We live in the age of tolerance, a season when the payment due for sin is forborne. The sin debt is not being called in — not yet. This is a season, Paul says, to demonstrate “the riches” of God’s kindness in his forbearance and patience with sinners. This is a season of kindness, a kindness on purpose, “meant to lead you to repentance,” as Paul says in Romans 2:4. This day of tolerance will end. And when it does, the King of kings, our Savior Jesus Christ, will not be the King who rode into Jerusalem on the humble donkey of Matthew 21. Our King will return on the white warhorse of Revelation 19. And this King — the once lowly, soon-to-return-in-majesty King — is the King we need.
Today’s sermon clip is about such a King, in comparison to all other world rulers, even compared to our presidents. At the time of this sermon, George W. Bush was president, having just completed the first of his eight-year run in the Oval Office. Here’s Pastor John, preaching on Matthew 21, in the spring of 2002, about six months after 9/11.
We have a president, right? President Bush. We don’t have a king. So, some of this is a little bit foreign to us, but there are kings in the world. And when I think “King of kings,” I think King over presidents, vice presidents, premiers, and kings. He’s the King over all the presidents.
Now, when I think about the president — what can George Bush do for me? Well, he’s (I think) doing a pretty good job with security and protection. That’s what he ought to be doing. He’s the commander in chief. He’s got to wield the sword, according to Romans 13, appropriately to protect a people. And it seems like it’s going well. I hope he’s levelheaded and reasonable and thinks through all the options in front of him carefully.
“I don’t just want a king over politics and king over military might; I want a King over molecules and atoms.”
But do you know what? The best he could do for me is keep me safe — and sick. I will still get sick and die in a safe America, right? He can’t make me see. He can’t make me walk when I’m lame. I don’t want that kind of king. I want a real King. I want a King of nature. I don’t just want a king over politics and king over military might; I want a King over molecules and atoms. That’s the kind of King I want.
Keith, I’m looking at you — my blind brother over here. He knows. Someday, Keith, someday — maybe in this life but for sure, for sure — King Jesus is going to touch your eyes, brother, then you’ll look on him. He’ll be the first one you see. That’s the kind of King he is. He’s a global, universal King — King of the universe, King over eyes, King over legs. No president, no king on earth is that kind of king.
Praise on Palm Sunday
We’ve got the children here, in Matthew 21:9, 15. Jesus declares his kingship by the way he responds to what the children and the crowds are doing — the way he responds. This is a response issue. He doesn’t take the initiative here, except that he set it all in motion. The priests and the scribes are really bent out of shape about this event. They are not happy with what’s going on here. And the children — well, that’s just too much.
- Verse 9: This is the crowds. “Hosanna [salvation] to the Son of David!” That’s the hoped-for King. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
- Verse 15: “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
- Verse 16: The priests ask, “Do you hear what these [children] are saying?”
Now, the implication there is, “You better quickly diffuse this enthusiasm about you; otherwise, you’re going to be guilty of blasphemy. So what do you say now?” They could be asking the same question about the cloaks the crowds threw down in the road in verse 8:
Didn’t you see them throwing cloaks in front of you? Do you know what that means according to 2 Kings 9:13? That means they’re treating you as the king. You’re going to get the Romans after us. And besides, you’re not the true King. This is a big hoax. This is blasphemy. Do you realize what everybody’s hollering? And these little children — come on, settle this down.
That’s what they’re saying to him.
Now, how does Jesus respond to this? The way he responds to this is absolutely stunning. You couldn’t have poured more oil on this fire than he pours. This is the last straw. He answers it with one word and then a Bible quote. “Do you hear what they’re saying?” “Yes.” Pause. And then do you know what he quotes? He quotes Psalm 8: “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matthew 21:16). That psalm opens with, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1). That’s God. That’s God talking about God. They’re not dumb. The last straw is this: “I’ll quote some more Scripture for you, and I will take God’s word applied to children, about the praise of children to God, and apply it to me.” And he’s dead. He’s dead for you.
There’s Still Time
So I’m finished, except to try to wrap it up. There is coming a day when he will come again as King — not on a donkey but on a white warhorse. And his hands will not be empty and outstretched. And the blood on his hands will not be his own blood. The garment dipped in blood will be the blood dragging through the blood of his enemies.
“Now is the day of salvation. Don’t risk meeting King Jesus on the white horse, having rejected him on the donkey.”
The second coming is the end of the day of salvation. The second coming is the end of the day of patience. The second coming is the end of the day of tolerance. And now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. Don’t risk meeting King Jesus on the white horse, having rejected him on the donkey.
And the way to switch sides is like this. So if you find yourself right now on the wrong side of the war, then what’s king in your life is money or food or success or looks or family or job or health or fame. What rules you right now more than Jesus? What governs your affections and your choices day by day, hour by hour, more than Jesus governs them? That’s your king.
And so the way you come over is that you hear him saying,
I’m your king. I’m on a donkey. I’m on my way to die for you. I will shed my blood that your sins might be forgiven and your treason might be forgotten. I hold out amnesty for you. Anyone who comes, I will receive and forgive and declare you righteous with my own righteousness that I’m working out here on this very Palm Sunday, and I will fold you into my redeemed people. And you will live forever with ever-increasing joy.
It’s just faith. By faith you forsake. By faith you receive him.