On Palm Sunday, we kicked off Holy Week with Part 6 of The Biography of Jesus series. In addition to the comforting, inspiring word that Eric Jones shared, we were also blessed by a group reading of The Donkey that No One Could Ride and we received a visit from the most surprising guest!
In The Unexpected King, we discover 3 symbols of Palm Sunday that expand our understanding and appreciation of who Jesus is to us and to the world. As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we’re exploring the unexpected, overwhelming peace, love, and sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
Holy Week is filled with drama and tension. There were moments of laughter and great happiness, but also moments of pain and sadness. We’re taking a deep dive into the story of Palm Sunday and considering what took place during the final week of Jesus’ life on Earth. Throughout the week, we see amazing, unexpected moments that reveal truths about our unexpected King.
The foundational scripture of The Unexpected King is found in Zechariah and highlights the resounding truth of who Jesus is and the significance of Palm Sunday.
Zechariah 9:9 (NLT) 9Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.
In breaking down this verse, we see that Jesus’ character was not only unique, divine, and glorious, but also unexpected. He is righteous and victorious, yet humble. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt instead of on a chariot or magnificent white horse. How unexpected of a king!
Throughout our lives, we’ve all faced and witnessed unexpected circumstances and scenarios. Take a minute to consider, how do you respond to the unexpected? What’s your gut reaction? In The Unexpected King, Eric reflects on three personal (and hysterical!) unexpected moments in his life that portray the challenges we face in reacting to, processing, and understanding the unexpected.
Sometimes, the unexpected is embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s a little gross. Sometimes, it’s full of joy. Sometimes, it’s difficult to come to terms with; it’s confusing and painful. Here’s the good news: Jesus relates to the unexpected! Before we look at Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, let’s uncover some of the truths about Jesus’ unexpected life leading up to Palm Sunday.
Long before Jesus came to Earth, the Jews in the Old Testament were called “the people of God” and “the people of Israel.” They were waiting, longing, and hoping for a messiah to come. Simply put, “messiah” means “redeemer.” The Jewish people had faced trying circumstances as a nation, and they knew that one day, God would send the Messiah, the Redeemer, to come and restore the people of Israel back to God.
Throughout the Old Testament, there were prophecies describing the Messiah and His coming, but when He did finally come, it wasn’t in the way the Jewish people expected. Everything about Jesus was unexpected, even from the beginning of His life on Earth!
The Jewish people were expecting a king to come with glory to restore Israel.
Instead, they got a baby. A baby born through the Virgin Mary in a no-name town called Bethlehem.
They were expecting a Messiah to come glorify the law, their 10 commandments, and reestablish the commandments’ importance in society.
Instead, they received the fulfillment of the law itself–the one who came to bring grace and truth.
They were expecting a king to bring freedom from Rome’s oppression and tyranny.
Instead, they got a king who came to give us a freedom that is much greater than just a political one–He came to bring freedom from sin, from death, from Hell, and from the grave.
They were expecting a redeemer to judge all the sinners and tell them to start living right.
Instead, they got the Redeemer who befriended sinners and showed grace and forgiveness.
Jesus is The Unexpected King.
As we look at the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, let’s remember that, on Palm Sunday, the people of Israel did not understand the significance of this donkey ride. Jesus knew that He would come into Jerusalem on a donkey, but He would then leave as a risen Savior and King, ascending into heaven with hope, healing, and freedom in His name.
Matthew 21:2-11 (NKJV) - 2saying 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. 3And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”4All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5“Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”6So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9Then 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!” 10And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Jesus is The Unexpected King; He is SO much more than we could ever, ever expect. In the passage of Matthew covering Jesus’ unexpected entry into Jerusalem, we see 3 simple, yet surprising, symbols that help us see Jesus in a different way so that we may come to know Him more fully.
Jesus–Savior, Redeemer, Alpha, Omega, Messiah, Elohim–rode into town on a donkey. At first thought, it’s a little weird! His mode of transportation doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. His entire life led up to this moment, yet there was no chariot, no parade, no mighty white horse. What was the point of that?
You see, in that day and age, people with authority, political leaders, and government officials rode the biggest and most impressive horse, as a representation of strength, power, and authority. There would be fanfare and drama and extravagant presentations. The horse symbolizes power. But…
The donkey is a symbol of peace. Jesus chose the donkey to declare that His kingdom was not a kingdom built on war or power. The kingdom of God is built on and established by peace. Jesus was symbolically proclaiming that He came to bring peace to the world. We see that truth come to life throughout the Bible:
John 16:33 (NKJV) 33These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Ephesians 2:14 (NKJV) 14For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
John 14:27 (NKJV) 27Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We live in a world that seems quite troubled and afraid. Greater than the pandemic of COVID is the pandemic of anxiety and depression that is rippling through our society. More people are facing depression, anxiety, worry, and fear than ever before in history.
Everywhere we look, we see wars and sickness and disease and political arguments and pain and agony. Regardless of the chaos in the world that we live in, Jesus is our peace, now and forever. Praise the Lord!
In 2022, has your soul been troubled? Have you dealt with an anxious heart? How has embracing the peace of Jesus Christ impacted your feelings of fear, anxiety, or worry?
What does it mean to you to be “at peace”?
As Christians, how can we extend peace to those in our community who are suffering?
As we see in the passage in Matthew, people started laying down their cloaks as Jesus rode into town on the donkey. Cloaks are a sort of outer garment that protect people from the elements, like we wear rain jackets or winter coats to protect us. Jerusalem is a desert town, with extreme winds and conditions, so people wore their cloaks daily.
Because of the necessity of the cloaks for their wellbeing, laying the garment down on the ground for the donkey to walk over was a way to show honor and allegiance. This was a common practice for the people of Israel when kings and leaders came to town and it was significant because this practice put them at risk to the elements.
This act symbolizes the Israelite people laying down their lives in honor, as a way to say “you are a leader worthy of me falling down so I will show you respect and allegiance.” The people in town gave to Jesus the same honor and respect that was typically reserved for rulers and leaders.
What they didn’t realize was that they were symbolizing laying down their lives to Jesus, when in reality, Jesus came to Jerusalem to literally lay down His life for them, for us all. This love was unexpected, unheard of, because during this time, leaders did not sacrifice themselves for someone lesser.
Jesus flipped the script! The cloaks represent sacrificial love. Jesus laid down His life, only to raise as King so that we can find freedom in Him.
John 15:13 (NKJV) 13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
1 John 3:16 (NKJV) 16By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
In The Unexpected King, Eric reflects on a time when he wished to take pain away from his daughter and the story reminds us that with that same, sacrificial love, Jesus loves us and came to pay the ultimate sacrifice for us. We face sin and darkness and sickness. Jesus takes that off of us and puts it on Himself, laying down His life in our place. He brings freedom, healing, and forgiveness. Amen!
In the way that the Israelite people laid down their cloaks, how can we, in the here and now, show Jesus that same level of honor, respect, and allegiance?
How has the overwhelming knowledge of Jesus’ love changed your life? Your behaviors? Your mindset? Your habits and practices?
The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday because, as it says in Matthew 2, the people in Jerusalem cut down palm branches and laid them down on the road while crying, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!”
“Hosanna” simply means “Save us!” As the people of Jerusalem laid down their palm branches, they were crying out for salvation. They wanted to be saved from the political oppression of Roman tyranny. They were begging Jesus to be the Messiah who would come to make Israel better again.
Jesus did come to bring salvation, but He came to do it in a way that was unexpected. While the people of Jerusalem sought salvation from Roman oppression, they did not realize they were being oppressed by a much greater enemy; they were oppressed by sin, by Satan himself.
During the Passover celebration, millions of Jews would travel from all around Israel for this special moment and each family was required to bring a lamb for sacrifice. In Part 3 of The Biography of Jesus series, The Unexpected King, Pastor Beth shares deeper insights on the sacrificial lamb and what it means for us now, but we know that these lambs were intended to forgive sins for one year.
What the Israelites didn’t realize was that Jesus came to Jerusalem as the Lamb of God who would die once and for all, covering our sins not just for a year, but for all of eternity. The palms represent eternal salvation. The people laying down their palms were expecting their sins to be covered for a year, instead they received sins covered for all of this life and throughout eternity.
John 1:29 (NKJV) 29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
What earthly trials have you needed saving from?
What would it look like for you to surrender your oppressions, challenges, and fears to Jesus and experience the overwhelming grace of His salvation?
We are in a similar position as the Jewish people 2,000 years ago; we still need saving! Without Christ, our world is utterly dark; it’s lost without hope. Palm Sunday highlights Jesus’ peace, His love, and His great salvation.
John 3:16-17 (NKJV) 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Throughout The Biography of Jesus series, we’ve been asking the questions: Who is Jesus? And who is He to you? Like us, the people of the city of Jerusalem were also asking, “Who is this?”
Matthew 21:10 (NKJV) - 10And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
As our series comes to a close, take some time to reflect on who Jesus is to you and how you will respond to The Unexpected King. He has come to bring His peace, His love, and His salvation. Embracing Him as our Lord and Savior gives us the opportunity to experience His holiness, grace, mercy, love, and peace as He has always intended for us to!
Father, we love you. We’re pressing pause to honor you and appreciate the magnitude of your sacrifice on Good Friday and your resurrection on Easter Sunday. Thank you for making the sacrificial decision to lay down your life in exchange for our salvation. Lord, help us to receive your word and acquire revelation knowledge as we come to know you more. May we walk, talk, and live more like You as we continue through Holy Week. We pray all of these things in Jesus’ holy name, Amen.