A Disturbing King

A Disturbing King

“When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, 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.” 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.'” The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11)

Jesus the King could not have chosen a more dramatic moment or more opportune method for His last entry into the city of Jerusalem. The city was surging with people who were keyed up with religious expectations. Jews from without Palestine and from every corner of the world had crowed into Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover – the greatest of their national festivals.

The people gathered in small groups upon the roof top porches, at the cross streets, and in the market places discussing the same things that people always talk about when they have not seen each other for some time – the weather, the price of wheat, the latest bit of gossip, the rigors of life under Roman occupation. But this year a new topic had been added to their conversation. Wherever you went, to whatever group you joined yourself the conversation would finally get around to discussing the miracle worker from Galilee who laid claim to be the long awaited Messiah. Of course all talk about Him was in guarded tones for it was common knowledge that He was held in disfavor by the Jewish rulers. In fact they wondered if He would dare come to the Passover this year, since the Sanhedrin had already sworn to eliminate Him.

Unknown to the crowd He was already on the His way to Jerusalem. For Him discretion was not the better part of valor. He would not slip into the city under the cover of darkness and keep to the back streets. He planned to enter Jerusalem in a manner that would put Him in the very center of the stage and rivet all eyes upon Him. He was traveling with His disciples from the village of Bethany, located on the Jericho Road. As He came near to the little village of Bethphage at the base of the Mount of Olives He sent His disciples to borrow a colt and her foal. He sat upon this lowly beast of burden and began to ride into the city in fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy. The message: “Behold the King comes,” spread like wildfire throughout the city and multitudes went out to meet Him spreading their garments and palm branches in the way of Him to ride upon. As this procession continued up the hill they came to a bend in the road and there stretched out before them glittering in the bright sun was the city of Jerusalem. When “He beheld the city, He wept over it.”

No doubt this was disturbing to the multitude. If His crying was disturbing to them His words must have been more disturbing: “Would even to day you knew the things that make for peace.” But know they are hid from your eyes.”

Most assuredly the multitudes gathered about Jesus that day wanted peace. Too long they had been slaves in their own land. Too long an alien ruled over Palestine. Too long had foreign soldiers trample through their cities and towns, villages and countryside. They should have known these things that make for peace. Prophet and priest, poet and patriarch had told them that only in loyal service to Jehovah could peace – peace within and peace without – be found. And now this dramatic scene being enacted before them spoke the same message. He rode not on a mighty charger but on a humble beast of burden; palm branches not spears were cast before Him; the songs of children not the shouts of soldiers were His welcome. This acted parable reveals that He came not to destroy but to build up; not to condemn but to help; not to gain the victory by the might of arms, but in the strength of love. He was making a last appeal to His people to open unto Him not their palaces but their hearts. Before He can rule over earthly kingdoms, He must first rule over human hearts. But these truths were hid from their eyes. They were blinded by visions of political power and national prestige among the nations of their day. Even as Jesus had set His face “steadfastly to go to Jerusalem,” to die on the cross for the spiritual salvation of men, they had set their eyes steadfastly upon Jerusalem as a seat of military power crowned with prestige.

Here then is the true meaning of Palm Sunday. Too long have we centered our attention upon the psalms of victory and not upon the tears of sorrow shed over a nation and individuals who knew not the day of their visitation. Too long have we listened to the shout of the crowd, and not the salvation offered by the Christ. We have dreamed of a crown and failed to see the reality of carrying a cross preceding the wearing of a crown.

As this selfless Jesus rides into our very midst on this Palm Sunday, we are disturbed. For His presence demands a decision: Shall I serve Him the King of kings or let Him be sacrificed?

This same group of people who journeyed with Him that first Palm Sunday were on Good Friday faced again with the same decision. Pilate asked: “Shall I release unto you Barrabas or Jesus?” The people cried: “Give Barrabas unto us and sacrifice Jesus.” “What,” said Pilate, “shall I crucify your King?” “We have no King but Caesar.” So today there are those who will say, “I have no king but self. I’ll bow my head nor bend my knee to anyone but myself. “I am the Captain of my soul and the Master of my fate.”

King Agrippa was faced with the same choice. He said, “Paul, almost thou persuaded me to be a Christian.” How many there are who, like Agrippa, are neither for nor against Christ? By their neutrality they ignore Him. But He said, “He that is not for me is against me.” Some of the hardest words ever spoken by Christ were said to the Church of Laodicea: “I know thy works. Thou are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either hot or cold. But because you are luke warm and neither hot not cold, I will spew you out of my mouth.”

In the days of King Ahab the children of Israel were confronted by the same choice. It has not rained in the kingdom for 3 ½ years because the people of God had turned to the worship of a false god. Elijah the prophet gathered the people together at Mount Carmel and asked them, “How long halt you between two options? If the Lord be God then follow Him. If Baal be god then follow him.” And the people answered him not a word. Then there followed a dramatic contest between Elijah the Prophet of the Lord and the 450 prophets of Baal. That day God showed that He was the Lord by causing fire to come from heaven and burn up the sacrifice upon the altar – a sacrifice which had been drenched with water. Then the people cried: “The Lord, He is God.” Then God opened the heavens and caused rain to fall upon the earth. As soon as the crops were watered, the wells and cisterns filled to over flowing; as soon as the people had been materially blessed they returned to the service of Baal. Their decision was of the head and not of the heart. Their number today as legion. They are found all too often within the organized Church. When it is convenient they serve the Lord and when the service of Him conflicts with worldly pleasure and personal ambition they serve false gods. After the Children of Israel were settled into the Promised Land, Joshua confronted them with a decision: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.” (Joshua 24:15-16) Here is a decision of the heart. “I will serve the Lord for all time and eternity.”

You and I must decide whether to follow Jesus as King or to follow and easier and less demanding leader. Our civilization is face to face with the possibility of greatness or destruction. The future will be decided not by the number of hydrogen bombs we produce but by the caliber of men we produce. We must decide which the essential values of life are. Whether we are at the end of the road or whether there stretches out before us a new and better way that will be determined by that to which we commit our lives. It is no matter of little significance whether we chose Christ or not. It is the matter of the life or death of our civilization. To ignore Him, to remain neutral, or to be half-hearted in our commitment will lead to death. The only way that leads to life – to a new and better tomorrow for ourselves and our children – is a thorough going commitment to Jesus Christ.

Dr. Robert W Kirkpatrick

Whitfield Estate Presbyterian Church, March 19, 1967

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  1. Trackback: A Disturbing King | The Raving Ranter: One Woman's Quest To Get To The Heart of Today's Issues

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