The Arrival of the King
The Arrival of the King
“Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”
Every year, the Sunday before Easter, we celebrate Palm Sunday, a time we remember the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. In this, we join with the Jews of Jesus’ day in waiting for the arrival of the Messianic king. For generations, the Jews lived with the anticipation of the arrival of the Messianic king. There were many Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah. It is estimated that there are between 200 and 400 prophecies found in the Old Testament that Christ fulfilled. One of those passages is Zechariah 9:9, which predicted that the messianic king would not come on a mighty war horse but a lowly donkey. Instead of coming to portray his power and his victories, the Messiah would come in humility, gentleness, and peace. As Jesus came down the Mount of Olives, the people recognized the messianic implications and quickly joined in an anthem of praise to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah.
The whole processional reflects the arrival of a victorious king returning after triumphing in battle. As Jesus arrived that day, the people were celebrating the arrival of a king they assumed would bring victory over the enemies of Israel, the chief being the Roman Empire who controlled the nation. This anticipation was symbolized first by the laying down of garments and branches before him and people placing their coats upon the donkey. In the euphoria of the moment, they rightly celebrated the king's arrival.
The irony is that the people who were celebrating and proclaiming praise to God for the coming of the messianic king would later cry for crucifixion. In just five days, they went from celebrating the Messianic king to shouting for his death. Why the change? What were the winds that blew across the political, religious, and social landscape that led the people to celebrate his arrival on Sunday, and on Friday, they would demand his execution? The answer lies in their expectations.
They were looking for a military and political king who would restore the nation of Israel to the former glory they experienced during the time of King David and Solomon. Even the disciples themselves had this expectation. However, instead of confronting the Romans, Jesus arrived as a humble king who did not lead a rebellion against the Romans. Instead, he confronted the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus did not conform to their expectations, so they quickly became disillusioned. When Jesus did not raise the rallying cry to join him in the assault upon the rule of the Romans, they doubted his Messianic claim. They desired a Messiah that conformed to their perspective.
Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, we can quickly become disillusioned when Christ does not act in the way we desire when he does not match our perspective and expectations. We want Christ to conform to our perception of what he should do and who he should be. To fully embrace Christ, we must let go of our perception and look to the Scriptures to discover who he is. We need to allow the Bible to define the identity and work of Christ. He is both savior and judge, both the one who forgives and the one who condemns. He is the humble servant and the majesty king. He is the baby born in the manger and the triumphant King who reigns eternally. He invites us into his presence with boldness, but who is to be feared. He is fully God and fully man. We must accept Christ for who he is rather than what we want him to be. Only then will we truly celebrate the arrival of the King of Kings.