“Behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” – Matthew 21:5
Today is celebrated throughout the Christian world as Palm Sunday in commemoration of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of His ministry on earth.
Our text is a simply worded statement to describe a very momentous occasion. And it is directed to everyone. “Behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” In their literal context these words seem to be directed to the city of Jerusalem, the central and largest city of the Holy Land, in which were people of every age and occupation, every way of life, every way of thought and belief, every kind of man, woman, and child, of every social status. But the announcement is so worded that it speaks directly to each individual member of that complex community.
As one stands on the shore of the sea or of a lake and looks toward the sun, a band of light reaches out from the sun over the water and forms a pathway to one’s feet. It is a band of brilliant light coming directly to you. There are others on that shore, each with his own band of light. You cannot see his; he cannot see yours. This band of light is your personal contact with the light in the sky; it is a symbol of that light which comes directly from the King of light to you. The more we know of the world the more will we realize that there are many things in it which speak directly to us in His name.
By His life on earth, by His redemption of the world, by His saving presence and revelation of His love for all mankind, He has made Himself King to all: “Behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” By His life on earth He revealed a love that is infinite and yet is given to each one of us. It is thy King who cometh unto thee. So He created a sun that floods the earth with light and yet comes to each least thing.
By His life on earth and by His victory over all sin and evil, all falsity and darkness He gave to all people the freedom which enables each and all to choose the way of life. And by those same means He ensured the gift of Himself, in His Divine Humanity, to each individual soul that lives.
When the Lord entered Jerusalem, multitudes followed Him bearing palm branches and singing. It was not the proud scribes and Pharisees who gathered there to rejoice over their King. It was just the common people of the city and of villages round about. Many of them, the Gospels state, were His disciples. For at that time the Lord had many followers. Others were those who had heard His teaching and were filled with wonder. Some had brought to Him their sick and blind, their lame, halt, and afflicted, and He healed them all. They knew Him in what He did, and in some slight degree for what He was. So we must know Him, not only for His words of life but for what He does for us and in our souls and lives, enabling our minds to see the truth, and giving us power to overcome our weaknesses.
“Behold, thy king cometh unto thee.” This incident took place over nineteen hundred years ago, and for many centuries it has been commemorated each year in some way or other by Christian people in every land.
Now it is one thing for the Lord to come to us. It is quite another thing for us to realize what this coming really is. It is not enough to know that He has come to our fathers, to our friends, and to our teachers. Remember that we do not see the sunlight on the water through the eyes of our neighbor on the beach, but through our own power of vision, as a special revelation to ourself. It is thy King that cometh. Knowledge about the Lord is in the third person. But the knowledge of the Lord and what He means in our life must be in the first and second person. We recall that the Lord said to those of the church of Laodicea, “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing… I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire,” and also, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.”
The Lord came to reveal Himself to the whole world, and said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” In His Word He speaks directly to each one of us, and His purpose is to lead everyone to the kingdom of heaven, into that life which always has the Lord before it.
The choice has to be left to us. There are those who say, “I am too busy to bother about all this,” those who are so wrapped up in science, in music, in the arts, in economics and politics, or in amusements that they say, “This is not for me.” They really feel, “I am much too clever to need all this; I know my way about, and can get along without the company of the King of kings.”
The Lord made preparation for His entry into Jerusalem. He sent two of His disciples to bring for His use an ass and a colt, instructing them to say if anyone questioned them, “The Lord hath need of them.” He did this to indicate that He has need of all our faculties. He requires the use of our mind and reason in His service, the dedication of all knowledge to eternal ends. Our reason and our learning serve their true purpose when they lead us to a knowledge of God and confirm our belief in Him as the one God of heaven and earth, our Redeemer and Savior. This must be direct knowledge, knowledge of Him in life experience. So they went together – the King and the people – into the city with rejoicing. So it is written in Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee.”
We keep this day of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem because it represents His entry into the soul. When He entered Jerusalem, He went to the temple and cast out the money-changers and vendors of doves. The money-changers refer to the things of the understanding, for truths are interchanged like money. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” The vendors of doves refer to the will. The money-changers and vendors of doves are the worldly thoughts and the worldly desires and ambitions that rise up in us to subvert the things of the Lord and His church.
This part of the story pictures how, little by little, worldly interests may have invaded the soul and made advance until the spiritual life is threatened and, instead of the soul’s becoming a temple of the Lord, it has become a den of thieves that steal away all things of real value. We often think that it is a hardship to give up the things of the world. The Lord does not wish us to give up anything that is useful to us or will bring us happiness, but He does wish us not to put any permanent value on purely external things.
After the Lord cleansed the temple, the blind and the lame came to Him and He healed them. To be ignorant of the Lord and of the truths of heaven is to be blind. And to be lame is to be unable to walk firmly in the way of truth. The Lord wishes to enter our minds and hearts and reign there as King in order that He may give us the light to see the way and the power to walk in it without stumbling, that we may rejoice, and that in us the prophecy may be fulfilled: “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace,” and again, “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”