The King Comes

In May of 1776, then General George Washington and two others entered the home of a struggling widow seamstress with a design of the first official American flag. Betsy Ross carefully stitched and hemmed the symbol of American freedom. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, hoping to promote unity and national pride, adopted the national flag stating, “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.[1]” The American Flag has grown and changed since Betsy Ross finished her inaugural work, but has continued to stand as a symbol of freedom and national pride for over 200 years.

            In 1831 in Salem, Massachusetts Captain William Driver received an American flag to sail high above his ship, the Charles Doggett. His flag had 24 stars, and as the ship pulled away from the American Coast the crowd could hear him exclaim as he looked high to the ship’s mast, “Old Glory!” Driver continued to fly his “Old Glory” when in retirement in Nashville, TN up until the Civil War. When Tennessee seceded from the Union, the confederacy was determined to destroy Driver’s famed American flag, but they could not find it. On February 25th, 1862 Union forces captured Nashville and raised a small flag above the capital building. The residents began asking Driver if “Old Glory” still existed. He took a few soldiers back to his residence and started ripping the seams of his bed cover until he finally pulled out the “Old Glory” and made his way back to the Capital. Driver, then 60 years old, climbed up the tower and replaced the small banner with his beloved flag. Driver’s devotion to the flag earned all American flags the nickname of “Old Glory.[2]

            The American flag is a symbol of freedom and national pride. Today all across America “Old Glory” will be standing and flying to the right of pastors like me as they declare the coming of the King of Glory. What many people do not realize is that placing the flag to the right of the pastor is to give the American Flag the place of honor. According to US Flag Code,

When displayed with other flags, the size of the American Flag should be larger than the other flags or relatively equal to the size of the largest flag. Other flags should not overshadow the American Flag in any way. The American Flag should be flown higher than lesser flags. If the flags are displayed on the same level, the American Flag should be flown to the (flag's own) right of all other flags. The right is a position of prominence. The flag represents the government of the United States, and on American soil, the government is the highest authority. The American flag is even displayed above church flags.[3]

In our sanctuary, whether we realize it or not, we are paying greater honor and giving greater authority to our earthly ruler than our heavenly one. We live in a great nation, but the constitution is not more important than the Bible. We should be patriotic, but our patriotism should never supersede our devotion to Christ.

            On Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, we see the coming of the Messianic King, the One who is worthy of all our worship. And the coming of Jesus as the King was a question of authority. Were the people going to submit to Jesus as their highest authority or continue to give prominence to their earthly nation? And the amazing thing is that Highest Authority in all the world, comes first not in power, but in humility.

The Humble King Comes

            Matthew consistently shows how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecies and here is no different,

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. (Matthew 21:1-6)

Over the last 5 chapters Jesus was on an intensified mission to get to Jerusalem. He began his journey to Jerusalem with a pronouncement that he must suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed. It was no secret to his disciples why Jesus had entered the heavenly city. Jesus came to die. Jesus came to humble himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:6-8). The Messianic King had come, but had not come as the people expected. And because Jesus was not the expectation of the people, Matthew highlights how Jesus entered in fulfilment of the messianic prophecy from Zechariah 9:9, verse 4-5,

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.’” (Matthew 21:4-5)

The Messianic King did not come riding high upon a war horse, but came humble mounted on a donkey. Matthew is showing that Jesus fulfilled the divine prophecy. Jesus is the coming messianic King.

            Jesus defied earthly wisdom. He did not come in power, but in humility. If we were in the crowd that day, would we have been excited for humble posture of the coming king? The Jews were living in the holy city under Roman oppression. They were waiting and longing for the great Messiah to come and to deliver them from foreign rule. The Jews were full of pride for their homeland and were ready for the Messiah to come and bring deliverance. Do you think they would have been satisfied with Jesus’ display of humility? Would we? Many of those who filled the crowd were ready to make Israel great again, but did not realize that true greatness comes with humility.

            There is no way to known the exact expectations of the people, but we know from the disciples’ reaction to the predictions of Jesus death that most of them did not fully realize what was about to happen. Matthew 21:8-11,

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.”

Hosanna was a cry of the people for God to save them. They were quoting Psalm 118:25-26 which at the time of the first century was a liturgical hymn of praise for Yahweh. The people were asking God for salvation, but it was an earthly, nationalistic salvation, not a spiritual one. They were more identified with the earthly kingdom of Israel than spiritual kingdom of Christ.

            The whole city was stirred up at the entrance of Jesus. Jesus was used to crowds, but the word for “stirred up” pictures an earthquake implying that Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem sent shockwaves throughout the city. And notice the question that was being asked, “Who is this?” The crowds replied by highlighting how Jesus was the prophet as well as the King. The crowd identifies Jesus with two of the offices of the Old Testament (prophet and King), but the reason Jesus was in Jerusalem was to fulfill the third office of priest. Jesus came to bring salvation to his people through his death as their high priest. Jesus came as the perfect substitute to pay for our sins on the cross. Jesus came in the name of the Lord to offer himself for the salvation of his people. Hebrews 7:26-27,

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

The reason Jesus was in Jerusalem was to humbly offer himself up as the priestly King for his people.

            The key is how the people will receive his sacrifice. How will the people answer that question, “Who is this?” The most important question in the world is “who is Jesus?” The question is not merely theological or intellectual question, but it is also an ethical question. It is not enough to rightly identify Jesus as King, but do we live in that reality? Do we live as if Jesus is our highest authority or do we pay him lip service as our king and give prominence to something else?

            The crowds were crying out when Jesus entered Jerusalem, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus quotes this back to the people two chapters later when he is looking over the city. If you would identify yourself as a non-Christian this is particularly important for you to see, Matthew 23:37-39,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Jesus longs to welcome and gather you as his children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Jesus is willing, but the people are not willing. They did not want to identify Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Jesus tells them how to become his children by repeating back to them what the crowds shouted at his coming, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The people need to identify Jesus as the One who has come from God to save his people through his death and resurrection. Salvation is offered to all, but one must repent of their allegiance to other authorities and place Jesus as their Lord.

My Non-Christian friend, Jesus came to save you. He came to be your King. He came to die on the cross to pay for your sins. The Bible says that all people are sinners and deserving of God’s wrath. Jesus came to bring something far better than earthly deliverance. He came to bring eternal deliverance. Jesus entered Jerusalem as the humble King on his way to the cross to be forsaken and rejected so you could be saved. He died and was buried, but God raised him from the dead. He is seated at the right hand of God as the supreme authority over all the earth waiting to bring salvation for all who say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” How you answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” is the most important question of your life. Jesus wants to be your King, but he wants to be your only King. Turn to Him and be saved.

Beloved, Jesus desires and deserves to be our only and highest allegiance. Notice how Jesus comes to those who claim to be his people, but whose hearts are far from him.

The Zealous King Comes

            Jesus is zealous for holiness and true worship. Jesus’ harshest rebukes does not come to the world of sinners, but to the religious. Matthew 21:12-13,

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13)

Jesus walked into the temple and made a statement. The House of the Lord is run like a business for profit, but should be a house of prayer. Remember how shocking this would have been to the Jewish people. As one scholar notes,

Who could have expected this sight? The Messiah, having been led in apparent triumph into the city, enters the temple, arousing expectations of pro-Jewish, nationalist action against Rome. Instead, his attack threatens the sacrificial, worship center of Judaism itself.[4]

Jesus cares how his people worship. He desires his people to worship him in spirit and in truth. It was time for judgment to begin in the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).

            Matthew begins this chapter showing how Jesus fulfills the prophecy in Zechariah. This is significant because of the rest of Zechariah. Ian Campbell draws out this significance when he writes,

By citing Zechariah 9:9 regarding the coming of the King, Matthew draws our attention to this important Old Testament prophet, whose latter prophecies focused on the coming day of the Lord. That day would be a day of salvation (Zech. 9:16). It would also be a day in which ‘the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem’ (Zech. 12:8) would be made great, a day in which the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be cleansed from sin and uncleanness (Zech. 13:1) and in which the people would go to Jerusalem to worship the King (Zech. 14:16). Interestingly, the last statement of Zechariah is that ‘there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day’ (Zech. 14:21).[5]

Jesus came to cleanse the temple by ultimately becoming the holy temple for his people. Jesus, the Messianic King, is the One who has authority over the temple and is fulfilling his messianic role to the fullest extent by focusing on the worship of his people.

            Jesus has inaugurated his Kingdom on earth. The church is the visible representation of the heavenly kingdom on earth. We are a spiritual outpost as a sign, instrument and foretaste of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus desires our church to reflect him well. We want our church to be fully submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ as our King. Jesus is the head of the Church. He is the Chief Shepherd. His commands and His Word are how we should judge all things pertaining to life and godliness in our community. Our main goal as a church is to make disciples who fully submit to Jesus as King and to grow into fully mature disciples of Christ. And if we make disciples of Jesus who live for his glory then America will change. The goal cannot be a changed America, but if the gospel goes forth in power than America will be changed.

            If Jesus walked into our church gathering, what would he say? Would he rebuke or praise our devotion to him? Jesus wrote letters to the churches of the 1st century in Revelation. Jesus speaks to the individual situation of all the churches, but he begins every letter with the words, “I know.” Jesus knows our works. He knows how we are loving and not loving each other. He knows if our affections for Him are hot or cold. He knows how we are working for peace or sowing seeds of division. Jesus knows and Jesus cares how we worship. Beloved, let us examine our lives together and make sure that Jesus has the final Word over everything in our life as a church.

The Messianic King Comes

            Matthew ends this section of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem with ministry that is appropriate for the Temple. Matthew 21:14, “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Beloved, there are the spiritually blind and spiritually lame in our world that need the healing of Jesus. We should be a community where our ambition is to offering the healing of the gospel of all who are far from Jesus Christ. And do you know what happens when people get saved and come into our body? Our church changes. Change is inevitable. Change is not easy, but it is inevitable. The challenge for all of us is how do we handle the change in our community in a way that honors the Savior.

            The temple community changed. The temple began to be filled with the formerly blind and lame and filled with children all praising God. Matthew 21:15-16,

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”

The religious leaders were indignant. They were angry and annoyed at the changes in the temple. They were offended at the changes when they should have been praising God. They should have been rejoicing in the salvation ushered in by the long awaited Son of David, but they were focusing on what they were losing rather than what they were gaining. They did not answer the key question of, “Who is this?” correctly. They missed the opportunity to rejoice in the change.

The chief priests and the scribes looked at Jesus with indignation and said, “Do you hear what they are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:16) Jesus highlights Psalm 8 that speaks of the majesty of the Lord in his care for man. God cares for man by sending Jesus to become like a man. Hebrews 2 also quotes Psalm 2 that highlights why the chief priests and the scribes should have been rejoicing, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9) Jesus has come to taste death for everyone. He has tasted death for the blind and the lame. He has tasted death for the Pharisee and the Scribe. He has tasted death for the religious and the pagan. By the grace of God, Jesus has tasted death for everyone who proclaims and lives, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Captain William Driver lived his life with the utmost respect and honor to Old glory. He was known by everyone in the town for the respect and honor he gave the flag. Beloved, Jesus is our King. Jesus is our Prophet. Jesus is our Priest. The humble and zealous King came to be our Savior through his death and resurrection. Jesus is the King of Glory. I pray that everyone in our town knows us for how we respect and honor Him who is our Highest Authority. Let us all proclaim and live the truth that, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

 

[1] http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagtale.html accessed 3.19.2016

[2] http://www.usflag.org/old.glory.story.html accessed 3.19.2016

[3] http://www.united-states-flag.com/displaying-flags.html accessed 3.19.2016

[4] Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 314). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Campbell, I. D. (2008). Opening up Matthew (p. 131). Leominster: Day One Publications.