Easter Reflection – The Coming of the King

By Grant Dibden

What Christ’s triumphal entry means for us

Easter is the most important time of year for Christians as we reflect even more deeply on Jesus’ death and resurrection. As I have reflected on Christ, I hope to share some thoughts from scripture to encourage you.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem he sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away. ” (Matt 21:1-3).

The Rightful King

This action was to fulfil Zechariah’s prophecy (Matt 21:4-5). The people of Israel had always understood Zechariah’s prophecy to refer to the Messiah, to God’s anointed king. The prophet said: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech 9:9).

When Jesus mounted the donkey—not just any donkey, but specifically a pure-bred colt, as Zechariah promised—he was presenting himself as Israel’s promised king. By his actions, he was saying, “Behold, your king comes.”

It must have been an amazing sight. Jesus approached Jerusalem at the start of the Passover Feast, when tens of thousands of pilgrims were crowding into Jerusalem. As he came to Bethphage and mounted his donkey, he would have been surrounded by people going up to Jerusalem. When he reached the top of the Mount of Olives, and looked over the city of Jerusalem, he would have seen crowds of people streaming out the city gates. As the word spread that the king was coming, the pilgrims who were already in the city came out to greet him.

The Jews knew their Scriptures, and many people in the crowd would have remembered the words of Zechariah and recognized what Jesus was doing. Some of them may have even remembered that when Solomon became Israel’s king, he was presented on the donkey of his father David (1 Ki 1:38-39).

Therefore, as Jesus rode down into the Kidron Valley, there would have been people in front of him, behind him, and all around him. They were waving palm branches, throwing down their robes to make a carpet for the royal procession that was a procession of praise, which was the ancient custom for a royal procession. And as they did that they shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9).

The Victorious King

Jesus, the Son of David, from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10-11a), rode into Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful king and their victorious king. Palm branches were an ancient symbol of victory. During the Maccabean revolt, the Jews minted coins with the image of a palm, emblematic of their victory over the Greeks. Many of the crowd were looking for some kind of political deliverance, but that is not at all the kind of victory that Jesus came to win. He came to give his life as an atonement for sin.

The Gentle King

In ancient times, when a king rode into a city, it was usually with a show of power and wealth. Thus one might have expected Jesus to enter Jerusalem at the head of a mighty army, bearing dazzling prizes for his royal treasury. But surprisingly the rightful king, the victorious king, is also the gentle king. “See, your king comes to you … gentle” (Zech 9:9).

Jesus comes to greet his subjects, not with pomp and circumstance riding in his war chariot or at least on an impressive stallion, but with humility and meekness riding a lowly donkey, and a borrowed donkey, at that! And Jesus treats his subjects as members of his own family, calling them daughters because he regards his people as his own beloved children: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!” (Zech 9:9a).

The Universal King

Zechariah goes on: “He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech 9:10).

This promise, that one day the gospel of peace would be preached to all the kingdoms of this world is inaugurated in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and King of kings. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem, he did not come to be the King of the Jews only, but to be the universal king. He came to save people from every people, tribe, language and nation.

What should we do in response?

No wonder the crowds gave Jesus such a royal welcome! He was coming—with all gentleness—to be the rightful, victorious, universal King.

If Jesus is the king, then as his loyal subjects we must recognise his kingship. We recognise his sovereignty by laying our hearts before him, throwing down our wills in absolute surrender, and asking Jesus to govern everything we think and say and do. Then we should praise him as our rightful king who has won the victory over sin and death.

If we are saved by such a gentle king, then we should serve him with all gentleness. Gentleness is one of the marks of the Christian, the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:23). Our lives should be living demonstrations of the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor 10:1).

If he is the universal king, we should tell the whole world about him because He is their king, too, and all need to submit to him.

May this Easter season be a time of deep reflection, renewed commitment, generosity and encouraging fellowship as we celebrate the hope and new life found in Jesus Christ.

Note these thoughts are based on an excellent sermon by Philip Ryken and use many of his words.

Featured image: Unsplash

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