Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Different Kind of King

Text: Matthew 21:1-11



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, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’” (Matt. 21:4-5). 


Palm Sunday

Five days before his crucifixion, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. We call this day Palm Sunday. The event itself is known as the triumphal entry. [1] What was the significance of Palm Sunday? Why did Jesus decide to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey on that day?

1. Jesus presented himself as king. 

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (v. 9). “The Son of David” was a messianic title. John writes that the people called Jesus “the King of Israel” (John 12:13).

2. Jesus presented himself as meek. 

In v. 5, Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9, which describes the coming king as “humble and mounted on a donkey.” [2] The Greek word for “humble” (praus) is found four times in the NT, and is also translated as “meek” and “gentle.”


Hosanna!

The excited crowd exclaimed, “Hosanna in the highest!” (v. 9). “Hosanna” literally means “save us.” [3] However, by the first century it had become a cry of praise to God. [4] Regardless, it’s clear that the people had salvation on their minds. The first part of v. 5 (“Say to the daughter of Zion”) is a quote from Isaiah 62:11, which goes on to say, “Behold, your salvation comes.” The people understood that the king had come to bring salvation, but they were confused as to what kind of salvation Jesus had come to bring.

The people also “cut branches from the trees and spread them on the ground” (v. 8). John’s Gospel tells us that the branches were “branches of palm trees” (John 12:13). About two hundred years earlier, a Jewish rebel group known as the Maccabees liberated Judea from Antiochus and the Greeks. One of their victories was celebrated with “palm-branches” (1 Macc. 13:51). In Jesus’ day, the Jews were under the power of Rome, and they were looking for the Messiah to defeat the Romans.

Jesus came to bring salvation from sin, not salvation from Rome. 

One day, all who have received salvation will together praise Jesus. Revelation 7 describes what could be called a “new Palm Sunday.”
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10). 

The King's Followers

During the previous week, two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, asked Jesus for positions of prominence in his kingdom (Matt. 20:20-21). Jesus rebuked them, saying,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vv. 25-28). 
Jesus is a different kind of king, and he expects his followers to be a different kind of people. 

The people of Jesus' day had a wrong expectation of what the Messiah would be. We must not have a wrong expectation of what Jesus' followers are to be. We are to be like him: servants.


[1] All four Gospels give an account of the triumphal entry (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19).
[2] The “donkey” of Zechariah 9:9 is contrasted with the “war horse” of Zechariah 9:10.
[3] The praise of the people was inspired by Psalm 118:25-26: “Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.”
[4] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew (NAC), 313.