‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’” Matthew 21:5
On July 22, 2013, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Kate, had a baby boy–George–and it seemed like everywhere you went people were talking about it.
Why is it that even in the United States with our proud independence from the royal rule, we continue to be fascinated by royalty? Derek Rishmaway has written a fascinating blog post on “How the Royal Baby Fever points us to a Royal longing.” Allow me to quote from that article because I think what he says is pretty insightful,
We love the idea of a true king who will come, take things firmly in hand, reign with righteousness, and bring the shalom of a kingdom at peace. This is why everything in us clapped for joy when we read Aragorn finally crowned king in The Lord of the Rings. It’s also why some of us found ourselves uncomfortably agreeing with Loki in The Avengers film as he lectured the masses on their innate desire to be ruled: “You were made to be ruled …In the end, you will always kneel.” There was something true about it, and yet that truth felt like a dangerous lie coming from Loki’s mouth. Indeed, it’s telling that the film didn’t directly reject the notion, but had the brave old German man say, “Not to men like you.”
The implication of course, is that for the right man, we would gladly kneel.
Perhaps nowhere is the age-old longing for a righteous king more clearly expressed than in the Jewish hope and expectation of a coming Messiah. God promised King David that he would raise up a descendant from his line whose kingdom would endure forever.
In churches that use lectionaries, where they give you an Old Testament reading, a psalm, a New Testament epistle, a Gospel reading every week of the year, it is surprising how often (and they’re right when they do this) on the triumphal entry day, Palm Sunday, they give you readings that have to do with the second coming of Christ.
Because when the people say, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord,” the blessedness that they’re asking from the Messiah is the same thing as shalom. The word “blessedness” and “shalom” are the same basic words. Shalom means complete thriving and flourishing.
This story is pointing to the coming Kingdom.
“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12
You say, “Oh, that’s metaphorical.” Maybe, but what it’s trying to say is when the true king comes back and puts everything right, everything in nature will work again. There will be complete harmony, complete peace.
But not only are the trees going to clap their hands, the animals are going to submit to the Lord of creation—like this donkey foal. Surprisingly, in the midst of this excited crowd, an unbroken, young animal remains totally calm under the hands of the Messiah who controls nature and stills the storm. Therefore, this event points to the peace of the consummated kingdom. What is he saying? Jesus didn’t have to break the animal. He’s Lord of nature; he’s the Lord of all and under his hand, nothing but harmony and peace comes about. The animal knows and loves its true master for who he is.
How would you treat the literal thirty-three-year-old person of Jesus BEFORE He died on the cross and was resurrected? Would you take care of him, if you could? Would you give Him respite, if you could? Would you feed Him, if you could? Would you clothe Him, if you could? How you would treat the Jesus of Nazareth before He was crucified and risen is exactly how we are to treat our neighbor, our prisoners, community, our school systems, our city, our mountains, and rivers.
When you’ve done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me, right? That same Lord is coming again to take us to another place and whatever happened to his physical body through the resurrection is going to happen to this cosmos when He returns.
For those of us who trust Him by faith in this life that will be our destiny as John Ortberg has said when Up There Comes Down Here.
One fair morning I’ll wake up in a celestial city. And maybe I’ll go walking down the street for a stroll. I’ll walk upon a woman who has a wagon-load of roses. I’ll reach to get one and discover there are no thorns on those roses. I’ll say, “Ma’am, where did you get these roses?
“I grow them out there in the desert.”
“What?” I ask.
“Haven’t you heard? The Lord reigns in Zion. And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose.” (Isaiah.35:1)
A little farther I walk down the street I’ll step into a pet shop. There, I hear a man say, “I want to buy that cobra for my little boy.”
“What?” I ask.
“Didn’t you know? The Lord reigns in Zion. And the lion shall eat straw like a lamb and the sucking child shall lay upon the nest of the snake.” (Isaiah 11:8)
Little further I say to a man, “Where is your police department?
He’ll say, “We haven’t got any!”
“Well, where are your soldiers and military academies?”
“Haven’t you heard? The Lord reigns in Zion! And they have beat the swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks and the nations have learned war no more!” (Isaiah 2:4)
“Well, what about the home for crippled children?”
“We don’t have any. And the lame shall leap in that day.” (Isaiah 35:6) The Lord reigns in Zion!
“What about your home for the deaf and dumb?”
“Don’t have any of those either!” “The tongues of the dumb shall sing in that day. And the ear of the deaf shall be unstopped in that day. (Isaiah 35:6) The Lord reigns in Zion!”
“I want to go to your hospitals and visit some of your cancer patients.”
“We don’t have any.”
“No. Not since the Lord began to reign in Zion! The inhabitants in this land never say, ‘I am sick.‘” (Isaiah 33:24)
“Well, what about your funeral homes and cemeteries?”
“Not any of those in this land. For the Lord reigns in Zion!”
“Well, where do you folks go to church?”
“We don’t have a church. Haven’t you heard? Up there has finally come down here and we all go up to the New Jerusalem and worship the great King!”
And I look up, and there I see the Lord high and lifted up. And the great choir begins to sing:
“All hail the power of Jesus name!
Let angels prostrate fall;.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all!”
Jesus is not the king I want, but he is the king I need—and the King is coming!
Soon, I hope.