Blessed is the Coming King

Before long we hope to celebrate Good Friday and Easter. We commemorate the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the month of April, on this program, we hope to give attention to some of the circumstances that led up to his death so long ago. Today we turn to the gospel according to Mark, chapter 11 and the story that is commonly known as Jesus’ Triumphal Entry. This incident is recorded by all four evangelists, the writers of the four gospels. It appeared that all were impressed and, more important, were led by the Holy Spirit to record the story. This is what the young gospel-writer Mark says: As they ( that is, Jesus and his disciples) approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, Go to the village ahead of you , and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘ Why are you doing this? Tell him, ‘ The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at the doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “ What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “ Hosanna!” “ Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “ Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. Now these things did not happen in some obscure corner, “Out of sight and out of mind”. Matthew, in his gospel says that on coming into Jerusalem “ The whole city was stirred and asked “ Who is this?” ( Matt. 21: 10). Yet it was not so that that a great many turned out in devotion. In fact there was no welcoming committee waiting for Jesus in the temple. Yet on the way to the city it appears there were those who were ready to crown him as an earthly king. Did they shout “ Hosanna,” a cry which originally meant “ O Lord, save” or “ O Lord please rescue”? They quoted what to them would have been a familiar psalm, Psalm 118: 25, 26. Yet it appears they had not understood what the author of that psalm had in mind when he had said, “ Hosijanna” “ O Lord, please save us.” They had thought of an earthly kingdom like that of that famous warrior king, David. A kingdom full of physical power and worldly influence. So a king and a kingdom which no doubt would make short work of that Roman occupation which now oppressed them. Yet Jesus on more than one occasion had said his kingdom was not of this world.( John 17:14, 18:36). So not one of armoured troops on snorting stallions – nor bands of cavalry with sword-carrying riders ready to establish a free state of Israel. Even now he was on the way to Jerusalem and so on the way to the cross. That he might save his people from their sins by dying – dying a bitter and lonely death on a cross. No, it is not so that Jesus had turned his back on this sacrifice he had come to accomplish. Nor is it so that he wanted nothing to do with a kingdom as such. But his was, and is, a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of the most amazing peace and joy one could imagine. Even now, on the way to giving himself as a ransom, demanded by his heavenly Father as payment for the sins of so many, he had taken the lead. Earlier, in ch. 10: 32 we read that in going up to Jerusalem Jesus had led the way! He’d led the way though he knew he was going to his arrest and his subsequent death. We also read there that his disciples were astonished. No wonder for their master had continued to speak of his impending betrayal by the chief priests and teachers of the law. They would hand him over to the Romans and he would be mocked and spit on, flogged and killed. Yet he was determined to go to Jerusalem and to be handed over… to die! Not only that, but Jesus knew he would have to suffer that extreme loneliness of being utterly forsaken by his Father, on the cross. And yet, he had taken charge. He’d given directions to those two disciples to find that colt. He’d exercised royal authority in laying claim to it and he had not protested when they brought that colt of a donkey to him for he willingly sat on it. But then those cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” had been ( as is clear from psalm 118, – directed to Jerusalem! That this city and her temple and her priests would welcome their coming king! That they might “join in the festal procession” ( Psalm 118:27) paying homage to King Jesus. Did they? Would they? NO! For when “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple,” Mark says ,“He looked around at everything”, but then he left, going back to Bethany as night was falling (Mark 11:11). It surely must have looked like a small and lonely group, only Jesus and the twelve! In fact the very next day Jesus, alone, had driven out of the temple those who’d made his and his Father’s house “a den of robbers” because of the money changers and others who were noisily buying and selling doves turning God’s temple into a market place! Did they? Would they? NO! For when “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple,” Mark says ,“He looked around at everything”, but then he left, going back to Bethany as night was falling ( Mark 11:11. It surely must have looked like a small and lonely group, only Jesus and the twelve! In fact the very next day Jesus, alone, had driven out of the temple those who’d made his and his Father’s house “ a den of robbers” because of the money changers and others who were noisily buying and selling doves turning God’s temple into a market place! Yet forward he went, resolutely. Recently I came across a very old hymn by a certain Venantius Honorius Fortunatus a Christian poet of the sixth century. They hymn is called Vexilla Regis Prodeunt (veh-XEEL-lah REHjeez PRO-deh-oont – I’m not sure if I pronounce it anywhere near correctly) and it means “ The Royal Banners Forward Go.” It says in part in connection with our text; The royal banners forward go; the cross shines forth in mystic glow where he by whom our flesh was made, in that same flesh our ransom paid.” Fortunatus was not mistaken concerning the type of kingship and kingdom of Jesus Christ. For he, considering Christ’s death on Calvary’s tree, went on to say, Fulfilled is all that David told in true prophetic song of old; that God the nation’s King should be, and reign in triumph from that tree.” No, that tree will not have looked very royal, but the One who hung on it, is surely King of Kings and Lord of lords today. For he died, yes, but he rose and today he still goes forward, ruling all things and all nations, with a view to his return and the completion of his church which will one day sing Hosanna even on a glorious new earth. In a meditation by another Christian minister ( the late Dr. Oswald Hoffman) I found these words, “ Forward go” said Jesus Christ, for the whole world. “ Forward go” for each and everyone. “ Forward go to die for the sins of the world and to die for the sins of all his true children. “ Forward go” royal banners flying, from suffering and death to light and life – in the joy and peace of the kingdom of God” It is so, Christ’s royal banners are not furled today. “ They fly in the breeze ( or should I say, hurricane) of unbelief, and in the torrent of violence that envelops the world.’ But then, all the more reason to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Yes, “Forward go!” to bow before him and to confess our sins. To seek for refuge and strength and joy in Him who gave his life as a fragrant offering, that you and I and all who believe, might live. Live, in communion with those who confess the same Savior and rejoice in the same Lord, on the basis of his Word, which is the same, now and forever. So “Forward go!” in the words of Fortunatus, “ To you, eternal three-in-one, our song shall rise in unison; those whom you ransomed and restore, preserve and govern evermore.”

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