THE RIDE OF HIS LIFE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 30, 2015
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.”
— Matthew 21:1-11, ESV
It must have been the ride of His life. He had experienced many highs and lows in His earthly life, the first ninety percent of which was off the radar. But in the past three public years, Jesus of Nazareth had been complimented and criticized for His public speaking ability, praised and cursed for His performance of miracles, almost forced to be king in one town and run out of His very own home town. Perfume and insults had been broken and spilled out all over His head. Some said He might be God, others said they were sure He was of the devil.
On the sunny Sunday of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, however, it was all good. It was like being the newly crowned Miss America walking down the runway, or a coach carried off the field after winning the national championship, or the Santa Clause at the end of the Christmas parade. All eyes were on Him, cheers rang out in His name, He rode head and shoulders above the crowd. It was the ride of Jesus’ life, which in less than a week would end in a fatal crash.
How could such an exalted parade end in a public execution? How could the crowd call Him the Messiah one day, and five days later another crowd would call for His crucifixion? Jesus did things right, all the time. The people did right things, on this day. How did everything so right go so wrong so fast? Perhaps it is because while Jesus can always be trusted, most people cannot.
There are so many things in the Bible, so many things in the Gospels, so many things in Matthew, and so many things in this short passage that make you want to trust in Jesus. Simply put, He is who He says He is and He does what He promises He will do. That’s somebody you should trust.
Jesus is God, for Jesus knows things only God can know. Jesus saw Nathaniel under a fig tree before he ever became a follower, Jesus knew the woman at the well had five husbands before she ever became a worshiper, and Jesus said a man would give Him two donkeys before there ever was a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. God inspired Zechariah to predict it, God inspired Matthew to record it, and God was in Christ displaying His omniscience and humbly riding in on a donkey to save the world from sin.
In this revealing episode, Jesus did not hesitate to refer to Himself as “Lord.” He would affirm that He was the Son of God other occasions. And on every occasion, Jesus of Nazareth proved to be, know, and do things that only God of very God can be, know, and do. You should trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You should trust in the Savior Jesus Christ. For three years, speculation was rampant that this Jesus from Galilee was a descendant of King David, through Mary and Joseph, and the fulfillment of all of the Old Covenant promises concerning the coming Messiah. Those promises are two-fold, of a suffering servant and a conquering king. The people, glossing over the former and surely focusing on the latter, correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, the “Son of David,” and called upon Him for salvation, for “Hosanna in the highest.”
We will try to explore their secret hearts in a moment, but their spoken words were correct. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all biblical prophecy concerning the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the Prophet. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus Christ is Savior. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Trust Christ. Suspect people. God has never let me down, while people mostly have, so perhaps my jaded view affects how I look at Scripture. When I look at the people in this passage, I am not impressed, except with one little scene that is often overlooked.
I am not impressed with the crowd, for crowds tend to be pulled to what is popular. The crowd here was estimated to be anywhere from 200,000 to 2 million (a wide range, but such is the nature of biblical commentaries), but the point is that Passover drew a huge mass to Jerusalem which far exceeded the normal population of the day, which was about the size of Hot Springs. On this day, on the ride of His life, Jesus was trending. I fear most of the crowd did what they did and said what they said simply because Jesus was popular, on that day.
I am not impressed with the crowd, for crowds tend to be fickle, uncommitted, lacking in consistency and integrity. The shouts on Sunday were quite different from the sounds coming from the crowd on the following morning, changing from “save us” to “kill Him.” In an emotional rush, they gave Him the shirts off their backs. Days later, they took the clothes off His back and beat Him to death. Granted, many in the Sunday crowd were Galilean pilgrims who returned home before the three trials of Christ, but my point is that things change with the crowd. How many people in modern times have crowded to a so-called “altar” at a so-called “revival” or “crusade” and “asked Jesus into their heart” to save them, only to completely turn their backs on Him in the ensuing weeks, months, or short years?
I am not impressed with the crowd, meaning most people, for they are so selfish. If you don’t give them what they want, they will turn on you in a New York minute. This crowd wanted a political savior who would lower their taxes and give them liberal freedoms. Jesus spoke of the seriousness of sin, the necessity of repentance, and faith in the work He came to finish on the cross. This is a message that the average person in the crowd, then and now, do not want want to hear. The stumbling block of the cross and the cost of the true gospel explain why the ride of His life when downhill so fast.
“Hosanna” is a particularly haunting word heard in this parade. It is a cry for salvation by propitiation, by turning something profoundly bad into an eternal good. Rome provided bad government for Israel. The Jews wanted good government brought in by a miracle-giving messiah. But even good government is earthly, temporary. Jesus, on the ride of His life, had something greater on His mind. He offered propitiation from sin, the staying of God’s wrath for mercy, forgiveness and everlasting life. Did anybody understand?
Walk with the Disciples
While most of the crowd got it insincerely wrong on this day, there were a precious few impolitically correct few that got it right. You almost don’t notice them as the story seems to quickly pass them by. But they are there, and there is where you want to be.
Two unnamed disciples, first mentioned in the first verse, did something outstanding in verse six: “The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.” Obedience can be separate from faith, but saving faith cannot be separate from obedience. Pharisees obey but do not believe. Hypocrites say they believe but do not obey. True disciples trust and obey, for there really is no other way.
I do not know how many true believers there were at this stage of the greatest story ever told, and I cannot tell what they truly believed. I suspect it was not many and not much. But faith is acting and obeying on what you do believe to be true. True disciples believe Jesus is who He said He is and will do what He has promised to do and, therefore, do what He says to do, even when it does not make perfect sense, like swiping a couple of donkeys from a local neighborhood.
The true disciples here did not cheer Jesus because He was popular at the moment. The true disciples had yet to witness the crucifixion and resurrection, nor had they yet formed a fully-orbed theology of the Trinity. They simply had faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, they confessed Him and obeyed Him, albeit imperfectly, and did not change their minds for the rest of their lives. This is who I want to walk with for the rest of mine.
This was the ride of His life, at the time. Yet the real thrill would come after the Passover, after the passion, after the pain, after the death, even death on a cross. Jesus rose again, riding up from the grave, in and around Judea and Galilee for forty or so days, then rode up to Heaven with an angelic escort. One day the Lord will come again, riding on the apocalyptic white horse, and true disciples will rise, ride, and reign with Him. Trust Jesus, no matter what other people do, and this could be the ride of your life.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org