Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Today starts the week known as Holy Week on the church calendar. This Sunday, we turn our attention to the moment when Jesus enters Jerusalem. This key moment in the biblical story shines a dramatic light on the expectations of the people and the great plan of God that was being fulfilled in Jesus.
There was great expectation in the Jewish community at this time. For years, they had been pressed down by the heavy hand of the Roman Empire. This ominous force ruled over them with a cruelty and oppressiveness that deeply shaped God’s People. In their minds, there would be a Jewish King that God would send, who would in an instant overthrow the Roman government–bringing to an end their misery and shame as a people. This person would be a warrior-like figure, who would enter the stage of history ready to fight. They were waiting for their king to arrive. Their expectation was almost palpable. Any moment now, God would act and they would be rescued, but little did they know that rescue was coming but in the least expected way.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, he comes into the city as a conquering king would’ve entered back into their city after conquest. The Triumphal Entry was a common occurrence in the first century Roman world. This was the way that a king was recognized and celebrated. As Jesus rides into Jerusalem a crowd gathers to greet him and they spread their cloaks on the road along with palm branches–showing their submission to him and their eager expectation of his victory. They shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!” echoing Psalm 118. This type of gathering was not unique, and this crowd knew their role. Maybe this Jesus was the long-awaited warrior king that would conquer Rome and liberate the Jews. Their story needed a king that would accomplish swift victory. They were expecting Jesus to fit into their story, instead of realizing that they were all a part of his grand story of redemption. Needless to say, Jesus did not live up to their expectations and just a short while later, they killed the one who they declared as the Blessed Savior of God!
We ought to pause to consider the ways in which we echo this moment in our lives today. We have certain expectations about this life–what kind of family we should have, what kind of job we desire, what type of lifestyle we require. Our world easily becomes centered around our preferences and our plans. From an early age, we are taught to live toward our dreams and accomplish them. We are trained to be independent and self-sustaining individuals who have need of no one. As our story is written, we may find that Jesus comes to play a part in that story. As we assess our lives, it becomes apparent that we are the king in our kingdom, and Jesus has a narrowly defined role within our kingdom. As we encounter the Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, we discover that his kingship in our lives is far more disruptive (confronting idolatry in all its forms), subversive (undermining all other kingdoms), and dangerous (calling us into mission in a broken world) than we many times imagine. We want a safe Jesus who pats us on the back, tells us “good job, you tried your best”, and lets us live for ourselves.
If we were to summarize the message from today it would be: Jesus is King means that we play a part in his story, he does not play a part in our story. In order to process what this means for us, let’s discuss three elements of God’s Kingdom that are on display while Jesus enters Jerusalem leading to the cross.
As Jesus arrives on a humble donkey, the scene quickly changes to judgment being pronounced on the very epicenter of Jewish worship–the temple. Jesus disrupts the system of the temple because it had grown so vastly corrupt. It had become a place of ethnic pride and societal abuse.
The entrance of King Jesus into the thick of our lives is disruptive. Jesus rearranges the furniture of our lives in ways that expose our idolatry, sin, and rebellion.
Could you articulate how Jesus has disrupted you? If you have not experienced disruption in your life, do you wonder if your allegiance is elsewhere? This type of disruption leads us to repentance. A good question to consider is: How has repentance marked your life recently?
In Matthew’s account, we see Jesus cursing the fig tree that had the appearance of fruitfulness but was fruitless. The curse on this fig tree was a curse extended to the corrupt structure that the Jews had established. They had constructed an entire system that had the appearance of godliness, but denied the power of God (2 Timothy 3:5).
The Kingdom of Jesus is subversive. It undermines every other kingdom that seeks to establish dominance. It exposes the frailty and folly of kingdoms that are calling us to place our trust in. The entrance of Jesus as King into our lives is subversive. His royal presence calls into question the assumptions we all live with and many times blindly operate within. We think that “this is just how the world works” but in reality, God’s Kingdom pulls our ‘powerful’ kingdoms up by the roots, exposing their folly.
How is Jesus undermining your kingdom? In what ways is the declaration that Jesus is King present in your life? How does your very life display your allegiance and love for Jesus?
Jesus shares a parable of two sons (Matthew 21:28-32). One son says that he won’t obey, but ends up obeying. The other son says he will obey, but ends up disobeying. Jesus indicates through this parable the real weakness of the crowd that cried “Hosanna!” They had all the right words and knew how to act, but they were clueless about following Jesus. In their minds, Jesus fit nicely into their story of conquering Rome. But in God’s Story, Jesus is the true King who was establishing His Kingdom. They didn’t have eyes to see this and so, they killed this disruptive and subversive man.
There is a cost to following Jesus. Do you want to keep your life or lose it? Do you desire to maintain safety and control, or are you willing to lay down your life to put Jesus on display? What is Jesus calling you into for the sake of God’s mission?
Following Jesus is not safe. A life of walking with Jesus means that you will experience hardship because your allegiance is to a king who is above all rulers in your life. Are you a part of His Kingdom? Is Jesus a part of your story, or are you a part of His?
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?