Jesus, the Perfect King
A sermon on Mark 11:1-11 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA, 4/30/00
Why do governments exist? Instead of paying taxes to support local, state, and federal governments, why don’t all people just decide we don't need a government – it certainly would be a lot cheaper! After all, what purpose do governments serve?
The preamble to the US constitution answers that question in one great sentence:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This preamble contains six "purpose clauses" for government, which define the objects the framers had in mind when writing the constitution. Let me summarize these six clauses in four goals:
"This is all interesting, Coty," you may say, "but why are we having a civics lesson in church this morning?"
Today we consider Mark 11:1-11, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In this passage, Jesus clearly acts out his role as king. So we need to ask ourselves why does God ordain this? Why does God reveal Jesus to us as King? What are the parallels between Jesus and our ideas about government?
This morning I will suggest that Jesus' kingship fulfills perfectly the four goals of government outlined in the preamble to the Constitution. Reflecting on how He does this gives us great freedom and joy.
Let us begin today by going through the passage and looking at the Old Testament references, seeing how Jesus here is fulfilling ancient prophecies. Then we will consider how Jesus perfectly fulfills the four goals of government, and discuss the implications for how you and I live today.
1 ¶ And as they *approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He *sent two of His disciples, 2 and *said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3 "And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here." 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at the door outside in the street; and they *untied it. 5 And some of the bystanders were saying to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" 6 And they spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. (Mark 11:1-6 NASB)
Is this a miracle? Does Jesus use His divine powers to know that this donkey will be available, and to ensure that the bystanders will let the disciples take the animal? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Jesus could have planned this event during his last visit to the area, months previously, knowing that the Sunday before Passover he would declare himself to be king. In any event, Jesus carefully orchestrates this event, by miracle or by preparation months ahead of time. We can be sure that th events described in the next verses occur exactly as He intends:
7 And they *brought the colt to Jesus and put their garments on it; and He sat upon it. 8 And many spread their garments in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before, and those who followed after, were crying out, "Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!" 11 And He entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking all around, He departed for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late. (Mark 11:7-11 NASB)
Why did Jesus enter Jerusalem in this way? Here He fulfills several Old Testament prophecies about the coming of a king, an heir to David. This morning we will look only at the two most explicit fulfillments. First, consider Zechariah 9:9 (which is quoted in Matthew's account of this event):
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (NASB)
The coming of the king is a cause for rejoicing, as he brings justice and salvation -- though he himself is humble, not arrogant or proud. He enters not on a warhorse as conqueror, but on a donkey, as the peaceful authority.
The second prophecy we want to consider is Psalm 118, which the people quote in Mark 11:9. The setting of this Psalm is an attack on the people of Israel. It looks like all is lost, but the country is delivered through the king's reliance on God. Let’s begin reading at verse 10; note that this section through verse 21 is spoken by the king himself. As I read, listen for parallels with what we just read in Mark:
10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off. 11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off. 12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off. 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. . . .
19 ¶ Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. 20 This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
(Note that the king has been speaking; now the people respond)
22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 O LORD, save us (or "hosanna") ; O LORD, grant us success. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. (Psalm 118: 10-13, 19-27 NASB)
Do you see the many parallels between this Psalm and Jesus' triumphal entry?
The people clearly identify Jesus with the king in Psalm 118. What do the people expect Jesus to do? Why are they so excited?
Undoubtedly most are thinking about Jesus "cutting off" the Roman oppressors. Some may want him to do away with the present religious establishment (see Mark 12:35-37). Few if any see Satan and indwelling sin as the great enemy whom Jesus has come to cut off "in the name of the Lord." But this is the battle Jesus has come to Jerusalem to fight: by dying himself, to redeem His people from sin and death; to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, to shed light on those who are walking in darkness, to proclaim salvation to Gentile and Jew alike -- the complete and make possible the good news of the gospel of God that he began to preach in Mark 1:14.
But the crowds do not understand Jesus' purpose. They just don’t get it. They are focussed so completely on the relatively minor problem of political oppression that they cannot see the spiritual forces of darkness that control almost the entire world. So although the crowd praises Jesus, although they even praise him by using words of Scripture, they, like crowds throughout His ministry, have not comprehended the nature of the gospel He preaches. And because they are blind to the truth, they are fickle; only a few days later, the crowds of Jerusalem will be clamoring for Jesus' crucifixion, with nary a word of protest.
Recall that much earlier, after the first feeding of a multitude, a crowd wanted to make Jesus king (John 6). They wanted relief from the Romans. They wanted free, delicious bread every day. The crowds did not repent of their sins and seek spiritual healing; they focussed on meeting present material needs. So Jesus refuses their offer of kingship, even though He really is their king.
Yes, He really is their king. The crowds are right to say, "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;" Jesus is the heir to David's throne. Recall that the angel Gabriel told Mary that the "Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end." (Luke 1:33).
"But surely," you say, "Roman oppression was wrong. Surely it wasn't wrong for the crowds to desire freedom from political slavery."
The desire for an end to political oppression is not wrong; indeed, Jesus instructs us to pray daily, "May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In God's kingdom, there is no oppression. God promises that He will right all wrongs, including the wrong of political oppression.
We have to understand that God's kingdom has already come in one sense, but is yet future in another sense. Jesus reigns, today. But his enemies have not yet been made into a "footstool for his feet," the promise in Psalm 110. God will destroy all evil, throwing Satan and his allies into the lake of fire. That total destruction of evil is yet to come, as is all too obvious to every one of us every day. But even today, Jesus is king of kings and lord of lords, exercising sovereignty over evil prior to destroying it.
So what does it mean to say Jesus is sovereign, Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, when evil still exists? In what sense is Jesus the perfect king? Why is acknowledging that fact so important? These are the questions we want to examine in the rest of today's message.
We'll do this by returning to the preamble of the Constitution. Let's think of each function of government as a characteristic of a perfect king, and then see how Jesus fulfills each function, thereby giving us great freedom.
(1) If Jesus is king, all His people are one. For a perfect king will form a perfect union out of those who are divided
Consider these Scriptures:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NASB)
And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16 NASB)
In Jesus' kingdom, there are no racial distinctions, no ethnic distinctions, no class distinctions, no sexual distinctions in how we approach God. Every Christian comes before God by grace through faith; He empowers every believer to work for the good of the kingdom. All these areas that divide us in the world are insignificant compared to the unity we have in Jesus.
How does this fact give us freedom? We are free to love across differences, free to enjoy the differences while not letting them divide us; we Gentiles are free to accept God’s gracious gift without being second class citizens to the first flock, the Israelites. Our perfect king truly makes us one.
(2) A perfect king will establish justice, righting all wrongs; no evil will go unpunished
As we mentioned earlier, this is a God-ordained role of earthly government. It applies equally well to Jesus' kingship. Romans 12:17-19 brings this out beautifully:
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.
Think: When someone hurts you, what is your natural response? When someone puts you down, what is your first inclination?
Living in a house with five boys aged 5-13, Beth and I have had many opportunities to observe these inclinations. Someone, say Matthew, will come in crying, deeply offended: "Joel punched me!" We've learned that in such situations we need to ask, "What did you do to him?" "Well, I tripped him, but we were just playing a game and I didn't mean to!"
When we get tripped, we want to hit back. We want the other person to suffer, to feel the pain he inflicted on us. This is our natural response. So all of us have a natural desire to inflict pain on those that hurt us.
Over and above the desire to make our oppressor feel pain, we have a desire that justice be done. Someone who commits a great evil should suffer for it; just punishment should be given. No one should be able to commit evil and get away with it.
God promises us that this punishment will take place: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." Every wrong will be righted, every sin will be paid for, exactly in proportion to its seriousness. How will God accomplish this?
There are two ways: those who have never received Jesus will suffer eternal punishment for their sins. Justice will be done. For those who do receive Jesus, His sufferings cover our sins. He pays the penalty. Jesus bore all the suffering and pain that we deserve for every sin we commit.
So do you see why Paul is able to tell us "never pay back evil for evil to anyone"? Notice he does not tell us no evil was done; Paul actually promises that Christians will suffer at the hands of evil men. But justice will be done! Either the perpetrator will suffer eternally, or Jesus' blood covers the sin against us. So there is nothing left for us to do! We are free to love those who persecute us, free to offer forgiveness and grace to those who hurt us. God is the moral order in the universe, not us. He will repay. We are free.
(3) A perfect king will promote the general welfare
The constitution envisages a government that provides "public goods," goods that benefit everyone but no one pays to use. Jesus our King goes further; he guarantees that all things that happen work together for God's glory and our good:
we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Do you note the extent of the promise? Does he say, "Some things that happen to you are for your good?" Does he say, "Most things that happen to you are for your good?" No! "All things." And "all" means all! God so superintends the universe that everything comes together for our good and His glory.
Now, be clear here: he is not saying, "Your life will be easy! A Mercedes in every garage and free cable TV in every living room." He is not promising every one of us the mythical life of the rich and famous. As we saw above, Paul promises all Christians suffering and persecution. But God's promise is that no matter what happens, God is in control. He will turn the evil intentions of men around and use them for our good. We are thus free from worry, free from concern. We are free to be bold, to take chances, to follow God wherever he leads. For He supports us. He will never let us go. He will never leave us nor forsake us.
This is all wrapped up with our last point:
A perfect king protects his people from all enemies.
Our government is set up to "provide for the common defense," to protect its citizens from attack by other countries. Jesus, our perfect king, again goes a step further: He is in control of all opposing forces.
This is what we mean when we say Jesus is sovereign: He controls everything that happens, even evil decisions by evil men, even natural disasters. You see how this must be the case if God is to work all things together for good. "All things" must include those evil deeds.
Jesus claims this authority for himself at the end of the book of Matthew:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18)
All authority. In heaven, yes, we expect that. But also on earth. Nothing happens here without His permission.
This idea is brought out forcefully in Revelation 17. Speaking of ten powerful kings who are allied with the beast in their opposition to God, John writes:
For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose . . . until the words of God should be fulfilled. (Revelation 17:17)
Do you see what this says? God's most powerful enemies are under God's control to carry out His purposes! Are they doing evil deeds? Yes. But in the same way that God uses the evil of Joseph's brothers to accomplish good, God uses the evil of these enemies to accomplish His purposes.
Luke gives us an even more explicit picture of God's sovereignty over evil in Acts 4. Peter and John have been brought before the Council, where they are threatened, told not to preach in the name of Jesus any more, and released. We'll start reading in verse 23:
23 ¶ And when they had been released, they went to their own companions, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord,(note that this is not the usual word for "Lord," but the Greek word Despota, a despot, an absolute ruler) O Lord, You MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, 25 and by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David your servant, said, ’WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? 26 ’THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD, AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ 27 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur. 29 "And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that your bond-servants may speak your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus." 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31 NASB)
Look carefully at verses 27 and 28. Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews gathered against Jesus, trying to do away with this troublemaker. Were their purposes evil? What greater evil can there be than to conspire to murder the only sinless man who has ever lived, the Son of God? But was God in control? Look at verse 28: they gathered "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur."
God is the despot, he is in absolute control, even of His opponents, even of evil. Evil forces -- including Satan -- cannot do anything that God does not permit. In His good and wise purposes, He allows evil to appear to flourish for a time. But the time is limited, and God will work together all things -- even evil, even suffering, even disease, even pain, even oppression -- God will work together all things so that in the end He is most glorified and we become like Him, reigning with Him in glory for all eternity.
Thus, Jesus as our king:
Praise God that He has promised us a new heavens and a new earth, when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.
Praise God that when he creates this new heavens and new earth, removing this world that can be shaken, then there will be no more crying or sorrow or pain.
But praise Him also for his present reign:
For He delivered(past tense!) us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13)
He . . . is (present tense!) the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; . . . To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (I Timothy 6:15-16)
So how should we then live? If nothing can harm us -- we can take risks. If no one can stop us from becoming like Christ -- then we can love and love and love. If God is in control, then we can give and give and give -- and not worry about our next meal or our kid's education.
John Piper puts it this way:
This is why Jesus came. This is why he was crucified. This is why he rose from the dead with all authority and promised to be with us to the end of the age -- to create a people whose sins are forgiven, and whose hearts are full of the love of God, and who are so emboldened by the triumphant Christ, that they spend their lives with risk and sacrifice and love to help others know and enjoy the greatness of Christ forever and ever. Is this not what you were made for? Is there not something in your own soul that witnesses to you that this is true and worthy of full acceptance?
What is God calling you to? What risks do you need to take for Him, your perfect king? How do you need to step out boldly? What will you do?
This sermon was preached at Community Bible Church in Williamstown, MA on 4/30/00. The Piper quote is from his 4/23/00 sermon.
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