Zion’s King & God’s Lamb Palm Sunday to Resurrection Glory
Easter time marks the spring holidays. The beauty of this season of year is unsurpassed with everything coming to life. The days are brighter and longer, the air is fresh and though it can still be cold, you feel the energy and warmth of the rays of sunshine lighting our world. For Christianity Easter marks the anniversary of the most significant events in its history, while for Jews, it is Passover time.
The word Easter is found only once in the King James translation of the Bible at Acts 12 v 4, but its insertion merely replaces what the proper word should be, namely Passover.
Many things associated with Christian festivals, including the name ‘Easter’, do not have their origins in the Bible. Rather, they are traditions that have developed over time and throughout history. It was the 8th century Anglo-Saxon monk Bede (Bead) (672/78-735) who says in his writings that the name Easter, ‘which parallels the German word Ostern,’ comes from an ancient goddess of England called ‘Eostre’ who was celebrated in early spring during the month named after her which was the same season when the death and resurrection of Christ was remembered by Christians and so they adopted the name for the season. This however is disputed and considered unlikely given Christian opposition to all forms of paganism.
At any rate, the season of Easter takes us back to what was Passover time in Jerusalem and for the Lord Jesus His final week of ministry which ended in His crucifixion on the Friday followed by His glorious resurrection on the first day of the next week. These two realities are the foundation of the Christian faith and the reason why every true believer in Christ has repented of their sins and put their faith in Him as Lord and Saviour. His death and resurrection are what give the assurance of salvation and eternal life. It’s fair to say that His influence over history speaks for itself and the fact that almost two thousand years later His name and gospel live on in the hearts and minds of millions is eloquent testimony to His enduring legacy despite every attempt over the centuries to eradicate it.
Christianity, like any other movement, has over the centuries experienced change both as to itself and its place in the world. The fundamental problem within much of professing Christianity, however, is that it has become far removed from its roots and sometimes what claims to be Christian is unrecognizable when its beliefs and practices are compared with what the New Testament actually says. So often as a cause or movement grows and spreads and gains prestige it becomes institutionalized over time and then traditions are formed and maintained which do not reflect either its original intent or foundational truths. This has happened to Christianity. It is the case that for many it is as much about church tradition as it is the teaching of scripture. In fact the former seems to carry more authority. Such is an unfortunate situation and the tragedy is that the essential message of the gospel is either lost in religious tradition or at the least, completely obscured in its truth. I could love the Christian festivals and the many things associated with religious tradition from magnificent buildings with their ornate beauty to varying forms of liturgy and yet, not know Christ as my Lord and Saviour nor have ever, through faith in Him, experienced a spiritual birth and the assurance of eternal life – John 3:3, 16. Yes, we can be sincere in what we believe and practice and yet, be sincerely wrong.
The Sunday before Easter is commonly called Palm or Passion Sunday. It marks the Sunday before Passover when Jesus rode upon a colt from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem to the jubilation of the crowds that went with Him. It was a tremendously significant event.
1. Zion’s King
We read the story of this event in the four gospels (Matt 21:1-11; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19), but it is Mathew and John who particularly point out that Jesus riding on the young donkey was the fulfillment of what was prophesied by the Old Testament prophet Zechariah (9:9). Matthew records:
‘Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying 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. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
“Tellthe daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then 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!”
And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”’
>The Fulfillment of this Prophecy
→His Identity as the Messiah Like the many messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled in His fist advent, this one too, in a very particular way, demonstrated and gave proof to the fact that He was and is the Messiah. It is estimated He fulfilled something like 332 prophecies in His lifetime. This has nothing to do with chance and everything to do with purpose. The Lord Jesus knew He was fulfilling scripture on this occasion, just as He knew He was doing so when hanging on the Cross (John 19:28-30). As the New Testament makes abundantly clear, He is the real Messiah.
→The Authority of the Scriptures People ask, ‘Is the Bible true?’ or ‘Is the Bible relevant?’ and ‘Is the Bible believable?’ The truth, relevance and believability of the Bible are assured by Jesus Christ. The scriptures that foretold His coming and were fulfilled by His coming are eloquent testimony to His person and their own validity. In a world that is disintegrating by the moment as its moral foundations continue to collapse and its social fabric continues to unravel, I gladly point you to the sure foundation of truth, the word of God and to the rock foundation of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.
>The Message of this Prophecy
→The Presentation of Zion’s King
↘His Coming as Zion’s King The message of this prophecy is one of assurance to the ‘daughter of Zion’. Your king has come. This was Jesus’ official presentation of Himself as Israel’s king, the “king of the Jews” who the wise men from the east came seeking when He was born (Matt 2:1-2). But if that was so where was the glory and power of the kingdom? The Messiah was to come of the lineage of David and the promise was that He would sit on David’s throne. David reigned over a powerful kingdom and subdued his enemies so what about Jesus? He did come in the lineage of David (Matt 1:1) and He will eventually sit on David’s throne when He comes again (Luke 1:32), but He couldn’t and did not come to sit on a throne and reign over people who in heart despised and rejected Him (Isa 53:3) and were about to demonstrate the extent of their hatred toward Him by a Cross.
So what did their rejection mean for His kingship and His kingdom? Christ didn’t come to be king by force nor did He come to possess an earthly kingdom. Rather, He came to bring a heavenly kingdom to earth. The uniqueness of Israel’s kingdom under David was that it represented God’s rule on earth and was ruled according to His laws; David was God’s anointed king. Jesus, ‘great David’s greater Son’ came to again establish God’s kingdom on earth, but this time not by physical force or subjugation, neither with the trappings of earthly glory; He came to establish it in hearts. He came to offer the opportunity to enter His kingdom by new birth (John 3:3) and to realize its power and blessing in a person’s life. When asked by the Pharisees one day ‘when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you”’ (Luke 17:20-21). He came to His own people to offer His kingdom. Some entered, but the most didn’t. In the end, the chief priests and scribes had Him crucified, but the Cross was not the end of His kingdom, it was its triumph. When they nailed the king to the Cross with the title above His head: ‘THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS’ it was as much an indictment against them as it was an identification of His apparent crime, but in so doing they guaranteed the spread of His kingdom and gospel around the world. They did not extinguish the ‘the Light of the World’ (John 8:12), instead they lifted Him high so the world could see Him and be drawn to Him (John 12:32-33). Christ ‘conquers’ by truth and love. He reigns in the hearts of His people who have come to Him from every continent and nation on earth. Jesus said to the Jews during that final week in Jerusalem:
“Did ye never read in the scriptures, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?’ Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matt 21:42-44 KJV).
The Lord quoted from Psalm 118 vs 22-23 concerning ‘the stone’ and it was in words from this same Psalm (vs 25-26) that the people exclaimed as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt (Mark 11:7):
“Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
During Passover they sang from the Hallel Psalms – 113-118. The people rightly had the expectation of the “Son of David” coming in “the name of the LORD” who would “save now”. They celebrated His entry by spreading their garments on the road in honour of His royalty along with palm branches which symbolized the victorious salvation they expected He would bring (Cp Rev 7:9-10). Whatever was the mind of the multitude, Jesus riding a colt, as the prophesy predicted, showed He came in peace and that He had not come to overthrow the authority of Rome, rather He came as ‘just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey’ (Zech 9:9). This is why Zion and her people should ‘rejoice greatly’. He brought the gift of spiritual and eternal salvation to a nation who so desperately needed it. Not salvation from the might of Rome, but from the power sin and Satan. Tragically, as Jesus neared and ‘saw the city He wept over it’ because Jerusalem did not know ‘the things’ that would have brought her peace (Luke 19:42-43). Christ was about to become the rejected stone of the nation and while some came to know His saving power throughout the few years of His ministry, a new ‘nation’ was about to be born and through it the power and blessing of the kingdom would be known! And that ‘nation’ is the universal Church of Jesus Christ.
For those who reject Christ, ‘the stone’, there are consequences: “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder”. Both of these statements speak of the ruin of judgment.
↘His Meekness as Zion’s King Zion’s king was a ‘meek’ king. He was characterized by lowliness or humility. He didn’t come with pomp and glory as His manner and mode of transport showed. He came with simplicity and humility and yet, unmistakeably recognizable for those who knew the prophecy and had eyes to see. But His lowliness was not merely in outward appearance, it was the disposition of His heart and the character of His person. Never did power and meekness sit in perfect balance in any other person, but Christ. He possessed power as Creator while demonstrating grace and lowliness as Saviour. As such, He called the weary and sad to come to Him for rest and He still does. He said words one day that stand true to this moment:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
He can still give rest to a sin burdened soul and healing to the broken hearted if only they will come to Him. ↘His Zeal as Zion’s King When Lord arrived in Jerusalem amid the stir caused by all that happened He did again what He had done at the beginning of His ministry, He cleansed the Temple (Matt 21:12-13; John 2:13-17). With an unabated zeal for His Father’s glory and in the energy of His pure holiness He cast out the dealers and overthrew the tables of the money changers charging them: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.’ ” (Matt 21:13). Don’t think that His meekness and lowliness means weakness, far from it. The greatest of all power is the power of submission. Christ’s submission to the Cross was power not weakness.
→The Rejection of Zion’s King
The chief priests and scribes ‘were indignant’ (Matt 21:15) with all that they saw that day. During the days that followed leading to Passover the various factions of Judaism attacked Jesus with challenging questions designed to catch Him out as He taught in the temple. They were entirely unsuccessful. Finally, the chief priests, scribes and elders assembled at the palace of the high priest ‘and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” ’ (Matt 26:4-5). Their motivation? Hatred and envy (John 15:25; Matt 27:18). The Lord Jesus kept the Passover on the Thursday evening with His disciples then was betrayed and arrested in the garden of Gethsemane and brought before the high priest and the Jewish rulers. On the Friday morning having brought Jesus to Pilate demanding he acquiesce with their unlawful verdict this scene ultimately transpires:
‘From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away’ (John 19:12-16).
2. God’s Lamb
If Jesus was Zion’s king, He was also God’s Lamb. Passover was commemorated by the slaying of the lamb, just like that night in Egypt when the LORD delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage and delivered the firstborn from judgment by the blood of the lamb (Exo 12:1-13). The Lord Jesus had kept the Passover with His disciples and now the very day that marked Israel’s first day of freedom from the power of the Pharaoh became the very day Jesus was crucified.
He is the answer to all that the Passover lamb represented. John the Baptist said of Jesus at the beginning of His ministry: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). On the Cross He was the
>Sacrificial Lamb who paid the price of redemption. Moreover, He was the
>Sin-bearing Lamb who bore on the Cross the judgment which our sin deserves.
These words from Isaiah 53 vs 5 & 6 have brought peace and pardon to many as they speak of Christ in His substitutionary work:
‘But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’.
But He’s more, He is the
In the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, Zion’s King and God’s Lamb is revealed in the most dramatic manner. The scene unfolds before John the apostle as follows:
’And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne’ (Rev 5:1-7).
That scroll has well been described as ‘the title deeds to earth’. Only Almighty God holds those deeds and only one glorious person has the right to take and open them. Here He is identified as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” and then seen by John as the Lamb standing at the throne of God with the very marks of death upon it, yet living! This lamb is Jesus and the visionary depiction of the lamb with seven horns and seven eyes speaks of His sovereign power and His infinite knowledge.
It was early on the Sunday, the first day of the week that followed the Friday when the women and two of the disciples discovered the tomb in which Jesus body had been reverently placed, empty. The explanation came to the women in the form of an angelic message:
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’.” (Luke 24:5-7).
The story of Easter, is of a crucified King, a slain Lamb and a risen Lord! He is in heaven waiting for the day He will take the scroll out of His Father’s right hand, and when He does this earth is going to tremble. Christ will act to take the reins of universal government and to rule in this world which He made by the power of His word and redeemed by the price of His blood. Zion’s King will yet reign from Jerusalem. Says the prophecy of Zechariah 9 v 10:
‘He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River [Euphrates] to the ends of the earth’.’
As the hymn writer penned:
‘And when He comes in bright array, And leads the conquering line, It will be glory then to say, And He’s a Friend of mine’.