Our Lowly King’s Triumphal Entry

March 23, 1997 / No. 2828

Dear Radio Friend,

There was a song that I learned as a boy. It was a versification of one of the Psalms. The song went this way:

Not human strength or mighty hosts,
Not charging steeds or warlike boasts
Can save from overthrow.
But God will save from death and shame
All those who fear and trust His Name,
And they no want shall know.

That song taught the truth that salvation cannot be accomplished by any strength that we possess, by any power of man. But it can only be gained by the divine power of God’s grace which is in Christ Jesus.

The song was saying that if the load of sin is to be lifted from our souls, and if we are to have the right to enter into heaven, and if our debts of sins are to be erased from God’s books, then no power of man can do that – no philosophy, no act of Congress, no world-relief committee, not all the wealth of the world – no human power can save. But it can only be through the perfect suffering and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. In Him, and in the way of the amazing humility of His coming under our guilt and sin, that is the only way of salvation.

That is exactly what the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday teaches us. On this day the church normally remembers the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. We call it “Palm Sunday,” the day in which the people put palm branches down upon the road as Jesus entered into Jerusalem on the back of a little donkey. That was when our King, our humble and lowly King, came triumphantly into Jerusalem. Not in the strength of man, for man’s strength cannot remove sin. But He came in the way of humility, in the way of obedience to God, to come under the wrath of our sins, and to deliver us from it.

As I said, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, when He rode upon the colt, the foal of an ass, was a public announcement that the King had come to conquer and to set up His kingdom. He had come to conquer our sin. And He had come to establish the true, spiritual, and heavenly kingdom of God in His blood. He had come to defeat our foes of sin, death, and hell. He had come to earn the victory and to earn the crown of righteousness for us. And, that He had come to do this in the only way that it could ever be done – in the way of His profound obedience and humiliation, to make an atonement, a payment for our sins by suffering upon the cross.

Our Lord deliberately arranged the details of His entrance into Jerusalem. He intentionally created this event. He deliberately provoked this public demonstration. That is very striking. And that is really, we would almost say, out of character with the Lord. Always He had resisted publicity. He had gone about secretly and had avoided public places at many times. In John 6:15, when the people wanted to make Him a king, He sent them away and went up into a mountain to pray alone. In John 7 we read that His family and His disciples had urged Him to go up to Jerusalem in a public manner. But we read, rather, that He went up in secret, and He would not make Himself known, for His time (His hour) had not yet come.

But now the Lord intentionally creates a moment of public enthusiasm. He will enter into Jerusalem in a very visible manner. Why? Was it because He has finally agreed to become the earthly king that His disciples had hoped He would be? No, that is not the answer. The answer is that He would announce that as the true Messiah, as the true Christ of God sent into the world, He has now come, in obedience to the Father, to suffer and to die for the sins of His people.

When Jesus enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of that lowly donkey, He is fulfilling a prophecy, a prophecy made in Zechariah 9:9. There Zechariah holds out the hope that, in the strongest contrast to the warriors and kings of the heathen which had been sweeping through the land, there would appear one to establish the universal kingdom of God. He wrote: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Zechariah said that the king comes, but he comes in a way of contrast. He comes in a totally unexpected way as far as man is concerned. He will come lowly, apparently with infirmities. And that lowliness would be a stumbling block to human pride.

Jesus intentionally creates His entrance into Jerusalem to correspond to the picture drawn in Zechariah’s prophecy. So we read in the gospel narratives that He sends two of His disciples and instructs them to go to a village, where they would find an ass, and a colt with her. He instructs them to loose them and bring them to Him. And if any man would object, all they would have to say is: “The Lord hath need of them.” Then, with their coats draped over the colt as blankets upon the ass, Jesus rides into Jerusalem, a literal enactment of Zechariah’s prophecy.

Jesus allows them to go before Him in a parade of honor, to spread their coats before Him, down the road from the Mount of Olives, up to the gates of David’s royal city, people following along, others joining the procession, some now cutting down palm branches and strewing them in the way, a carpet of green, softened with garments, for a king and conqueror whose way is smooth and beautiful. We read in the gospel narratives that a very great multitude, perhaps thousands of people, began to cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” “Hosanna” means “save now.” These were the words of Psalm 118:26, 27: “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD…. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

But yet we have a question here. How can we miss this? If it is the case that He has come to establish a kingdom, then is it not out of place that He comes meek, riding upon a colt, the foal of an ass? This is the conqueror? This is one who is come to set up a kingdom? This is a triumphant entry, something which speaks of power? Does it not shout of meekness and lowliness? Any Roman soldier who had ever witnessed a triumphant entry of a Caesar into Rome had to mock at this and to view it with disdain. Not a colt of a donkey. Not some long-eared, shaggy beast, a frightened little pack-mule, but a white stallion, prancing with a noble gait. Not worn-out clothes for a saddle, but a rich, embroidered blanket under a diamond-studded saddle. Not coats and branches strewed in the way for Him to ride over, but a red and royal carpet on which the conqueror, clad in white and crowned with gold, with long waving blond hair, would dismount and be welcomed to the throne.

But Jesus’ entrance is covered with humility. There is no earthly pomp. There is no sign of earthly strength. He comes meek. And remember who this is. This is the Son of God. This is the One who holds Caesar in the palm of His hand. This is the One who is fairer than the morning. This is the One who is more brilliant than an army with banners. This is the blessed and only Potentate, the everlasting God.

But now He comes humbled. Not on a charging steed, but on a baby donkey, as the humble servant of God, in humility, profound humility, He comes.

For, you see, He has come to battle sin. And sin is not defeated with muscles and with human strength. It is defeated only through the amazing obedience of the Son of God who humbled Himself under our sins. He has come to save from sin.

That is what the prophet Zechariah had been given to see. And he set it down in the Word of God. He comes, having salvation. Zechariah spoke of the daughter of Zion, the tender, wonderful, compassionate term referring to God’s elect chosen throughout all the ages, to us who are sold under sin, slaves, captive in our sins. For then He came to save us from the power and dominion of sin, from death and from hell. He did not come to save from Roman oppression. He did not come to establish a kingdom here on earth so that we might prosper materially. But He came to save us from our spiritual enemy of sin and death. He came in the power of God’s love by which He humbled Himself under our sins. The arm of flesh has no contribution to make in salvation. Human strength, human will, human resources, human wisdom and power? No, they cannot save. There is only one way for sin to be erased from the presence of God. There is only one way for us to be restored to the favor of God, and that is through the perfect obedience of God’s Son in our flesh. The righteousness of God demands that He Himself should make a payment with His perfect life as a ransom for our sins.

Do you grasp, do you embrace in your heart, this wonderful truth? Only when the Spirit of God is busy doing His work in our heart, convicting us of our sins, showing us our real condition, only then can we grasp and truly shout with all our hearts, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Save now! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

The disciples of Jesus on that day did not get it. In John 12:16 we read: “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him.” And the people, by and large, did not understand it that day. In fact, they showed that they had no place for such a king who had come to deliver them from the bondage of sin. They believed that if Jesus were to be crowned a king He must be an earthly king. They wanted a king that would feed them with material resources, give them food, heal them of physical disorders, bring them material blessings. And that is the Jesus that many clamor after today. Many say that Jesus is the One who heals from physical disorders. He is the One who brings material blessings. And they identify that as being the salvation of Jesus Christ. Their God, says Paul inPhilippians 3, is their belly.

That is not Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Savior from sin. When you see Him as the Savior from sin, then you will see that He comes exactly the right way. When you understand what He has come to do in Jerusalem – to lay down His life on the cross in the place of sinners – then you will understand that He comes exactly the right way. You see, His kingdom can never come by worldly ideals. The kingdom of Christ is not a kingdom to bring out the best of man. His kingdom cannot come by worldly methods. His kingdom is not the result of the glamour and the glory of this world. Today, too, many want to make Him an earthly king. Today, too, many think that the kingdom of God can only be realized in a physical way upon the earth. There are others who say, “Let us help you and we will set up a great kingdom of Jesus. Let us make our contribution to the kingdom – the free will of the sinner.” Many say, “Well, Jesus can be your king and savior if you, by your free will, accept Him so that His kingdom comes in your life with human aid and by human power.” Always men flock to such a savior whose message is, “It is in your hands to save. I’ve only come to help you, to bring out the very best in you. Together we can do it.” People will flock to that Jesus.

But, you see, the Jesus of the Bible will never allow Himself to be crowned that way. He does not come to set up His kingdom on that basis. He comes lowly, to declare exactly this: that man, and all of human strength, is nothing. “I come, in order that it might be shown that the power of God’s grace alone can save. I come in the way of perfect obedience, to suffer for your sin and to rise again the third day to deliver you from the tyrant of sin and death and hell which holds you in bondage. And I come now to rule over your heart by grace.”

Do you understand these things?

Then you will cry: “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the Lord.”

The multitude that day, when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, who shouted “Hosanna,” were also the same ones who, later that week, would shout, “Crucify Him, crucify Him. We have no king but Caesar.” Having no heart for the significance of His humble entrance and looking for an earthly kingdom, they were offended at Him. They were disappointed in Him. What kind of an earthly king is He? We will take Caesar, then. He is not setting up a kingdom for the Jews – give us Caesar.

But those throughout the ages to whom the heavenly Father reveals the wonder of His grace shout with an irrepressible joy: “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

The praise that day was irrepressible, too. His enemies, the chief priests and scribes and Pharisees, tried to choke the voice of this praise. Luke tells us in his gospel narrative that some of the Pharisees came up to Him right in the midst of this praise and said, “Master, rebuke Thy disciples.” And He said, “I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” There is always bitter animosity against the praise rendered to Jesus as a sovereign Savior. Man does not want to hear praise for a Savior who is totally sovereign, that is, a Savior who by His power and grace and love saves completely. A Savior which declares that man cannot save himself, that man is nothing but a depraved sinner? Men do not want to praise such a Savior. Men hate such a Savior and they try to stop the praise of such a Savior. But Jesus said, there will always be the divine work of grace in the hearts of My disciples. The praise of God’s people will always be irrepressible. It cannot be stopped. When you are given to know your helplessness and the hopelessness you have under sin, and then you see Him, God’s Son, a gift of God’s love and grace, come lowly to bear away your sins, then you must praise Him. Then you must shout, “Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.”

Does it offend you to hear the truth about yourself? That is not my opinion about you or of me. That is God’s Word. You have no power to save yourself. You have no merit. You have no goodness in you of yourself at all. Does this offend you? Jesus Christ did not come to enlist your help. You cannot earn acceptance with God. All your works do not earn with Him. You appear naked.

But Jesus Christ came to save in the way of grace, in the way of humble obedience. In the way of unfathomed love the King of Israel bore the load and the guilt of our sins. He broke down the bondage of our sins. He creates us anew by the power of His Holy Spirit. He conquers and He conquers alone. The spoils of His victory come to us: forgiveness and righteousness and an open heaven. The spoils of the conquest are ours. But the conquest is His alone.

There is where the praise is His alone. The battle is His. The victory is won. He has given His life for sin. And He is now the forgiveness of sins for all those who are in Him. He is righteousness and eternal glory. And therefore we have a hope, a hope of everlasting salvation, and the hope that our King comes again in power and in great glory.

Do you hear the gospel? Do you see the Savior? Then shout! Shout today for joy. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Glory to God in the highest!” And be ready to meet Him when He comes for you. Be ready to meet Him with a song of praise upon your lips: “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.”

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, we pray that Thou wilt humble us under Thy Word and give us the joy of the faith which sees that salvation is of Thee. We confess, O Lord, that we often turn to our own strength. We pray that Thou wilt renounce that in us and give us to trust only in Thy Son who, through His perfect obedience, has brought us unto Thee. In Jesus’ name, Amen.