The Misunderstood Messiah
 (Mathew 21:1-11)

Have you ever had the experience of having someone thinking you were someone you weren't? They may have called you by another name, thought you worked in a store you were actually shopping in, or they may have given you a senior coffee discount at McDonalds although you're still in your mid-forties. And if this hasn't happened to you perhaps you've seen this happen to someone else.

Well on that day long ago, the day we now call Palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of praise, everyone had an idea of who they thought Jesus was. But, almost all of them really didn't know.

When the crowds cry out "Hosanna to the Son of David!" and "This is the prophet," they use the right words, but they still miss the point. They have all the notes but none of the music. They have the theology straight, but they still end up rejecting Jesus and calling for his death.

" Knowing the truth is not the same as living the truth. " Knowing how to do heart surgery is not the same as being able to do it. " Being religious is not the same as being Christian.

Those at the gates of Jerusalem simply misunderstood who Jesus really was. To many, he was just another prophet. Some guessed he was Elijah returning. And there were some who did think that Jesus was the Messiah, but not the type of Messiah they were expecting.

They misunderstood why Jesus came. Many thought the Messiah was coming to declare war on their enemies - the Romans. Many thought that the Messiah was coming to restore them to the glory that they had once known under David; after all, the Messiah was called the "Son of David." They misunderstood how Jesus would carry out his God-given mission.

Well Jesus means of travel should have given these folks a clue. Instead of mounting a mighty stead, Jesus chose instead a lowly donkey. Instead of riding into Jerusalem in a new Hummer Limousine, Jesus chose a Yugo.

Now Matthew in his gospel mentions both a donkey and a colt, while the other Gospels only mention the colt. Matthew is recording the same event as the other gospel writers, but in his account he's focusing on the prophecy found in the book of Zechariah (9:9), where both a donkey and a colt are mentioned.

Matthew explains how Jesus' actions fulfilled the prophet's words, therefore giving us another indication that Jesus was indeed the long awaited for Messiah. And when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey's colt, he affirmed his messianic royalty, as well as, his humility.

Jesus was a suffering Messiah, one who saw the great enemy not as the Romans, but as sin in the human heart. Only a redeeming love could confront and defeat that enemy. Jesus didn't come simply to restore Israel to a place of prominence and prestige; he came to redeem all humanity. He came to restore our relationship to God.

I really wonder if we understand him any better today? Do we see Jesus as our means to a more prosperous material life, the fixer of all our problems, the answer to the bad choices we've made, or do we see Jesus as God's Son who came humbly not to condemn the world but to save it from eternal death. (John 3:17)

We, like the good folks of Jerusalem welcome Jesus into our hearts, but do we really understand who Jesus is, why he came, and how he works in the world?

Do we really understand, as followers of Jesus, who we are, what Jesus did for us, and what we're now suppose to do?

Some of the answers to these questions can be found by exploring the role of the donkey in our gospel reading. 550 years before Jesus entered Jerusalem Zechariah prophesied about this little donkey. God had a plan and this donkey was selected by God to play a part in His plan. And in like manner God has selected us to carry out his plan as well, to bear fruit-fruit that will last. As the people of God we have been chosen not only for blessing, but also for service.

Consider Jesus' ministry for a moment. Jesus ministry was about serving others, not being served. And he went further with his example by modeling for us what it means to lead others by first serving others.

Now we may not be a kings or queens, or prominent leaders in the church, but God knows each one of us by name and he has a plan for us to serve him. All Christians, regardless of job, vocation, social status, economic status, race, and so on, are called to servant ministry. Even those who find themselves in leadership roles are to serve first, not be served. In God's kingdom there are no exceptions to serving.

To help us gain insight into serving lets consider the donkey. Often times we spend little time focusing on this part of the scripture, preferring instead to jump right to the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, with all the pomp and circumstance, and the waving of palms. But the donkey is very important.

Donkeys in the Jewish tradition often had special religious significance. They were significant because they had never been used for any worldly purpose. So in a very real way guess whom the donkey represents? You and me.

As the donkey was set apart from the world, so too must we be separated from the world to be useful to the Lord. I'm not suggesting living in isolation from the world, or ignoring our responsibilities in this world, I'm suggest shifting our priorities to be more focused on God's kingdom, rather than on this world.

This implies we need to do a better job of preserving our time and energy to use for the Lord's service. So often we give God the leftovers of our life, when God desires our first fruits.

But in order to give our best to God we have to be prepared for serving him. You'll notice that before Jesus sat on the donkey, those around him placed their cloaks on it, and Jesus sat on them. In this action the donkey was being prepared for the Lord's use just as we need to be prepared too.

Spending time getting to know the Lord in prayer and study of His Word prepares us for his use and allows the Holy Spirit to work in us to sanctify us, bless us, purify us from sin, and set us apart in faithful service. How can we possibly be useful and serve God effectively and in a non-hypocritical way if we're not prepared spiritually, physically, and emotionally?

As many of us know serving God isn't always easy, it can take its toll. But I know of no more satisfying work, so we must take the time to prepare. You wouldn't go run a marathon without the proper training would you? If you did you wouldn't last long. Well the same is true in serving God.

Now this doesn't mean we spend all our time studying and praying, feeling we're never quit ready to serve. The truth is we'll never know everything, so at some point we have to be willing to step out in service trusting that we're prepared enough to begin, and that the Holy Spirit will guide us the rest of the way.

It's too easy sometimes for us to say I don't know enough to do it. But the truth is you won't learn all you need to, until you actually do it.

When mother birds teach their young to fly they don't sit in their nest and have a conversation with the little birds until they know exactly how far to spread their wings and how fast to flap their wings to stay in the air.

The mother birds push their young out of the nest when they're mature enough, and basically say now go and learn the rest by doing. And you know what it works. Birds don't learn to fly by sitting in the nest, they learn to fly by stepping off the ledge of the nest spreading their wings and catching the wind. The disciples learned the same way. At some point the disciples had to continue the ministry of Jesus by doing it. After Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended to heaven, the disciples could no longer lean on Jesus. Yes, Jesus sent a helper in the Holy Spirit, but the disciples had to jump off the ledge, spread their wings, catch the Spirit and fly. And we too must do the same if we're ever to be useful to God.

Finally, to be useful to the Lord, like the donkey we must be content or satisfied with what we're doing. Donkeys are not known for a submissive temperament, so it's worth noting that this donkey presents himself to Jesus to be used. And like the donkey we must present ourselves to the Lord to be used in a manner pleasing to God.

Yes, God has chosen us, but he won't work against us. As beings with the ability to choose, we have the ability to choose to follow God's plan for our lives or not. God wants us to choose to present ourselves to Him; to be submissive to his will in our lives. The donkey was content with playing a humble role in Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. And in spite of the importance of the donkey's role in the fulfillment of prophecy, he still plays a relatively small part. The donkey's job is to lift up Jesus so that the crowds can see him.

We have a similar role in God's plan, not to be exalted or to say hey look at me, but to exalt Christ, to make it possible for him to be seen by the whole world. The apostle Paul wrote..."May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Galatians 6:13)

Jesus warned us in his Sermon on the Mount not to be like the religious people who did their good deeds for the purpose of being seen by others. The good works that the Lord has prepared in advance for us are works that bring glory to his name and not our own. So like the donkey we must be content with our humble part in God's plan for the world.

You know as animals go donkeys really aren't the most wonderful of God's creatures. They're stubborn, they're smelly, they're not real intelligent, and they're not really able to do all that much. But Jesus used a donkey in his most triumphant public moment here on earth.

He could have chosen a white stallion outfitted for battle as he's portrayed in the book of revelation. He could have chosen a camel decked out in silks and jewels. But he chose a donkey.

Well we may not be white stallions, or even majestic camels. We may have never really thought of ourselves as an important part of God's grand plan, but the Bible says that's exactly what we are, each and every one of us. We have been selected by God to fulfill a part of His plan, and without everyone's participation there's a hole, a hole that may compromise a part of God's plan in a significant way.

But to fulfill our role we need to be prepared for his service by turning away from the world's evil and by being wholly committed to God. And we must be content to take the role of a servant, fulfilling God's plan for God's glory and not our own.

So as we remember God's entry into Jerusalem today, open your hearts; open your lives so that Jesus may humbly enter where you are. Give praise and honor to God by giving yourself in humble service to his will.

Be a part of God's Kingdom-vision for your life, for this community, for this church, and for the world. We each have an important role to play and it begins by saying, "Yes Jesus!"


Read other messages by Pastor Wade