Who is Jesus? This is one of the most important questions of all time. It was the very question that the whole city of Jerusalem was asking on that first Palm Sunday when Jesus entered into the city riding on a donkey. As Jesus entered the city, thousands of Jews were spreading their cloaks on the road and waving palm branches. Matthew records this story of Christ’s final entry, His “Triumphant Entry” into the city of Jerusalem. While many through the ages have wrongly understood who Jesus really is, this story makes it very clear, giving us five glorious truths teaching us who Jesus really is (Matthew 21:1-11).
First, Jesus is the willing servant who went up to Jerusalem. Palm Sunday was the first day of the last week of Jesus’ life. After completing an amazing ministry of healing, and miracles and teaching, Jesus willingly “drew near to Jerusalem.” It was the time of the Passover, and multitudes of Jews were in the city ready to make their yearly sacrifice to fulfill the Mosaic requirement (Ex 12:2-6). It is possible that the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem, Jews took lambs into their own homes in preparation. And now Jesus, the one true Lamb of God enters the city. Jesus had already told His disciples what the ultimate plan was. He told them no less than three times, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matt 20:18-19, see also 16:21, 17:22-23). Jesus knew exactly that when He entered the city, He was entering it for the sole purpose of becoming a sacrificial lamb. No one forced Jesus, but He willingly went as God’s suffering servant (Is 53).
Second, Jesus is the sovereign and all-knowing Lord who fulfilled prophecy. The story that Matthew gives reveals that Jesus was not a victim but rather in total control. Jesus doesn’t fall into the hands of an angry mob, nor does he fall prey to a political or religious fiasco. But rather He controls all of the details of His entrance into Jerusalem for the purpose of going to the cross. He tells His disciples exactly where to go to find a donkey for Him to ride thereby fulfilling the Scriptural prediction made 500 years earlier (Zech 9:9). This was the sovereign plan of God that Jesus would reveal Himself as a gentle servant. Nothing could have been more appropriate than the bearer of the world’s sin burden to ride into Jerusalem on a lowly beast of burden. When Jesus returns a second time He will not be riding a gentle donkey, but rather a white stallion to bring judgment (Rev 19:11-16).
Third, Jesus is the worthy Master who is obeyed by those who love Him. When Jesus instructed the disciples, they were quick to obey. What we learn is that all who truly follow Jesus know Him as a worthy master and that attitude is evidenced by obedience. When Jesus gave instructions, the disciples “went and did as Jesus had directed them” (v. 6-7). Jesus had proven that He was worthy to be obeyed. The crowds didn’t know who Jesus was, but the disciples knew! And they expressed that knowledge in practical obedience. It is repulsive to think that we would be asked to obey an unworthy master, who is harsh and unrighteous. But disciples of Jesus have no problem obeying Him, because they know that He is the only worthy one (Rev 5). This should be the true heart of every disciple (Jn 14:15, 21, 24).
Fourth, Jesus is the blessed Savior who deserves all praise. The crowds rightly gave Jesus the praise that He was due. When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, the crowds began to spread their garments on the ground. This was an ancient custom which symbolized respect and submission to authority (2 Kings 9:13). The crowds also waved palm branches (Jn 12:13), which was symbolic of salvation and joy. Furthermore, the crowds seemingly with one voice cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” This was a salvation chant filled with expectation. Hosanna is an exclamatory plea which means “save now.” It is clear that the crowds thought of Jesus as a messiah or deliverer from the physical hands of the wicked Romans. But they clearly misunderstood like so many today. The mission of Jesus was not to deliver man from his physical problems! Jesus came to deliver His people from spiritual oppression and the consequences of sin. As a result, He is truly the one who deserves all our praise.
Last, Jesus is the heavenly King who many will never recognize. After Jesus entered into the city, the whole city was stirred up and they were saying “Who is this?” Many of them simply said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee” (v. 10-11). They totally ignored what was being chanted about Him, that He was the “Son of David,” that is the messiah that God had sent (Is 11:1). They only thought of Jesus as a prophet or a messenger. While they heard the message and saw the miracles of Jesus, they refused to believe and ultimately rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord. Jesus was more than an earthly King. He was the heavenly King sent to earth by God to conquer sin and death.
“Who is this man?” That is the ultimate question that every person has to answer. It is not a question to be ignored! How someone answers this question will determine their eternal destiny. Jesus is not merely a good and wise teacher, who loved well and ultimately experienced a tragic unfortunate death. No, rather He is the sovereign King of the universe who came to earth to willingly go to Jerusalem and be killed as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world and establish a heavenly Kingdom. Our hope at Ebenezer BFC is that every person who comes through our doors will come find the answer to this question and be able to declare that Jesus is both Lord and Savior!