Posts Tagged ‘responding to Jesus’

Today is Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, several days before he died on the cross. I want us to think about this story today, as it is told in Matthew 21:1-10. And I want you to reflect on how you fit into this story – ‘What character would you be?’ ‘What role would you play?’ [Impromptu acting out of Matthew 21:1-10]

Jesus comes to Jerusalem as king

This event has great significance, because this is the first time that Jesus explicitly and publicly proclaims himself king. This whole scene is an intentional enactment of Zechariah 9:9 which says, “Behold, your king is coming to you . . ..” Jesus is here coming to his capital city, the city of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, as Zechariah said, presenting his claim of kingship to Jerusalem and to Israel.

I want to focus first on how Jesus makes his claim of kingship. Kings rule and people obey them. That’s how kingship works, right? Now we know that in the world kings rule through the use of power. That is, because they have power, people are forced to submit. In Matthew 20:25 Jesus speaks of this. He said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them . . ..”

But Jesus doesn’t operate this way. Jesus doesn’t force Israel to submit to him. And so when he enters Jerusalem as a king, he does not come with trumpets blaring, or troops of warriors exercising power to coerce submission to his rule.

Jesus comes in humility, peacefully, and without force – riding on a donkey. He could have come with legions of angels (Matthew 26:53), but instead he simply presents himself and makes his claim on the people – “I am your king.”

And then he lets the people choose how they will respond. This is how Jesus makes his claim to be the rightful king of Israel.

Next, as we look at the story, both of the entrance into Jerusalem and how it plays out leading up to Jesus’ death on Friday, I want us to focus on three responses to Jesus’ claim of kingship. There are three different responses that are illustrated in this story.

1. The disciples – who are very few in number. They choose to submit to Jesus as king.

2. The religious leaders – also few in number. They openly oppose Jesus. Not only do they reject his claim of kingship, they are offended by it and seek ways to get rid of him.

And then we have 3. the crowd. This is where most people are. Those in the crowd are not sure where they stand with regard to Jesus’ claim of kingship:

  • On Sunday, when they thought Jesus could help them they claimed him as king. They formed a huge procession and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is the one who come in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest heaven.” Yeah, Jesus, you are our king. Praise God for a Savior!
  • On Friday, when the religious leaders had Jesus at their mercy, and Jesus was not so appealing anymore, they turned on him and disowned him. “Pilate said to [the crowd], ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’” – Matthew 27:22-23. And they were so worked up that Pilot was afraid of a riot.

So the crowd was fickle, at one time leading a parade to have Jesus be king; at another, nearly rioting to have him killed.

Ever wonder what you would have done if you were there in Bible times? How you would have responded to Jesus? Well, in this case you really don’t have to wonder, because Jesus still works in the same way today.

Jesus comes to us as king

He comes to each one of us and makes his claim on us, “I am your king.”

  • He wants us to recognize that he is our rightful king.
  • And he calls us to complete submission and obedience to him in every area of our lives.

But just as we saw before, he is not like the world’s leaders. How Jesus makes his claim of kingship on us is different. He doesn’t force us to submit. He doesn’t use coercion. He is a different kind of king.

He comes to us humbly to make his claim upon us. He doesn’t overwhelm us. He allows us to choose.

And so the question, like in the story, is, ‘Will we recognize his claim and submit?’ It is in our hands. And we have to choose.

And like in the story, in our lives there are three responses to Jesus’ claim of kingship. And certainly we know from the Scriptures that we are to be like the disciples, because they chose to submit to Jesus as king. They failed for sure, and we will also, but their commitment is there. We are to choose to be obedient to Jesus – our rightful king.

And for sure, we are not to be like the religious leaders, who chose to oppose him, tear him down, cast him aside. This much is clear.

It is the third category – the crowd that is such a stumbling block to so many people. And for this reason I am highlighting it.

  • For here, as in the story, you are with Jesus (at least for a time), when it suits your needs, or if the circumstances are right, or if you are in the right mood, or if it’s the fad of the time and everyone else is doing it. If one of these things is true, then yes, you are for him: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Jesus is my king.”
  • But you are not with Jesus, when it doesn’t suit your needs, or the circumstances are not right, or you are not in the right mood, or if it isn’t the fad anymore and you are the only one. Then you are not for him. He is not your king. And you cast him off, so you can go your own way.

Just as in the story, so today, most people take the way of the crowd. It seems safer because lots of people are with you. It is not so radical, like the religious leaders or the disciples. And if you are wrong, at least you are not a religious leader who completely rejects Jesus.

But there’s a serious confusion here. For in this story both the religious leaders and the crowd made the wrong choice. It is only the disciples, and them only waveringly at times, who chose correctly.

The way of the crowd may seem safe and appealing, but in reality it is no better than the way of the religious leaders. For neither obeyed Jesus as king. This is their common choice. The crowd tried to have it both ways. And you can’t have it both ways with Jesus.

The words of Jesus in the vision of Revelation 3:15-16 speak clearly to the place of the crowd: “. . . You are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

So the exhortation today is “Don’t be the crowd!” Don’t be in the middle with regard to Jesus. Don’t try to have it both ways. Don’t go the lukewarm route.

Don’t be fooled by the idea that at least sometimes you like Jesus and claim him as king. Because part-time submission to Jesus, when it suits you, when it fits your needs may sound better than open and constant rejection, but it really isn’t.

Part time submission is actually a rejection of Jesus’ claim of kingship over you. For submission that is based on your terms, is not submission at all. You are still calling the shots. You are still seeking to maintain control of your life – only going with Jesus when that meshes with your choices for your life.

You can’t have Jesus on your terms. You can only have Jesus on his terms. And he demands everything. This is how kingship works. So I implore you this morning, give yourself fully and completely over to Jesus as king.

He is here among us right now and he comes to you this morning to present his claim on you as your rightful king. Will you choose the right way? Will you give yourself fully to him?

William Higgins

Read Full Post »