forgive sins, give us eternal life, and give us his righteousness. We cannot save ourselves because we are dead in our sins, but Jesus Christ can give us life. He is the living bread and the living water, and our Savior, Shepherd and King.
What about you? Have you welcomed this King? Let me ask you a few questions: Are you fearful? Are you frightened? Are you dying? Are you anxious? Are you lonely? Are you full of guilt? Are you confused? If any of these things are true of you, then I encourage you to look to Jesus.
Remember how Zechariah declared, "Your King is coming to you"? What about your unrighteousness? It is a serious problem, but he is righteous. What about your total emptiness? Jesus Christ possesses salvation for you. You must realize that today is the day of your salvation. Jesus is coming today to give us peace and to be gracious to us, not to condemn us, punish us, or send us to hell, though we merit all these. In these days he is still coming to save us.
These are still the days of God's mercy. Remember how Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, "If only you, even you, had known on this day what would bring you peace"? This is the day of God's visitation to you. In 2 Corinthians 6:2 we read, "Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." God is speaking to us today. Will you not look to him and be saved?
This King is coming to you personally. Will you not call out as blind Bartimaeus did, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"? Oh, the crowd told Bartimaeus to be quiet, but he shouted all the more. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" When the Son of God heard his cry, then the crowd said, "Cheer up! He is calling for you!" This echoes Zechariah's words, "Rejoice greatly, Daughter of Zion! Your King is coming, righteous and possessing salvation for you!" Bartimaeus was saved that moment, and we read that he praised the Lord and followed him.
This same Lord is now calling for you. In Revelation 3:20 we read, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock." Jesus is speaking about the door of your heart, meaning he cares for you. Never say that no one cares for you or that everyone has forgotten about you. That may be true among the people you know, but there is one who knows you and the depth of your need. He is the one who has come, possessing salvation and saying, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me." The idea here is that we have nothing but Jesus has everything. If we open the door, we will eat with him and partake of his salvation.
This Is the Day of God's Mercy
Finally, we must realize that Jesus still comes riding on a donkey, meaning he is still coming to us in peace. We are living in the time between the first and second coming of Christ, and this is a time of salvation, peace, and grace.
At this time Jesus is still meek. He is still saying to us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." But one day he will come on a horse, not on a donkey. In Revelation 19:11-16 we read, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no-one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."
Jesus is coming now, meek and riding on a donkey, as one who grants us peace. But when he comes again, he will not offer salvation to anyone; rather, he will come to judge those who failed to receive him, to welcome him, to bow down to him. And at that time every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, "Jesus Christ is Lord." But it will be too late to make peace with him at that time.
Therefore, as the writer to the Hebrews says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ, if you have never heard his voice, would you welcome him today as your King? Would you cry out to him, "Hosanna, Son of David, save me!"? He alone is the one who can give hope to the hopeless and light to those who are in darkness. Would you receive him? Would you open the door that he may come in with salvation, and that you may eat and drink with him?
Today he speaks to us in a pleasant voice--a voice of forgiveness and mercy--but in the future he will speak in judgment. Run to the ark and enter it while the door is still open. The time is coming when he will close the door, but for now there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Therefore, I urge you, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ this day and you shall be saved. Amen.
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Copyright © 1998, P. G. Mathew
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