Sermon Title: Behold the King
Memory Verse: When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10)
MAIN IDEA: Submit to Jesus as King to receive the blessings of His kingdom.
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.
I love the picture Matthew gives us. He tells us that “all the city is stirred” and people were asking, “Who is this?” Can we imagine being in Jerusalem on that day?
Let’s put his phrase, “all the city was stirred,” into perspective. In the time of David, Jerusalem is about 12 acres in size with an estimated population of 2,000. During Jesus' day, the city is around 425 acres (0.7 square miles), and the estimated population was 60,000 people.
But, this is Passover week. A census taken in the time of Nero tells us that there were roughly 2,700,000 Jews present at the Passover in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. Imagine all the people of ME, NH, and VT in one square mile. If you do the math and account for buildings taking up a lot of space, the people were within arm’s length of one another if they spread out evenly over the entire city. Now imagine all these people stirred up and asking about Jesus!
Let’s back up and remind ourselves of the occasion. Passover is the annual celebration of God’s miraculous deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt. Moses pleads to Pharaoh to let the people go, and the Egyptian Pharaoh refuses. He keeps them as slaves. God brings nine horrible plagues upon the people of Egypt. After each plague, the Pharaoh holds his ground. He makes matters worse by increasing their workload. Then God brings the tenth plague.
God tells His people to prepare for the tenth plague. They are to get their belongings ready. God says that Pharaoh will not hold them after the tenth plague. As preparation, they are to prepare a specific meal. Part of the meal involves killing a spotless lamb. They are not to break the bones of the lamb. Before eating the lamb, they are to take the blood of the lamb and put it on the doorposts of their house (which is gross, but the good thing is they are leaving the next day).
That night, God sends an angel of death into all of Egypt. The angel will Passover every house with blood on the doorposts. The covering of blood spares the inhabitants. Every house with no blood on the doorpost, the angel of death kills the firstborn; both child and animal.
The next morning, all of Egypt is devastated. Every firstborn animal and child of the Egyptians is dead. Pharaoh is grief-stricken. His son dies. This is the last straw. Pharaoh releases the people of Israel out of Egypt. As they leave, the Egyptians are so glad it is over, they give the Israelites all the valuables in Egypt. It is with these valuables that the Israelites build the wilderness Tabernacle and all the fixtures, including the Ark of the Covenant. They become wealthy overnight.
To commemorate God’s miraculous delivery, God tells His people to celebrate the Passover feast. It is part of the Jewish law. It is a happy occasion and the Jewish social event of the year. People want to celebrate in Jerusalem because it is the destination of the Exodus; the capital of the Promised Land. Every year, Jews who are not in Jerusalem during the Passover celebration will say at the end of the feast, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Jesus and His disciples are traveling on the way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Part of the crowd surrounding Jesus are people traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover. But, a large portion of the crowd with Jesus are following Jesus.
Jesus is the most popular man in all of Israel. For three years, Jesus travels about healing the sick. His most recent healing is the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Wherever Jesus goes, the blind sees, the deaf hears, the lame gets up and walks, and lepers are cleansed.
Jesus is famous because He teaches with authority and truth. He says, “I am the truth.” People call Him rabbi, teacher, and He has many disciples listening to His teaching about the kingdom of Heaven, the judgment of God, and how people are to worship. He tells His disciples how to pray. He explains difficult truth using parables and stories. The most learned religious people, the scribes, lawyers, and Pharisees are unable to refute His teaching. Jesus declares the wisdom of God.
Jesus does more than heal people and teach; He performs signs and wonders. Jesus does great feats which we might say, don’t try this at home. He walks on water. He calms raging storms and commands the wind and waves to be still. He feeds multitudes by miraculously multiplying a few loaves of bread and fish. His disciples say with amazement, what kind of man is He?
His popularity is why a crowd gathers to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. They hear He is coming to town. The streets are lined with people saying Hosanna. They put their coats on the street just so the donkey He rides may step on the coat. It is a red-carpet welcome fit for a king. They wave palm fronds and lay the branches on the street. This is a tremendous honor. Few people in history are welcomed as Jesus is when He enters Jerusalem.
As they give Him this hero’s welcome, there is a question on everyone’s mind. The entire city is asking, “Who is this?” The disciples are unsure. The religious leaders are unsure. And, the crowds of people who meet Him do not know the answer. There only answer they give is that He is, “the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
In all of life, this is the most important question any person may ask. How we answer this question shapes our life. It determines how we raise our children, what we think about marriage, how we spend our money, the way we treat other people, and, the way we conduct our lives.
The answer to the question, who is Jesus, affects more than our life on earth. The Bible teaches that the answer to this question determines our eternal destiny. Jesus says if we get the answer wrong, we spend eternity in hell. But, if we get the answer right, we spend eternity with Him.
Matthew is one of Jesus’ disciples. He writes this gospel because he wants us to be able to answer the question correctly. He knows Jesus and Jesus knows Matthew. Let’s understand what Matthew tells us about this man Jesus.
Matthew reveals to us that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. The Messiah is a person spoken about by many writers of the Old Testament. The Old Testament teaches that the Messiah will do two things. He will save His people, and He will serve as their king. The Messiah is a Savior and King.
Christ is not Jesus’ last name. He is Jesus, the Christ. Christ is a title meaning Messiah; God’s anointed One.
The Messiah of Israel is not just the Messiah of Israel, but He is the Messiah who saves all people from every nation and tongue. He is King over all nations; the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Jesus fulfils every prophecy of the Messiah. He is born in Bethlehem. He is of the lineage of king David. The people cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David,” recognizing Jesus as a descendant of David.
In this passage, we see Jesus fulfill a prophecy. Jesus tells His disciples to go to the nearby village and fetch a donkey. Jesus is very purposeful in His words and actions. Jesus is confident because He knows the Scripture. He knows prophecy says the Messiah is to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. He knows the donkey is there and He knows the owner will give the donkey and the colt to His disciples for His use.
The prophecy of the donkey is written over 500 years before Jesus is born. The prophet Zechariah, predicts this very day when Jesus the Messiah will come into Jerusalem. He describes both aspects of the Messiah; that He is king and Savior. He writes:
Jesus is riding into Jerusalem as the Savior and King.
The people are crying out, “Hosanna” which means, “O save.” The phrase hosanna is from one of the psalms sung every year during the Passover feast. They want Jesus to be the king of Israel who saves them from Roman occupation. A few years earlier, they tried to take Jesus by force and make him king (John 6:15). They still desire Jesus to be their king.
His disciples also believe He will serve as a king in Israel. Right before the entry into Jerusalem, Matthew tells of how the mother of James and John asks Jesus to make a declaration once He becomes king. She says, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." (Mat. 20:20-21).
We can’t fault the people for wanting a king. There hasn’t been a king in Jerusalem for 600 years (Zedekiah). What good is a nation without a national leader? The people long for the days of King David. The time of David is a time of great prosperity. The prophecy of the Messiah says He will bring greater blessing. The prophet Isaiah says the Messiah will bring a multitude of camels, herds of animals, gold, frankincense, trading ships, cedars, and the wealth of the nations to Israel (Isaiah 60). The people long for a better economy.
But, Jesus idea of salvation and serving as king is different than the crowd’s idea. The crowd wants to be saved from Roman tyranny and become a prosperous and mighty nation. Jesus wants to save people from the punishment of God’s wrath and give people the blessings of God from heaven. The people will soon learn Jesus will not save them from the Roman occupation or improve the economy.
Who is Jesus? Matthew tells us that Jesus is the Messiah which means He is both Savior and King.
We must look beyond the title of Messiah, and at more detail, Matthew gives us about Jesus. We learn from the words of Matthew about the person of Jesus; His character.
Most men who enter a capital city intending to be king usually do so with a display of military might. Not Jesus. Jesus has no chariot or beautiful horse. He enters with no army. He enters as a king riding on a donkey. No king rides a donkey in the ancient world. A donkey is beneath the dignity of a king. The donkey displays the humility of Jesus.
It is not surprising to see Jesus enter Jerusalem as a humble king because He enters the world as a humble baby. Jesus is born in a manger and not in a castle. He continues His life of humility by serving others. He says He came to serve and not to be served and proves it by washing the feet of His disciples. He lives modestly without owning a house. He does not accumulate wealth like other kings. There is not a proud bone in His body.
The Apostle Paul teaches us that the very act of Jesus being born is an act of humility. Before He is born, Jesus exists in the form of God. Angels are His servants. But, Jesus does not see being God as something to hold tightly. In His humility, He empties Himself of His God privileges. He enters the world as a baby clothed in human flesh. As a servant, Jesus humbles Himself by becoming obedient to the point of being willing to die on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). Finding a greater act of humility is impossible.
The Messiah is a humble King and a gentle king. He is the Prince of Peace. He is not a king of war, but a king who says things like, “blessed are the meek,” and “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:2, 9). He encourages His followers to turn the other cheek. In Jesus’ kingdom, people turn from war and hammer their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4). The greatest in His kingdom are those who are servants of all. Kindness and gentleness are the marks of Jesus’ kingdom.
Who is Jesus? He is a humble, meek, and gentle Savior and King.
Matthew also tells us that Jesus is blessed. The people cry out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”
The blessings of Jesus may not be bought with silver, gold, or the wealth of this world. Jesus offers citizens of His kingdom blessings that are beyond price. Jesus offers the blessing of wisdom. He offers the blessing of everlasting peace. Jesus blesses His subjects with protection from all enemies. Jesus offers satisfying water which, after we drink it, we will never thirst again. Jesus offers life everlasting.
Jesus is blessed and generously offers His blessings to those who follow Him and submit to Him as King.
On the first Palm Sunday, the question “Who is this?” fills the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus causes a stir.
We are fortunate that we are born today and that we have in our hands God’s word which tells us the answer to the question. The Bible is very clear on telling us about Jesus. Jesus is the Messiah. He is Savior and King who offers the blessings of heaven.
What about us? May we say we agree with Matthew’s conclusions? Is Jesus our Messiah? Let’s ask ourselves a few questions.
If Jesus is our Savior, that means we believe we need saving. Jesus saves people from God’s punishment for sin. All people are sinners who break God’s laws. The punishment for sin is death. If we believe Jesus is our Savior, then we believe Jesus dies for our sin and takes the punishment we deserve. God’s anger is satisfied.
When we believe Jesus is our Savior, we believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is the sufficient sacrifice for sins. In other words, Jesus saves completely; to the uttermost. No good work which we do saves us, but only Jesus death on the cross. We have 100% confidence in Jesus death as being the only way we may be saved from God’s punishment.
When we believe Jesus is our Savior, we repent. To repent means we recognize sin is against God and we turn from our sin and seek to obey God. Sin makes us grieve because it cost our Savior His life. We no longer are obedient to sin, but we are given the strength from Jesus to be righteous. Repentance is an ongoing work of salvation. We will never obey Jesus and God’s laws perfectly, but we try. We know Jesus wants the best for us. We repent and believe.
Is Jesus your Savior?
The next question we ask is, is Jesus our King?
Many Christians do not understand that we may not say Jesus is our Savior and not say He is our Lord. The two are inseparable.
When Jesus is born, the angels announce to the shepherds, “today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
The Bible says that if we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in our heart that He died for our sins (resulting in God raising Him from the dead), then we will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Jesus teaches we are to obey Him as King. Before going up to heaven, He tells His disciples, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Obeying Jesus as Lord is not easy. He taught difficult things. Matthew tells us of what Jesus teaches. For example:
Following Jesus as Lord is not easy. Do we want to obey Him?
Is Jesus your King?
I ask this rather than ask, is Jesus our source of blessing. When Jesus is our treasure, He is the treasure chest in which we find the blessings of life.
When Jesus is our Treasure, we look to Him for true heavenly riches and not worldly riches. We don’t look to Jesus to improve our economy (health and wealth gospel). We look to Jesus to improve our spiritual economy. Think about it. Do we want to be a rich nation in America but be morally bankrupt? What good are riches when people are running around shooting one another?
We look to Jesus for peace and joy. Jesus is our source of happiness. We rather have the treasures of Jesus than the riches of this world. Obedience to Jesus is a blessing because it is for our good.
When Jesus is our treasure, we worship Him. We give Him thanks. We acknowledge His kingdom is nothing short of amazing. When we receive Jesus, the Bible says we become children of God, and as God’s children, we share in the inheritance of Jesus. We are together alive, risen and seated with Jesus in heaven. We receive eternal life in His kingdom. No longer are we children of the kingdom of darkness, but He transforms us as children of the light.
If Jesus is our Savior and King, rejoice, because we receive the blessings of Jesus.
Who is Jesus? Is He your Messiah? If so, cry out, Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.