the years, I have come to give the same response to people who are looking for a new church.
ago, I stopped telling people they had to find one that preached the Bible because most evangelical churches claim
to preach and teach the Bible. I have increasingly told them something like, “If you find a church you think might be acceptable, attend there for about a month or
so. Think about the picture of God that is presented. If you hear about God’s grace and mercy
and love and patience, but you don’t hear about his majesty, his transcendence, his holiness, justice and wrath—not
just in the songs they sin but from the Bible teaching, find another church.” There may be churches that are imbalanced in the other direction, (and that is just as
unhealthy) but not nearly as many in our day. I use this as my yardstick because frankly, the character of God a church preaches and
teaches will be reflected in the gospel they preach and it’s the gospel that is “the power of God unto salvation.” The content of the gospel they preach is the most important indicator of its health.
Bible is a story about God and within its pages there is a very balanced view of God and the picture of Jesus presented
in Scripture reflects that balance which is especially important for us to maintain with Good Friday and Easter approaching.
morning, as in years past, we want to present Luke’s account of Jesus in his entrance into Jerusalem in all its
humility. But we also want to look at another picture of Jesus to be revealed in the future to which his humble
entrance very much looks forward to. The hope is that we will see a balanced picture of Jesus that will help us to better understand
and appreciate the cross of Christ which stands at the center of our faith and provides the saving power of the
Luke 19, Jesus has just finished telling a parable as he approaches Jerusalem. We pick up the narrative in verse
28. “And when he had said these
things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the
mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the
disciples, 30saying, "Go into the
village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it
and bring it here.” As you read this account in Luke 19, you might be tempted to think this is the
one time during Jesus’ Passion Week where we see him clearly as the majestic and exalted King in a context otherwise
dominated by humiliating events. Though
it might appear that way, that’s not the case. In
fact, Luke presents this opening scene in Christ’s final week as an acted-out parable carefully orchestrated by the Lord. Jesus oversees every significant detail of his entrance into Jerusalem specifically to
communicate his identity, not as an exalted King, but as the HUMBLE,
briefly unpack the elements of this acted-out parable to see how this
powerfully radiates the humility of Christ.
as Jesus rides into Jerusalem, Luke tells us that he is on a donkey—a donkey that has never been ridden. In the Ancient Near East, kings rode on donkeys that had never been ridden so this animal was the mount of a king. However, in the case of Jesus no one except a couple
of his disciples knew the animal had never been
the fact that this was a king’s mount was intentionally concealed from
the people. Matthew’s
account interprets these events by quoting Zechariah 9:9 and says, “Say to the
daughter of Zion,’ Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the
foal of a beast of burden.'” It’s important to know that the
Jews did not understand these verses in Zechariah to be referring to
the Messiah until the fourth
century AFTER Christ.
were Messianic verses and Matthew, under
the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit knew this, but the people and rabbis lining the road leading
into Jerusalem would not have associated this donkey with the Messiah.
That was intentionally concealed from them.
reason scholars call this story an “acted out parable” is because one of the
main reasons Jesus spoke in parables was to conceal
or obscure the truth. Mark 4:12 tells us Jesus taught in parables so that the
people hearing them would “…see but NOT perceive…hear but NOT understand lest they
should turn and be forgiven.” This
was an acted-out parable because Jesus’ royalty was intentionally kept hidden from the
A valid question is--“but what about the people
in the narrative who said, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord?” John’s gospel helps us out here because in his account of this event the
people along the road also cried out, “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the
name of the
Lord, even the
King of Israel.”[v.13] But three
verses later John records in 12:16, “His
not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then
they remembered that these
things had been written about him and had been done to him.” The
surrounding context in John’s gospel reveals that the crowds that paid tribute to a king were NOT doing so because
they witnessed the easily
recognizable trappings of royalty.
In truth, they
were there because they were impressed with his raising of Lazarus from the dead and were prophetically shouting
far more than they really knew. This
is like the case of Caiaphas, the High Priest who said of Jesus in John
18, “It is expedient for one man
to die for his people.” John tells us that he had no idea he had uttered a prophecy—he spoke far more than he
scholar Robert Stein is right when he says about this entrance into Jerusalem, “In the
minds of most of Jesus’ audience that day, this was essentially a pilgrim’s welcome of Jesus of Nazareth.” This entrance into Jerusalem communicates the
humility and gentleness of this then-veiled
King. That’s the essential
message Jesus seeks to communicate through his orchestration of the “triumphal entry.” As
we think of the humility of Christ, we must not divorce Christ’s humility from his transcendence and holiness that
are also revealed in the New Testament. Any
serious attempt to appreciate the humility of Christ and what he did
for us in his Passion, MUST place it against the
backdrop of his awesome power and majesty. You simply cannot rightly understand or treasure the
humiliation of Christ unless and until you see it in the
light of the exaltation of
Christ. In fact, if Christ is not transcendent—almighty—infinitely beyond us in power and glory, that drains his humiliation of its meaning. It
would be no great condescension for one of us to be crucified first because-- in our sin we deserve it and second,
because--we are not the majestic Lord of the universe offering himself, bloodied and naked as a sacrifice for sin.
the case of this “Triumphal Entry,” the humility conveyed in Jesus’ first royal entrance is most appreciated when compared to
the majesty of Jesus’ second kingly entrance into this
world. As we contrast this first humble entrance with his future, UN-veiled
entrance as King, then by God’s grace we will begin to more fully appreciate and
worship Christ for what he did for us in his humiliation. So let’s proceed by looking at the SECOND entrance of
this King in the 19th chapter
of the Revelation. And as we read this, try to absorb the
profound contrasts between this second entrance, with Luke’s account of Christ’s first royal entrance.
begin reading in verse 11.
John is recounting his vision of the
second coming of Christ and says, “Then
I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are
many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by
which he is called is The Word of God.
14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white
and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod
of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King
of kings and Lord of lords. 17Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud
voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of
horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." 19And
I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on
the horse and against his army.
20And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet
who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those
who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21And
the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.”
the Apostle John’s vision, we have a dramatically different set of kingly attributes on display. Here, the emphasis is decidedly NOT on the
humility and gentleness of a veiled, Servant King,
but on the terrifying majesty and holy wrath of the
are some striking parallels in these two accounts—so much so that it
seems God wants us to examine these two entrances side by side. Let’s compare first, the animals that serve as our
Lord’s mount in
each entrance and what they
communicate about him.
In Revelation 19, Christ is pictured
on a white horse exploding out of heaven. The
white horse is the blatantly majestic mount of kings and more specifically
in the Ancient Near East, the white horse was the
mount of kings who had gone to war and had conquered (!) their enemies. Fittingly, his entire army rides on white horses signifying the overwhelming conquest
this King will bring.
This is THE conquering King. While
the never-ridden donkey in Luke 19 whispers gentleness and a concealed majesty, the
white horse of Revelation 19 trumpets raw power and conquest. Paul
describes this same entrance in Second Thessalonians 1:7-8 and says at his second coming Jesus will be “... revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8in
flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the
gospel of our Lord Jesus.” The glorious and triumphant Warrior King here erupts out of heaven with His mighty host
in blazing fire. On this entrance, he’s not escorted by uninformed and fickle followers
who have no real clue about what is happening. In
this entrance, Jesus will be escorted by a host of warrior angels who burn with his zeal for the just punishment
of his enemies.
second contrast between these two accounts is seen in the disposition of Jesus toward those who witness his entrance. Remember Jesus’ attitude toward those in Jerusalem in Luke 19? In
verse 41, He looks over the city and weeps over it. Jesus knows that Jerusalem, the city of David,
home of God’s temple—a city near to His heart will be pillaged and defiled at the
hands of blasphemous Roman soldiers.
In verse 42, we see Christ’s compassion
for this city.
He says, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the
things that make for peace! But now they
are hidden from your eyes.”
He longs for the
PEACE of Jerusalem and for its inhabitants. Knowing
this would not happen, he weeps over it.
contrast with Christ’s disposition toward those who will witness his second entrance in Revelation 19 could hardly
be more striking.
There is no weeping here--the
bell has tolled, the hour, struck! Verse
13 tells us His robe has been dipped in blood and the symbolism is graphic. This
time, the blood spilled will not be his own, but that of his enemies. Verse 15 says the King, “will tread the
winepress of the
fury of the
wrath of God the
This is a terrifying picture depicting
Christ in a winepress trampling over and crushing--NOT grapes to be turned into wine, but rebel sinners whose bodies
will serve as bird food—his enemies, whose spattered blood drenches his robe. This
is a withering picture of divine judgment. The
most horrific aftermath scenes of our most gory military battles are only a faint shadow of the scene depicted
here of the gruesome end of the millions who will oppose Christ and will be summarily crushed by him. In his first royal entrance into Jerusalem, Christ humbly rides over freshly picked palm
branches tossed in front of him.
In his second entrance, this same Christ
mercilessly treads over his enemies like grapes in a wine press.
19:21 concludes the account of the
violent end of Christ’s enemies.
It says, “And the
rest were slain by the
sword that came from the
mouth of him who was sitting on
the horse, and all the
birds were gorged with their
his second coming, the Messiah will not be weeping over the
fallen rebels of the earth; He will be slaying them
with His sword, which is the word of his mouth. The
time for shedding tears is long past.
This King speaks lethal words that
bring destruction upon his enemies. The Word of his mouth, with its creative power to bring
the universe into being has now become an instrument of incomparable destructive power as it instantly destroys
all those who oppose God. The ironic truth about this last great battle is that there really isn’t any last battle
in any conventional sense.
The armies of the world unite and form
battle lines, but the two massive armies never even engage one another because the King speaks his Word of judgment
and its over before it has begun—without a fight. In
his first entrance, those in Jerusalem who refuse the Kingship of Christ
are portrayed as ignorant and are wept over. In
the second entrance of the
King, those who refuse his reign are his enemies and they are summarily slaughtered. The
eyes that once shed tears of compassion and sorrow now appear as “flames of fire”
as they burn with the searing
and holy wrath of God’s judgment.
A third contrast between these two entrances is seen in Jesus’ level of accessibility and approachability to others. Luke shows us a King who is approachable, even vulnerable. We can easily relate to this man. He is riding a donkey, enjoying the adulation of the crowd. We can almost picture ourselves standing by the side of the road, tossing out palm branches
in front of this Prophet from Galilee. He knows the decimation that will come to the city of David and he weeps over it. There is tenderness, mercy and compassion. Jesus, as we see him on Palm Sunday and the rest of Passion Week is
accessible and vulnerable to us. Not so, the Warrior King of Revelation 19 whose spoken words are lethal to billions.
different that is from his Passion. When he was suffering for us, his mouth—this ultimate doomsday weapon…remained silent.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not
his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the
slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” [Isa. 53:7]
The humble, Servant King at Calvary wears a crown of common Judean thorns placed on him by a Roman soldier, mocking his identification
It digs into his brow and the
blood from his wounds runs down His face. Hours
earlier, the soldiers had shoved a wooden stick in his hand as a mock
scepter for a caricature king.
In Revelation 19, the
caricature is gone; replaced by the glorious reality of the awful majesty
of the Warrior King. No one mocks this King! Verse 12 tells us, “…on
his head are many diadems…” or
The many crowns signify that there
is no kingdom anywhere where this King does not rule—He rules over ALL of them! He is the KING of all kings
and the LORD of all lords
and these crowns were placed on His head, NOT by some mocking pagan
soldier, but by His omnipotent Father. The
ridiculous wooden “scepter” is gone.
Now he brandishes in his hand an “iron rod” or “iron
is the final fulfillment of the
scepter of Judah about which Jacob first prophesied 4000 years ago in Genesis 49 when he said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” [v.10]. This
is the long-awaited royal scepter of Christ signifying his eternal rule
19:12 says, “…he has a name written
that no one knows but himself.”
His approachability is gone—no one even knows his Name—it is so holy, so sacred, so divine it is hidden from common use. There
is inscrutability here.
This King is transcendent—beyond our
No created, finite being can fully
grasp Him. He
is the “…the
King eternal, immortal, invisible, the
only God, [to him] be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Tim 1:17] Jesus has now shed the
self-imposed limitations of this material realm and reveals Himself to be the
infinite and eternal God, clothed in splendor and majesty. In His first advent, He comes as a Lamb to be slaughtered; at His second appearing, he
shows himself to be the ferocious LION of the tribe of Judah who lunges
out of heaven to strike his rebel prey. At
his first coming, the Lamb offers himself as a silent and submissive
sacrifice for sin.
In his second coming, we know from
Revelation 6:16 that those who deserve his judgment will be “calling to the
mountains and the
rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the
face of him who is seated on the
throne, and from the
wrath of the
we said earlier, the point is not simply to contrast these two royal appearances. The
point is to remember that the Biblical texts that display
the humiliation of Christ
must be understood in the broader context of his
exaltation. What ultimately reveals the glory of this
first, humble entrance we celebrate on Palm Sunday is the truth that this gentle, peace-bringing Messiah is in
fact also the invincible Warrior King who will one day burst out of
heaven in the fury of divine wrath. This
One seated on the donkey, whose homespun garment became the prize in
a penny-ante craps game, will one day appear in the robe of a conquering
King—a robe drenched in the blood of his enemies. Peter said in Acts chapter two that this One who was crucified is “both Lord and Christ.” [Acts 2:36]
see this Jesus when Paul in Philippians chapter two writes of him, “who,
though he was in the
form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but
made himself nothing, taking the
form of a servant, being born in the
likeness of men. And being found in human form,
8he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the
point of death, even death on a cross.
9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him
the name that is above every name, 10so
that at the
name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the
earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the
glory of God the
week, as you read through the events of Jesus’ passion, don’t forget
it is that suffered the
shame, humiliation, pain and death for you. We
must see his humiliation in the light of his exaltation if we are to
love him rightly.
the image of Christ the suffering Servant is rightly much loved in the church, but Christ the Warrior seems to
be something of an embarrassment within evangelicalism. As strange
as it may feel in our superficial and unbalanced church culture, our hearts should soar as we read the
account of Christ’s decisive judgment on the wicked for at least three
Biblical accounts of the judgment of God remind us of what those of us who trust
in Christ will be spared. When we read of Christ’s merciless extermination of his enemies with the
sword of his mouth,
that should cause us to overflow
with thanksgiving over the undeserved miracle of God’s saving mercy
One reason why we must have a biblically
balanced view of God is because what good is it if we say that God is merciful—which means he has spared us from
the wrath we deserve, if we don’t know something about the wrath we have been spared. God’s
mercy draws all of its meaning from his wrath—his mercy implies his wrath—you can’t have mercy without wrath.
what value is there—what life changing power is there in knowing that you’ve been given God’s grace and forgiveness,
if you don’t know how much a holy God hates sin and just how richly, comprehensively we deserve his terrible judgment,
not his grace.
Ray Comfort says that having a knowledge of grace without a knowledge of God’s hatred of sin is
like being given a parachute when you’re not aware you are plummeting to your death. The
parachute of God’s grace is meaningless unless you know how much you deserve his punishment and how ready he is
to issue it apart from Christ.
believer, pictures of divine judgment, especially gruesome ones as we see in Revelation 19, should stir our hearts
with unending gratitude over what we have been spared through the cross.
the Biblical accounts of God’s judgment on sinners remind us that in Christ, we have the privilege of introducing
people to Christ the Servant King so they will not have to taste
the wrath of Christ the Warrior King.
Those who are in Christ have the
one key in the universe—the gospel--that delivers sinners from the
Warrior’s wrath as they call in faith on the One
who died for sins.
We have this gospel message and are
given the high honor of being called as ambassadors—representing our
King to this world and bringing a message of peace with God to those who, as they live for themselves, are warring
against him. As we picture that final battlefield with its hideous carnage and the
multitudes who will be mercilessly cut down by the
righteous judgment of God, we must remember that we have been charged to deliver the
message of peace that alone can save rebels from their sin and deliver
them from something far worse than even that field of blood.
final point of application is for you if who have never placed your trust in Christ—who have never experienced
the forgiveness of your sin and the life-changing power of the gospel. That
is: Allow the truth of both of these advents of Christ
to compel you to receive his mercy. If
you don’t know him as your Lord and Savior, you must place your trust in him today. The
Bible says, “…now is the
favorable time, now is the
day of salvation” [2 Cor. 6:2]
and the reason NOW is the
time is because NOW (in this time before his second entrance), Christ weeps over those who are estranged from Him. Now he
comes to you in mercy and gentleness.
Now, he relates to sinners as a Savior. But
do not be deceived.
If you delay in responding to his incredible
mercy, this window of divine grace will one day close—He will come to you, not with an open, nail-pierced hand
of love, but with his lethal sword of eternal judgment. His
words to you will bring, NOT mercy and grace, but instead, instant and eternal death. You
will experience, NOT his love, but his unending wrath because your sin is repugnant to a holy, sin-hating God and
He must and will punish you in unending wrath. He
died on the cross to bear my sin—to take my sin upon himself and receive the punishment I deserved. NOW you have an opportunity to cry out to him in faith. Confess
that you are a needy sinner—place your trust in Christ alone and he will forgive your sin and give you new life
are the only two options open to you. Now,
in his grace and mercy he lovingly pursues you. But
if you refuse to repent of your rebellious desire to live for yourself instead of him, then from his holy justice,
you will experience the consuming fire of his holy wrath. Come to Jesus and know mercy and redemption through the
cross. May God give us the
grace to know Christ in the fullness revealed in his Word and worship him in a way that reflects all of who he