BIBLE READING:  Matthew 21: 1-13

 

SERMON

When Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, we may marvel at how many of the crowd gathered around him to lift up his praises.  The crowd was impressive, yet Jesus also knew how many would show up to watch him hang  -- to hang on a cross like a common criminal.  How Jesus felt that day as he was riding into town on the back of a donkey?  Was he waving and smiling to the crowds like those who wave to us from the back of vehicles in a parade?  Or was his face set with grim determination, knowing what he needed to do regardless of how the crowds reacted to him?  Perhaps he was dealing with the tension of love of those in the crowd and the hatred of those who were ready to take his life, and the only way he could truly express himself was through the tears running down his cheeks.

At the very moment he was receiving his greatest praise, Jesus also knew that he was on the road to his greatest humility.  How could Jesus deal with such a paradox? 

Jesus was able to deal with such a paradox because Jesus himself was a paradox -- he was both humble servant and exalted Lord.  The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is a marvel of contrasts between Jesus’ humility and his exaltation.  

Jesus exalted as Lord
1. He asserted his authority and had others do his bidding, such as when the disciples retrieved the animals for him.

2. He approached Jerusalem like a king.  A reception of laying one’s cloak before the king was something done for Jehu when he was anointed king (2 Kings 9:13). According to William Barclay, the donkey was a noble beast.  When the king rode into town on a donkey, the people knew he was coming in peace.  If the king rode into town on a horse, however, the people knew he was coming to make war.

3. He was one who came without fear.  Jesus knew that the people in Jerusalem were out to kill him.  But he did not sneak into town to avoid capture.  Instead he rode boldly into town with all eyes upon him. 

4. He was praised as “the one who was comes in the name of the Lord.”  One commentary points out that that was a typical greeting given to a pilgrim on their way to the Feast, like in Psalm 118:26.   Yet here Jesus fulfils that role like no other.  He is not only a pilgrim who is coming in the Lord’s name.  Jesus is the one who comes as the Lord himself.

5. He was the one who came to save.  The people were calling out, “Hosanna,” which is essentially “a people’s cry for deliverance and for help in the day of their trouble.” Indeed, Jesus was coming to save them, but not in the way they expected.  Jesus was not coming to save the people by changing their government.  Jesus was coming to save the people by changing their hearts.

Jesus is humbled as servant.
1. Jesus was God, but did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited (Phil. 2:6).  In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus demonstrates he is all-knowing. He tells the disciples that when they come into the village ahead of them, they will find a donkey and a colt tied there. Some have said that Jesus had these animals prepared for him by prior arrangement.  But this information was more likely provided to us as a sign of Jesus’ “divine foreknowledge and authority.”  Jesus had the power of God, because Jesus and God are one.  Jesus could have had all the sinners on earth destroyed before they tortured and killed him and yet, he chose to die for us instead.

2. Another sign of humility was that Jesus had nothing to call his own.  Even the beasts he rode upon were borrowed animals. All Jesus had of his own were the clothes on his back.  And even those would be taken from him.  The soldiers at the foot of the cross gambled them away while Jesus hung on the cross naked.  Jesus gave himself -- for us.

3. Although Jesus is Lord, he still has need of others.  Jesus had the power to do all things by himself.  And yet, he chose to have others help him. Instead of retrieving the donkey and colt himself, Jesus sent two of his disciples.  He needed his disciples.  If anyone asked anything of them, they were to say, “The Lord needs them.” The Lord needs us too.  Not that Jesus has to depend on us.  Jesus needs us because he wants to engage us in the work of the Lord.  The Lord needs us because each of us is important to him.

4. Jesus did not act according to his own will but according to His Father’s will and according to what was prophesied about him.   We prefer to exert our own independence; we prefer to have things our own way.  But not Jesus.  Jesus took on the form of slave. From the very beginning of his gospel, Matthew again and again shows how Jesus fulfilled prophesies.  For Matthew, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 quite literally -- riding two animals, the donkey and a colt, into the city.

5. Jesus did not receive a royal red carpet treatment from the dignitaries.  Instead he received the humble adoration of the common people, who did what they could by placing their ordinary cloaks on the ground and waving the leafy branches they were able to pluck off common trees. The common people knew they had need of a Saviour.  The dignitaries would not take the time.  They were already too comfortable and satisfied with their lives to sense their need of a Saviour. This serves as a warning to all of us not to get too comfortable in what we can accomplish for ourselves.  When we become too independent, we fool ourselves into believing we have no need of others, especially the One who offers to “save us” from our folly.

6. Jesus was not recognized when he came into the city.  How ironic that the Holy One was unknown in the Holy City. They asked, “Who is this?”  And some said he was a prophet.  Which is true enough.  Jesus indeed was telling forth the words of God.  But Jesus was so much more.  He was the Messiah.  He was God.  And the people just did not understand.

And we still do not understand.  Why would the Lord humble himself so for us?  Because we needed someone like that to save us.  Someone humble so we could relate to him yet someone powerful so that we could obey him.  We are not a people who are naturally willing to change.  Yet Jesus knew the people were wrong.  Wrong about why he came.  Wrong about who he was.  Wrong about what he was about to do.

Jesus could have been very impatient with the people at this point.  His time was drawing to an end, and still there were too many misunderstandings.  Instead he loves these people.  Jesus was right, but not self-righteous. He actually cares for these people, these poor, misguided people.  He actually laid down his life for them.  Just like he laid his life down for us poor, misguided women and men.  Jesus did what he did not so much so we could understand him.  He did it so we would know that he understands us.  Jesus became like one of us so that we may understand better how to become more like him.


We will never fully understand Jesus any more than we can fully understand God.  God’s ways are above our ways.  Yet Jesus understands us and knows that we are working on our shortcomings. And by that very acceptance, Jesus helps us to grow.

 “People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be -- not what you nag them to be,” someone said, and Jesus doesn’t criticize us into the kingdom.  He loves us into the kingdom.  Likewise, we who follow Jesus are to encourage others -- not nag others -- to follow him.  Although Jesus is humble, he is an authority to be honoured and obeyed.

It is written that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, “the whole city was in turmoil” (v. 10).  The word for turmoil is derived from the same word for “earthquake.” Before Jesus went into the temple to turn the tables upside down, he turned the city upside down.  Jesus, the humble Lord, has the power to turn our lives into turmoil as well, depending on who we say he is and what he means for us.  Jesus is still turning our world upside down.  How will we, as Christians, react to the problems in our world, with the problems we have at home and in our families?  Will we, as Paul the apostle suggests, have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus?  Will we strive to be like Christ who so willingly humbled himself?  Yet, who at the same time, is the Christ who is highly exalted and to whom every knee should bow and every tongue confess is Lord?  Who is this who so boldly rides into your heart and turns your world upside down?