他是騎在驢背上的君王。耶穌用這樣的行動，做為反諷。馬太引用了舊約的先知撒迦利亞和以賽亞，說「看哪，你們的君王來了！他謙遜地（praus: gentleness in spirit; meekness）騎在驢背上，騎在小驢的背上。」（太21:5）。世上的君王是威武強壯的皇帝，如同羅馬帝國的皇帝，他靠武力權勢，讓人服從他。但是，上帝國的君王，是和平的君王。他的座騎是不起眼的驢子，不是高大快速的千里馬，他用自己的行為做榜樣，吸引人跟隨他。戰馬代表征服，展現君王的權勢和力量。和駿馬比較起來，驢子是溫馴可靠的動物，牠為主人背負貨物。兩相對照，顯示出極大的差距。
在馬太福音中，耶穌進入耶路撒冷之前，曾經三次預告自己的死（16:21-27; 17:22; 20:17-19）。第一次發生在彼得宣認他是基督，是上帝的兒子的事件之後；第二次，在耶穌領著彼得、雅各和約翰到高山上改變形像之後；第三次，在他準備要進入耶路撒冷的時候。顯然，耶穌很清楚自己進入耶路撒冷，將會遭遇的狀況。這位騎著驢子的君王，知道做為上帝的僕人，他必須順服上帝的帶領。
Topic: Look, there is your king!
Scripture passage: Matthew 21:1-11
Speaker: Pastor Chen Meiling
Today is traditionally Palm Sunday in churches and in the coming week, it is the last week of the Advent, which is also known as the Holy week or Passion week. This is the last week that Jesus lived on earth. Today’s scripture passage records the first event that happened in the last week that Jesus shared the message of the kingdom of God. According to the record, Jesus entered Jerusalem like a king and started the Passion week.
As the book of Matthew records, Jesus came from Bethpage, near the Mount of Olives, from the east, ready to enter the holy city of Jerusalem. Within Jerusalem is where the center of the Jewish religious faith is established, and although they are under the rule of the Roman empire, they had a Jewish king who obeyed the orders of the Roman emperor. At the beginning of Matthew 21, Jesus enters the Jewish religious center like a king, returning in triumph. The crowd held branches from the palm tree and shouted to welcome him. However, Jesus rode on a donkey entering the holy city. This is a scene from an action movie, and Jesus showed us what type of king He is from this scene.
Let’s look at this from 3 angles.
I. Prince of Peace
Ancient kings returning to their cities after victorious battles is a grand scene. Let us imagine this for a while, that the Roman emperor wears a full battle suit of armor riding a sturdy horse or a glamorous chariot, with attendants and the army following behind, and the armor sparkles under the sun. Battle flags are flying and when the battle horns are blown, the army marches in step and enters the city amidst the cheers of the people. This is such a grand scene of a king returning after a victorious battle, and showcases the might of the king. Might and grandeur is what the people’s image of a king is like.
1. Jesus is born as the Prince of Peace, with the stable as an indication
However, Jesus is riding on a donkey when entering Jerusalem’s political and religious center. Is he a king? Yes, he is. When Jesus is born, the magi from the east came to Jerusalem to find him. “Where is the king of the Jews,” they asked. “Where is the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2) A precious king would be born in a room in the palace, and his birth would be known to many. Think about it. A few years ago, when England’s Princess Catherine was giving birth, there was so much public attention, and not just that of the people of England, their allies, but people from all over the world were paying attention to this event. When the royal family is about the have a new baby, everyone is expecting the birth of the future king.
Jesus’ birth is different. When the magi from the east were looking for the newborn king, they could not find him in Jerusalem, and nobody in Jerusalem knew that Jesus was born, not even king Herod. Nobody knew the location of Jesus’ birth. Jesus’ birth happened quietly and almost nobody in Jerusalem noticed, and there was no preparation happening at the palace. The people did not know there was a new king and when the magi of the east came, they could not find him at the religious center.
Isaiah 9:6 describes the promised messiah who would rescue his people, is a Prince of Peace. In the gospel of Luke, the author tells us that he was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, he is different from the kings of the world. He has no huge army and he did not ride on a large sturdy horse. He only rode on a donkey and following him are his disciples, a group of ordinary people from Galilee.
2. The Prince of Peace rides a donkey, using his own life as an example
He is a king who rides a donkey. Jesus uses this action as an irony. Matthew uses the prophets Zachariah and Isaiah in the Old Testament “See, your king comes to you, gentle (praus: gentleness in spirit; meekness) and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Matthew 21:5) The kings of this world are mighty and strong, just like the Roman emperor who rules through the might of his army to make everyone obey him. However, the ruler of God’s kingdom is the Prince of Peace. His mount is an insignificant donkey and not a large and fast horse. He uses himself as an example and attracts others to follow him. The warhorse represents conquering and displaces the king’s power and might. In comparison, the donkey is a peaceful and dependable animal and it carries the owner’s goods on its back. When we look at these situations together, there is a huge difference.
The prophet Zachariah foretold the king that pleased God is different from the kings of this world, because he does not depend on warhorses and a strong army’s power to win battles. A king who uses warfare to conquer does not necessarily win people’s hearts. Jesus uses his words and actions to be an example, to attract people to follow him and receive him as the king of their lives.
For example, in our world, there is a president and his title is “the world’s poorest president”. He won the love and respect of many. President Mujika is from the south African country Uruguay. When his term of office has ended, thousands of people attended his farewell speech and waved goodbye. Mujika was loved and respected because he is different from most presidents. He served the people, does not stay in the luxurious president’s apartment. He does not ride in the presidential sedan and drives his old Volkswagen. He donates 90% of his presidential salary to charitable organizations and lives a very simple life. President Mujika’s actions responded to the actions of Jesus the Prince of peace, and he uses his own words and actions to bring about change.
II. Humble king
Jesus is God’s promise of the Prince of Peace, who was not born in a glamorous palace, and not many people took notice of him. His whole life was full of gentleness and humility. Jesus is the king who rides humbly on a donkey and his whole life describes what it means to be humble.
1. To be humble is to sacrifice
Jesus’ life shows that he is a humble king. He is born in a lowly stable and when he is sharing the gospel, he lives a life of sacrifice. Once, there was a Bible teacher who respected Jesus’ teaching very much and hence he expresses that he wants to follow Jesus wherever he goes. However, Jesus told him “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20) Those who follow Jesus need to think carefully because following him does not bring us material benefits, for he did not even have a place to lay his head.
Nevertheless, he was not bothered by the lack of material possessions. He pointed at the flowers of the field and the birds of the air and said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25-30) These statements represent Jesus’ philosophy for his life. This humble king does not have an extravagant life in the palace, neither does he have a simple house as shelter from the wind and rain. The humble king sacrificed himself coming to the world not to strength himself but to obey God’s command and care for people with low social status.
2. Compassion for people with low social status
Jesus is a king who supports those without social status. When he sees people who were harassed and helpless, he had compassion on them. (Matthew 9:36) Who are the harassed and helpless? In a society, those with the lowest economic status are the harassed and helpless. They have no connections, no income, and these are those who Jesus cared about. He healed the sick, not only men but also women, whom other paid little attention to during those times. He was willing to spend time with the Samaritan woman whom the Jews looked down upon, at a well discussing the meaning of faith. He was touched by the faith of a Canaanite woman and was willing to heal the daughter of this Gentile. (Matthew 15:21-28) All that he did was to obey God’s commands. God cares about the people whom the world think, are of lowly status. Jesus gives special attention to them and in his teachings, those who serve those who are lowly, would receive God’s greatest reward.
3. Inviting us to carry his yoke
Jesus, the humble king invites us. He says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) Jesus is inviting us to carry his yoke. What this means is that he is inviting us to submit to his authority and let him be in charge. He invites us to learn from him, which is to humble himself and learn to be a servant of God’s kingdom and find the true meaning of faith.
It is to serve and not to be served, and Jesus set an example for his followers. In Tainan, there is a girl’s school which was established by a missionary from England and the first principal is miss Lu Renai. She was a teacher who received formal training at the college of education. Once, the female chef of the school was ill and could not get up from bed. She hoped that principal Lu could help her shower. Principal Lu was the leader of the school and was well respected. When she heard of this request, she went to the bedroom of this chef to help her shower. Principal Lu learnt from the example of Jesus the humble king and carried Jesus’ yoke, humbled herself and demonstrated humble service.
III. The king who submitted to God
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Majority of the crowd are not residents of Jerusalem; they went there from other towns to celebrate a festival. Perhaps, some of them have seen the miracles of Jesus in Galilee in healing the lame and the blind; perhaps some of them have been full from eating of the five loaves and two fishes; perhaps Jesus resurrected Lazarus and left a deep impression on them. They received him warmly with cheers and waved branches from palm trees, but did not recognize who Jesus was. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:10-11) They did not truly recognize who Jesus was.
Did Jesus’ disciples truly recognize him? Even some of his disciples had expected Jesus to lead them in overthrowing the Roman rule and establish the kingdom of Israel, becoming a political king. When Jesus foretold his death for the third time, his disciples who are brothers James and John requested that they be given a seat on the left and right of Jesus when he becomes king. As you can see, his disciples did not completely understand Jesus’ mission. Jesus is to be king indeed, but he is to be a king who suffers. Hence, Jesus uses the action of riding on a donkey to express that he has no intention of overthrowing the Roman empire and his mission is not to be a political king.
2. Jesus the king that obeys God
In the gospel of Matthew, before Jesus enters Jerusalem, he foretold his death for the third time (16:21-27, 17:22, 20:17-19). The first time happened when Peter proclaimed him as Christ God’s son. The second happened when Jesus led Peter, James and John to a high mountain and after the transfiguration. The third time was when he was getting ready to enter Jerusalem. This tells us that Jesus is very clear that when he enters Jerusalem, he was going to face trials. This king who rides a donkey knows that as God’s servant, he must obey God’s leading.
The king who rides a donkey into the city is a king who suffers and this action scene is ironical to kings who ride on strong horses and kings of this world who depend on power and might to conquer others. Jesus the king who suffers has only one goal, which is to obey God’s commands. Jesus says, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (20:26-28) Jesus obeyed and carried out God’s commands, he worked hard to spread the good news of God’s kingdom, and even when he had to offend those in power, he was unafraid. He foretold of his death three times because he was very certain that the result of not compromising is possibly death. However to him, obeying God’s commands is greater than anything else, and even though his life might be in danger, he pressed forward.
For example, the situation that Miss Ann Armstrong Livingston, Sabine E. Mackintosh and S. Gladys Cullen experienced in Singapore. During the second World War, three female missionaries that England sent to Taiwan had to leave and transferred to Singapore to share the gospel. A year later as the war spread to Singapore, their home church sent a telegram to inform them to leave. It’s unknown why the telegram arrived a month late. They left Singapore in a boat in a hurry but was caught by the Japanese navy in the sea. In the following two years or so, they lost contact with their families and nobody knew whether they were alive. Later on, they found out that they were imprisoned in a central camp where Ann and Sabine died from malnutrition in an environment where they lost their freedom. When the second world war ended, only Gladys returned home safely. These are people who followed Jesus, giving themselves as an offering to become missionaries in a foreign land to spread the gospel. The obeyed God’s leading and did not back out despite environmental danger, to the point of sacrificing their lives. They followed the example of Jesus and obeyed God in all circumstances.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week or Passion Week and in today’s scripture passage we can see that Jesus uses one scene of an action movie when entering the holy city of Jerusalem to show that he is the Prince of Peace, the humble king, and a king who submits to God. To us, our hearts is like Jerusalem, which is where we meet with God. Look! Our king wants to enter our hearts. Please let us reconsider, what kind of king do you want to receive? Is it a king who rides on a strong horse, or one who rides on a donkey? Is it a king of this world who rules by power and wealth, or one who sacrifices himself, is humble and obeys God?
Jesus invites us, all who are weary and burdened to come to him. Jesus invites us to carry his yoke and learn from his example that no matter what circumstances we are in, to obey God. Are you willing to accept his invitation? Are you willing to receive this king who rides on a donkey?