"Jesus' 'First' Triumphal Entry"
(Delivered Sunday, March 2, 2008 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
This morning, I ask that we consider our Lord's two great "triumphal entries" into the city of Jerusalem.
You may be used to thinking of only the first one—the one that we typically celebrate on Palm Sunday. But the Bible actually describes two great entries of our Lord into that city; and they both deserve to be called "triumphal".
We will focus our attention primarily on His first triumphal entry. But I must warn you—your eternal destiny at the time of His second entry is going to dependent upon whether or not you have properly responded to the first.
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Let me begin this morning by reading the Bible's description of His first "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem, as it's given to us in Matthew's Gospel. Matthew 21:1-11 says;
Did you know that when Jesus—this great King—road into the city on that day, it would only be five days later that he would be crucified on a gruesome cross? And did you know that the crowds—who shouted His praises and welcomed Him with enthusiasm—would be shouting "Let Him be crucified!" before the week was over?
The long-awaited King of Israel road into the city that first time, as our text tells us, "lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey". He made His first triumphal entry, not as a mighty Sovereign, but as a meek Servant who came to give His life for us on the cross.
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But keeping that in mind, let me next read from the book of Revelation, and of its description of His promised second "triumphal entry". He is the very same King coming again to the very same spot on the earth; but this second “entry” is far different from the first! Revelation 19:11-16 says;
It will be from that very same city into which He first entered—the city of Jerusalem—that the Bible promises that He will reign on this earth for a thousand years. The prophet Zechariah writes that He will return to set His feet upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4); and after He has conquered His enemies, all the nations of the earth will come to Jerusalem to worship Him (vv. 16-17).
And what a contrast there is between that first entry into Jerusalem and the second! That first entry was on a meek and mild donkey—a symbol of gentleness and peace; but the second entry will be on the white stallion of a warrior. The first entry was to make atonement for our sins; but the second entry will be to judge and to make war, and to tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. He wore no crowns at that first entry; but at His second, He will wear many crowns. At His first entry, the clothes of the happy crowds were thrown before Him; but at His second, He will wear a robe dipped in blood. Crowds of humble people went before Him and behind Him at His first entry; but at His second, He will be accompanied by the white-robed armies of heaven. He came to His own people that first time to be struck down; but He will come the second time to strike the nations and rule them with a rod of iron. When He came that first time into the city, they announced Him as Jesus, the prophet from the humble town of Nazareth of Galilee; but when He comes the second time, He will be called by the name "The Word of God", and will bear the title "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS".
How grateful we should be that, when He came that first time to the city of Jerusalem, He didn't come in the manner described in the Book of Revelation! He didn't come as the mighty, conquering Warrior-Judge then—although He certainly could have! Instead, He came as the lowly Savior of sinners such as us. And because He came as the suffering Servant in His first entry into Jerusalem, no poor sinner who receives His sacrifice on the cross need ever fear the judgment of His second coming!
But the clear affirmation of the word of God is that, one day, He will come again! And the Bible promises that, at His glorious second coming, "every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him" (Revelation 1:7). Everyone here today will see Him on that day. You will see Him, and so will I. And the eternal destiny of each one of us at the time of His second 'triumphal entry' into Jerusalem depends on our personal response to the sacrifice He made on the cross at His first!
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This morning, we will remember that sacrifice together through the communion meal. Let's prepare our hearts for that commemoration now by considering the details we find of this first great "triumphal entry".
First, consider . . .
1. THE PREPARATION FOR HIS ENTRY (vv. 1-5).
Matthew tells us that the events of our passage occurred when Jesus and His disciples "drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives" (v. 1).
It's amazing how these events concerning our Lord's sacrifice for us—the greatest of all events in history—occurred in a remarkably a small spot on the earth. Jesus came into Jerusalem past the Mount of Olives, entered and cleansed and taught in the Temple, was betrayed in the Garden of Gesthemene on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, was tried, was beaten, was crucified at Calvary, was buried, was raised; was ascended from the Mount of Olives, and will one day descend again from the earth to set His feet upon the Mount of Olives and reign over the nations from Jerusalem—with all these earth-shaking events occuring in an area that is less than a mile in breadth.
Even that little village that Jesus and His disciples came to, Bethphage, is only significant because it's the place from which the donkey that our Lord rode on was taken. But clearly, God's sovereign hand was at work in this seemingly insignificant place—preparing the way for prophetic Scripture to be fulfilled with respect to our Lord.
First, we notice that the disciples didn't have to look for the animals Jesus sent them to bring to Him. He said that, as soon as they came into the village, they would “immediately” find not just a donkey, but a donkey and her colt tied together. Two animals—requiring two disciples to bring them. Seeing the animals immediately must have given the two disciples confidence to untie them and bring them.
And, second, we see that they were immediately allowed to take the animals. They were told, "And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them" (vv. 2-3). There must have been some providential “arrangement” made that we aren't told about. If you don't believe me, try it some time. Try breaking into some car; and as the owner asks what in the world you're doing, tell him, “The Lord has need of it”. See if he'll “immediately” give you the keys.
And yet, that's what Luke, in his Gospel, tells us happened. The owners saw the two disciples untying the two animals and wanted to know what they were doing. And when the disciples said what the Lord had told them to say, they were set free to take them to the Lord. It's only speculation; but I wonder if the owners had previously devoted their animals to the Lord and said, "Lord, if You ever require anything of mine—even my animals—here they are. They are Yours to uses whenever and however You have need of them."
And in all of this, we are made to know that it was all in keeping with the promise of the Scriptures. Matthew tells us that this was done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet” (v. 4). He quotes from Zechariah 9:9; where, some four centuries before Jesus came into this world, Israel is told;
What great provision was made by God for this day! It was declared by God's prophet that it would happen in a specific way, long before it happened; and at the right time, it happened exactly as promised. Everything occurred as if ruled by God's unseen hand; and all so that our precious Savior could make Himself clearly known to those who sought Him, and so that nothing was left undone of any of God's promises.
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Next, notice . . .
2. THE MANNER OF HIS ENTRY (vv. 6-7).
Matthew tells us, “So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them” (v. 6). (Isn't that a great verse, by the way? It might be a great verse to memorize—and an even better one to make sure characterizes our lives!)
I can't help but think that the disciples must have had a sense of awe as they brought the animals back to the Savior. They found the animals just as He said; and they were immediately permitted to take them when they said what He commanded them to say. And Matthew goes on to say, “The brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them” (v. 7).
Did you know that a king riding on a donkey was a symbol of peace? If a king rode into town riding on a mighty stallion, there would be reason to be concerned. But if he rode into town on a humble donkey, it could be taken as an overture of peace. And that's how Jesus chose to ride into town in that first “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. He came to bring peace between God and man through His sacrifice on the cross.
I can't help from pointing something else out to you. Do you notice that there was not one animal provided, but two—a female donkey and her colt? And do you notice that it was the colt that our Lord rode upon—an animal on which no one else had ever ridden? If He rode on the colt—which was a symbol not only of peace, but of purity and innocence—then why did He see to it that the colt's mother was brought along as well?
I see our Savior's mercy in this. He is so kind that He would neither bring the colt along without it's mother, nor distress the mother by taking her colt away from her. Our Savior, in His first entry into the city, was merciful and gracious in every way—even to the beasts on which He rode.
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Third, let's consider . . .
3. THE CELEBRATION AT HIS ENTRY (vv. 8-9).
When the disciples laid their clothes on the colt for the Lord to sit on, they were doing what would have been appropriate with regard to His identity as the long-awaited King—just as regal embroidery would be appropriate to decorate the beast that a king would ride upon. But since they didn't have regal coverings to place Jesus on, they used their own cloaks instead. And likewise, we're told that “a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road” before the Lord (v. 8a); as if to lay before Him the symbol of their own submission to Him as King.
What's more, we're told that “others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (v. 8b). John, in his Gospel, tells us that these were the branches of palm trees (John 12:13); and in Scripture, palm branches are used as symbols of a sense of joy and victory for the people of God. During the Feast of Tabernacles, for example, the people of Israel were told, “'And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days'” (Leviticus 23:40). And I can't help but mention that, when all of God's redeemed people are described in the book of Revelation as finally safe and in His presence in heavenly glory, the are said to be worshiping Him “clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9). How appropriate that the people celebrate Him in this way!
We're told this great multitude was following before Him and behind Him. And look at what the people said about Him. They shouted “Hosanna”, which means, “Save now, O Lord!” It's both an earnest request, and a blessing. They shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David”; which is a recognition of Jesus' identity as the long-promised Messiah. They said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD”; which is an expression of Messianic hope from Psalm 118:26. And they shouted, “Hosanna in the highest”; which was their affirmation that Jesus' coming into the city was a cause of thanks to God.
And when it comes to you and me today—who have the advantage of knowing fully what He has accomplished for us—how much more should we greet Him, and celebrate Him, and submit ourselves fully to His coming as our Savior!
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Finally, notice . . .
4. THE REACTION TO HIS ENTRY (vv. 10-11).
We're told that, when He had come into Jerusalem, “all the city was moved”. But that translation of the word is probably not strong enough. The word itself means that the whole city was shaken and put into a commotion! Imagine this great crowd, as it marched into the city, shouting and celebrating and signing 'hosannas' to the Lord! It must have caused quite an uproar!
We're told that the people of the city were saying, “Who is this?” And not everyone was singing “hosanna”! Matthew goes on to tell us a few verses later that the chief priests were very angry with Him. They were urging Him to tell the children in the temple to stop saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (v. 15). They demanded of Him that He tell them by whose authority He was doing the things He did (v. 23).
But you have to admit—when Jesus makes His entry, and He is recognized for who He is, it stirs things up. People wanted to know who this is and what all the commotion was about. And the multitudes that followed Him told them; “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee”.
He comes in humility; but He comes to put people at the fork of a decision. No one can encounter Him without coming to the decision of what they will do with Him—either to place their trust in His sacrifice on the cross, or to reject Him completely.
And because it was to die on the cross for the sins of mankind, what we choose to do with Him at His first entry into the city is going to determine our eternal destiny at His second entry.
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As we come to the Lord's table this morning, what will you do with Him? The Lord's Supper is meant—to some degree—to move us to an answer to that question. It's meant to make us take a look at His first “triumphal entry” as our Savior on the cross; and cause us to look ahead to His second “triumphal entry” when He'll be the Judge of all the earth. The apostle Paul said that we are to remember that "as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26; emph. added).
So; let's learn from the story of His first “triumphal entry” how we should receive Him. Let's receive Him as One whose coming was promised by God, and prepared far in advance for our salvation. Let's recognize that He comes meek and mild and lowly; not as our Judge now, but as our Savior; and as One who takes our sins upon Himself at the cross, so that we need not experience the fear of judgment when He comes again. Let's celebrate Him as the promised King—whose coming is the answer to the cry, “Save now, O Lord!”
And above all, let's be sure that we place our trust fully in that which He came into Jerusalem to accomplish for us long ago. Let's be sure that we have deliberately and personally placed our faith on His sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
Because if we fully embrace Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem then, we will be able to stand at His glorious “triumphal entry” yet to come.
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