This is the word of the Lord
Matthew 21:1–11 ESV
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Let us pray!
When you preach through any one of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament, you very quickly get accustomed to the fact that every sermon is a repetition of the same basic reality – God came down from heaven to earth in order to save us. That’s why we call it the four Gospels because it is the Gospel narrative of God’s purpose in our salvation.
Other parts of the Bible are not necessarily that obviously cross-centred. Yet, they are. I belong to that tradition of theologians who cannot turn from the undeniable revelation of Christ in every passage of the Old and New Testament. It all points to Christ and his glorious Gospel.
But in the four Gospels, everything is so evidently cross-centred. And sometimes, people wonder if such repetitive overtones are necessary. Can’t we just accept the cross and move on?
That is like saying can we just take one breath and move on to living our lives without ever breathing again? It is like saying can we have one bite of this bread and move on and never bother about eating again.
When Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 that …
Matthew 4:4 (ESV)
4… ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
…he was emphasising that there is something that we are in need of more desperately than bread. There’s something we need more desperately than breath.
We need every word that comes from the mouth of God – every word, every repetitive word.
Have you O man been sanctified with the single hearing of the Gospel that you are no longer in need of hearing it again? How boastful it would be of us to think that we could ever move on from the cross?
I assure you that you can live longer with a single breath, and with a single bite of bread than you can with a single hearing of God’s word. The sin that is in your flesh is so hostile to God, that there is a war against your mind, against your desire to pursue God. And not until we are a people who breathe the Scripture day in and day out, can we claim to be truly living.
Psalm 1:2–3 ESV
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Ephesians 6:18 ESV
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
The Christian life is lived with such vivid intent upon the precipice of eternity.
Colossians 3:2 ESV
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
So, I pray that I will be a preacher that dies preaching the same truth over and over again. I pray that I will go to the grave fighting the enemy with the message that he most hates – that Jesus is Lord of glory, that he has come to seek and save the lost, that death has no more sting, the glory of the eternal life is mine in Christ.
This is the end for which I hope that this sermon and the series of sermons that will follow on this chapter, will help serve you.
I want us, church, me included, to be such people who live on the edge of heaven’s glory, constantly aware because we’re constantly reminding one another about the glory of the Gospel.
The Divinity of Christ
Now, this is a fascinating chapter. Let me tell you why.
We know that Jesus when he came from heaven, laid aside the glories of heaven and did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. But rather, he emptied himself and put on human flesh, and obeyed his father even to death – Philippians 2:6-8.
And in his incarnation, God in the second person of the Trinity is both truly human and truly divine.
Now, one of the challenges that a preacher faces sometimes when preaching the Gospel narratives is to try and understand whether something that Jesus does is a clear exercise of divine authority or if he is doing it by the leading of the Holy Spirit as any other human being has to.
Now, either way, knowing this is not crucial to understanding the essence of the text. However, as I read this chapter, I am inclined to see something similar to the events of the transfiguration. There is an explicit exercise of Christ’s Messianic authority in this chapter that is simply undeniable.
It would appear to us that in this chapter, the author Matthew is trying to show us how the King reveals his identity fully and more openly to the Jews without restraint.
In this chapter, we see
- The Entrance of the King in v1-11
- The Holiness of the King in v12-17
- The Curse of the King in v18-22
- The Authority of the King in v23-27
- The Judgment of the King in v28-32, and
- The Dominion of the King in v33-46
And these will be the title of the series of sermons that will cover this chapter.
And my prayer is that the Spirit of God would spur in your hearts such an anticipation, such a desire for more, to behold him as he truly is, and to breathe his glory day and night, to live on the bread of his word daily.
Today, we see the Entrance of the King.
- Taking us further back in time for a moment, I wonder how Moses and Mariam reacted when God said in Exodus 11:4-6
Exodus 11:4–6 ESV
4 So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.
They remembered such a cry in the land of Israel when Moses was born, and now God was going to unleash the last of the plagues on the land of Egypt.
But Israel would be spared by the blood of the Lamb.
- There is a reason I pushed for the reading of a longer Psalm as part of our worship today – Psalm 118.
The Psalms 113-118 have been called the Egyptian Hallel meaning the Egyptian Praise as a reference to the hymns of the Passover, of God’s salvation of the Israelites from the land of Egypt.
In the intertestamental period, these Psalms became part of Jewish liturgy during the Passover festival, and Psalm 118 concluded the celebration – the psalm that was read during our worship today.
The Psalm itself is a liturgy of several speakers with references to altar, temple and procession, and it was probably used in corporate worship. It is a Psalm of thanksgiving and the central theme is of how the Psalmist called to the Lord for help, and he answered him and rescued him.
- A call on all of God’s people to praise the Lord for his steadfast love (vv. 1–4)
Psalm 118:1–4 ESV
1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
- A personal testimony of God’s rescue from distress (vv. 5–18)
Psalm 118:5–6 ESV
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
Psalm 118:13 ESV
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.
Psalm 118:15 ESV
15 Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
Psalm 118:17 ESV
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.
- A liturgical occasion at the Lord’s house, which involves the whole people again (vv. 19–29)
Psalm 118:19–20 ESV
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
Psalm 118:22 ESV
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Psalm 118:25–26 ESV
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.
Psalm 118:29 ESV
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
- The Passover was a promise, a foreshadowing of the true sacrifice that would save us all.
Hebrews 10:3–4 ESV
3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.Today, we who sing Psalm 118, do not sing in mystery or shadow, but with the truth now revealed to us that God answered our cry by coming down to us and bearing upon his shoulders the full weight of the judgment that should have fallen on us. The reminder of our sins and our salvation is now in the sacrament of the Lord’s table that we partake of every week.Psalm 118:25 ESV
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!
And he has answered our cry and has saved us!
Psalm 118:26 ESV
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The very name of the LORD has come and saved us! His name is Jesus Christ!
- The world stands at the edge of death just as Mariam and Moses stood, and the will of the Lord would not have us be harmed, us who are called according to his purpose. Our salvation has been assured, for Christ has taken his own blood and wiped it across the doorposts of our hearts.
God’s judgment will thus pass us by.
So, when we read now of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem, we are beholding the Passover Lamb, the King of glory, the divine, God himself, formerly unveiled physically to three of his apostles during the transfiguration, but now unveiled as the long-awaited Messiah before all of Jerusalem.
Matthew 21:1–3 ESV
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”
- Jerusalem is key. This it the city of the King, the centre of Jewish religion and the fulfilment of Messianic prophecies.
Psalm 48:1–2 ESV
1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain,
2 beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.
- Bethphage was less than a mile east of Jerusalem
- The Mount of Olives is 2660 feet above sea level. To give you a comparison, the nearby hill station Ponmudi is around 3200 feet above sea level. This location overlooked the Temple in Jerusalem.So, in this passage and the next, Jesus is making his glorious entrance and goes straight down into the temple where he displays his anger against ungodliness.
- Now, Jesus does something quite peculiar, and I’m not referring to the task of retrieving the donkey. Jesus issues instructions that are very precise and extremely detailed. There is no parable, room for discovery and learning, or any other thing in this instruction.
When I read that, it shows me that Matthew intends for us to see just how precise Jesus was with his instruction, and that this sovereign direction of the King is highly intentional. Here is an act of divine intent and foreknowledge.
As John Piper puts it, this was not some incident that Matthew was trying to make sense of. The events here are explicit and vividly intentional. God wants to make a statement.
Look at the specificity of these events.
Matthew 21:6 ESV
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.
Matthew simply tells us that they were successful in their endeavour but Mark and Luke give us more detail.
Luke 19:33–34 ESV
33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”
Mark 11:6 ESV
6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.
- This is the power of the Sovereign King who rules over all. Omniscient and Wise, his ways are higher and his thoughts are higher than ours. He is the craftsman of history, weaving together all things according to his sovereign will.
Proverbs 16:33 ESV
33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.Lamentations 3:37–38 ESV
37 Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?
Matthew 21:4–5 ESV
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”
- On the Mount of Olives, Christ was determined to fulfil prophecy. And the prophecy in particular that is being fulfilled is found in
Zechariah 9:9 ESV
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
This was a Messianic sign of the long-promised Saviour and Jesus’ enactment of this was as clear as any sign can be. His intention is plainly visible. This is his statement that he is the Messiah, the King of the Jews.
- But he is not only the King of the Jews. The next verse in Zechariah reads as follows, Zech 9:10
Zechariah 9:10 ESV
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
peace to the nations – rule from sea to sea – to the ends of the earth
This is not the arrival of the Jewish King but of Earth’s King.
Isaiah 66:1 ESV
1 Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
Psalm 110:1 ESV
1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Yes, this is the earth-conquering entrance of King Jesus. The events that unfolded near the borders of Jerusalem that day had universal implications.
Here, is unveiled the Messiah, and he is no mere prophet. He is God himself. He is not just another Moses. He is the bush that anointed Moses, the cloud that spoke to him in the tent, the hand that walked him across the Red Sea, and the rock that provided life-giving waters.
- Your King is coming to you.
John 1:10–11 ESV
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.Many of those who received him that day later shouted for him to be crucified. Though they received him as Messiah, he was not the Messiah they wanted.
This is inherently a deception among many who consider themselves Christian, that they would rather serve a Christ who conforms to their standards than a Christ of Scripture to who they are called to conform to.
- Humble & Colt – Why humble? And why on a colt?
Let me show you another picture of Christ from the New Testament.Revelation 19:11–16 ESV
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
This is the same Jesus that here sits on a colt of a beast of burden. Now, what is different about this picture is that it is a picture of the righteous King who judges and makes war, faithful and true. But Jesus in Matthew 21 has not come to make war with man, but to save man from sin.
Matthew 11:29 ESV
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Watch as heaven stands still! Watch as all creation wonders at the sight! The Commander of seas, the Lord of the stars, the Maker of the universe humbly ride a beast of burden. I wonder what the donkey saw. His ancestor saw an angel poised to strike a blinded Balaam. Did he now see angels bow low and the heavens bent at the sight of this glory.
O people, Jesus has come not to wage war with us but to enter into our hearts in the same manner as you see him here enter into the heart of Israel.
O how in some sense this is such an apt picture of Christ entering our hearts to save us. Riding on a donkey this Saviour bids us to cry Hosanna! And as he enters in and cleanses the temple with a whip of chords, so he cleanses our hearts from all sin.
1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
Just as he cursed the fig tree, so he causes the fruitless things in our lives to whither, pruning us as his disciples.
Just as he establishes his authority in Jerusalem so he does in our lives.
We, like the sinners who received him gladly, now obey him when he bids us to go and to come, to speak and to proclaim.
Just as his dominion and rule over Jerusalem are made plain, so his dominion and rule over our lives are made plain.
Matthew 21:7–11 ESV
7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
- The cloaks and branches from trees were a sign of their belief that Jesus is the Messiah. Branches (the use of Palms) symbolized Jewish Nationalism and victory.
Christ is the King, the victorious King who enters Jerusalem in triumph.
- The Hebrew meaning of the word Hosanna is ‘O Save’.
- The crowds ahead and behind were shouting. What a sound that would have been.
And the shouting of the people were not some random phrases or statements. They were songs being sung, and not just any song. They were singing
Psalm 118:25–26 ESV
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.
- Many saw him as the prophet and not more than that. Who is this?
Who is this King of Glory?
Psalm 24 ESV
A Psalm of David.
1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah