Matthew 21:1-11-As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c] “Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
I love the pageantry of Palm Sunday as we read about the processional of Jesus as He rides into Jerusalem on a symbol of peace, on a donkey, something that was prophesied hundreds of years earlier. I love the scene as a crowd of people place their cloaks on the road, sort of paving the way for Jesus’ entry. This wasn’t an unfamiliar practice. Israel anointed Jehu as their king on a battlefront. They placed their cloaks on the steps before him, creating a coronation carpet as they hailed him King in II Kings 9:13. The idea is that royal feet shouldn’t touch the ground.
It was a big crowd that had gathered. Jesus’ following had swelled as He had recently raised Lazarus from the dead. Passover was just around the corner, so many faithful Jews had traveled to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. I love the picture of the crowd waving branches and shouting. We emphasize the word, “Hosanna,” and rightly so. It means, “God saves” or “Please, save us now.” You get the sense that everyone who participated was on team Jesus. There wasn’t one crowd rooting for Him and another rooting for someone else.
As our text declares, many saw Jesus as a prophet, and He was. In the Bible, prophets were people who spoke for God to the people. In John 7:16, Jesus said, “My teaching is not my own, but comes from the One who sent Me.” Jesus spoke the Father’s message. Another role a prophet would play would be that of forecasting or foretelling future events. Jesus fulfilled the prophetic role in that way. For example, He prophesied about His death and resurrection. He prophesied about the coming of the Holy Spirit. He even prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Everything He said came true. Miracles accompanied some of the Old Testament prophets’ words. There is no denying the miracles of Jesus. Jesus actually called Himself a prophet in Mark 6:4, so folks weren’t wrong to speak of Him in that way.
There is another phrase that is used to describe Jesus in this passage. He is called the Son of David. Jesus is actually referred to as the Son of David seven times in the Gospels. The phrase first appears in the genealogical registry in Matthew 1:1 where we learn about all of the people from whom Jesus descended. Jesus wasn’t actually the “son” of David, but He was a descendant of King David, the first RIGHTFUL King in Israel. King David was the first King that God chose for Israel.
God made a promise to King David, a promise that was delivered through a prophet named Nathan, in II Samuel 7:12-13-“When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
This is a Messianic reference, a reference to Jesus, His Kingship and His Kingdom. People were looking forward to the One who would forever rule! Someone greater than King David was coming.
Jesus was also born in Bethlehem, which was also known as the City of David.
In Matthew 9:27, two blind men called out for healing when they said, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” As people began to observe the many miracles of Jesus, they began to ask among themselves, “Could this be the Son of David?” Matthew 12:23
Matthew told the story of a Canaanite woman, a woman outside of Israel, a non-Jew, someone outside of the covenant promises of God. Her daughter was demon-possessed and she addressed Jesus as the “Son of David” in Matthew 15:22. Word about a descendant of David, a King that would be enthroned forever, had gone beyond the ears of the Jewish nation.
In a separate incident where blind eyes were healed in Matthew 20:30, Jesus was also hailed as the Son of David.
Palm Sunday was the day that His crowd of followers shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” And it was actually that phrase that became a trigger for the chief priests and teachers of the law a few verses later. Jesus went into the temple courts and caused quite a stir by overturning the money changers tables and benches. Those who were selling animals for temple sacrifices were cheating those who came to buy them. Jesus rebuked them sharply saying that the temple was to have been a place of prayer, but it had been turned into a den of robbers.
On the heels of that action-packed scene, Jesus started healing more people. Everything Jesus did communicated so much. The temple, the place of worship was to be a place of prayer and healing. He was making Himself clear. He was making His mission clear.
And as children, little children, took it all in, they too shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and it infuriated the chief priests and teachers of the law. Jesus wasn’t just threatening the status quo, He was overturning it because He was the promised One who had the authority to do so. If He truly was the Son of David, the One whose Kingdom would never end, life as they knew it was over. Their religious reign was over. The phrase “Son of David” meant more than prophet status for Jesus, it meant He was royalty. He was the King, the Promised King whose kingdom would have no end! When the crowd cried “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were literally praising God for sending His King!
Besides being the King of an eternal, unending Kingdom, what kind of King is Jesus?
Those palm branches that were being waved were symbolic of victory. Jesus is a Victorious King. Not every king had a reputation for victory. Not every king was successful in battle. Not every king could take care of the enemy when necessary. But Jesus, through His death, burial, and resurrection, He has conquered every enemy we have. He disarmed Satan and the powers of darkness, Colossians 2:15, which means that Satan cannot use our sin against us. He also cannot gain the upper hand in our lives. Satan cannot defeat us because He has been defeated by the One who lives in us!
We also know that Jesus took the sting out of death, I Corinthians 15:55. I would say that all other earthly difficulties fall somewhere below Satan and Death on the scale of things that could be a problem for us. By defeating those big ones on the cross, Jesus was proving He has and will conquer all. There isn’t a problem that you have for which Jesus doesn’t have the solution. There isn’t a situation you face that is a match for our Victorious King! If you are in Christ, you share in His victory. You will move through life in a state of victory no matter what your earthly circumstances look like.
In a way, this Palm Sunday display was a pre-victory parade. A lot of times, after a big sports win or after a war as dedicated soldiers come home, there will be a parade to celebrate their victory. The parade happens after the victory has been won. In this story, we see the victory was being celebrated ahead of time. There was confidence in that moment, that Jesus, the King, would not fail.
What a novel idea…to celebrate the victory ahead of the win. Do you know we can do that in our situation? Do you know that we can claim that Jesus has the victory in our trial? In our Wednesday prayer time at 11 am, Betty Thorn always begins prayer with, “There’s victory in Jesus!” Today, maybe someone needs to encourage yourself by declaring that God’s got your situation handled. Jesus has defeated that which is trying to defeat you. Somebody needs to do some pre-praising, some pre-declaring, some pre-celebrating! Oh, you might be naïve to celebrate a sports victory prematurely. You might see the score and conclude that with two minutes left your team has it in the bag and then start posting notes of celebration on your social media only to have to delete them as quickly as possible when a big upset happens. But I am here to tell you, there is no big upset of King Jesus on the way. The big upset already happened on the cross of Calvary and there is no comeback the enemy can mount that can overturn what has already been done! Nothing can undo the victory of King Jesus! So, you don’t worry that you’ll look a fool if you praise Jesus for the victory in the midst of your struggle. It is a sure thing!
Another piece of the Palm Sunday narrative that gives us insight into what kind of King Jesus is, involves Him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. When He did, as I mentioned, He was fulfilling prophesy. He was also signaling what His kingdom would look like. In the ancient world, donkeys were symbols of peace. By riding in on the donkey, Jesus was indicating His intentions. He was and is the King of Peace. He was prophesied to be the Prince of Peace. Zechariah 9:10 says, “He will speak peace to the nations.”
Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus is our peace. He is the reason we can have peace with God. What Jesus did, by dying on the cross for us, satisfied the wrath of God. When we accept what He did on our behalf, we can have peace with God. And trusting Jesus every day is the way that Divine or supernatural peace flows into our lives. Jesus walks with us personally and reassures us that everything will be OK.
I love that the relationship of a believer with God is likened to the relationship of a parent and child. God is our Heavenly Father. Like the child that is quieted and becomes calm when the parent reassures the child that everything will be alright, Jesus comes to us and whispers “peace” to our souls. Sometimes, He brings peace to our circumstance, which is awesome, but even when He chooses not to, because He knows the circumstance might somehow be for our good to endure it, Jesus will give us peace for our souls which changes everything even when nothing changes.
The Hosanna crowd wanted peace instead of the burden of Roman occupation. They wanted peace instead of religious oppression from the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law who were making peace with God impossible by their self-imposed religious standards. Jesus had come, however, to do something far greater than change the political landscape or overhaul a broken religious system. He came to do something completely new, something enduring that wouldn’t rise and fall with the changing of political leaders or religious systems. He came to make sure that we could have unbroken peace no matter what happens, Romans 14:17. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of Peace!
Luke’s Gospel account of the Palm Sunday episode contains another detail. Luke 19:41 tells us that as Jesus approached Jerusalem, He wept. We read in three places in the Bible that Jesus cried. Once was at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. Jesus entered into the pain that Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters, were experiencing. He was moved by what was hurting them. He felt what they felt. Because of His deep love for them, He was connected to them in their pain.
Hebrews 5:7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”
Do you see the “s” on both prayers and petitions? Do you see that they were accompanied by cries and tears? Jesus wasn’t afraid to cry. Why was He crying? This passage in Hebrews talks about Jesus as a High Priest. A priest’s role was to intercede for the people, to pray for them. Jesus functioned as a High Priest in every way, but He was personally invested, personally involved in bearing the burdens of God’s people. He was a different kind of priest in this way. He personally identified with those who were hurting, with those who needed their sins relieved. Their needs tore Him up. He cried when He prayed. This wasn’t a one-time event, but it was the habit of Jesus to allow His heart to be broken for those for whom He prayed. Jesus, the Priest, regularly prayed for His followers and the crowds of people that He interacted with, and it absolutely moved Him to tears.
Perhaps when you heard me read Hebrews 5:7, your mind went to the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus would be arrested, the place that would set the events that led to the crucifixion into motion. Maybe you thought of His prayer, His prayer to ask the Father if there would be any other way for salvation to come other than His crucifixion, for it to be made known in that moment. Luke 22 says that He was in anguish and that drops of sweat fell from Him in the form of blood. Jesus was bleeding from His brow before He was ever whipped or nailed to the cross. I think it is safe to say that He was crying in that moment, that tears and blood were falling from His face at the same time.
I’m going to be theologically reckless for a moment. I’m going declare something that I don’t have a verse to point to in order to substantiate. As Jesus wrestled in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He wasn’t crying and bleeding because He was afraid of something, but because He was feeling something. He was feeling not only the weight, but the pain of our sins. He was suffering in the Garden, well before He suffered on the cross because He was identifying with the pain sinners walk around with every day, only it was all multiplied in His spirit on that day because He was feeling something for each of us at the same time. As I have considered the humanity of Jesus and the moments that He expressed compassion and have synthesized the verses about Him crying, weeping, I am confident when I tell you that Jesus feels your pain. That makes Him a Personal King.
Jesus is a Personal King. Romans 8:34 tells us that He is still praying for us to this day. As He does, I can picture tears rolling down His face for those who are still imprisoned and enslaved to their own sin, to their own striving, to their own struggle. I see Him praying right now for many here to get release and relief from their burdens. And on that day that He rode into Jerusalem, before He enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the parade, He allowed Himself to cry over the condition of the souls of people who were gathered in Jerusalem.
Maybe, today, you don’t think God cares about you. Perhaps you don’t think you are on His radar. I want to assure you that Jesus, the Son of David, is moved by your condition.
Jesus, the King, Jesus, the Son of David, has victory to give. He has peace to give, but neither come to us until we allow Him to be our Personal King. Becoming a Christian means accepting the rule and reign of Jesus over your life. What you give us pales in comparison to what you receive. I don’t have time to describe the benefits of becoming part of the Kingdom of God by allowing Jesus to become your Personal King. Know this, He is here, now. He is fighting for you because He is victorious. He is granting you peace through His presence, and He is weeping over what is causing your soul to weep. Look to Jesus, the King for the help you need today.