“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 comes in the name of the Lord.” Our Savior thus availed Himself of their mistaken enthusiasm for many wise ends and purposes. It was necessary that the prophecy should be fulfilled—“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” It was necessary 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—this He did on this occasion. It was necessary, too, that He should leave His enemies without excuse. In order that they might not say, “If you are 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, moreover—and upon this I build the discourse of this morning—I think that Christ used the popular fanaticism as an opportunity of preaching to us a living sermon, embodying great Truths which are too apt to be forgotten because of their spiritual character, embodying them in the outward form and symbol of Himself riding as a king, attended by hosts of followers. Welcome to this as the subject of our sermon. Let us see what we can learn from it.
I. One of the first things we learn is this: By thus 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 you into the village over against you, and you shall find a donkey and a colt.” He gathers together His courtiers. His 12 disciples, those who usually attended 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. It is reckoned by some that no fewer than 3,000 people must have been present on the occasion—some going before, some following after—and others standing on either side to see the show. 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 temporal palace but to the spiritual palace. 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 mountainside 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. You princes of the earth give ear—there is One who claims to be numbered with you! It is Jesus, the Son of David, and the King of the Jews! Room for Him, you emperors, room for Him! Room for the Man who was born in a manger! Room for the Man whose disciples were fishermen! Room for Him 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 loins He wears no purple, yet He is far more imperial than you! Upon His feet there are no silver sandals decked with pearls, yet He is more glorious than you! Room for Him; room for Him! Hosanna! Hosanna! Let Him be proclaimed again a King! A King! A King! Let Him value His place upon His Throne, high above the kings of the earth! This is what He then did, He proclaimed Himself a King.
II. Moreover, 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 then and there! And bowing the knee, they would have accepted Him as the Branch that sprung out of the dried root of Jesse—He that was to come—the Ruler, the Shiloh among God’s people! 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 but few soldiers in the land, Pilate might soon have been His prisoner, and have been tried for his life! Before the indomitable valor and the tremendous fury of a Jewish army, Palestine might soon have been cleared of all the Roman legions, and have become again a royal land. No, 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 who dwelt in the isles of the sea to bow before Him, and they who inhabit the wilderness could have been bid to lick the dust! There was no reason, O you kings of the earth, why Christ could not have been mightier than you! If His kingdom had been of this world, He might have founded a dynasty more lasting than yours; He might have gathered troops before whose might your legions would have melted like snow before the summer’s sun! He might have dashed to pieces the Roman image, till, a broken mass, like a potter’s vessel shivered by a rod of iron, it might have been dashed to pieces!
It is even so, my Brothers and Sisters. If it were Christ’s will, He might 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 that, and hence, the impertinence of those who think that Christ is to be worshipped with gorgeous architecture, with magnificent vestments, with proud processions, with the alliance of States with churches, with making the bishops of God magnificent lords and rulers, with lifting up the Church herself, and attempting to put upon her shoulders those garments that will never fit her, vestments that were never meant for her. If Christ cared for this world’s glory, it might soon be at His feet! If He willed to take it, who could raise a tongue against His claim, or who could lift a finger against His might? But He cares not for it. Take your trinkets elsewhere; take your tinsel away—He wants it not! Remove your glory, and your pomp, and your splendor, He needs it not at your hands. His Kingdom is not of this world, otherwise would His servants fight, otherwise were His ministers clothed in robes of scarlet, and His servants would sit among princes. He cares not for it! People of God, seek not after it. What your Master would not have, do not court yourselves. Oh, Church of Christ, what your Husband disdained, you also disdain. He might have had it, but He would not. And He read to us the lesson, that if all these things might be the Church’s, it were well for Him to pass by and say, “These are not for Me—I was not meant to shine in these borrowed plumes.”
III. But thirdly, and here lies the essence 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 see what kind of a King He is, and what kind of a King He claimed to be. What was His Kingdom? What is its nature? What was His royal authority? Who were to be His subjects? What are His laws? What is His government? Now perceive 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 officers? Why a few poor humble fishermen were His disciples. Learn, then, that if in Christ’s Kingdom you would be a peer, you must be a disciple. To sit at His feet is the honor which He will give you. Hearing His words, obeying His commands, receiving His Grace—this is true dignity, this is true magnificence! The poorest man who loves Christ, or the humblest woman who is willing to accept Him as her Teacher, becomes at once one of the nobility that wait upon Christ Jesus! What a Kingdom is this which makes fishermen nobles and peasants princes, while they remain but fishermen and peasants! This is the Kingdom of which we speak—in which discipleship is the highest degree—in which service is the patent of nobility!”
-Charles Spurgeon 1834-1892