Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Monarch Like No Other Man

History is replete with portraits of proud potentates.  There are narcissists like Napoleon, Caligula, and Herod the Great; egomaniacs like Timur-e Lang (the Mongol lord), Qin Shi Huang (the first Chinese emperor), and Nero (the rowdy Roman "demigod"); as well as the extremely extravagant such as George IV, Louis the XIV, and James I.  

All these men loved applause, and power, and they regularly sought the spotlight.

History tell us of another King, One who was very much unlike any of these others.  His name was Jesus, and as the events surrounding His public "coronation" unfold, I am struck with just how different from all other dignitaries He truly was ... and still remains!

Matthew writes:
"When they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethpage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.  If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once.'

"This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 'Say to the daughter of Zion, behold your King is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'

"The disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them.  The multitude spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them on the road.  And the crowds that went before Him and that followed behind Him were shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!'

"And when He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, 'Who is this?'  And the crowds said, 'This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.'"

Matthew 21:1-11
Up to this point, Jesus had been a pretty unpretentious prophet.  While He had taught, healed, and worked more than a few miracles in their midst, He also often gave strict instructions to the recipients of His mercy that they "tell no one" about what He had done for them. "His time had not yet come" and thus, He was not about to bring untimely attention to Himself.  

But that was about to change.

Suddenly we find Jesus sending His disciples to help set the stage for a public proclamation regarding His arrival into the holy city.  It would seem that a coronation was on the way for Christ the King!  But why?  Why the sudden shift from "tell no one" to "tell everyone!"?

I believe there's a pretty good reason why.  You see, Christ's earthly ministry was coming to a close.  His final hour was approaching.  The cross of Calvary was less than a week away.  Jesus was about to die for the world as a sacrifice for sins and Jesus needed to be seen by the world that they could be saved from their sins.

He whose time had not yet come now has, and as it does, we see the divine nature of this righteous Ruler being revealed.  

Jesus was and is a monarch like no other man.

Jesus is a King of superior knowledge.
How many times have kingdoms fallen and princes been slain because of an unknown plot or scheme?  Caligula didn't see Casius coming.  Qin Shi Hang had no idea there was poison in his pills.  Louis, the Sun King, didn't have enough light to see the dark days that would cause him to literally lose his head.  But Jesus is a King of absolute omniscience.  He knew perfectly the way and the day of His death, and He knew every thought of every man who was plotting it. Jesus knew every facet of this journey into Jerusalem - even down to the details about a donkey!

Within this text I am amazed at how Jesus knew exactly what would happen just before it happened.  Sending His disciples on an errand, He knew every particular point they'd encounter on their path.   He knew what they'd find - two donkeys, a mother and her colt tied to a stake of some sort.  He knew where they'd find them - in the village that lay ahead of them. He knew when they'd find them - immediately as they entered that village.  He even knew what questions would be asked of them (see Mark 11:5 for how this fleshed out) and what answers would need to be given in response (see Mark 11:6 for the rest of the story).  Nothing was hidden from His eyes and His foreknowledge was flawless! 

Within this text I am equally amazed at how He knew what would happen many years beforehand - over 500 years beforehand!  In Zechariah 9:9, the word of the Lord came to the prophet of the Lord to tell us about the coming of this King riding on that donkey: 'Say to the daughter of Zion, behold your King is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'

The prophecy was perfect and precise, and it was foretold without any failures.  Jesus knows every detail of ever event in every age for every person!  "Nothing is hidden from His eyes." Before Him "all things are open and laid bare."  To Him even "the darkness is as bright as the day."

Is this not absolutely incredible?!

Yet, how often do I stand in awe of the omniscience of my God? (Not often enough!)  How often am I pierced by the perfect knowledge of my King?  When I realize that there is nothing I can say, nothing I can see, no thought I can think, no emotion I can feel, no sin I can savor, no lie I can cover, no word I can whisper that is not FULLY known by Him, does it not leave me a bit undone?!  And then, when I pause to take in the fact that knowing all these things about me He still chose to love me and die for me, does it not leave me utterly amazed?!  Oh, how it should!!

This is my King - omniscient and absolute in His knowledge of me and of this world around me.
This is my King - faithful and flawless in His foretelling of all that will take place in this world where I exist.  Will I trust Him?  Will I believe what He has said?  Will I live in the light of His perfect sight?

Jesus is a King of superior character.
While His knowledge amazes me, His character comforts me.  Think of that which typically characterizes the kings of this world.  Consider the way they hold court.  Ponder the way they pontificate.  Hone in on their habits of haughtiness.  Now meditate on the marks of our Master as this text tells them.

First, Jesus is a King who comes and condescends.  The prophecy tells Zion to behold her King who "is coming to [her]".  Jesus is not a distant dignitary upon a lofty throne who requires all kinds of ceremonial hoop jumping in order for us to enter His presence.  No, He is a King who steps down and stoops down.  He is One who comes close and draws near.  He is a Monarch who meets us in mercy, extending His scepter slap dab in the middle of our own personal space - doing so in order that taking hold of it (and ultimately taking hold of Him) may be done with ease.

Second, Jesus  is a King who is "gentle."  He moves in meekness and He comes in kindness. He is not rough to those He rules, nor gruff to those He governs, but is tender to His people whom He so dearly loves.  Jesus is not a harsh Lord who seeks our enslavement into His service, but is a placid Prince who secures our freedom from sin's!!  He has come to Zion in order to save, suffer, and serve.  Our King has come in compassion, to die that we might live.

Third, Jesus is a King who is humble.  He comes "mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden."  He doesn't prance in on a proud horse, but on a poor ass.  He doesn't arrive on a steed of state, but on a colt of service.  He doesn't thunder in on a beast of battle, but rides in on a "beast of burden" - for wasn't He to bear our burdens and carry our sins to the cross?  This is not a King we should fear and flee from, but One whom, in faith, we can flee to!  (Have we?)

Fourth, Jesus is a King who is trustworthy.  The two disciples whom He sent ahead to fetch the foal found everything exactly as He told them it would be.  Friend, we can count on what Jesus commands to be good, and right, and true.  We can trust Him.  We can truly trust Him.  (Do we?)

This is Jesus the King - a monarch like no other man.  As this peerless Potentate moved forward on the road that led into Jerusalem - Jerusalem where He would reign as our Redeemer - what was the reaction of those who saw Him?  

The passage portrays three different reactions.

For starters we see the reaction of the disciples.  As Jesus got ready to go, the disciples obeyed and honored.  They did what He asked in gathering the donkey and the colt, and once they had done so they "put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them."  The twelve honored Jesus with their suits as His seat!  In just a few days He was to be disrobed for them.  This King would hang naked at Golgotha that they would be robed in His righteousness before God!  How small a price they payed in parting with their garments that day. (What pittance do I pay in comparison to what my salvation cost Christ - and do I do so grudgingly or gladly?)

Next, we see the reaction of the multitude.  They honored Jesus with their actions - by placing their robes on the road and putting soft palms on the path.  They sought to make His way smooth and to submit themselves as His subjects.  What about me?  Am I willing to sacrifice (even something as simple as a scarf) that the way of Christ would be made clean and clear?  Am I willing to lay down what is dear to me that He might tread upon it as my Master?  Or is it my way that I wish to be made soft and smooth by Him?  Am I living as if the King should be my clerk, and as though Jesus were my genie?

Not only did the multitude serve Him by their works, but they also honored Him with their words.  Before Him and behind Him rang out the chorus of all those who were with Him:  "Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"  They cried out in praise about this Sovereign who would save!  They offered accolades regarding this divine Ruler who would redeem!  They acknowledged that Christ came "in the name of the Lord."  He was sent and set apart by God the Father as the one true Mediator, Messiah, and Mender of our mess.  The multitudes tongues could not keep silent as He came, and if somehow they had, then the very rocks would have cried out!  What about you and what about me?  

Do our voices lie dormant and is the sound of silence that which is heard about His having come into our own lives?  Do our lips loudly laud our Lord?  (Not in a falsely contrived way, but in a real and relevant way.)  In worship, are we sickly in our singing, paltry in our praying, unpassionate in our preaching - or is there a true and robust joy that permeates every part as we  exalt the Christ who has come?  Would anyone who walks into our Sunday services even be moved to see that we really believe the King has come, or would they think "what a joke!"? Do we lift Hosannas high?  In my day to day duties does my heart well up with hallelujahs, or am I destitute of a tune of thanksgiving and a melody of praise for who Jesus is and for what He's done and doing in me?  A saved soul should be a singing soul and a pardoned  soul a praising one.  I know that I need His help with my Hosannas.

Finally, we see the reaction of the city.  As Jesus entered the gates, the entire place was "stirred."  Folks were watching.  People were talking.  The crowd was asking questions.  "Who is this?"  It would seem that almost everyone in the city noticed Christ, yet hardly anyone knew Him.  I wonder, have things changed much in 2 millennia?  How many people have noticed that there's something special about this Jesus?  Perhaps they've noticed His marvelous morality, His miracles of mythical proportion, His message of mercy - yet they do not know who He truly is or understand why He really came.  Oh, may I not simply be stirred in my psyche by the stories of the Savior, but actually stirred in my soul by the reality of the Savior!

Answering the inquiry, the multitude said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee."  They gave an honest answer - but it was only a partial answer.

Yes, Jesus was "the prophet" - the great Prophet who not only proclaimed the Law with His lips, but perfectly fulfilled the Law with His life!  He is indeed a teacher and a preacher like no other - for this Expositor of the written Word is Himself the very Living Word who came to reveal to us "the will of God for our salvation." (WSC Q. 24)

Yes, Jesus is the preeminent Prophet, but He is also the "King of kings," reigning over us in redeeming grace.  In kind compassion and sovereign strength He "executes that office [by] subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies."  (WSC Q. 26)  He is a good, and kind, and wise King who has not only taken us in as His subjects but has also made the way for His Father to adopt us in as His sisters and brothers - making us eternal heirs of all that He has!!

This prophet whom they'd heard preach, this King whom they were seeing come, was headed to Calvary to fulfill one final role as our Redeemer - the role of perfect Priest.  Jesus came as the go between who would bridge the great chasm that separates a holy God and fallen man. Jesus came to die.  He came to take our sins upon Himself and shed His blood on our behalf. He came to be the Scapegoat, the Lamb, the substitutionary sacrifice for you and for me! Jesus Christ, the great high Priest, was entering Jerusalem in order to "offer Himself as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God" and both then and now He is "making continual intercession for us." (WSC Q. 25)

Jesus entered Jerusalem.  He knew what He was doing - every detail of what He was doing, all aspects of why He was doing it, and ultimately each soul for which He was doing it! (Christian, He knew you and He knew me!) The perfect prophet came gently and humbly as the perfect King in order to propitiate as the perfect Priest.  Through His ultimate sacrifice and service He has made the road to redemption clean and clear for us to travel - even as the multitudes made the road to Jerusalem that day.  Jesus laid down His life, just as they laid down their garments, and by His own blood has paved the path for our pardon. In response may we ever and always come to Him with sincere cries of "Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"

Jesus is a Monarch like no other man.  In Him we find a serving Sovereign who sacrificed Himself for sinners.  In Him we see a redeeming Ruler who laid down His life for His enemies in order to make them His heirs.  In Him is a Lord who is kind, and, gentle and full of mercy, grace, and love for the lost.  His scepter is extended, His arms are open, His gospel is good - may we come to Christ the King who came for us!

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