Dear Friend in Christ:
I trust you and your loved ones are doing well. You are often in our prayers here at CSM. Here in Alabama, Spring has come, with all of its beauty, and also storms. It’s a good time for re-evaluating priorities, cleaning up, and preparing for the new things that God is doing.
Last month in my Pastoral Letter, I discussed “When Revival Comes.” Revival is a Sovereign move of God, calling us to humility, prayer, and repentance. As we seek Him, He graciously pours out His Holy Spirit. Our response is not only songs of praise, but it is to lay our lives down together for Him at the foot of the Cross. We are transformed in His presence. Our vision becomes clearer and more focused on Him and His Kingdom.
According to Romans 14:17, Christ’s Kingdom reveals itself in our lives and in the earth through His Righteousness, His Peace, His Joy—IN His Holy Spirit. Our late friend Ern Baxter, a tremendous Bible teacher, summed it up this way: “The Kingdom is in the Holy Spirit.” Jesus told us that we are to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6: 33). His Kingdom comes as we receive the King; the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. Sometimes, King Jesus doesn’t appear to us in the way we expect. This month, I want to look at when the King arrived in Jerusalem in a most unexpected way.
THE KING ON A DONKEY
“Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,” and immediately he will send them.’ All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ So the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee’” *(Matthew 21:1-11).
The city was primed for the entry of Jesus. It was Passover Week, and the city was already full of pilgrims and worshippers who would observe this most holy feast recognizing God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. There was a growing buzz among the people about Jesus. Stories of His miracles were sweeping through the city like wildfire. According to John 12, the people had heard about how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
They were desperate for their Messiah, their Savior, who would come in triumph and deliver them from their oppressors. But there was tremendous confusion among the religious leaders and the people about Who or what the Messiah would be.
Some of the leaders were so worried about the people seeing Jesus as Messiah that they were plotting to kill the risen Lazarus so that people wouldn’t believe in Jesus anymore. They knew Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, but they wanted to kill Lazarus so that no one would believe in Jesus! How twisted is that? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just believe in Jesus rather than fighting to keep someone else from believing in Him?
When you get locked into your own view of what you think God ought to do and how He ought to do it, you can go to great lengths to try to make Him conform to your plans. Beware of trying to tell a Sovereign God what to do, how to do it, or when to do it.
Part of the problem was political ambition. The leaders wanted to hold onto their own positions of power and influence. The people had a fundamental misunderstanding about Messiah’s mission. They saw the Messiah as only saving them, and not the whole world. They saw the Messiah as a military conqueror who would lead them in great victory over their Roman oppressors.
There was a degree of selfishness in people’s view of Jesus. Here was a man who could multiply bread and fish, turn water into wine, heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead! All their problems were going to be solved!
No one … not even Jesus’ own disciples … could understand that Jesus had come to Jerusalem to die. And no one but Jesus knew that many of the same people who hailed Him as Messiah and shouted “Hosanna” would be calling for His Crucifixion just a few days later. Yet, Jesus stayed focused on obeying the will of His Father in Heaven and proclaiming Father’s message, right up until the end.
The prophet Zechariah had prophesied more than 500 years earlier that the Messiah would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey (see Zechariah 9:9). The fact that he would be on a donkey was meant as a clue to the people about the nature of His mission and calling. A donkey was not exactly the ride of choice for kings: lowly, humble, small.
Jesus, the Living Word, is making some very specific statements by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. First, He was clearly revealing Himself as Messiah. Zechariah’s prophecy was well-known among the people. Jesus fulfilled all Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. He was also making a statement about God’s purpose for the Messiah and the nature of His Kingdom. It was not a show of force or arrogance, but He came as a humble servant King. Seeing all of the miracles and the way in which Jesus entered, the people believed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
NOT BY MIGHT
But they had forgotten the words of Zechariah 4:6, which say: “It’s not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Over the centuries, a false understanding of the Messiah’s mission had grown up among the leaders and the people. This is why they could miss it so badly when He finally arrived.
At first, they hailed Him, shouting “Hosanna,” which means “Save now!’ They recognized Jesus was the Savior and Messiah (a direct prophetic quote from Psalm 118 which is explicitly about the Messiah). They spread out their coats and palm branches on the road in front of Him as a token of honor and recognition.
Little did they know that His plan of salvation included confronting corruption in the Temple and among the Pharisees and among the people themselves … little did they know that His plan included the Cross, which was an accursed, unimaginable form of death … little did they know that His plan of salvation included saving them AND their enemies and indeed, all of the peoples of the earth.
The fact that He entered Jerusalem during Passover week seemed lost on the people as well. They had forgotten the words of John the Baptist: “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The people were right … He is indeed the Messiah, the Savior, the King. But they could not understand or accept that He was also the Lamb.
They couldn’t see that the Passover Feast was a prophetic declaration about the true Lamb of God; not merely a lamb that offered temporary sacrifice for sin, but the Lamb Who would pay for our sins once and for all! John 12:16 says that even the disciples missed the significance of all of this. The religious leaders, who should have been out in front hailing Jesus as Messiah, were instead upset that the whole world was following Him instead of them.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a huge event. Matthew 21:10 says, “The whole city was moved,” in the same way that an earthquake would move the city. To those who asked, “Who is this,” the multitudes answered, “Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.” They knew the prophecies, they knew Jesus was the Messiah, but they missed out on what the prophecies meant and what the Messiah’s mission was. Because of that, they got upset when they didn’t understand His methods … and their understanding being weak and confused, they ultimately rejected Him.
Who killed Jesus? Was it the Romans? Was it the Jews? It was all of us. His death was for the sins of all of mankind, for all of history. But it is in His death and Resurrection that we can all have forgiveness of sin and receive abundant, eternal life. When we receive the Risen Savior as our Lord, we can enter into His life and the refreshing that His Holy Spirit brings.
When we receive Communion together, eating of His bread and drinking of His cup, we remember Him; not simply as a memorial to a good man who lived a long time ago and was Crucified, but we remember that He is alive today! His sacrifice on the Cross has paid for our sins and made a way for us to have daily fellowship with Him. Hosanna!
THE RHYTHMS OF GRACE
Just a few more days left to register for our annual CSM Leadership Conference to be held May 9-11 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Our theme is, “The Rhythms of Grace,” from Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus says: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (The Message).
Our speakers this year are Charles Simpson, Gerard Montenegro, Tim Parish, and myself. Rooms are guaranteed up to April 4th! For more information and to register now, please visit csmpublishing.org today. Or call us at 1-251-633-7900. Please also remember us in your prayers and in your giving this month, which is a very significant time for us. Thank you!
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.