HE is alive!
Read – Matthew 21:1-17
Key Verse – And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:10-11NKJV)
We read this passage every year on this particular Lord’s Day – Palm Sunday. For very nearly 2000 years, the church has done the same. Something momentous happened on that Sunday. Jesus rode into Jerusalem atop a donkey. It sounds almost comic, when we think about it. But the people who were there didn’t see it that way. People spread garments and branches in front of Him as He rode down the slope of the Mount of Olives, and then through the Eastern Gate into the city of Jerusalem. People shouted out phrases that might seem odd to our ears today, but which were in reality very important statements. They said “Hosanna,” a word that means “Save us” or perhaps more specifically “save now.” They referred to Jesus as the “Son of David” which had very real reference to the promised Messiah of Israel.
It’s an interesting and important scene that we try to picture every year on Palm Sunday.
Today I don’t really want to think about the donkey, or about the palm branches or the coats strewn on the ground, or the disciples who were in front of and around the donkey as it wended its way through the streets. I don’t want to think so much about the people’s shouts, and I don’t want to spend time thinking about the fact that just hours and days after the people declared Him the son of David, they followed their leaders in rejecting Him.
Those are all details that bear our study, and I encourage you to think them through. But today I want to think almost exclusively about the Man who sat atop the donkey. Let’s think about Him… and let’s ask ourselves, who exactly was it who rode into Jerusalem on that day?
As I was preparing this message, I asked a few sources who Jesus is. For example, I asked Siri, “Who is Jesus” and got this response: “Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity, and is widely described as the most influential person in history. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.”
What about Muslims? Who do they say Jesus is? Well, I found this – “In Islam, Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him, is one of the five greatest messengers of God who are collectively known as the ‘Ul al-Azm or the Possessors of Steadfastness. Jesus is also a real person who lived in Roman Judea in the first century of the Common Era. Muslims share with Christians most of the basic outlines of Jesus’ story, though there are certainly differences. In Islam, as well as in Christianity, Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary and was without a father. But for Muslims, Jesus is neither God nor the Son of God.”^[from Amy Frykholm’s interview of Zeki Saritoprak (author of “Islam’s Jesus”) of May 23, 2017. ]
What about Hinduism? Who do they say Jesus is? Well most would say He was a holy man, a wise teacher, and maybe even “A” god. “Some Hindus are more than willing to acknowledge Jesus as divine, if He is not seen as ‘uniquely’ Divine. Hindus often worship many gods and goddesses and some are eager to include Jesus in their list of deities. They don’t, however, see Jesus as the only way to God. Instead, some understand Jesus as the perfect example of “self-realization” (the goal of Hindu “dharma”). Many Hindus see Jesus as a symbol of what humans can attain, rather than a true historical person. He is divine in his modeling, if not in His nature, and He is not the only such model. While some Hindus may see Jesus as a God-man of sorts, they would also cite other examples such as Rama, Krishna and Buddha. Jesus is simply one of many “ishtas” (forms of the divine) in the history of mankind.”^[<https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/who-is-jesus-according-to-other-religions/>]
What about Buddhism? They would go so far as to say Jesus was enlightened, that He was wise teacher, and even perhaps a holy man.
There are lots of opinions today about just who was sitting atop the donkey on Palm Sunday. There were lots of opinions that day, too, as our text reveals. But, frankly, opinions don’t matter much. If I stood before you today sharing my opinion, you might find it interesting, and nod a bit at the parts you liked, but you wouldn’t really care… and you certainly wouldn’t change your life to conform to my opinions. I can assure you that your opinion would be equally received.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “The greatest deception which men incur proceeds from their opinions.”
Harlan Ellison said, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
Arnold H. Glasow said, “The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.”
But John Calvin nailed it best, I think, when he said, “Inquire not what are the opinions of any one; but inquire what is truth.”
And that’s all that matters isn’t it? The truth. And what is truth? Jesus answered that – Your Word is truth (John 17:17). He said the Bible is truth, and so all that matters is what the Bible teaches on the topic, so let’s spend our remaining time there – Who does the Bible say was on that donkey?
A king was on that donkey.
Many try to set dates based on prophesy. I lived in southern Ohio in 1988, and remember recieving a copy of Edgar Whisenant’s booklet “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988.” It’s still available on Amazon.com, amazingly, and I believe the full text is also freely available on the internet. As I was looking at the reviews of the book on Amazon, I came across this gem, posted September 17, 2013 – “A lot of people say you can’t know when the rapture will be but this book spells it out clearly. laugh if you want but when Oct 1988 comes around I’ll be ready….oh…wait.” Sadly, most of the reviews were like that. I’m sure Whisenant didn’t intend for his booklet to provide ammunition for unbelievers to use in ridiculing the Bible, but it did just that.
Jesus warned against setting dates, or course. The purpose of the study of prophesy is not to set dates, but to encourage urgency and diligence in preparing! Be ye therefore ready! was Jesus’ constant point when talking about future things.
But Jesus also encouraged people to watch the signs of the times, and as they increasingly point to His return, increasingly look forward to it. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (Matthew 24:33 KJV). So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand (Luke 21:31 KJV).
There were many prophesies that the Jews heard taught over and over. They were waiting for their coming king, and they knew the prophesies that pertained to Him. One such prophesy is mentioned here by Matthew (vs. 5). He was quoting from Zechariah 9:9.
Now imagine the scene from the perspective of the Bible student of the day. I mean, they were certainly there. The religious leaders, especially the Pharisees, were people of the book and knew their Bibles. They had knowledge of Zechariah’s words. What must have run through their minds as they looked up from whatever they were doing at the sound of tumult in the streets… as they looked to see what was causing the ruckus… and saw this man coming, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey? This was a complete fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy, complete in every single detail. The significance could not have been lost on those who studied their Bibles, and actually, their indignant and appalled reaction (vss. 15-16) heaps up more evidence that they knew precisely what was happening here. We might read their minds in those verses and see them thinking, “How dare he declare himself the king… who is this guy, anyway?”
The significance wasn’t really lost on the crowds, either. Their cry of Hosanna to the Son of David, indicates they were looking at Jesus as a king… a fulfillment of prophesy. The son of David to whom they referred would be the one with the claim to the throne of Israel due to being a descendent of David, the king.
Who was on the donkey? A king was on the donkey, but even more striking that that is this:
A Messiah and Savior was on that donkey.
I mentioned earlier the “88 Reasons The Rapture Will Be in 1988” debacle of that year. Perhaps that’s too far in the past for any here today to remember, and perhaps it was a local phenomenon (I lived in another part of the state at the time). But you don’t need to go back that far to find predictions of the rapture or the end of the world.
Perhaps you remember this one –
In 2011, a warning by a U.S. preacher, Harold Camping, that the Rapture would happen that year on May 21 prompted many followers of his evangelical ministry to quit their jobs and sell everything they owned. Camping’s Christian media empire spent millions of dollars to warn about the Rapture on thousands of billboards around the country. When May 21 came and went Rapture-less, Camping said that he had gotten the day wrong, and that it would happen five months later. Then he said he realized that the significant day would not involve any physical manifestation, but a spiritual kind of Judgment Day. Camping, who died in 2013 at the age of 92, gave up prophecies shortly after his failed prediction. “We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return,” Camping wrote in March 2012. “We humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing.”^[<https://www.foxnews.com/science/rapture-prediction-for-april-23-just-latest-doomsday-call>]
Actually, there is one man who is publicly predicting that this coming April 23 is the day. That’s just 8 days from now.
“David Meade is a numerologist. Meade based the April 23 coming of the Rapture.. on the premise that the sun, moon and Jupiter, which supposedly represents the Messiah, will be in Virgo. Virgo is said to represent the woman from the biblical passage.”^[ibid.]
Now I don’t mention these things to make you doubt the validity of the rapture… not at all. It IS coming, and it IS imminent. The Bible is clear that we ought to be watching and waiting and READY. That’s the key word – READY. If it were to occur on April 23rd, will you be ready? If it were to occur before I get the next sentence out, would you be ready? It could occur just that soon, so I don’t mention these things to ridicule the predictors, or the truth of the soon return of Christ.
Rather, I mention these things to point out that there are always those who meticulously study the signs and try to arrive at the exact time.
And there were no doubt such in first century Israel, as well. There were no doubt those who knew Zechariah’s prophecy and kept an eye on the gates looking for a man to ride through on a donkey, in fulfillment. They were waiting. And there was another prophesy that they would have been concerned with… a very very specific prophecy.
How many of you have attended Brother Carl’s classes on Revelation? And Daniel? If you have, then you’ve no doubt heard him discuss the amazing prophesies in Daniel 9. Let’s consider one verse from that passage: Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. (Daniel 9:25 NKJV)
Would it surprise you to know that there has been intense scrutiny of that prophesy… exhaustive calculations of dates and days… and it can be shown quite conclusively that the very day Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey, was the very day described in that phrase seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. I have a book on my shelf in my office entitled “The Life of Christ,” by J. Dwight Pentecost. Therein he includes some pretty fascinating calculations, taking in to account things like the difference between the Jewish calendar and the Gregorian calendar we use today… things like leap years… historical information about when the command to restore Jerusalem took place… and when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Now, the calculated number of days in the prophesy work out to 173,880 days. What are the odds that Daniel could have predicted an event 173,880 days in the future and hit the bulls eye? Well he did!
Here’s a quick summary of why we can say that. “The commandment to restore and build Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus on the 1st of Nisan, 445 BC. When did the Messiah present Himself as a King? During the ministry of Jesus Christ there were several occasions in which the people attempted to promote Him as king, but He carefully avoided it. Mine hour is not yet come (John 16:15), He would say. But then one day He meticulously arranged it. On this particular day he rode into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey, deliberately fulfilling a prophecy by Zechariah that the Messiah would present Himself as king in just that way. And when we examine the period between Nisan 1 (mid March) 445 BC. and Nisan 10 (early April) 30 AD, and correct for leap years, we discover that it is 173,880 days exactly, to the very day!”^[excerpted from <https://discoverthebook.org/palm-sunday-and-daniels-70th-week/>]
Amazing. Mind boggling. Stupifying.
Do you suppose there were any David Meades in Jerusalem on that day? Do you suppose there were any Harold Campings or Edgar Whisenants in Jerusalem on that day? Such no doubt existed, and knew that this was the day. Such no doubt existed and had promoted their ideas. Some were no doubt camped out and watching for Messiah the Prince to show up… right on schedule.
Jesus was openly, and blatantly, and plainly declaring Himself to be the King of Israel in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophesy and Daniel’s crazy-specific prophesy. He was declaring Himself to be the Messiah – the Savior.
None of this was lost on anybody there. The religious leaders knew the prediction, and rather than be astonished at the fulfillment, openly rejected it. And the people knew it, for they not only referred to Him as the son of David, but their use of the “Hosanna” (“save now”) indicates they recognized Him as the prophesied Messiah and Savior as well.
So, who was on that donkey that day? The King was on the donkey that day, and the Savior was on the donkey that day. So I close with this thought: in each of those descriptions we find that someone Who was demanding a response was on that donkey.
The King demands a response. Will you submit to His absolute and total rule over your life? He is a loving King who always gives infinitely more than He requires, but He does require our submission. He is our King!
Jesus told a parable of a king who went away on business for a long time. When he returned he found his subjects playing and no longer handling the affairs of his kingdom properly. And there was a payday coming to them for that. Of course He was illustrating His soon departure, and then His second coming. When He comes back again that second time, there will be no doubt that He is the King. THE KING. Are you living in submission to His total authority over your life? Or will you be surprised and ashamed when He returns, because you’ve been unconcerned and disengaged from the kingdom He loves and rules?
When Beth and I were dating, many years ago, I was attending KSU and renting a room from my grandparents in Ravenna. My grandparents told me one day, “We’re going to spend a bit of time away, so you’ll have the house to yourself for a few days.” I found this opportunity too hard to resist, and so I devised a plan to spend some time alone with Beth. I arranged a fancy dinner… I had the house all decorated up… I rearranged the furniture in the kitchen / dining room to make it as romantic as I possibly could… and I waited for Beth to arrive for this amazing romantic dinner. I heard the front door open, and looked up expecting to see the happy surprise on her face… only to see my grandparents standing there. Needless to say, the surprise was on my face.
Are you ready to meet the King? Are you living in submission to His authority over your life so that when He comes, you will be unashamed? Or will you be surprised and ashamed at His return?
Sadly, I fear that too many of us presume upon the grace of our king, and ignore His commands. I came across this excerpt from a Puritan prayer just the other day. “Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be an evangelical hypocrite, who sins more safely because grace abounds, who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleanseth them, who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell, for he is saved, who loves evangelical preaching, churches, Christians, but lives unholily.”^[“The Valley of Vision”, pp. 128-129]
May that not describe me… may it not describe you. May we be ready to meet our King.
The Messiah and Savior demands a response. Will you accept and receive Him as your Savior? I mention this last, but it’s really of first importance. One week after Jesus rode into Jerusalem and offered Himself to the people as their King… one week after they had rejected that offer and rejected Him as king… He offered Himself on the cross of Calvary as your Savior, and mine.
The people were shouting “Save now!” And in just one week after the tumult of Palm Sundaysubsided, He did just that. He died to save… He died to save you. Have you accepted that gift? If you have not, He will wonderfully save you now, if you will just accept Him, now.
Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
> There’s mercy with the Lord;
> And He will surely give you rest
> By trusting in His Word.
> Yes, Jesus is the Truth, the Way,
> That leads you into rest;
> Believe in Him without delay,
> And you are fully blest.
> Only trust Him! Only trust Him!
> Only trust Him now!
> He will save you! He will save you!
> He will save you now!