BE LOYAL TO OUR RETURNING KING!
What was Jesus' final mission to Jerusalem? Why did Jesus enter Jerusalem? How do His activities in Jerusalem correspond with His final purpose? I aim to reflect on these questions to encourage us to continue imitating His example as His imitators.
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem as a royal figure. The Israelite king would enter Jerusalem riding on a horse through the eastern gate. He would then go into the temple and standing by the 'Sabbath pillar' read Torah to his people. Jesus imitated both these actions of a king, but showed a marked contrast in His approach. He entered through the gate, not on a horse, but a donkey. Similarly, He went into the temple and read Torah, not from a regular Sabbath pillar, but from the pillars of the courts of the temple, including the Gentile court. By entering through the eastern gate and reading the Torah from the pillar(s), Jesus claimed Himself to be the royal descendant of David. But by His approach, He showed Himself to be a different type of king, one who is humble and righteous, fulfilling the Scripture through what He said and did, how He lived, died and rose again.
Why did Jesus choose a donkey? First, it was a royal vehicle used by Israel's kings before the horse came into common use in Israel (2Sam.16:2 cf. 18:9). Secondly, a donkey symbolises humility. Jesus adopted this path of humility in fulfilment of Scripture (Zec.9:9). He continued on this path up to Calvary, ending up in suffering, shame, pain, God-forsakenness and death.
Why did He choose to go straight to the Temple to teach from the Torah? He was certainly claiming the right of a king for Himself, but in doing so He promulgated a new decree replacing the old Temple with a new "Destroy this temple and I will raise/build it in three days" (Jn.2:19). Jesus was referring to His own body and the Church as the new temple of God, which He would build (cf. 1Cor.3:16; 6:19). He would thus restore the original purpose of the temple, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isa.56:7). His promulgations from the temple pillars were continued from the pillar of the cross, "Father, forgive them...," "Today you will be with Me in paradise" (Lk.23: 34,43). We reflect on these sayings of Jesus on Good Friday. How many of us, however, have realised that the dying criminal who confessed faith in Jesus' kingship was possibly the first member of His Universal Church? The cross shows the climax of humility, suffering and obedience. Jesus excelled in obedience. Therefore, God the Father exonerated and exalted Him.
Triumph Over Death
Jesus' triumph over death is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday. Bringing Him up from the grave was the first stage in Jesus' exaltation. The Father has lifted Him up to the highest heaven. This is what we celebrate on Ascension Day, which comes forty days after Easter and ten days before the Day of Pentecost. While going to heaven, He distributed gifts (Eph.4:8). One of the gifts is that of the Holy Spirit whom, Jesus said, He would send from the Father. Jesus' words "receive ye the Holy Spirit" were symbolic of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Jn.21: 22; Acts 2).
Jesus is going to return from the Father. Therefore I want to suggest that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem to take up the throne, but as the one journeying to distant land to receive commission for ruling and return. Jesus did not act as a coup leader or a political pretender, but as the young prince of the parable in Luke 19:11-27. This young prince goes to a distant land, as did many potential rulers in Jesus' days. They travelled to Rome to receive their commission. Herod himself was one such candidate. Jesus, however, goes not to Rome, but through death to the Father God to receive the commission to rule and return. In the process, He leaves behind His servants, who He expects to work on the talents given to them.
Upon His return Jesus would reward His faithful servants with appropriate commendation and a share in His rule. To those who rebel, He would condemn and exclude from having any share in His rule. They have no place in His kingdom. Let us as His servants be loyal to our royal prince who would be returning and rewarding us as per our faithfulness and sharing with us His very rule (Dan.7). Let this message remain with us throughout, until we celebrate Jesus' final triumphal entry into New Jerusalem when He returns with His glory.