The King, on a Borrowed Donkey?
My Sermon today is entitled, “The King on a Borrowed Donkey” as we look at what is commonly called “The Triumphal Entry” that Palm Sunday parade which is still remembered and celebrated within the Church today.
In order to better understand the background and the reason for such a kingly procession, we need to look at the context in which we find today’s story. It is clear that the Lord Jesus came to Save others, and not to be made a King himself, at any rate not at that, his first appearing, although at his next coming,
He will become King in His earthly Kingdom.
The Lord had worked a most wonderful, remarkable miracle, he had raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead and buried four days. This was a miracle so novel and so astonishing, that it became the talk of the town. Multitudes went out of Jerusalem to Bethany, it was only about two miles distant, to see Lazarus. The miracle was well authenticated, there were multitudes of witnesses, and it was generally accepted as being one of the greatest marvels of the time, and many (although not all) drew the inference from it that the
Christ must be the Messiah.
The people determined that now they would make him a king, and that now he should lead them against the occupying forces of Rome. He, that is Jesus, intending no such thing, nevertheless overruled their enthusiasm, that by it, he might have opportunity of performing that which had been written of him in the prophets. You must not imagine that all those who strewed the branches in the way and cried “Hosanna” cared about Christ as a Spiritual Prince. No, they thought that he was to be a temporal deliverer, and when they found out afterwards that they were mistaken, they hated him just as much as they had loved him, and “Crucify him, crucify him,” was as loud and vehement a cry as “Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Our Saviour consequently used their mistaken enthusiasm for a variety of plans. It was needful that the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 should be fulfilled—”Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King cometh unto thee, he is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” It was needful again, that he should make a public claim to be the Son of David, and that he should claim to be the rightful inheritor of David’s throne,—as he did on this occasion. It was needful too, that he should leave his enemies without excuse. In order that they might not say, “If thou be the Messiah, tell us plainly.” He did tell them plainly. This riding through the streets of Jerusalem was as plain a manifesto and proclamation of his royal rights as could possibly have been issued. I think that Christ used this opportunity of preaching to them and us, a living sermon, a sermon about the King and his coming Kingdom.
So let us see what we can learn from it:
One of the first things we learn is this.– By riding through the streets in state, Jesus Christ claimed to be a King.
That claim had been to a great extent kept in the background until now, but before he goes to his Father, when his enemies’ rage has reached its utmost fury, and when his own hour of deepest humiliation has just arrived, he makes an open claim before the eyes of all men to be called and acknowledged a KING. He summons first his heralds: Two disciples come. He sends forth his mandate—“Go ye into the village over against you, and ye shall find an ass and a colt”. He gathers together his courtiers. His twelve disciples, those who usually attend him, come around him. He mounts the donkey, which of old had been
ridden by the Jewish lawgivers, the rulers of the people. He begins to ride through the streets and the multitudes clap their hands. He rides to his capital; the streets of Jerusalem, the royal city are open to him, like a king, he ascends to his palace.
He was a spiritual king, and therefore he went not to the palace temporal but to the palace spiritual. He rides to the Temple, and then, taking possession of it, he begins to teach in it as he had not done before. He had been sometimes in Solomon’s porch, but he was more often on the mountain’s side than in the temple; But now, like a king, he takes possession of his palace, and there, sitting down on his prophetic throne, he teaches the people in his royal courts.
Ye princes of the earth, give ear, there is one who claims to be numbered with you. It is Jesus, the Son of David, the King of the Jews. Room for him, ye emperors, room for him! Room for the man who was born in a manger! Room for the man whose disciples were fishermen! …whose garment was that of a peasant, without seam, woven from the top throughout!
He wears no crown except the crown of thorns, yet he is more royal than you. About his waist he wears no purple, yet he is more imperial than you. Upon his feet there are no silver sandals ornamented with pearls, yet he is more glorious than you. Let him be proclaimed again a King! Let him value his place upon his throne, high above the kings of the earth. This is then what he did, he proclaimed himself a King.
Secondly, Christ by this act showed what sort of a king he might have been if he had pleased, and what sort of a king he might be now, if he willed it. Had it been our Lord’s will, those multitudes who followed him in the streets would actually have crowned him there and then. He had only to have said a word, and they would have rushed with him at their head to Pilate’s palace, and taking him by surprise, with a few soldiers in the land, Pilate might soon have been his prisoner, and have been tried for his life. Palestine might soon have been cleared of all the Roman legions, and have become again a royal land. With his power of working miracles, with his might by which he drove the soldiers back, when he said, “I am he;” he might have cleared not only that land but every other, he might have marched from country to country, and from kingdom to kingdom, till every royal city and every regal state would have yielded to his supremacy. He could have made those that dwelt in the isles of the sea to bow before him, and they that inhabit the wilderness could have been bidden to lick the dust. There was no reason, why Christ should not have been mightier than any known King!
It is also true, that if it were Christ’s will, he could make his saints, everyone of them, a prince,- he might make his Church rich and powerful, he might lift up his religion if he chose, and make it the most magnificent and sumptuous. If it were his will, there is no reason why all the glory we read of, in the Old Testament under Solomon, might not be given to the Church under David’s greater Son. But he did not come to do it at that time, and hence the impertinence of those who think that Christ is to be worshipped with great and glorious architecture, with magnificent vestments, with proud processions, with making the Ministers of God magnificent lords and rulers,
with the lifting up of the Church by herself, and not by Him! Attempting to put upon her shoulders those garments that will never fit her, vestments that were never meant for her. If Christ had cared for this world’s glory, it could all have been at his feet.
But he cares not for it. Remove your glory, and your pomp, and your splendour, he looks only for your humility and your loving heart. His kingdom is not of this world. He could have had it all back then, but he would not.
Furthermore, and here lies the heart of the matter, you have seen that Christ claimed to be a king; you have seen what kind of a king he might have been and would not be, but now you see what kind of a king he is, and what kind of a king He claimed to be.
What was his kingdom? What was its nature? What was his royal authority? Who were to be his subjects? What of his laws? What of his government? Now you can see at once from the passage taken as a whole, that Christ’s kingdom is a very strange one, totally different from anything that ever has been seen or ever will be seen!
It is a kingdom, in the first place, in which the disciples are the courtiers. Our blessed Lord had no prince in waiting, no usher of the black rod, no gentlemen-at-arms who supplied the place of those grand officials? Instead, a few poor humble fishermen, who were his disciples. Learn, then, that if in Christ’s kingdom you would be a peer or lord, then you must first be a disciple; to sit at his feet is the honour which he will give you. Hearing his words, obeying his commands, receiving of his grace—this is true dignity, this is true magnificence. The poorest man that loves Christ, or the humblest woman who is willing to accept him as her teacher, becomes at once, the nobility that wait upon Christ Jesus. What a kingdom is this which makes fishermen to be nobles, and peasants to be princes while they remain but fishermen and peasants still? This is the kingdom of which we speak, in which discipleship is the highest degree, and in which divine service is the mark of nobility.
It is a kingdom, strange to say it, in which none of the king’s laws are written on paper. but are written on the heart. Do you not see that in the narrative Christ bids his servants go and take that little Donkey, his royal steed, such as it was, and this was the law, “Loose him and let him go?” but where was the law written? It was written upon the heart of that man to whom the ass and the foal belonged, for he immediately said, “Let them go” cheerfully and with great joy; he thought it a high honour to contribute to the royal state of this great Prince of peace.
So, in the kingdom of Christ you shall see no huge law books, no attorneys, no solicitors, no barristers who have need to expound or explain the law. The law-book is here in the heart, the barrister is here in the conscience, the law is written no more on parchment, no more written, as the Roman decrees were, enforced with fear and tyranny, but upon the fleshy tablets of the heart. The human will is subdued to obedience, the human heart is moulded to Christ’s image, his desire becomes the desire of his subjects, his glory their chief aim, and his law the very delight of their souls. Strange kingdom this, which needs no law save those which are written upon the hearts of the subjects.
Stranger still, as some will think it, this was a kingdom in which riches or wealth have no part whatever of its glory. There rides the King, but this King had been born in a stable and once claimed that he had no- where to lay his head. There rides the King upon another man’s Donkey that he had borrowed. There rides the King, one who is soon to die; stripped of his robes, to die naked and exposed. And yet he is the King of this kingdom, the First, the Prince, the Leader, the crowned One of the whole generation, simply because he had the least. He it was who had given most to others, and retained least himself.
He who was least selfish and most disinterested, he who lived most for others, was King of this kingdom. And look at the courtiers, look at the princes – they were all humble too; they had no flags to hang out from the windows, so they cast their poor clothes upon the hedges or hung them from the windows as he rode along. They had no splendid purple to make a carpet for the feet of the little Colt, so they cast their own work-worn clothes in the way, they strewed along the path palm branches which they could easily reach from the trees which lined the road, because they had no money with which to bear the expense of any greater triumph. Every way it seemed a poor thing. a kingdom in which he that is chief among us, is not he that is richest in material things, but he that is richest in faith; a kingdom which depends on no revenue accept the revenue of divine grace; a kingdom which bids every man, rich or poor, to sit down under its shadow with a warm welcome.
Strange kingdom this! But, here is something perhaps yet more wonderful, it was a kingdom without any armed force. Oh King, where are thy soldiers? Is this your army? These few that attend and follow after you? Where are their swords – I can see only sticks? They carry branches of palm. Where are their weaponry? They have almost stripped themselves to pave thy way with their garments. Is this your host? Are these your battalions? Oh strange kingdom, without an army! Most strange King, who wears no sword and carries no gun? Yet there is victory without the battle. No blood, no tears, no devastation, no burned cities, no mangled bodies! King of peace, King of love, is this your dominion?
Now let us look at what perhaps is a most striking part of Christ’s kingdom—he came to establish a kingdom without taxation. Where were the collectors of the King’s revenue? You say he had not any; yes he had, but what a revenue it was! Every
man took off his garments willingly; Jesus never asked it; his revenue flowed freely from the willing gifts of his people. The first had lent his ass and his colt, the rest had given their clothes. Those who had scarce clothes to part with, plucked the branches from the trees, and here was a state for once which cost no man anything, or rather for which nothing was demanded of any man, but everything spontaneously given.
This is the kingdom of Christ,—a kingdom which is sustained not by tithes, Church-tax or Easter dues, but a kingdom which lives upon the free-will offerings and sacrifices of a willing people. A kingdom which demands nothing of any man, but which comes to him with a stronger force than demand, saying to him, “You are not under the law, but under grace“, will you not, being bought with a price, consecrate yourself and all that you have, to the service of the King of kings!
If I were to say that any man could establish such a dominion, it would be unthinkable and defy logic. – But Christ has done it, and today there are tens of thousands of men and women in this world who call him King, and who feel that he is more their King and Ruler than any world leader could ever be. They feel that his power over them is such that they would not wish to resist—the power of love, that their gifts to him are too little, for they wish to give themselves away. Marvellous and matchless kingdom – it’s like shall never be found on earth until Jesus comes to reign, and remember he’s coming again soon!
Before I leave this thought, I should like to point out that apparently this was a kingdom in which all creatures were considered. Why did Christ have two beasts? There was an ass and a colt the foal of the ass; he rode on the foal of the ass because it had never been ridden before. Christ would not have any pain in his kingdom, he would not have even an ass suffer by him.
If the foal had been taken away from its mother, there would have been the poor mother in the stable at home, thinking of its foal, and there would have been the foal longing to get back? Like those cows that the Philistines used when they took back the ark, and which went lowing as they went, because their calves were at home. 1 Sam 6:12. Wondrous kingdom of Christ, in which the very beast of the field shall have its share! He wills to make us merciful men, considerate even to animals. I believe that when his kingdom fully comes, the animal nature will be put back to its former happiness. We read: “Then shall the lion eat straw like the ox, the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrices den.” Isaiah 11:7+8
Old Eden’s peacefulness, and the familiarity between man and the lower creatures, shall come back once more. And even now, wherever the gospel is fully known in man’s heart, man begins to recognize that he has no right wantonly to kill a wasp or a worm, because it is in Christ’s domain; and He who would not ride a foal without having its mother by its side, that it might be at peace and happy, would not have any of us, his followers, think lightly of the smallest creature that his hands have made. What a Blessed kingdom it will be.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
Christ, in riding through the streets of Jerusalem, taught in a public manner, that his kingdom was to be one of joy. When great conquerors ride through the streets, you often hear of the joy of the people; how the women may throw flowers on the street, how they crowd around the hero of the day, and wave their flags to show their appreciation of the deliverance that has been wrought. The city may have been long besieged; the champion has driven away the enemy, and the people will now have rest. Fling wide the gates, clear the road and let the
conquering hero in.
But in those times of triumph ask yourself, how many tears there are, that are hidden? There is a woman who hears the sound of the bells for victory, and she says, “A hollow victory, for I am a widow, and my little ones are orphans.” And from the balconies where beauty looks down and smiles, there may be a forgetfulness for the moment of friends and family over whom they will soon have to weep, for every battle is with blood, and every conquest is with woe, and every shout of victory hath in it weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. The sounds of music and mirth because of victory, often covers over the cries, the sorrows, and the deep agonies of those that have been bereaved of their loved ones.
But in the triumph which Jesus brings, in his reward, in his victory, there will be no tears! When the little children cried, “Hosanna,” they had not lost their fathers in battle. When the men and women shouted, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” they had no cause to shout with bated breath, or to spoil their joy with the memory of any misery. No, in his kingdom there is unequalled and unparalleled happiness.
Sorrows you may have, but not from him, troubles may come to you because you are in the world, but they don’t come from him. ( and shame on any Preacher who might suggest it )
His service is perfect liberty. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. Proverbs 3:17
He comes to wipe away your tears and not to make them flow, he comes to lift you from your trouble and set you upon his throne, to fetch you from your prisons and make you leap with freedom.
Are you so blessed this Palm Sunday, is Jesus King of your life? If not, get down from the throne in your heart and let him have his rightful place, and do it now!
God Bless You – Amen