Arrival of the King
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 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 heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:7-11 NIV)
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16 NIV)
Scripture describes two very different arrivals of Jesus the King to our world.
His first coming is marked by humility. His second coming is marked by glory. He comes to the world first as a helpless baby. He comes again as King of kings and Lord of lords. At the end of His first coming, Jesus rides into Jerusalem in humility, on a donkey. At His second coming, he rides a white horse, a battle charger. He enters Jerusalem on the donkey to die for the sins of the world. He returns on the white horse at the end of time to claim His creation and consummate His glorious Kingdom of righteousness and peace for eternity.
Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a donkey to the "Hosanna's!" of the crowd marks Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, named for the branches they laid in front of Him. His red carpet was made up of green palm fronds.
The disciples and the crowds do not know the Cross that awaits Him. They have visions of their Messiah King claiming His throne, defeating the Romans and restoring Israel as God's blessed nation. Their wildest imagination of what is taking place falls far short of the cosmic meaning of what Jesus is actually doing.
I believe the humble entry into Jerusalem on the donkey foreshadows the greater coming of the King of kings on the white horse at the end of time. He enters Jerusalem to face down the powers of darkness and establish His Kingdom by way of His sacrificial death for the sins of all of us. He will return to consummate His Kingdom by way of His final victory over the powers of darkness, ushering in eternity.
It's not a matter of which King Jesus is. He is both. He is the humble King who offers us life by His death, and gives us the beautiful and dangerous freedom to choose to follow Him or not. He does not force us to follow. He invites us. Jesus is also the glorious King who drives out evil and rights every wrong. All who have chosen to follow Him will live with Him forever in His kingdom where every wrong is righted and there is no more sin, sorrow, death, illness or evil.
Here is what I know about following Jesus. It is not enough to shout "Hosanna!" His Lordship in my life is more than the hymns or worship songs I sing. His kingdom in my life involves not just His Cross, it involves a cross for me. I must die to myself and live in His will if He is to be my King. Jesus meant it when He taught His disciples (and us) to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, They will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Jesus will not begin to be my King when He returns on that white horse. He already is my King right here, right now. On earth as it is in heaven. In every choice I make to put His will above my own, He is my King. In every act of love and service when it involves sacrifice on my part for love of another person, Jesus is my King. Every time I allow His Holy Spirit to root out of my life the sin that remains in me, and I become more Christlike, His Kingdom is established more fully. And all of it will consummate when my King returns and fully claims His glorious Kingdom.
There is much to celebrate in Holy Week. Jesus rides into Jerusalem to share Passover with His disciples and transform it into what we now experience as Holy Communion. He enters Jerusalem to the cheers of the throng in order to face the jeers of another crowd, calling for His crucifixion. He dies on the Cross for the sins of the world. For yours. And for mine. And He walks out of the tomb as Savior and Lord, having put death to death for us.
What a week. What a sacrifice. What a victory!
Happy Palm Sunday!