Palm Sunday - The King Enters His City


March 28, 1999 ~ Pickering Standard Church

March 24, 2002 ~ Crossroads Community Church

Matthew 21:1-9 - As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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!"


Luke 19:39-44 - Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-- but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

John 12:16-19 - 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. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"

The time is early spring, just five days before the feast of the Passover commemorating the deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian captivity. The scene is the glorious city of Jerusalem in central Israel, now overwhelmed by crowds celebrating the annual Feast of the Passover, and under the firm yoke of Roman authority. The event is the entry of a King, a Son of the line of David, into the royal city of Jerusalem. The emotion is one of joy and praise for a soon to be realized deliverance. This is the day when Christ enters His own to take for Himself the kingdom which He had been promised, which had been promised by God to Israel’s greatest king, David:

Psalm 89:19-37 Once you spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: "I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have exalted a young man from among the people. I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. No enemy will subject him to tribute; no wicked man will oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’ I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure. If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered. Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness — and I will not lie to David — that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky."

This is the day when a long promised peace will be restored and Israel will throw off her oppressors, this is the day for which the people of Israel had waited in anticipation for so long. Today the King has come! Did even those who understood the nature of Jesus' ministry anticipate the events that would unfold around this magnificent man before the week came to an end? Who among them would have been able to believe how soon the echoes of a psalmist's joy could turn to cries for crucifixion?

Psalms 118:19-29 - Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

The gospels tell us that Jesus sent His disciples on ahead of Him into the village of Bethphage on the slopes of the Mount of Olives to return to Him with the colt He would ride into Jerusalem. And the disciples, again surprised, find everything just as He had told them it would be. Jesus was on His way from Jericho to Jerusalem both to celebrate the Passover, as all Hebrew males were required to do annually, and to Himself be the Passover Lamb. As He traveled He passed through Bethany, where He had raised Lazarus from death, and stayed there to eat a meal at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Bethany lay about three kilometers east of Jerusalem upon the Jericho-Jerusalem road. From there Jesus and His company of followers traveled up and around the slopes of the Mount of Olives, through Bethphage (itself only slightly less than a kilometer from Jerusalem), and on into the city in which God had chosen to place His name. Jesus traveled with a great tumult of praise surrounding Him, with His followers waving Palm branches in the air and laying their cloaks upon the ground for Him to ride upon. John Wesley writes concerning this custom that this was:

A ceremony used in the eastern parts towards superiors, in token of reverence to his person, that they would not have his feet to touch the ground, and that they put themselves and their concerns under his feet, and into his disposal. (Notes on the Entire Bible - 2 Kings 9:13)

As they drew nearer to Jerusalem the crowds with Jesus were met by crowds coming from Jerusalem who had heard of Jesus’ coming and who hurried to meet Him. Many of them, wanting to meet the man who had power even over death, many others wanting to see Him who had such a great reputation, and many more wanting to meet Him for both reasons. The noise created by this excited crowd was so great that the Pharisees were compelled to tell Jesus to have His followers be still, to which Jesus replied:

Luke 19:40 - I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

What words could better describe an appropriate response to the incredible fact that He who created all that is was now coming into His glory. The creator of those very stones was now riding upon them on His way to the culmination of a plan that was in place before the world began. It surely was glory that Christ was about to receive, only not the kind of glory that the great majority of those in the procession had expected. Surely it was now that the prophecy which Zechariah wrote in anticipation of this tremendous event would be fulfilled:

Zechariah 9:9-10 - Rejoice greatly, 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. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Those rejoicing at Jesus' entry into Jerusalem echoed the sentiment that Zechariah held. In their minds must have been the story of Solomon riding on his father's mule as he became king and the many marvellous victories that his father, the great king David, had enjoyed over his enemies. Here too was a man they had often wanted as their king approaching the city of Israel's kings on a mule that had never before been ridden by anyone, as sure a sign as any of Jesus’ claim to the throne and a claim these crowds were only too happy to acknowledge. On at least one occasion they had actually attempted to place Jesus on the throne by force.

John 6:5-15 - When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

As they were shouting their hosannas the people were asking Jesus to save them and at the same time acknowledging Jesus as their king, the One who would deliver them and take the throne for Himself. From their point of view it would be a salvation from their Roman overlords. None of them realized that Christ had come not to establish an earthly kingdom but to establish a spiritual kingdom. A kingdom inhabited not by people of a specific geographical region but by those who have been set free from the oppression of sin. Even His disciples, the apostle John records, did not understand the significance of this day:

John 12:14-16 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt." 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.

The people in Jerusalem to celebrate God’s great deliverance of their nation from Egyptian oppression, so exultant that afternoon in their hope of a great deliverance from Roman oppression through the mighty workings of God through his chosen king, Jesus, went to bed that night with the Romans still ruling over them and with those terrible words of Jesus echoing in their ears:

Luke 19:42-44 - If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-- but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.

The people had welcomed a king but had found a prophet, they had welcomed a saviour from Roman domination but found a man devoted to God, a saviour from a Satanic domination they were unaware of. They had made a mistake. After hearing Jesus' teaching, after seeing that He had no desire to take an earthly throne, after finding no sword in His hand by which to set Israel free, they jumped to a wrong conclusion. They had celebrated His triumphal entry into the City of David and yet had never realized that the event was far more significant than it appeared. Here was a man yet the Son of God. Here was a carpenter yet the Lord of all creation. Here was the one of whom the writer of Hebrews would write:

Hebrews 2:6-9 - But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Here was the One who was ultimately humble and yet who allowed this jubilant celebration to take place around Him for now, at last, it was the time for Him to become The King! Here was the One who a few short days later they would put to death at the instigation of their rulers. Here was the One who by His death would save them from their own eternal deaths. Mary had been promised a King, David had been promised a descendant who would rule upon his throne forever, Israel had been promised a deliverer. On His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and in all the events of the week that followed and which ended with Easter, Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. The King had come into His glory and was about to rule all creation from His eternal throne. Jesus Christ the King has come into His kingdom, this is truly a great day!