Jesus: The Misunderstood King

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Good morning! I truly pray that the Lord has blessed you for being in His house this morning. I hope you know how truly blessed I feel to be your pastor. It seems that almost daily, God is reminding me that it was He that brought my family and I to this great church, and I want you to know how much I am enjoying my time here! And I hope that you have been enjoying our series looking at the ministry of Jesus Christ. Each week we are answering the question,”Who is Jesus Christ?” We have seen that He is the Promised Messiah, the Defeater of Temptation, the Maker of Disciples, the Teacher of Prayers, the Speaker of Parables, the Minister of All Ministers, and the Glorified Lord. We have seen a small glimpse of the identity of our great King, and this morning, we are going to see another piece of the puzzle.

But before we read our text, I want to tell you the story of a man named Eugene Joudan. Eugene lived in Miami, Florida, and was a model citizen. But when Eugene was twenty-five years old, his life changed dramatically. You see, there was another man in the country named Eugene Joudan, and this Eugene was born on the exact same day as our Eugene. While our Eugene was a model citizen, this second Eugene was a convicted man imprisoned in Chicago, Illinois. And somehow, this other Eugene escaped from prison and was a national fugitive. And as word got out that Eugene Joudan was a man with a bounty on his head, bounty hunters from across the nation began looking for him. And as people were searching for him, they inevitably discovered that Eugene Joudan had an address in Miami! And while the fugitive was probably hiding somewhere laughing, the good Eugene Joudan was repeatedly brought in by police officers and bounty hunters who thought that he was the escaped convict! Finally, a judge was so tired of Eugene being brought into court, that he requested that every post office in the nation put up posters of the two Eugene Joudans, and expressly say that the good Eugene was not a wanted man.

And while that illustration is somewhat humorous, the people in Jesus’ day had a very mistaken notion of who He was and what He was sent to earth to do. And in today’s passage of Scripture, we see very clearly that Jesus was not who the people thought He was. And so, if you are not already there, I invite you to turn to Matthew chapter twenty-one, and we’ll be reading verses one through eleven. So again, Matthew 21:1-11.

“And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, ‘Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, “The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.”’ All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.’ And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.’ And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the multitude said, ‘This is Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.’”

This morning’s sermon is entitled “Jesus: The Misunderstood King.” We are going to first look at the true mission of Jesus Christ. Second, we are going to look at the misunderstanding of the people that day; and third, we are going to see what meaning this has for our lives in the year 2011. Ok, let’s begin…

Point #1: The Mission

Essentially, this point encompasses all of verses one through seven. But instead of reading the verses again, I’ll just paraphrase the text in the form of a story. In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are approaching Jerusalem for the Passover feast. And while the disciples did not know exactly what was going to happen in Jerusalem, Jesus had made it clear to them that His ministry was about to drastically change. And as they are on the road to Jerusalem, they came to a small village called Bethphage. Bethphage was actually just outside of Jerusalem, and it was located along the Mount of Olives. And when they had arrived at this little village, Jesus told two of His disciples to go into the village and find a donkey and her colt. And Jesus told them that when they found the donkey and her colt, to untie them and take them back to Jesus. And knowing that this seemed strange, Jesus told them to tell anyone with questions that it was for the Lord’s use, and that would satisfy their curiosity. After Jesus had commanded them concerning these things, they obeyed His command and went into the village and got a donkey and a colt. And we know from the Gospels of Mark and Luke that Jesus actually rode on the colt, which means the mother donkey was probably used for additional storage.

And that is where we are going to stop our story for now. But in this narrative, I left out two very important verses, in which Matthew clues us in on the importance of Jesus riding on the colt. Let’s look at verses four and five in our text again. “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.’” Matthew didn’t need to say any more to his Jewish audience, because they would have realized what this prophecy said about Jesus. But since, unlike the Jews, we have not mastered every page of the Old Testament, allow me to clue you in on this prophecy. This prophecy was given by Zechariah, more than 400 years before Christ was born. And while Matthew specifically cited this one verse, his readers would have understood that Jesus was also fulfilling the following verses as well. And so I am going to read Zechariah 9:9-17, and I am going to be reading out of the English Standard Version of the Bible.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and He shall speak peace to the nations; His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword. Then the LORD will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south. The LORD of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar. On that day the LORD their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.”

While I realize that there are many elements to this prophecy, I’m sure you picked up on the militant feel of it. The key points I want you to catch is that Zechariah said that the One who rides into town on the colt of the donkey is going to rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. And also notice how near the end of the prophecy, the Bible says that on that day God will save the people, and that these people are like the jewels in God’s crown.

So we see here that the Messiah is going to come, and that He is going to rule over the entire earth, and that He is going to save the people from their captivity. And Jesus, knowing that He was the promised Messiah, hopped on His colt and began moving into Jerusalem. And before we move on to the second point of the message, I want to point out something about what this story says about Jesus. First off, we must acknowledge, that while Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy by riding on this colt, the prophecy was written about Jesus. Jesus did not live His life trying to fulfill every prophecy He could. No, prophets tried to write down what Jesus would do. So, in other words, Jesus did not ride a colt because He had to in order to fulfill prophecy. No, Jesus rode a colt because it said something about who He was. So what on earth does it say about Christ that He rode a colt? It shows us that while Jesus was the King prophesied in Zechariah, He did not come like people would have expected Him to. He wasn’t born in a huge palace. He wasn’t friends with all of the cultural elites. Instead, He spent time with fishermen and tax collectors. And, instead of riding into His capital city on the biggest, most beautiful horse you’ve ever seen, He rode into town on the colt of a donkey, with nothing but His disciples’ cloaks for a saddle. All of this shows that Jesus was humble, even though He was the King of all Kings. The very God who created the world came down into His creation, not with great pomp and ceremony, but with a little donkey, and some fishermen for companions. Now that we have seen how Christ viewed His mission, let’s look at how the people viewed His mission.

Point #2: The Misunderstanding

So now that we have gotten a small glimpse of what Jesus was doing that day, let’s read verses eight through eleven to see what the people were doing. “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.’ And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the multitude said, ‘This is Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.’” After reading these verses, there is no doubt why this is called the “Triumphal Entry.” Jesus is treated as a true king in these verses. The people shower Him with praises, and they lay down branches and their clothes on the road in front of Him. The people laid those things down on the road as a way of saying, “Even your donkey deserves to tread on our clothes so that it doesn’t have to walk on the dirt road.” It was a very profound way of saying that Jesus deserves their respect.

And notice what the people were shouting. They said, “Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” This is a direct reference to Psalm 118:25, 26, but to give you a little extra context, I am going to read verses twenty-five through twenty-nine of that psalm. “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the LORD: We have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee: thou art my God, I will exalt Thee. O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever.” The word “hosanna” is the Hebrew word that is at the beginning of verse twenty-five, and it literally means, “We pray you will save us.”

The people that day were ecstatic that Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem! This crowd was heralding Him as the King they had been waiting for. And no doubt, the scholars in the crowd recognized the prophecy from Zechariah when they saw Him riding in on a colt. Knowing about many of the miracles that Jesus had done, and knowing that He was riding in on the colt of a donkey stirred the excitement up to a fever pitch. In verse ten of our text, the Bible says that the entire city was moved. The word for “moved” here is literally the word for “shaken.” It was normally a word reserved for when an earthquake comes, and everything is literally shaken. But in this verse it describes how excited the people were. The people realized that this moment in history was when the prophecy of Zechariah would come true, and the Jewish King would establish a kingdom that would contain the ends of the earth. All of these factors added together to create a crowd that would put even a Super Bowl crowd to shame.

And while the triumphal entry marks the high point in Christ’s earthly popularity, it also marks another important milestone in His life on planet earth. Jesus’ triumphal entry happened approximately one week before His crucifixion. As hard as this is to believe, the same city that was crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David” on one day, was crying, “Crucify Him” one week later. While I know that politicians’ approval ratings can change on an hourly basis, no other leader in history has gone from the object of all of the people’s hope, to being killed like a common criminal in such a short period of time. And this shift from adoration to hatred begs the question: What happened?

Just like Eugene Joudan in the introduction this morning, Jesus here was the victim of mistaken identity. You see, when the Jews read the prophecy in Zechariah, they were expecting a King who would come and set them free from their Roman oppressors, and who would establish a new Jewish kingdom. Any time the Jews talked about the Messiah, they were not thinking about a Suffering Servant as in Isaiah 53. No, they were thinking about a triumphant King who would bring all of the gentiles into submission. And so when Jesus rode into town that day, the people believed that this Man of God was about to assemble a massive army that would drive out the Roman oppressors. But when Jesus proceeded to teach the people about the Kingdom of Heaven, and when He told the Pharisees that they were just like white-washed tombs; the people realized that Jesus was not the kind of king they were expecting. They were looking for a King that would give them an earthly kingdom, but instead they had a Man who wanted to tell them about a heavenly kingdom. And so what does this misunderstanding mean for us today?

Point #3: The Meaning

While there are many times in Jesus’ ministry when He was specifically teaching the people through sermons and parables, there are also times in Jesus’ ministry that He taught us through what He did. And there are two main ways that we can apply this narrative to our lives today. The first thing is that we, like Jesus, must exhibit humility in our everyday lives. While clearly the people misunderstood Jesus’ true intentions, Jesus truly was a great King that day. And while Jesus could have dressed in the finest of clothes and ridden on the finest of steeds, He chose to identify Himself with the common people. Jesus came to earth a humble man, and He chose humble men and women to follow in His footsteps. And just like our Savior and His disciples, we have been called to lead a life of humility before God and man. And like our Savior that day, we must be willing to swallow our pride and our materialism if we truly desire to honor God. Because, as the people learned about Jesus, He was not interested in physical lands and kingdoms, He was interested in building a spiritual kingdom.

And the second application builds out of this realization about Christ. Church, we must realize that Jesus Christ did not come to earth to build a physical kingdom, or to help His followers grow rich and prosperous. There are so many churches out there today that are built on the notion that coming to Christ will make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. But, as the people painfully learned, that is simply not what Jesus came to do. When Jesus came to earth, He did not come to free the Jewish people from the shackles of the Roman Empire. No, Jesus came to set all people free from the shackles of sin and death. And church, if you are going to remember anything from this sermon, please remember this: Jesus Christ did not come to earth to help you conquer the material aspects of life; He came to earth to help you conquer the spiritual aspects of death! And while the people did not grasp that great truth that day, we should be so ecstatic! Just as the whole city of Jerusalem was moved with excitement over the possibility of a new kingdom, we should be impossibly happy because our Savior has not given us a temporal mansion, He has given us an eternal one! I’m sure you’ve noticed this, but sometimes we Christians are some of the most unhappy people around. I mean, we moan and groan about how things are not going our way, and how the world is getting worse and worse every day, and about how our pastor is about as entertaining as watching paint dry. But church, despite all of those things, let us be joyous, because despite all of this, we are a part of Jesus’ true kingdom. Because, just as Zechariah prophesied, the Messiah has set up a kingdom that spans to the ends of the earth, and He has brought salvation to His people, and His people are like the jewels in His crown. And praise the Lord, we are a part of that Kingdom! While our righteousness is as filthy rags, we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and we have been saved! So I urge you to always keep that fact at the front of your mind, and I guarantee you that we will be a very happy people.

And as the pianist and song leader come forward, I want to encourage all of you to never forget what Jesus came to earth to accomplish. He came to earth to conquer sin and the grave, and we have been given the privilege of being forgiven of our sins. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see!” May we always be filled with joy, no matter what happens to us in this life, because we have been given the promise of a home in Heaven.

But if you are here this morning, and you have never accepted the free offer of grace that comes from Jesus Christ, I urge you today to make that commitment. As you can see, I am quite moved by the salvation that Christ has given me. I am not rich, I am not famous, and I probably never will be. But I have been saved, because Jesus Christ took my place on the cross. And guess what, He took yours too! And while I am ecstatic over what Christ has done for me, it breaks my heart that there are crowds of people right here in Weatherford that have never accepted this free gift of salvation. And if you are one of those people, I urge you to make the decision to follow Christ. I invite you to come to the altar and make that decision, but at the same time, there is nothing magical about this altar. The altar is a great place to bow yourself to your Creator, but the truth is, you can do that anywhere. You can do it right there in your pew, or you can do it at your home, or in your car, or even in the grocery store! But I think it would be extremely fitting if you made the commitment today, right in front of the people who would immediately become your family.

But before we open the altars, let’s pray.

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