April 9, 2006

The King Is In Control (2)

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Miscellaneous Scripture: Matthew 21:1–11


The King Is In Control

Matthew 21:1-11
Sunday, April 9, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

It is somewhat poetic that I return to this blessed pulpit form Florida, the land of palm trees, on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, traditionally the Sunday prior to our Lord's Resurrection, is well known for His entry into Jerusalem. I'm sure all of our children can recall this memorable story. I'm sure all the adults known this story as well, but beyond these facts, I'll bet their knowledge does not exceed that of the children. So I ask you Grace Tabernacle congregation, what is so special about Palm Sunday? Is it simply the day Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem or does the event carry with it a deeper meaning of significance?

This morning as we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Table, we'll examine the so-called "Triumphant Entry." We'll see a King who made a purposeful entry in verse 1, scheduled a planned event in verses 2-7 and received a pronounced reception in verses 8-11. All in all, we'll see a King who is in total control as the most dramatic events of His life and the history of our universe were about to unfold. In a world that is plagued with uncertainty, I trust this message will give you great stability if King Jesus is your Savior.


Let's first begin with the "Purposeful Entry" in verse 1. The text says, "When they approached Jerusalem" (stop right there).

Though many people to this day approach Jerusalem, there was something more significant about this event. Though many Jewish pilgrims approached Jerusalem during this time of the Passover, estimates say the city of 30,000 swelled to roughly two million people, there was something more significant about this event. Jesus approached Jerusalem because He was following a divine decree from His Holy Father prepared to set into motion the purpose for His coming. Christ was in control!

Three times in Matthew's Gospel we are permitted to eavesdrop on this specific conversation with His disciples. On three occasions we read, "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day" (Mt. 16:21; cf. 17:22-23; 20:18-19).

So how did His men respond? We read that Peter rebuked the Lord for this statement (Mt. 16:22) to which Jesus replied, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (Mt. 16:23). Elsewhere we read the disciples were "deeply grieved" when they heard these words from their Master (Mt. 17:23). Luke also adds, "But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said" (Lk. 18:34). The confusion in their hearts is clearly evident when James and John immediately responded one time demanding positions of honor in glory (Mk. 10:35f.).

Yet despite the sadness and misunderstanding among His closest associates, Christ knew what He was doing. He was on a mission. There came a turning point in His public ministry where Luke tells us "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Lk. 9:51 KJV; cf. 9:53). Nothing or nobody would deter Him as He "proceed(ed) on His way to Jerusalem" (Lk. 13:22).

Now by Matthew 21:1, Jesus "had approached Jerusalem" the text says. Far from it being a mobbed frenzy that pushed yet another religious figure into the capital city, Jesus came intentionally. Unknown to man, it was all part of the plan unfolding to divine perfection. The true Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) would come and give His life as a final offering for sin (Jn. 1:29). Jesus entered Jerusalem to end His earthly ministry, fulfill the mission for His arrival (Jn. 12:27b) to purchase salvation for those who would believe on His name.

Amidst the angry Pharisees, ecstatic bystanders and confused disciples, Jesus was in complete control!

2. A PLANNED EVENT (verses 2-7)

In addition to a purposeful entry, Jesus, again demonstrating His sovereign control of the situation planned the method of His entrance (as we move to the second point).

I'll begin reading at the end of verse 1. "Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them'" (Mt. 21:1b-3).

We are not provided with the identity of His disciples nor are we informed of the identity of the village. That information is immaterial. The Gospel writer is primarily concerned with the fact that Jesus once again would demonstrate His control of these dramatic events.

First of all we see Jesus, I believe through His omniscience, know both the location of the donkey and her colt and the willingness of the owner to forfeit his animals for our Savior's use.

Second, Jesus refers to Himself as "the Lord." In verse 3 the disciples were to inform the man "The Lord has need of them." So in His own self-disclosure, He not only demonstrates His divine knowledge in foreseeing the location of the animals, but also reveals His divine title, "the Lord" to secure the use of the animals.

Third, we see Jesus use these events to fulfill divine prophecy. Look with me at verses 4 and 5. "This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 'Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.''"

Common to Matthew we see the writer take two statements from the Old Testament (Isa. 62:11 and Zech. 9:9) and show how Jesus fulfilled them both. Hundreds of years earlier it was prophesized that one of their own, their "King" (as the text says), would come to them providing deliverance. It was widely accepted at the time, that this prophecy referred to the long-awaited Messiah who would rescue His people.

How would they identify Him? According to the prophecy, He would come in gentleness, mounted on a donkey, specifically a colt, the smallest and lowliest of the two animals (Lk. 19:35; Jn. 12:15).

Yet more than just corresponding with the same animal of the prophecy, the donkey was symbolic of Christ's ministry. Few if any leaders would make their grand appearance on a donkey, "a beast of burden." From them we would expect several white stallions pulling a decorated chariot. A King on a donkey almost appears to be a contradiction of terms. But for Jesus, the donkey represented His meekness, His gentleness, His peace. He came (this time) not in glorification, but in humiliation.

Martin Luther said it well: "Look at Christ. He rides not upon a horse which is a steed of war. He comes not with appalling pomp and power but sits upon a donkey, which is a gentle beast to bear burdens and work for men. From this we see that Christ comes not to terrify, to drive, and oppress, but to help and take for Himself our load."

From our Lord's perspective, again, He was in control. Everything was happening according to His divine purpose. He remained calm. Even the animal he rode, one that had never been ridden before (Mk. 2:2: Lk. 19:30) gave no indication of agitation.

In verse 6 and 7 we read, "The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them (probably because they did not know which one He would choose); and He sat on the coats (on the colt)."


From a purposeful entry to a planned event to a pronounced reception as we begin the third point.

Jesus had arrived in the town limits. Verse 9 tells us that some were "going ahead of Him" and others "followed" Him. Verse 10 says, "When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, 'Who is this?'" In verse 8 we read, "Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road." This was an ancient custom symbolically representing a submission to authority. It acknowledged Jesus' kingship. When Jehu was inaugurated, the Old Testament says, "Then they hurried and each man took his garment and placed it under him on the bare steps, and blew the trumpet, saying, 'Jehu is king'" (2 Ki. 9:13)!

Now, "Jesus is King!" Verse 8 says, "others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road." We know from the account in John (12:13) that there were palm branches. Palm branches were a symbol of Jewish nationalism, an expression of the people's desire for political freedom. This too was also intended to honor King Jesus, welcome Him into the city and follow Him to victory.

Most significantly is another prophecy that Matthew mentions in verse 9. Quoting this time from Psalm 118 (a Psalm of deliverance) we read the people saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!"

The Messianic frenzy was at it highest (Jn. 12:12). The disappointed Pharisees said, "Look, the world has gone after Him" (Jn. 12:19). There was immense excitement in the air. The city was electrified with great expectations.

"Hosanna" is a word of prayer that means, "save now." Jesus, identified as "the prophet" in verse 11 was making His public disclosure. After concealing most of His ministry, He entered Jerusalem on a grand scale, riding a donkey just as it was prophesized from old. The prayer (and praise) of the people is expected. "Hosanna, to the Son of David (the most common Messianic title); Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" Our long awaited moment has arrived! Declare Yourself King! Save us now, Messiah!

There is no doubt that Jesus was (and is) both Messiah and Savior, the only problem was a gross misunderstanding in the purpose of His arrival. You see the Jews were greatly oppressed by the Romans. They chaffed under their political and military presence. They wanted deliverance and believed the Messiah would do just that. He would destroy Rome through His supernatural powers and be their national Savior. Hence, Jesus was an overnight sensation.

But someone, Jesus, had a different definition of salvation in mind.

The people failed to realize their greatest need. Their greatest need was not deliverance from Rome, but deliverance from sin. Jesus came to destroy the greatest oppressor and provide the greatest means of salvation. Despite their outward religiosity, the Jews, like each one of us here in this room, need a Savior. For all of us, says the Scripture, have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). "Our iniquities have made a separation between (us) and (our) God" (Isa. 59:2). Our greatest need is not peace with man, but rather peace with God. And that's why Jesus came to this world and specifically to Jerusalem at this time to lay His life down for people like you and I, to die as the substitute for our sins and provide the means to be reconciled with God.

You see, the stage was divinely set for a conflict of God-sized proportions.

It wasn't long before the Jews got wind of our Lord's intentions. They wanted a Messiah that would slay their enemies, not a Messiah that would receive His greatest victory by riding to His death as prophesized in Isaiah 53. They wanted a Messiah that would bless their earthly kingdom, not a Messiah whose kingdom was not of this world (Jn. 18:36). They wanted carnal freedom, not spiritual commitment. They wanted prosperity, not a cross.

The cheering was short-lived. The tide began to turn. The excitement was fading. The listeners were dwindling. The opposition was snowballing. Within five days, to the human eye, it all fell apart. Those who shouted, "Hosanna in the highest" (Mt. 21:9) were now shouting, "Crucify Him!" "Crucify Him!" (Mt. 27:22-23). As planned, Jesus was brought to His knees under the weight of the cross. It just shows the fickleness of humanity (Jn. 2:24-25) and the steadfast control of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Their rebellion was the means God would use to crucify His Son and make atonement for the sins of the world.

Where are you, my friend? Do you have eyes to see that Jesus Christ came not to satisfy your material cravings, but to satisfy your spiritual deficiencies by providing the means for you to be forgiven by God? If Jesus were to return today, this time in glory, whose side would you be on?

The unknown author once said:

Will I lay my cloak before You,
when they arrest You on olive mountain,
or pull it tighter around me,
fading into the ranks of the deserters?
Will I shout

"Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the Lord!"
when they parade You
before the authorities,
or will I tell any one - and every one - around me
I never met You in my life?

Will I lay my palm branches at Your feet,
as they march you to Calvary,
or use them to put more stripes
on Your bloody back?

Will I run behind You
when they carry You to the tomb,
or turn away
as the ashes of my hopes
are rubbed into the
wounds in my heart?

Christian, take comfort that the One you worship according to Matthew 21 is: the Lord (verse 3), your gentle King (verse 5), the Son of David (verse 9), the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord (verse 9) and the prophet, Jesus (verse 11). Take comfort, beloved by God, that the One you worship is fully in control. May we forever cast ourselves into His protective arms.

other sermons in this series

Mar 3


The Entrusted Message

Preacher: J.T. Colville Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16–21 Series: Miscellaneous