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We live in a world that hates authority. The world hates authority because it hates the Author (Jn. 15:17-24). The world hates the fact that God has exalted His Son to His right hand as Lord of all. Because Jesus is Lord, the world hates all lordship. But the good news of Palm Sunday is that Jesus is Lord and God is in, the process of restoring the gift of godly authority to us for the healing of the world.
“When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem He sent two disciples into a nearby village to commandeer a donkey and a colt for His use (Mt. 21:1-2). Jesus told them that if anyone asked what they were doing, they were to say that the Lord needed them (Mt. 21:3-4). Matthew says that this was done to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy, and the disciples went and obeyed the command of Jesus (Mt. 21:5-6). The disciples spread their clothes on the donkey and the colt, and Jesus sat on them, and the crowds joined in spreading their garments and cutting down branches and laying them on the path and heralding Him as the Son of David (Mt. 21:7-9). When He arrived in Jerusalem, the whole city noticed and asked who He was and the multitude told them it was Jesus of Nazareth (Mt. 21:10-11). Jesus went all the way into the temple where He cast out those buying and selling, arguing that they had displaced prayer with theft (Mt. 21:12-13). Meanwhile, the blind and lame came to Him in the temple and were healed, and many children were shouting that Jesus was the Son of David (Mt. 21:14-15). This made the chief priests and scribes angry, but Jesus said that this was God’s doing, perfecting praise from infants” (Matt. 21:16).
The Commandeering King
Don’t miss the fact that authority is laced through this entire text. It begins with Jesus commanding two of His disciples to take some poor guy’s donkey and colt (Mt. 21:2-3, 6). And notice that both commands require faith. The disciples had to believe that Jesus had the right to command them and the fellow the donkey and colt belonged to. We know from Luke’s parallel account that the disciples were asked by the owners what they were doing, and the disciples told them exactly what Jesus said to say, the Lord has need of them (Lk. 19:33-34, Mt. 21:3). Notice that: the Lord needs them. No explanation, no further information. This is merely an assertion of authority, and the only possible response is to believe or not. Matthew says that all of this is actually even higher stakes than just commandeering a couple barn animals. He says that Jesus is fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy that Israel’s King would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey in order to defend His city, drive away all her enemies, and take up a dominion from the river to the ends of the earth (Mt. 21:5, Zech. 9:8-10). Finally, Jesus exerts His authority by driving out the money changers in the temple, quoting Isaiah 56, asserting that the temple belongs to Him (Mt. 21:12-13). Again, the response to this assertion is either acceptance or rejection. The chief priests and scribes reject His authority (cf. Mt. 21:23), while the lame and the blind and the children believe.
Authority and Faith
If you live in this world, our culture, you are marinating in hatred of authority, and so it cannot be any surprise to find that the Church has imbibed a great deal of this hatred, even while still saying things like Jesus is Lord. But the rot goes down deep, and we create workarounds to deal with our limp. But what we don’t realize is that getting used to the limp is getting used to the wrong sort of weakness. What is it that overcomes the world? “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4). As a result of the Fall, authority has been corrupted and misused and this really does add to the difficulty and challenge of embracing lawful, biblical authority, but in our arrogance, we think it best to just ratchet all that authority talk way down, lest anyone misuse it, lest anyone get hurt. And in so doing, we are insisting that no one actually exercise any faith. Submission to authority requires faith. One time a centurion came to Jesus begging Him to heal his servant, but he told Jesus to just give the word because he understood how authority worked, and Jesus said He never saw such faith (Mt. 8:9-10). Many holy week sermons subtly succumb to exactly what the world wants us to say. You often hear that Jesus came to be a King, but He’s not a king like everyone expected. He’s a suffering King. And this is true as far as it goes, but the cumulative effect is often the message that Jesus wins through laying down His authority. And so the application becomes the same. But this is absolutely not true (e.g. Mt. 26:53, Jn. 19:11). Jesus insisted that no man could take His life from Him, that He was the only one who could lay it down and with the same authority He could take it back up again (Jn. 10:18).
Jesus Our Healer
Far too many people come into the Christian faith thinking that Christianity is a way to get God to bless your plans. But the most basic Christian creed is Jesus is Lord. This means He is your Master, your King. When Jesus calls a man, it is abundantly clear that He demands everything. But this is good news because only Jesus knows what it will take to eradicate our sin. So He assigns judges, pastors, presidents, husbands, fathers, mothers, teachers, etc. He must take our colts; He must overturn our tables; He must die. What is He doing? He’s healing us (Mt. 21:14). This means coming to Him with everything that ails us and praising Him like jubilant kids.
Jesus Our King
Matthew says that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He was fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy: Israel’s King had come in order to encamp around His house as a guard, in order to destroy Israel’s enemies, in order to establish His reign from the River to the ends of the earth, because of the blood of His covenant (Zech. 9:8-11). Jesus came to do what only He could do in order to secure His people forever. He came to live the perfect life we could not live, to suffer the scorn and death that only He did not deserve, to lay His life down with full authority, and having paid the wages of our sin completely, He took His life back up again. Never for one moment did Jesus relinquish His authority, but at every step He exercised His authority to encamp around His house as a guard, to drive away our enemies, and establish His kingdom forever. And in His kingdom there are many priests and kings, many lords and ladies. Faith in the authority of Jesus receives this good news, and the same faith in the authority of Jesus receives these good works. And this is our victory that overcomes the world.