“As you have been singing about Me as the real king – consider what that means. What is the role of a good king? It is to rule over his subjects for their benefit – it demonstrates his authority over all – but an authority dedicated to the well-being of his subjects. Not lording, ordering but serving them and providing for them. Protecting them and through His rule, directing them so that they may live a productive, satisfying life of service to one another. Ultimately the true nature of My rule was demonstrated on the cross. An action which was wholly motivated by love and for the benefit of my subjects. The real king of Jerusalem is in need of nothing from his subjects, but simply desires to be loved in response to His love, demonstrated by the changed lives all those who have been invited into His kingdom. May your service be joyful and expectant as I empower you daily – my beloved subject.”
The nature of Jesus’ kingship in this world is demonstrated dramatically in the next few chapters of Matthew as he reaches the climax of His Gospel description. It is perhaps easy to overlook the drama that unfolds as we have read and heard it so often. So why don’t you read Matthew ch 21 again, expectantly. It is so concentrated that I am only going to chat about the first 17 vv..
Remember the greater context is still, “Who is this Man and what has He come to do?” The immediate context has been humility before Jesus and the need for Him to open our eyes to see and understand His teaching and actions. Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem for the final act in the drama of His life. He has already been recognized by the disciples as “The Messiah, the Son of God” way back in 16:16. The concept of Messiah, was of an invincible king coming to rescue the Jewish people from their bondage.
Imagine how incongruous the scene described in the first vv of the chapter is. The arrival of a king in those times would be heralded by him riding on a beautiful steed at the head of a huge procession. Jesus, riding alone on a donkey? Imagine at king Charles’ coronation, he comes into London, all alone riding on a battered Vespa scooter.
Yet the response of the crowd demonstrates that they do, somehow recognize Him as king. They welcome Him with shouts of praise and demonstration of cloaks and branches. Notice the effect of His entry in v 10, the whole city was shaken! Despite this response the crowd’s conclusion is, “This is the prophet Jesus”. (Either a reference to the local stories of Him or to the special Prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy)
His first action is to go to the Temple. Why there? Well, the temple was the place where people would go to meet with God. It represented His presence with them. Now what is interesting, is the quote that Jesus makes as He cleanses the temple. It comes from Isaiah 56. Why not read that chapter now? If you remember, the thrust of that Chapter is a view of God’s ultimate purpose: Salvation is central, represented by God giving His righteousness, but it is extended to all. To outcasts, eunuchs and foreigners. The only requirement was for them to join themselves to God’s covenant and demonstrate this by keeping His Sabbaths.
So as Jesus goes to the temple, He is reminding the people of how they have failed in their appreciation of God by denying Him and turning away from His covenant. They had also failed to represent God to all the outsiders and foreigners. Taking it a step further He is judging the temple and preparing the people for when it will become redundant because of their rejection of God and His covenant. His intention was that He would replace the temple with His own person through whom the people would meet with God the Father from then on.
Matthew then describes how the blind and lame come to Him after that and He accepts and heals them. At the end of that paragraph, we once again are reminded that it is the unprejudiced eyes of little children who would accept Him. 21:16.
The contrast is stark. The religious leaders don’t recognize Him and reject Him yet those who are open and humble do. Do you see the significance of this repeated theme?
Looking forward, it is only after His death that we have the final word on who He is, as the centurion exclaims in 27:54, “Surely he was the Son of God”.
One can understand their confusion and we still see much of that today. Ultimately it is only those whose eyes are opened supernaturally that can accept who He really is. There is a warning however, to me in all this. I should not ever put Jesus in a box and think I have the last word on Him. I should go out to meet Him every day expecting the unexpected and ready to glorify Him as I meet Him. At the same time, I need to remain as a little child setting aside preconceived ideas and humbling myself under His mighty hand.
As you run all these thoughts through your mind today, I hope you will be filled anew with excitement and anticipation for your relationship with this Man Jesus who in Himself was and is the mighty God.