Theme: How Does the King Come?
During this week leading up to Easter Sunday, we look at the story of Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem and learn about the nature of his kingdom as seen in his own suffering and death for sinners.
Scripture: Matthew 21:4-5
And yet as much as Matthew presents Jesus as a prophet and priest, I suppose that of all three functions it is the function of the Lord Jesus Christ as king that is most emphasized by Matthew. You can go back to the very beginning of the first chapter of the book to find this idea. There, you have a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David. David was the great king of Israel, and so when Matthew begins his gospel by saying this is a record of Jesus Christ, the son of David, he’s making it clear that Jesus Christ stands in the royal lineage as the king of this nation, and in fact of the world besides. You find it emphasized in other ways, including in the second chapter, which contains the story of the Magi coming to Jerusalem to inquire of Herod where the king of the Jews was born.
People have pointed out that the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, talks about the ethics of the kingdom. And then in chapter 13 you have the parables of the kingdom, spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Finally, here in Matthew 21 you have the arrival of the kingdom visibly as Jesus Christ goes up to Jerusalem.
What strikes me about it, however, is that this not the way we would expect a king to come. If we are thinking of a king entering into his capital city in triumph, we would expect him to be riding upon a horse as a symbol of the king’s power. But instead of that we find Jesus entering humbly upon a donkey while His disciples walk alongside, with the people simply crying out to Him, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” It really is a very striking picture.
But if the coming of the king is the great emphasis of Matthew’s gospel, why does Jesus come in such a meek way? There’s several answers that we can give. One is that, as Matthew himself gives, He came to fulfill prophesy. It was written about Him that this is the way He would come. He quotes from Zechariah 9:9, which reads, “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.’” Through the Holy Spirit, God had prophesied in the Old Testament that this is the way He would come. And when the people call out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” unwittingly they are also quoting from the Old Testament and fulfilling prophecy because this is what it says in Psalm 118.
The second reason He came in this way was to provoke the opposition of the leaders and thus trigger the events leading up to His own crucifixion. Jesus had operated in quite a different way before this. When He would heal somebody, it would be characteristic of our Lord to tell them not to speak of Him as the Messiah. He did not want to arouse messianic ideas because the crowds who came to him would automatically assume that the Messiah was going to come and overthrow the Romans. And yet here in Matthew 21 Jesus comes in a fashion that would spark these messianic hopes. After all His confrontation with the religious leaders throughout His ministry, Jesus knew that if He came in a visible display the leaders would get together and conspire against Him, thus producing the events that would lead to His arrest.
How does the Gospel of Matthew stress Jesus’ role as king?
What reasons are given for why Jesus comes in such a meek way?
Reflection: Contrast the ways the world assumes a proper king should act with how the Bible describes the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. What characterizes these two ideas about kingship? What are their aims? What is the relationship between each king and those who belong to their respective realms?