Behold, Your King Is Coming!
O Lord Jesus, our Savior and Sovereign, we pray that You would enter our hearts and lives with Your blessings. Forgive our sins by Your grace, open our minds to Your word, and fill our hearts with Your love. May we ever be found faithful to You, and may we one day live with You throughout eternity, even as You have promised. Amen.
The prophet Zechariah urges God’s Old Testament people to rejoice in the promised Savior, who would come as their King riding upon a donkey and bringing them peace and salvation. This prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus when He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It is still fulfilled every time Jesus enters a person’s heart, establishes His rule through faith, and brings that person the gift of eternal life!
The apostle Peter urges us to have the mind of Christ, who while suffering for us remained faithful to God. We are to likewise remain faithful, avoiding the sins of the flesh found in this world, while remaining true to our Savior and Sovereign before whom we one day will stand.
Text: John 12:12-19
The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD?’ The King of Israel!” Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
In Christ Jesus, our precious Savior and powerful King, dear fellow redeemed:
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) It was with those words that the apostle Paul challenged the readers of his second epistle to the Corinthians. They were to take a good look inside their souls. They were to test themselves to see whether or not they actually believed in Jesus Christ. This was not a meaningless exercise, for their eternal salvation was ultimately at stake. They were living in challenging spiritual times and needed to confirm that which they believed, so that they would be prepared to fulfill their callings with confidence and with faithfulness!
Let us examine ourselves today—you and me, for we too live in challenging times! We too need to know what we believe and why we believe it, so that we are able to fulfill our callings with confidence and with faithfulness. Let us examine ourselves by going back in time to Jerusalem of old—to that day when Jesus entered Jerusalem just five days before Passover…five days before Good Friday. You are in the crowded streets outside the temple. Hordes of religious pilgrims are headed towards the temple courtyard, while harried locals are just trying to pass through the streets to their homes and businesses. All of a sudden you hear someone cry out:BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING and the crowd begins to move towards the Golden Gate, which provides the entrance to the city on its eastern wall. Your test is to answer this question:How are you greeting Him—this King who is coming? Are you greeting Him with sincere faith, with mild curiosity, with outright opposition, or with general indifference? For it was in one of those ways that the various groups of people depicted in our text greeted Jesus that day. With which group would you identify yourself?
The first group of people were true believers in Jesus. We are told that “when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,” they prepared themselves by cutting off palm branches and then “went out to meet Him!” They did not wait for Him to enter the city, but wanted to be in His presence and to hear His words, so they went out of the gate to meet Him and accompany Him in. They recognized that Jesus was Someone special—not just an ordinary rabbi, but the very “King of Israel!” They knew and rejoiced in the many Old Testament prophecies of the Savior, even though at this time they were unaware of all of their intended meanings. They knew, however, that the LORD God had promised David that One of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (cf. 2 Samuel 7:13). They believed Jesus was that descendant and that just as Isaiah had once prophesied, He would sit “upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (Isaiah 9:7). That day they did not recall the prophecy of Zechariah that we heard in our Old Testament reading, that their King would come “sitting on a donkey’s back,” but later they would recall those words and realize that what had happened on Palm Sunday was also foretold hundred of years before it happened!
Test yourself and see—are you among this group of true believers? Are you greeting Jesus today with sincere faith? Do you find a strong desire within your heart to come to meet Jesus in His house of worship? Do you say with the Psalmist, David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’ (Psalm 122:1) or when such opportunities arise do you find yourself saying, “I would rather not go”? Do you recognize in Jesus Someone more than simply a teacher of morals, a great religious figure, but rather see Him as your Savior and Lord? Do you confess that He is so vital and important because you believe with Peter that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12b), or have you given in to the doubts which have driven so many Christians in our day to compromise that truth and suggest that Jesus is just one of many ways back to God? Yes, test yourself and see…how are you greeting Jesus? Are you greeting Him with sincere faith, or…
…are you greeting him merely with mild curiosity? Although Jesus was not as popular as He once had been, for after all He had refused to allow the people to make Him into a “bread king” (cf. John 6:15), He was still quite famous. Certainly, after His powerful miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, which had occurred only a few months before, there was no question that He possessed great power. The people who had witnessed that miracle had not remained silent. Word had spread and so now there were many among the throngs which had descended upon Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival who now pressed forward to meet Him in view of the miracles He had performed. For many of these people Jesus’ arrival was simply a matter of curiosity—they wanted to see this “miracle man.” Perhaps they would get lucky and He would demonstrate His great power. For the most part, however, these people were not motivated by faith, but rather by their curiosity and the available opportunity to see someone extraordinary.
Test yourself and see—are you among this group of curious onlookers? Look carefully, for it might be hard to see yourself there among them. Ask yourself—do I come to see Jesus only upon occasion, when it is convenient and I really have nothing better to do? Do you come just for the special services—to hear the grandchildren in the Christmas Eve service, or to hear the special music at Easter, or when your child is being baptized, or your father buried, or your sister married? If this sounds all too familiar, ask yourself: “Do I truly understand my need for Jesus Christ and the importance of my relationship with Him?” Ponder the words of the writer to the Hebrews, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25). The Last Day is coming! You certainly do not want to hear Jesus say to you, “I never knew you; depart from Me!” (Matthew 7:23b) Remember, Jesus once said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33) So, test yourself and see…how are you greeting Jesus? Are you greeting Him with sincere faith, with mild curiosity, or…
…do you find yourself greeting Him with outright opposition? The third group identified in our text were the Pharisees, or religious leaders among the Jews. They had opposed Jesus throughout His ministry, but their opposition had now developed into a determined plan to kill Him. In fact, in the verses immediately preceding our text, their plot to kill Jesus had expanded into a plot for multiple murders. They now wanted to kill Lazarus, for it was his resurrection from the dead, which had influenced so many people to follow the One they considered a deceiver. In the other Gospel accounts we are told that they reproached Jesus on this day—telling Him to silence the crowds and to refuse to accept their claims that He was indeed fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Savior. He had told them, however, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). What could the Pharisees do? They could not intervene at this point. If they had tried to have Him arrested, the crowds might have become violent in His defense. They were reduced to casting aspersions against each other, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
Surely, none of us would find ourselves standing with the Pharisees, would we? Yet, test yourself and see? How are you greeting Jesus in your life? Do you find yourself disagreeing with His teachings as found within His Word…finding little joy in Christianity and concluding that it is just too restrictive? After all, if I want to live with my girlfriend or boyfriend, who is the preacher to tell me that I am doing something wrong? If I want to gamble, why should I restrict my actions, just because the Bible says that I should “seek…the other’s well-being” rather than my own? (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:24) If I want to redefine the nature of marriage; if I want to end the life of my unborn child; if I want to say that all gods are essentially the same and all roads lead to the same place—who is the LORD to tell me differently? If those are your attitudes, my dear friends, then perhaps you are indeed standing with the Pharisees and greeting Jesus with outright opposition!
Test yourself and see, how are you greeting Jesus? Are you greeting him, finally, with general indifference? We have run out of verses in our text? Where do we find those who were indifferent? You find them in between the lines you might say. There were indeed many people—sincere believers, curious onlookers, and determined opponents of Jesus, all of whom greeted Jesus on that first Palm Sunday, but there were many others in Jerusalem, who just like many people today…just stayed home. They just stayed on their jobs. They were too busy to pay much attention to the cry: BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING! They were too tired, too pre-occupied with their household chores, too much in love, too sick, too stubborn, too ornery, too…whatever to take the time to check out and greet religious guy coming into their city.
Test yourself and see—are you greeting Jesus with general indifference? It can happen so very easily and does happen all too often. It has already happened for the most part in Europe. In Germany, the home of Luther, less than 10% of the people have an active spiritual life? Let us not think that this indifference will not spread to America and to us. It happens here, when anyone takes the attitude, “I have plenty of time to think about religion when I get old.” Years ago a little girl entered her first grade classroom at Holy Trinity Lutheran School in West Columbia, South Carolina and announced to her teacher and classmates, “My daddy is going to hell! He loves his mattress more than he loves Jesus!” Out of the mouths of babes…! Let us remember Isaiah’s admonition, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (55:6).
As we enter Holy Week once again, it should be apparent to each of us that Jesus was not indifferent to our spiritual condition and needs. Jesus carried His cross to Calvary and was nailed thereon—not because He was forced to do so and had no choice. No, He chose to die for you, and for you, and for you, and for me! Yes, He chose to die so that we might live. Do you believe that? Has that message made an impression upon your heart and within your life? Test yourself and see—how are you greeting Jesus? It is vital that you know, for BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting