March 28, 2021
Perhaps you’ve seen it – it’s been a popular series on Netflix for four seasons earning very high accolades. As I understand it, there are two more seasons to go. It’s simply called, The Crown, and is the story of Queen Elizabeth II. The first season begins with her marriage to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 and carries through her coronation in 1953. The plan is to take her story through the early 21st Century – almost to the present day. Such an ambitious undertaking requires three different women to play the role of Queen Elizabeth to account for aging. Tana and I watched the first season but tuned out when it became a bit too edgy for us.
In true life, Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953 – before many of you were born. Years and years before I was born. The actual coronation in ’53 was a significant event – broadcast around the world by the British Broadcasting Company on a relatively new form of media – the television. In fact, it is said the coronation of Elizabeth put TV on the map. Millions of people around the world were for the first time able to watch this celebrated coronation ceremony. It is a ceremony which has remained relatively unchanged for almost a thousand years. History tells us the first coronation in Westminster Abbey was in 1066, when William the Conqueror was crowned king after his victory at the Battle of Hastings.
There is much pomp and circumstance, splendor and majesty, custom and tradition in the ceremony. The ceremony itself includes, with little variation, the following four events:
- First, the introduction, which includes the entry of the sovereign into the Abbey, the formal recognition of his or her right to rule, the oath, and the presentation of the Bible.
- Second, the sovereign is anointed with Holy Oil and seated on the Coronation Chair, pictured here. If you look closely, you’ll notice there is a stone under the seat of the Chair. It is the greatly venerated Stone of Scone, captured from the Scots by King Edward I in 1296. On that stone Scottish kings were seated when they were crowned centuries before. Incidentally, the stone was returned to Scotland just a few years ago, which made William Wallace very happy, I’m sure.
- Third, the sovereign is invested with royal robes and insignia, to include being crowned with St. Edward’s Crown. Royal regalia called the Crown Jewels, kept in a secure vault in the Tower of London, are used primarily for this occasion.
- Fourth, the final ceremony consists of the enthronement of the sovereign on a throne placed on a raised platform bringing him or her into full view of the assembled company, and there he or she receives the homage of the Lords Spiritual (that is, the bishops and archbishops), the Lords Temporal (Dukes, Earls and Barons) and the congregation, representing the people of the realm.
Almost as important as the ceremony in ’53 was the presentation of the queen. At the age of 27, she needed to look, well, queenly. She road to the Abbey from Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, built for King George III in 1762. Now that is a ride for a sovereign, don’t you think?
On the way to the ceremony, Elizabeth chose to wear George IV’s State Diadem – a crown constructed in 1830 consisting of 1,333 diamonds and 169 pearls – if you look closely, you can see the pearls around the base – quite the headband. During the ceremony, however, she chose to wear two other crowns: The Imperial State Crown made in 1838 for Queen Victoria, designed to be lightweight as it is made of platinum and only has mere 2,700 diamonds and hundreds of other jewels. Incidentally, this crown holds the second largest diamond in the world – the Lesser Star of Africa – a 317-carat diamond. The third crown she wore that day was St. Edward’s Crown, made in 1661 – much heavier than the lightweight Imperial Crown since it is made of pure gold. These crowns are literally, priceless.
There were also a variety of scepters and swords used in the ceremony, the most striking being the Scepter with the Cross, which symbolizes sovereign power and justice. It is three feet long, made of gold, and contains the Star of Africa, a 530-carat diamond – at that time, the largest cut diamond in the world.
The queen’s dress that day was made from white satin with thousands of tiny seed pearls set in silver saucers covering the dress. Finally, to complete the majestic ensemble, she wore a robe made from 20 yards of velvet, finished with silk which took 10 weeks to sew. I’d say that was a coronation fit for a queen – or a king. It’s no wonder, at the time, it was the largest television audience ever. Kings and queens are meant to be honored, right?
Well, so much for your English history lesson this morning. Let’s go back 2000 years to another coronation ceremony – the coronation, if you will, of King Jesus. Now, if you or I were writing the script, we probably would have written it much differently. Perhaps a little more like Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. You would think the King of the universe would have had the most extravagant, the most opulent coronation ceremonies of all time. You would think it would have lasted for days, if not weeks. You would think that regal heralds would have been sent all over the world to announce the coronation of the King of kings – to invite the world’s inhabitants to a celebration unequaled in history – that would make the Star of Africa look like the Star of Mountain City. But that’s not what we find. That wasn’t the nature of His coronation, nor, is it the nature of His kingdom.
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 21. Matthew 21, where we read of the coronation of King Jesus on Palm Sunday. Let’s read the first 11 verses.
Palm Sunday. Most of us know that Sunday refers to the day Jesus entered Jerusalem near the end of His ministry. As He rode into town that day, according to the gospel of John, the crowds cut down palm leaves to spread before Him.
But, let me ask you – does that sound like a coronation ceremony to you? Compared to the one in 1953, does it? It was, but it wasn’t very impressive, was it? Where’s the tradition? Where’s the wealth? Where’s the golden coach? A donkey, borrowed at that? Come on. Where’s the regal robe, the royal symbols of sovereignty – the scepter, the crown? Palm branches? Peasant clothes? Give me a break. And where were the Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal, the religious and political leaders paying homage to Him? They were busy opposing Him – at the end of the week, they’ll crucify Him. Not a very long reign, was it? Not much of a coronation. Not from an earthly perspective.
Look at it with me. I’m excited to be looking at what we call the triumphal entry, Palm Sunday, this morning. Guess what we’re going to find? A message consistent with the humiliation of Jesus – the nature of Jesus’ kingdom. Behold your King, church – He comes gentle, humble, riding on the colt of a donkey. Let me give you the outline as we begin:
- First, let’s look at the Setting of the Story in verses 1-3.
- Then, we’ll see the Fulfillment of Prophecy in verses 4-5.
- And finally, we’ll look at the Coronation of King Jesus in verse 6-11.
Let’s start with the setting. Some six months before this, Jesus had finished His Galilean ministry, and begun to make His way to Jerusalem. Along the way, He continued to heal people, and continued to preach the message of the kingdom. But, He also began telling His disciples what awaited Him once He got to Jerusalem. He told them three times. There, He would be handed over to the chief priests and scribes; He would suffer many things – mocking, scourging, and He would be put to death.
You know, all along the way, the disciples had to be asking the question, “If that’s the case, Jesus, why go? Things are going great in Galilee – large crowds are following you there – you’re got a movement going – let’s go back there.” But, Jesus was not to be deterred – Luke tells us His face was set resolutely toward Jerusalem, there was no turning back.
As He and His disciples finally arrived, they were coming with the throngs of people making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. As you may remember, the Jews were required to present themselves at the Temple at least once a year, and the Passover was a favorite festival to do just that. In fact, in some extra-biblical literature, we read during a Passover right about this time, 260,000 Passover lambs were sacrificed. 260,000 lambs. One lamb was enough for ten people. If that number was even close to being right, then it’s possible that Jerusalem swelled to over 2 million people when Jesus arrived. It was literally an ocean of people.
It was Passover. And at the beginning of that week, as all the pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem, one of the first things they did was to select their lamb. They would pick out a lamb, supposedly without spot or blemish, and take it to a priest for his approval. Then they would keep the lamb until Passover – at which time it would be sacrificed, in commemoration of their deliverance from Egypt.
But on that day, on the day that Jesus was riding into Jerusalem, when people all over the city were choosing their Passover lamb, Jesus was presenting Himself to God, as the Passover Lamb – as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. While they were crowning Jesus as their king, even for just a few days, they were actually choosing their Passover Lamb.
As Jesus and His disciples approached Jerusalem, Jesus instructed two of His disciples to go into Bethphage, a small village at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and get a donkey and its colt.
Please notice, it was Jesus who sent His disciples to the village to get these animals. He was aware of the prophecy of Zechariah 9 that said the Messiah would ride into town on the colt of a donkey. What all that means is this: Jesus chose all of this. He pushed the button – He knocked over the domino that would begin the chain of events of the Passion week. This didn’t catch Him by surprise – He chose it. He started it – and it led to His crucifixion. He knew what He was doing. Jesus was not an unwilling participant in the drama of redemption – He willingly laid down His life for the sheep.
Which brings us to our second point – the Fulfillment of Prophecy. As I said a moment ago, the events unfolding before us were a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. But we have to understand the context of Zechariah 9. In the first 8 verses of the chapter, we see a prophecy about another king, another conqueror – one named Alexander. History knows him as Alexander the Great. Zechariah tells us a hundred and fifty years before little Alex was born, that he would conquer much of the world – to include Syria, Phoenicia, Philistia and Egypt. We’re told he would take such cities as Damascus, Tyre and Sidon, which he did.
And let me tell you something else about Alexander – he was a king. When he conquered a city, his triumphal entrance into a city was a sight to behold. We even have recorded for us what happened when he rode into Jerusalem around 339 BC.
First, 2,000 mounted lancers rode through the city, their lances pointing to the sky. The thunder of their hooves shook the ground. Then, 2,000 trumpeters followed. Row after row of them. Their mighty blasts bounced off the stone walls and streets of the city, echoing back even from the Mount of Olives. Their brilliant sound sent a chill down the spine. Next came 500 shiny chariots, polished and reflecting the noon-day sun. The choking dust and the rumble of their wheels only accented their power. Then hundreds of swordsmen with weapons raised marched along followed by 39,000 regular foot-soldiers with spears and bows. Their crimson suits and the heavy tramp of their boots vibrated the ground.
Finally, another large group of trumpets heralded the grand conqueror, the king himself. In rode Alexander the Great astride his great white stallion named Bacephalus, the most famous of ancient chargers. The white-plumed brass helmet on his head sat like a crown. The bright red cape hung from his shoulders. It was a dazzling display of pageantry and power. That was an entrance fit for a king.
But, Zechariah tells us, when Israel’s king, when our king, comes marching into Jerusalem, it won’t look like Alexander. It won’t look like Elizabeth. This is what Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
What kind of triumphal entry is that? What kind of coronation was that? What kind of king is this? Behold your King, church. Before we answer that question, let’s look at our third point – the Coronation of King Jesus in verses 6-11.
As the disciples returned with the animals, they spread coats on them, and Jesus road the colt into town. There was a crowd following Him into Jerusalem, and when the news spread that He was coming, a large crowd came out to meet Him. As He came, they too spread out their cloaks before Him. That’s important – it was symbolic. You see, just like Elizabeth’s ceremony, by allowing Jesus to ride over their cloaks, they were acknowledging His sovereignty – His right to rule them. They also cut branches from trees, John tells us palm trees, to make a path for Him.
Then, they started saying “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.” This, by the way, is a quote of Psalm 118, one of the Hallel Psalms, which was a psalm of deliverance. In fact, Psalm 118 was often called the conqueror’s psalm. It probably started with just a few people saying it. But it soon caught on, and everyone was saying it.
Now, you have to figure at this point that the disciples were looking at each other thinking, this is great, maybe Jesus was wrong. Maybe it isn’t going to be suffering and death after all. Maybe He’s going to be crowned king after all. Maybe they even started secretly high-fiving each other. This could be better than Galilee.
Which brings us to our question – What is going on here? What’s the point of the prophecy, and what’s the point of Jesus fulfilling it? What is this? The point is, Jesus is a king alright, but not like the kings of the earth. This is a coronation, alright, but it’s not what we’d expect.
Golden coach? Ostentatious display of wealth and power? Does this look like Elizabeth or Alexander to you? As He made His way to Jerusalem, He was accompanied by the Twelve. Remember them? Not much to this following – former fishermen, tax collectors and Zealots. There was even a thief among them. They were Galileans, so they wouldn’t be respected by the Jews of Jerusalem.
His entourage was completed by formerly blind, maimed, crippled, leprous, dead people. Bartimaeus would have been there – Jesus had just healed him in Jericho on the way to Jerusalem. Zaccheus would have been there – he was the diminutive tax collector who had just decided to follow Jesus days before. Lazarus would have been there, since Jesus had just recently raised him from the dead.
In fact, John 12 tells that’s why many of the people were coming out to meet Jesus – they wanted to see Lazarus – they had never seen a dead man walking. That’s very important to understand what’s going on here. Yeah, there were thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people there that day. But they weren’t impressed with Jesus – they were just impressed with His tricks. And get the picture – former prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors – not much of a processional if you ask me. What kind of king is this? This wouldn’t make worldwide television, would it?
Instead of satin and velvet robes, there were only the cloaks of the peasants and branches cut from nearby trees. Instead of the voices of a magnificent choir, which attended Elizabeth’s coronation, there was only the sound of the common people, crying out, “Hosanna, to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Crown jewels – symbols of sovereignty? His would later be a crown of thorns; His scepter – a reed with which they would strike Him on the head.
Finally, and most importantly, it was obvious to everyone who Alexander was when he road in. It was obvious who Elizabeth was – kind of hard to miss the golden coach – better than Cinderella. But that’s what the parade was all about – to set the stage for the entrance of the queen. The sovereign. When Jesus rode in, get this, He came in on a borrowed donkey. As a result, while the multitudes began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” some didn’t even know who Jesus was.
Look at verse 10 again, “Who is this?” You almost get the idea the crowd was caught away in the excitement of the moment. Everyone had gathered for the Passover, which celebrated the Exodus – their deliverance from Egypt. They were looking for a Messiah. They were in a deliverance mood. “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Hey, did you hear that? Cool – the Messiah might be riding into town. “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Here He comes. “Hosanna in the highest!” By the way, who is it? They didn’t even know. Behold your King, church.
And when the crowds answered, they didn’t even really know. Verse 11 says they saw Him only as a prophet – Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee. Can any good thing come out of Galilee?
What’s going on here? We know that the fickle crowds who are now yelling, “Crown Him!” would by the end of the week yell, “Crucify Him!” In a few days, they won’t want to crown Him – they’ll want to condemn Him. The crowd that was claiming Him as their King would by the end of the week say, “We have no king but Caesar.” The crowd proclaiming “Hosanna!” which means “Save us now!” would say, “You who saved others, why don’t you come down off the cross and save yourself.”
Was this really a coronation? Yes, it was. You see, Jesus came as a king, but not like the ones the world was used to, not like the one the Jews expected. While they expected a military conqueror to throw off Roman oppression, He came as a different kind of conqueror, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9. Make no mistake about it, this was a fulfillment of prophecy. Think about that for a minute – why did He have to fulfill this particular prophecy? Why did Jesus come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey – actually, on the colt of a donkey?
Maybe it was this. One day, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were having a brainstorming session as they were planning the events of time. They had already decided there would be a creation, but humanity would fall into sin. They had already decided Jesus would come and die for the sins of the world. But now, how to make sure everyone understood Jesus was the anointed one – that He was the Messiah. I know, one of them said, let’s get some really outlandish prophecies that only Jesus will fulfill. Like the virgin birth – that’s a good one. How about this – when He goes to Jerusalem, let’s have Him ride in on donkey – No better than that, let’s have Him ride in on the colt of a donkey. Yeah, that’s good one – most kings then will be riding on mighty stallions or chariots. Later, they’ll ride in gold coaches or 747’s called Air Force One. We’ll have Him ride in on something no one would ever expect. Yeah, that’s a good one.
Was that it? No. You see, in the Gospels, particularly Matthew, we find there was a constant, consistent message that came from Jesus every time He spoke, every time He acted. My kingdom is different from the kingdoms of this world. I’m not like Alexander – I’m not even like Elizabeth. Greatness in my kingdom is found in service and humility. Here comes you’re king, church – gentle, mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
Rather than a beast of conquest, the one bearing Him was a beast of humility and peace. It spoke of the nature of the kingdom He would come to offer. He would come in gentle, not crushing; gentle, not cruel. It is a picture of the kingdom He comes to bring. If you’re looking for a different kind of king, you’ll miss Him. He came on a donkey, and went straight to the cross.
And He continues to communicate to us, His followers, that His kingdom is a different kind of kingdom. No opulence, no regal splendor, no outlandish displays of wealth and strength – just a humble king, who came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.
True, there is coming a day when He will ride in on a white stallion. And every knee will bow. But not this time. And listen – there is a sense in which He did come as a conqueror. But not conquering Rome, as they expected. He came to conquer His old foe, Satan. While Satan would bruise His heel on the Good Friday to follow that first Palm Sunday, Jesus would rise from the dead on that first Easter, thus crushing Satan’s head. He came to conquer death. He came to conquer sin. He came to conquer sickness and disease. He came, not to take life, but to give life. When Jesus came, He was not so much concerned with the tyranny of Rome – He was concerned with the tyranny of sin. He came, not to free people from slavery to Rome, but from slavery to sin. Yes, this was a coronation, but not one they, or you would have expected. But where would you be without it? This King came to give His life for the kingdom. To lay down His life for His friends.
Let me close with this one thought. The message of the Gospels is the same – Jesus’ kingdom is not a kingdom of this world. It’s a different kingdom, a different kind of kingdom. My one question for you is this: are you a subject of this world, or are you a subject of the kingdom? Would you rather follow Queen Elizabeth or King Jesus? Church, behold your King.