Day of Popularity: Matthew 21:1-11

Ascent to the Throne

April is here, the spring showers have arrived, and Easter is a week away. We want to prepare our hearts for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. At Crossings, we are doing that by posting a meditation each day of passion week. These meditations will follow the narrative of Jesus’ ascent to the cross and resurrection. We hope you will tune in daily for a new post looking at what happened on that day during Jesus’ last week on earth and consider with us how that story prepares us to receive and understand the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Here are the posts with their passages. We hope you will read the Scripture, meditate on it, then tune in here after.

Day of Popularity • Palm Sun 4/9 •  Matthew 21:1-11
Day of Authority • Mon 4/10 • Matthew 21:12-19
Day of Conflict • Tues 4/11 • John 12:20-50
Day of Rest • Wed 4/12 • No Gospel Record
Day of Fellowship • Maundy Thur 4/13 • Luke 22:7-38
Day of Suffering • Good Fri 4/14 • Mark 15:21-39
Day of Silence • Sat 4/15 • Matthew 27:62-66
Day of Silence • Resurrection Sun 4/16 • John 20:1-18

Matthew 21:1-11

1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5  “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” Matt. 21:6   The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

 A Day of Anticipation

Imagine the scene: You are there standing in the crowds, in the center of Jerusalem, shouting. The excitement is building, you don’t remember the last time you’ve been this excited. This is maybe the biggest event you have participated in, not because of the size, but because of who is present. You’ve heard about this man, who some call a Prophet, or teacher, and even others call him Master. He’s been famous for making the religious authorities mad, healing the sick, lame, and demon-possessed, and befriending tax collectors, adulterers, and outcasts. Jesus is radical and counter-cultural, to say the least. And now the crowds get to finally see him, riding into Jerusalem at the commencement of one of the most important times of the year: Passover. Imagine the excitement and wonder if you were to witness this event in person.

The King of Humility

Passover was a time when Jerusalem would have been bustling with people. They came together for a significant reason: to celebrate and remember, with a feast, when God had rescued their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Jesus came into the city at this time, as he was inaugurating a greater exodus than the one from Egypt. This Second Exodus would redeem God’s people from a greater slavery―from sin and death. Jesus was going to be King over sin, death, and ultimately, over all things. On the day of his triumphal entry, Jesus fulfilled Zechariah 9:9, which prophesied that, “Your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” What kind of King comes riding on a donkey? Only Jesus, by God’s plan, would come this way. The humility of Jesus is on full display here. Just a few verses earlier, he said he came not to be served, but to serve (Matt 20:28). King Jesus was showing, even by the way he rides into Jerusalem, that he will humble himself, to the point of death, for us (see Phil 2:8). But is this what the crowd is expecting? Hardly.

The King of Popularity

“Hosanna!” could be heard throughout the streets. Hosanna tells us a lot about the desire of the crowd. The word means something like, “Please save us!” or “God, save!” This sounds good, but many were under a false expectation. For many in the crowds, salvation was political. Jerusalem was under Roman control, so it was certainly easy for the Jews to want and expect Jesus to be a political liberator. They didn’t realize that he came to save them from their sin, not from their political oppressor. Jesus was popular on this day because the people thought he was coming to do something to make their lives better. They wanted to be free from the Romans! And this is where this story intersects with our hearts today.

The King of our Hearts

Maybe you have heard the Palm Sunday story hundreds of times. It’s likely that you have, and you have heard the Easter story at least that many times as well. But it’s important for you to hear again. Read the biblical narrative with fresh eyes and fresh ears, because it has serious implications for our daily life. The people were trying to make Jesus into someone he was not.

And we do the same thing. We constantly try to make Jesus into an image of our own desires. Maybe, like the Jews of his day, you want a political savior. You just want somebody who will turn our country around. Perhaps you want a health and wealth savior. You want a God who will give you a healthy, safe, comfortable life, with a good job, money, three kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. Do you find yourself getting frustrated when life isn’t going as easy and leisurely as you think it should? I find it easy to do that. Maybe we are looking for a health, wealth, and comfort savior. There’s a third kind of savior people commonly look for: a get-me-out-of-hell, but don’t change my life kind of savior. We just want Jesus to save us from hell, but leave our lives unchanged because we don’t want to give up anything. We want the benefits from God without actually wanting God himself. The problem with all three of these “saviors” is that they don’t exist. They don’t save.

Palm Sunday begs us to do some serious heart searching because there is only one, true Savior. Jesus is King, and he isn’t just king over one area of our lives. He must be king over all. To be our Savior, we must surrender every sin in our life. We must surrender every area of our lives to his Lordship—our work, school, sexual lives, relationships, home and family, free time, hobbies, and possessions.

Is Jesus the king in your life? Are you looking to this Savior to save you from all your sin and change every area of your life? Jesus is the king that ascended into Jerusalem on a donkey, but who didn’t stop there. He journeyed through trials with the Jewish and Roman authorities. His skin was torn off his body while he was whipped. His hands and feet were nailed to a cross. While the physical torment was terrible, the spiritual torment was worse. He bore our sins and God’s consequent wrath for every one of our sins.  Three days later, he rose from the dead. That’s the only kind of true Savior that there is: one who died in our place. By his grace, He died as a substitute in order to bring us back to God. He has now ascended into heaven where he sits eternally on the throne of the universe.  That’s where the story is going. I’m asking myself this Easter to look at this amazing Gospel story afresh. I need it. And I ask that you would join in doing the same.

So I ask you, what kind of Savior are you looking for?

Question for Reflection: How do you plan to prepare your heart for Easter and use the focus to repent of sin, grow in godliness, and deepen your worship of King Jesus?