So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:
“‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
Today is Palm Sunday, the day the Church has historically celebrated the event described by Luke in our passage today. After an extensive ministry that had spanned three years, our Lord Jesus Christ set His face to go up to Jerusalem. And as He entered the disciples were overwhelmed with joy and enthusiasm. They understood the signs and symbols; they knew this was the promised Messiah; they knew their king had come.
It is important that we not be deceived by the trappings of this passage into imagining that our Lord was rejecting the title of king. Some imagine that because Jesus was coming on a donkey that he was personally rejecting the title of king. Even though, they say, He did come into Jerusalem – he did not come as a king but as a Savior. For, it is argued, a king would have come with much pomp and show, not mounted upon a donkey.
Scripturally speaking, however, this is a false dichotomy. Jesus came both as Savior and as King. Indeed, he came not just as any king but as the King of kings, the Lord of Pilate, the Master of Caiphas, the Lord of Herod, the Sovereign of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. Why, then, did he come mounted upon a donkey?
To teach the world the true character of kingship, the true character of God Himself. For one of the calls of the Messiah, the King of Israel, was to serve as the human representative of the living God, called by Him to manifest the character of God to His people. And what is the character of God? Joyful and voluntary giving from one person of the Trinity to the other – the Father giving Himself for the Son and the Spirit; the Son giving Himself for the Father and the Spirit; the Spirit giving Himself for the Father and the Son. What then is to be the character of the King, the Messiah? Joyful and voluntary giving of himself to the people he is called to lead and shepherd. Jesus came into Jerusalem on this day almost 2,000 years ago to serve His people by taking on Himself the punishment due to us for our rebellion. Jesus came into Jerusalem on this day almost 2,000 years ago so that He might overcome His people’s enemies, sin and death, and set them free. Jesus came into Jerusalem on this day almost 2,000 years ago because He loved us.
This is the true meaning of kingship; this is the true meaning of leadership. Leadership is a call to serve. It is not a call to greatness; not a call to the elite tennis club; not a call to rounds of golf; it is a call to service. And this, my friends, is the lesson Jesus teaches us in the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday. As the prophet Zechariah had anticipated:
Behold Your king comes to you;
Humble and riding on a donkey;
On a colt, the foal of a donkey.
All the kings of the earth have been but dim shadows of this great King – who gave Himself that the future kings of the earth might learn to what they are called and imitate Him who will one day call them all to account. And He gave Himself not only as an example to the kings of the earth but also so that all entrusted with the responsibility to lead – husbands, fathers, mothers, employers, elders, deacons, mayors, senators, presidents, congressmen - may remember that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and that they might live the life of the Son of Man in their sphere of authority.
However, we are ever tempted to avoid the call of our Lord Jesus Christ to serve and instead define leadership as the opportunity to lord it over one another. But Jesus declared that it is not to be so among us; but he who wishes to be the greatest of all must be the servant of all, he must become as the least of all. And so let us seek the forgiving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for failing to imitate His pattern of kingship in our homes, churches, communities, and nations. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.