Welcome King Jesus
If you had been in the crowd when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for Passover all those years ago, what would you have seen?
Would you have seen a dirty Galilean peasant riding into town on a smelly donkey?
Would you have seen God’s anointed one, your king, Messiah, arriving with salvation?
As Jeremiah 5:21 says, that would have depended. Many in the crowd that day were “Foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear.”
When Jesus comes to you today, will you be one of those foolish and senseless people?
If they had remembered Zechariah they might have recalled what he said in verse nine of chapter nine – “Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey.”
Most of them probably didn’t think of applying this verse to Jesus. I suspect they saw only a large group of pilgrims from Galilee with a travel-stained man on a donkey. They had eyes that did not see. Do your eyes see? Can you see God’s hand at work?
Matthew tells us in verse 10 of today’s reading that the entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as Jesus entered with his followers. Tens of thousands of pilgrims were in town for the festival. It was noisy, packed, dirty, smelly, hot, dusty, crowded. There were far too many people for the available accommodation. Many pilgrims such as Jesus slept in the countryside around the city.
In this chaotic party atmosphere each new group of arriving pilgrims was greeted with raucous shouting, waving branches and singing.
The difference was that when Jesus entered with his disciples the crowds shouted out the word ‘Hosanna’, quoting Psalm 118. The word means ‘save us now’. And they gave Jesus the messianic title ‘Son of David’. It was a hopeful welcome. How many of us give Jesus a hopeful welcome.
Sadly we often want to stop the story there. We want a safe messiah who is going to let us keep our current lifestyle but just take away the pain and hurts. A gentle messiah who won’t rock the boat. A nice messiah with nice manners who likes what we like.
That was the messiah they wanted 2,000 years ago. They wanted a messiah who would kick out the hated Romans but let them live a prosperous and happy life. How many of us today also welcome Jesus because we hope and want him to make our lives happy.
That is not how Jesus is.
There is no pause in Matthew’s story. Immediately after being welcomed in, Jesus is quoting Jeremiah 7:11 – “Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves?” He turns over tables and drives people out of the temple while he is shouting: “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
Jesus comes bringing judgement. That’s not comforting. We don’t feel happy with that.
Unless we are blind. It seems that the blind are the only ones with eyes that can see.
Everyone is extremely upset. The leaders are indignant, Matthew says. Except the blind and lame. Jesus heals them and they praise him as ‘the Son of David’. Again the messianic title is conferred on Jesus.
Jesus spends the final week of his life in Jerusalem. He knows who he is and what is coming and he spends his precious final moments warning all who will listen, and all who won’t, that disaster is on the way. He warns that many are destined for hell unless they accept him as Lord and Messiah. The very next day he tells a parable of heaven and how a man not properly dressed is bound up and thrown “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Most people in Jerusalem were not ready for this kind of Messiah. How about you? Are you ready for a Messiah who will upset your precious religious ideas and tell you that you are going to hell for being badly dressed. You are doomed unless you follow him.
That’s the kind of king Jesus is. He tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. He talks about more than positive thinking. He talks about more than picking yourself up by your own bootstraps. He tells you that you can’t succeed in your own strength. He warns you to face up to it now and to come to him while you can.
Jesus is also a ruler with compassion. He is a king with a soft heart. He talks straight but he does it with tears in his eyes. This is not the kind of weak-looking leader we are hoping for. This is not the kind of leader who defeats occupying armies.
Jesus weeps for Jerusalem. He is deeply sad that they don’t receive his gift of salvation.
In 23:37 he says: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
Jesus has come to the people who want to kill him. He has come to the ones who will nail him to a cross. He speaks the straight truth to them.
Jesus makes no effort to gain their favour. At the same time he cries for those who will kill him and he goes about healing them.
This is the king who comes to us and asks us to follow him.
To follow Jesus means to be like him. It means speaking truth and weeping for the people who want to kill us. It means loving and serving those who hate us.
Our king served in this way. As his followers, we must serve in the same way. Jesus hasn’t stopped coming to people and offering them new life. People haven’t stopped misunderstanding this offer and rejecting it when they find out what it means.
Our king is not like the kings of the earth. He isn’t like the business leaders and politicians we are used to. He never exalts himself or says what will make him popular.
Your king is coming! He is riding toward you now. He is ready to look straight into your eyes. Are you ready for his glance? That glance demands a verdict. He wants to know whether or not he truly is your king, your sovereign. Will you shift your glance away, or will there be that nod of affirmation that comes from one who is loyal in allegiance to the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords – your King and your Lord?
This is the week before Jesus is killed. During this week he came to Jerusalem. He will come to you, too. How will you respond to him?
Jesus warns us in Matthew 24: “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”
Do you have eyes to see the messiah? Do you have ears to hear the messiah?