Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 April 9, 2017
“This Is He”
Text: Matthew 21:1-11
Jesus has been coming to Jerusalem for some time. We need only look to the long travelogue section of Luke (Luke 9:51-19:27) for a sense of the duration of this final earthly journey to Jerusalem. Today, at last Jesus arrives; we call this arrival His triumphal entry. Let us look closer at Matthew’s version of this—and, in the looking, we shall note, concerning Jesus, exactly what the Spirit declares through Matthew, “This is He.”
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We may view our passage in three neat, chronological compartments. This first of these tells us what happened before Jesus arrived (21:1-6). Jesus, upon drawing near from Jericho to Bethany and Bethphage, commanded two of His disciples to go into the village—presumably Bethphage. Bethany was just under two miles from Jerusalem, and Bethphage was closer still—as close as just over a half-mile from Jerusalem. From there it would be a short, easy trip up and down the Kidron Valley into Jerusalem. Once in the village, the disciples would find a donkey and her colt. The disciples, upon finding the beasts, were to lead them to Jesus. Jesus, having commanded the two disciples, now assures them, saying that if anyone says anything to them, there are to say, “The Lord has need of them,” and the owner will send the animals out at once. In fact, Mark’s account contains such a query to the disciples, and the matter fell out just as Jesus said. Note, in all of this, Jesus’ wisdom and power manifest: both to foreordain all events and to move the wills of men to effect His will.
Also note the high significance of Jesus’ command and assurance. They come in fulfillment of prophecy uttered centuries earlier (cf. Isaiah 62:11, Zechariah 9:9). Though these events fulfill prophecy—and that is weighty enough—they also have symbolic meaning as well. Jesus, the King, comes on a donkey. This displays two things. Jesus, first, comes in humility, without royal pomp, and, second, Jesus comes in peace. After all, horses and chariots were for war in that time and place. Jesus, our humble King, comes—but, as we shall see, He is much more.
The next block in our text tells us what happened as Jesus was arriving at Jerusalem (21:7-9). The disciples placed their cloaks on the beasts, and Jesus sat on those cloaks. Moreover, the people lining the route from Bethphage to Jerusalem placed their cloaks and branches in the road. In so doing, the disciples and the throng declare Jesus’ praise. Centuries earlier, cloaks were spread as Jehu was declared king of the Northern Kingdom in Old Testament times (2 Kings 9:13). The people on the road to Jerusalem that Palm Sunday, similarly, declared Jesus the King.
Not only do the people show forth their praise and honor of Christ, but they also cry out their praises—and their praises contain Messianic overtones. They shout, “Hosanna,” an Aramaic—that is, a late Hebrew dialect—expression meaning “Save, O Lord.” By this time the word hosanna had come to be a generic expression of praise, not unlike our “Praise the Lord,” yet the term continued to reflect the hope that Messiah would come. When the people direct this praise to God, they indirectly declare—and better than they knew—Jesus’ Messiahship. The people call Jesus “Son of David,” and this obvious Messianic reference declares that Jesus is that promised, greatest, son of King David. The cries “Blessed the One coming in the Name of the Lord” and “Hosanna in the worlds above” have similar import.
Yet certain others in the crowd that day felt quite differently about the matter. We learn of them from other Gospel authors. Luke, led by the Spirit, reports that some of the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” Jesus replied, “I tell you, that if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:39-40). In John’s Gospel, we learn of the Pharisees’ burning animosity toward Jesus, captured in this exasperated expression: “Look, the whole world has gone after Him” (John 12:19). Forget not, though, the general tenor of the day is rejoicing and adulation. For wholesale rejection of Jesus, and that prophesied, we must wait—but not for long.
The third block in today’s passage tells us what happened after Jesus arrived (21:10-11). All Jerusalem is stirred. The Greek word that the Spirit leads Matthew to use here (seio [seiw]) means either shaken or caused great anxiety. We certainly can see both senses of our word in play today. “Who is this?” the dwellers and visitors (remember, this is Passover time; there are a large number of visitors present) want to know. Who sets the city in such a state? Those in the know declare, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” The Greek name Jesus is the translation of the Hebrew Joshua, which means the Lord saves—or, to use Michael Green’s paraphrase, God to the rescue. The crowds call Him a prophet from Nazareth in Galilee—and, in so doing, they have named two of Jesus’ three traditional offices (the other is priest, and we see that office on full display at Calvary). Jesus is the hope of the crowd that day, but He is the Hope: forever, alone, and unshakable.
Alas, the cries that week would change from “Hosanna” on Sunday to “Crucify” on Friday. This, as mentioned before, occurs in fulfillment of prophecy, but one can see some other subsidiary reasons for this. One such reasons is Jesus is the Hope of His people, but the nature of that hope caused some disillusionment. Jesus was not primarily a hoped-for political deliverer—nor is He primarily such today. He did not come to vaporize the hated occupant Romans on the spot. His Messiahship is of another sort altogether. Jesus fundamentally delivers from the spiritual shackles of sin—and this changes everything and frames everything else. There is more to this story—unspeakably more—but for the rest of the story, culminating in Jesus’ glorious, decisive resurrection from the dead, kindly return Thursday night for Maundy Thursday worship, and come to First Methodist for Good Friday worship, and, especially, return here early and late morning next Sunday for worship on Resurrection Morn. AMEN.