Who Is This?
Text: Matthew 21:1-10
1 Advent, A
A celebration is breaking out and people are drawn to it from all over. They are lining up in droves to be a part of the holiday crowds, the press of humanity. A very special present is about to be delivered, and everyone wants a piece of it. But in the midst of all the activity, all the cheer, the cry goes up – Wait a minute! What are we doing? What is the reason for our joy? Who is this all about?
Sound like Christmas? Yes, but Christmas will have to wait for a few weeks yet. The great celebration, the press of the crowds, and the special delivery are all a part of Jesus' Triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before he would die. (10-11) And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, Who is this? And the crowds said, This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.
Who is this person at the head of the parade that begins our new Church year? He is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee. What word has he come to give us? Only one word – The Word made flesh – He has come to give himself! “Who is this?” the crowds mummer on that day long ago. There were so many seemingly mixed messages in his Word and actions. “Who is this?” the people of our day still ask, as they continue to try and work out his glorious Words of promise and the seemingly mundane reality of day-to-day life.
Who is this? He is the very Son of God, who comes demanding obedience. (1-3) “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”
The Lord knew that the animals in question were at the designated place. He knew because by His own Word of Old Testament prophecy they must be there. The man who had walked everywhere he needed to be in his days of ministry would now take his rightful place mounted and riding as a true king. The two disciples had no idea of what was going on and undoubtedly went with great reluctance to carry out His command. Walking into a strange town and commandeering someone's animals could easily bring them into unpleasant difficulties to say the least. But they go at His word, and His world is enough. Of course someone is there to say something about it, but at the Word of Jesus all objections are immediately disposed. When the Son of God speaks, we must listen. Where he has need, we must answer.
And having secured his kingly mount, the cloaks of his attendants are made a fitting cushion, the red carpet is laid out in further cloaks and palm branches. Great refrains of Hosanna, rise up from the adoring crowds both before and behind his majestic procession. The Son of God has returned to God's city, let none doubt it. Indeed, the first thing He would do that day upon coming to Jerusalem is cleanse the temple, gut it, in a terrifying display of his glorious wrath.
But even as the triumphant procession begins we can see that not everything is quite what we might expect of a great and terrible King. Some things in this holiday celebration just don't make sense. No war horse does he ride, but a lowly donkey. No army marches with him ready to topple the powers of this world, only women and children, the lame and the sick, the old and the outcast. Who is this? He is the Son of Man, come to serve us. (4-5) This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
Consider where this procession will end. The one who cleansed the temple will be dragged from court to court, battered and bloodied at every stop. The cries of “Hosanna”, will turn to “Crucify Him!” The cloaks on the road will be replaced with one of purple for his back, and a crown of thorns for his head. The waving palm branches of the adoring crowds will become the rods and the whips of the cruel torturers. The one who entered in at the head of great throngs will leave in a procession of one, a beast of burden forced to carry his own instrument of death. The king will come down from his mount to be mounted up on the rough beams of the cross.
Yet on He comes voluntarily and out of great love, for those who do not deserve the gift he brings. He comes, to suffer all, for our benefit. He comes to bring life from death, victory from defeat, glory out of suffering. He comes to seek his own, only to serve us and to do us good. He does not come for His own benefit but for ours, to be the King who conquers the great enemies of sin death and the devil once and for all.
Who is this? He is the Son of God, deserving our lives of obedience and honour. He is the Son of Man, who serves those who cannot fight for themselves. He is the King who came in glory and in humility, in power and in meekness. He is the great King who will come again, and for whom we wait even now! For the one who rode in on a donkey and staggered out in the dust of the street, will come back riding on the clouds of heaven. The one who rode in to the cries of Hosanna, and limped out to the shouts of Crucify Him, will return with the trumpet call of God and the thunders of heaven. The one who came in leading women and children, who went out in the company of thieves, will come back at the head of the heavenly host and all the angel armies. The one who was passed from judge to judge and back again, will return to judge the nations and bring peace once again.
Who is this? He is our Lord and Saviour. And he is worthy of our unceasing praise! (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!
Who is this? He is Jesus. The one who came, the one who will come, the one who is with us even now. He is our Lord and Saviour. And this new year in the church belongs to him! Join him in the great procession lending your voice to the chorus of the ages. Take the chance and go at his word, not knowing what might come of it, but believing that he knows of what he is asking you. Receive the gift he has come to bring – the gift of salvation through his own body and blood, an offering for your sin. Follow your king through triumph and suffering, from death into life. The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For your salvation is nearer to you now than when you first believed. The night is gone, the day is at hand!