Summary: A fresh look at the facts of Palm Sunday. The response of the crowds, and our present day response to the Lord’s kingship.
BEHOLD YOUR KING
Here we have a remarkable scene; the Lord Jesus is on His way to die on Calvary, just as He has recently made known to His disciples, (although it appears that they either did not understand what He said, or they did not want to believe it).
As they came towards Jerusalem, the crowds were expectant. They have gathered to see if ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ will come to keep the Feast of Passover. They are aware of the hostility of the Jewish Rulers, and wonder at the possible events lying ahead of them. Underneath the surface there was a seething mix of feelings. Some people wanted to make Jesus a King, to lead them against the Roman occupation army; others wanted to get rid of Him, because He reached beneath their protective layer of respectability; a few believed He was the Son of God. The crowds waited and wondered.
Suddenly, down the road comes an event that could only be a fulfilment of the prophetic writings. Could this be the long awaited Messiah? Here comes ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ and His disciples – He is riding on a young donkey. They identify Him, not because He was the Teacher that had been telling them about the love of God for them, and how to live lives that would please God; or because of the many miracles that He had done, releasing people from years of sickness and sorrow, and very recently raising Lazarus from the dead; but because it was as if Scripture had been lifted out of the pages of the writings of Zechariah the Prophet, and there before their eyes was ‘The Messiah’ riding on a colt, as had been foretold around 500 years earlier.
These people knew their Scripture – many of them would be able to quote by heart the long awaited promises. They knew their Scripture, and they knew what was meant – or so they thought.
1. THE PEOPLE KNEW THE SCRIPTURES – THEY KNEW THE WORDS!
Matthew tells us that
This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’" [Matthew 21:4-5]
He was quoting the words of Zechariah, which all the devout people would know.
Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey - riding on a donkey’s colt. [Zechariah 9:9]
We read at the account of the birth of the Lord Jesus, that there were those who had been expectantly looking for the coming of the Messiah. There were times during the ministry of the Lord when people questioned Him about this. Even John the Baptist appears to have questions in his mind when he asks if they were to look for someone else.
The problem was that Jesus did not conform to their ideas. They were expecting a revolutionary Messiah who would drive out the oppressive Roman army, and set the nation free. If only they had used their eyes to see this One who was riding in – He was not riding a prancing war-horse, clad in armour and brandishing a sword - but riding a lowly donkey’s colt with clothing for a saddle.
It is unfortunate, but
2. THEY INTERPRETED THE SCRIPTURES TO SUIT THEMSELVES.
How easy it is to twist the ‘Word of God’ into becoming the ‘word of self’! We read a verse and find it appealing, then without trying to understand the setting, or why it was written originally, we grasp it and call it ‘a Word from the Lord’! This can be so foolish, causing much disappointment. Yes, God can, and does speak to us today through His Word, and there are times when what He says is not easy to accept, but if God is speaking, then we had better listen.
I think that you will have heard the apocryphal story of the man who read a verse at random each day. On opening his bible and reading the first verse that caught his attention, he read, ‘Judas went out and hanged himself’. That is not suitable he said to himself, so he tried again, and read ‘go thou and do likewise’. That is also not suitable, he said, so he tried yet again, and read, ‘what thou doest, do quickly’.
I am sure you will see the folly. I would not recommend that way of dipping into the Word of God! The context is always important to the understanding.
In our reading of God’s Word, let us seek to understand what the Lord would say to us today. It is in the understanding, and personal application that true growth will develop. See Paul’s words