By Pastor Glenn Pease
Boleslaus II was the king of the Polish Monarchy, but he didn't like the job. One day while hunting he slipped away from his companions and disguised himself as a common laborer in marketplace. He hired the use of his shoulders for carrying burdens for a few pence a day. A search was made, of course, and when his majesty was found there was an indignant cry among the elite that he should debase himself by so vile an employment. He responded that the weight he bore in the marketplace was nothing compared to the crown. He said he slept more in the last four nights than during all his reign. He told them to choose whom they would to be king, for he was through with the madness. He was forced, however, against his will to return to the throne and reign.
In his book Royalty In All Ages, Thiselton-Dyer tells of many kings in history who have longed to get out from under the crown and escape from the robes of royalty, and live among the common people. In contrast to this, Jesus was a king who all His life lived among the common people, and only at the end did He ever wear a crown, and then it was a lowly crown of thorns. Jesus was born king of the Jews, but all His life He managed to do what so many kings have tried to do and failed. He managed to disguise Himself and dwell among the people, and learn of their needs and longings in life. No son of royalty ever got to know his people better than did the Royal Son of David. He not only lived among them, he was one of them.
There were times in His public ministry when the crowds were so excited about His miracles that they tried to take Him by force to make Him king, but Jesus avoided this. Right up to the final week of His life Jesus remained a king in disguise totally removed from all that had to do with royalty. Palm Sunday, however, brings us to that one day, at the beginning of His final week, where He removes the disguise and proclaims Himself to be the king-the Royal Son of David; the promise Messiah, and the King of Israel. This act did not sever his roots from the soil of the common man, however. In fact, everything about Palm Sunday exalts the common man, and everything common. Jesus never became a royal snob who looked down on any man. The very way in which He rode into Jerusalem revealed Him to be a king of the common people, and not one who would cater to the elite and powerful.
Jesus did not ride into the holy city on a noble Arabian stallion to appeal to the military like any other king would do. Instead, He rode on a colt. Matthew tells us this was to fulfill the prophecy of Zech. 9:9 which says, "Tell ye the daughter of Zion, behold, thy King cometh unto thee meek, and riding upon a donkey and upon a colt a foal of a donkey." Jesus did not come as a king of war, but as a king of peace. He came in the tradition of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were not men of war like the kings of Israel. They were men of peace. Only once was Abraham forced into military action. Jesus too was forced into violent action on this occasion, but primarily the Patriarchs and He were men of peace.
The colt was symbolic of the fact that Jesus was a king of peace, and a king of the common people. Jesus is a king who exalts the lowly, and the poet describes even the donkey responding to those who mock his worthless hide.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet;
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms about my feet.
The Apostles that Jesus chose were common men, and if you check the backgrounds of the great men He has used in history, you will find lowly tinkers like John Bunyan and William Carey, or shoe salesman like D. L. Moody, or the great Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte who was born out of wedlock. He was unwanted by men, but Jesus wanted him and used him, for he was, and is, the king of the unwanted. And it was because he did care for the common man that he was so angry on that first Palm Sunday. Jesus was very seldom angry, but on this occasion He was so filled with righteous indignation that He could not be content to give only a verbal lashing to the offenders as He had done before. Here we see Jesus engaged in violent action to express His anger.
Before we examine the cause of this unusual display of emotion, it is important that we note first of all that nobody was hurt by Jesus. There was no injury inflicted upon any man or animal. Jesus upset some of the furniture, and drove out those who were corrupting the house of worship, but there is no hint of any suffering He inflicted. It is important to note this so that we do not link His action with any kind of revolutionary tactics that destroy, injure, and kill. No such violence can be justified by pointing to this passage of an angry king. The only thing Jesus hurt was the pride and pocketbook of these corrupters. The only blood Jesus ever shed was His own. Keeping this in mind avoids misconceptions where this passage can be abused by justifying violence.
The anger of Jesus was the righteous anger of a king who saw a system which deprived His people of their right to worship, and robbed them of what little wealth they possessed. If there is anything that is clear in Scripture, from one end to the other, it is the fact that God despises any system which discriminates and is a respecter of persons. God will not tolerate injustice to the common man. When Jesus saw the corruption that had developed in the temple, it made His royal blood boil, and He struck a blow for the rights of the people. Jesus started the long history of the battle for the common man to have equality, and religious and economic freedom. If you study the history of social reform and civil rights, you will discover that most of the great leaders have been men and women who acknowledge this angry king as their Lord and Master.
We only have this one portrait of Jesus in anger, but it is all we need to tell us how he looked upon injustice. It gives us a balanced picture of the perfect man. We see He cannot truly be perfect by being always kind and gentle. There are times in life when a just man encountering injustice must in anger strike a blow to stop it, or be guilty of the sin of omission. It would be a sin to see evil and not try to stop it if you had any power to do so. Jesus as the king of Israel now had the authority to cleanse the temple of its racketeers, and He does so. This angry act of indignation is a clear evidence that Jesus is declaring Himself the King of Israel. He was the highest authority in the land. Doubtless, it was a shock, not only to the money changers and officials of the temple, but to His own Apostles. Many would be frightened by His anger, and they would want to give this advice.
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Why have you suddenly gone so wild?
If its true the house of prayer
Has been corrupted anywhere,
Why not go through regular channels,
Appoint a committee-discuss it on panels.
If you continue this stepping on toes,
You'll create for yourself a host of foes,
And a future filled with many woes.
Jesus knew that this show of authority would lead Him straight to the cross, for it was an attack on the establishment. He made a whole new group of enemies by this action of anger. Before this cleansing of the temple the priests had little to do with Jesus. The Pharisees were His primary enemies, for He violated their legalistic system, and debated their interpretations. Later the Saducees began to oppose Him because He became a political nuisance. But now, after He invaded the realm of priestly authority, He brought their wrath upon Him also. Luke tells us about after the cleansing in Luke 19:47. "The chief priests and the scribes and the principle men of the people sought to destroy Him."Their only problem was the crowds of common people who loved Him, and this made the leaders afraid. Jesus was a hero king among the masses.
For Jesus to deliberately oppose all of the authority of Israel, and, thereby, to guarantee a departure for Himself out of the world, He had to have a very good reason for what He did. Jesus had always lived a balanced life. He was not a fanatic. A fanatic becomes all excited about things which are really of no great importance. Jesus is not angry over some mere triviality here, but issues of basic importance. He could deal calmly with people who had fallen into personal sin, but here was organized sin. It was deliberate and planned injustice, and no righteous man can look upon an evil system and remain calm.
In the first place, the whole system of selling sacrifices turned the court of the Gentiles into a stable instead of a place of worship and prayer. Jesus quoted from Isa. 56:7 where the prophet said, "...For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." Jesus said this ideal was not fulfilled because the court of the Gentiles had been turned into a den of robbers. The racket of selling and changing money, and the noise of animals made it impossible for the Gentiles to have a place of reverence for prayer and worship. Business had pushed worship right out the door, and God's purpose in the temple was being destroyed by greed.
This discrimination against the Gentiles, and the indifference of the Jewish leaders to their rights to a place of worship, made Jesus angry. He had come into the world to be the Savior of all men. He came to die for the sins of the world. He was to be a universal Savior and king, and it gripped Him to see the temple of His Father being used to discriminate against the Gentiles. This cleansing of the temple was just temporary and Jesus knew it. He knew the corruption would continue and that the temple would have to be destroyed. But He spoke of a new temple, the temple of His body. Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up said Jesus. As the Son of God and as the King of Israel, He was going to fulfill God's purpose for the temple in His own body. He would create a temple which would truly be for all people. Jesus would fulfill the ideals God had for Israel, but which they failed to accomplish. They were to be a channel by which God would reach the whole world with His plan of salvation. They forgot why the court for the Gentiles was there in the first place. They let their greed for profits destroy the purpose of God.
Another thing that made Jesus angry about the whole setup was the fact that it robbed the common people of their money. The animals and birds sold for sacrifices had to be bought with special temple money, and to get it you had to exchange your regular money for it. The fact that Jesus called it a den of robbers makes it clear that they were gypping the people in the exchange. They had a monopoly and nobody could do anything about it. Many people may think that Jesus was too other worldly to be concerned about economic matters, but this is not so. Jesus was very concerned about money. When people's money was taken from them unjustly, or with inadequate return, it made Him angry. God's wrath fell on Israel in the Old Testament because of unfair business practices. In the second chapter of Amos we read, "Because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes-they trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth-and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined." Like Father, like Son- the very things that made God angry in the Old Testament make His Son angry in the New Testament.
King Jesus was going to establish a temple and a religion which no longer depended on sacrifice, or any material objects that had to be purchased. He would end the sacrificial system by His own sacrifice, which was once for all, and which would abolish forever the need for sacrifices. There is no longer any need for special things or special places to worship God. All that is necessary under the kingship of Christ is free. Never again would the common man need to depend upon a human system to worship God and gain His best. It is true that clever men were still able to keep the masses in ignorance about this liberty in Christ. They would set up again many corrupt systems even in the church. The church became a den of robbers many times, but the fact remains that the angry king set us free from all man made systems of corruption. That is why it is so vital that the Bible be kept available to the common man in all the world.
Verse 14 shows that Jesus gave His service to the people without charge. He healed them freely. He could have set up a booth and made a fortune for His healing, but there is not one record of Jesus ever accepting a payment for any of His miracles of healing. He was the king of the common man-a king who came to set them free from the bondage of sin, and all of the man made burdens of religion. That is what makes Palm Sunday a day for rejoicing. John Wesley wrote,
Rejoice, the Lord is king, your Lord and king adore;
Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice; rejoice, again I say, rejoice.
The leaders of Israel rejected His kingship and plotted to crucify Him. They did not realize that the cross was the road by which Jesus planned to ascend to the throne as universal king. He said, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men to Me." The cross is where He gained the right to be the king of all men, for there He did what no other king could do for men. He died for their sin and set them free. He is the King of Kings because He is the Lord of Liberation. He, and He alone, can save kings, for He alone has defeated the kingdom of darkness and death which has power over kings as well as all other men.
He alone deserves the allegiance of all men, for He is the only king who ever lived that made it possible for all men to enter the realm of royalty. John said, "But to as many as received Him to them He gave the power to become the sons of God." What other king ever invited the masses of common men to join His royal family and become joint heirs with Him. There is no other king like Jesus, and that is why God exalted Him to the throne of the universe, and gave Him a name above every name.
The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty Victor's brow.
The highest place that heaven affords
Is His by sovereign right;
King of kings and Lord of lords,
He reigns in perfect light.
Scripture says He must reign until all enemies are put under His feet. In other words, the glorious king is still an angry king as he was on that first Palm Sunday. He is still fighting against those who hinder the progress of His kingdom. What does the king want? He wants what God has always wanted. He wants us to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. He is a king of relationships, and not one of pomp and ceremony.
Justinian had a great church built in Constantinople. It required ten thousand masons to build it. Marble was ransacked from the whole Roman Empire. Justinian walked through the completed church on the day of its dedication in the year 538. He exclaimed, "Solomon, I have surpassed thee." He had, and it was the supreme expression of Byzantine art, say many scholars. But is that what the King of Kings really wanted according to His own actions on Palm Sunday? What our king wants is for us to make Him Lord in our lives, and to look upon all people as He did. The Christian who sees people with compassion, and longs to be a part of the answer that leads them into a relationship with God in Christ, has caught the message of Palm Sunday. If you want to be great in the eyes of your king, you will be a servant, and minister to the needs of people in all classes. If you do this you will please your king, and in relationship to you, He will never be an angry king.