Christ Is King
Revelation 1:1–8; Luke 19:28–40
Revelation 1:8; Luke 19:28–38
After participating in this lesson, each student will be able to:
1. Explain the significance of the Palm Sunday events.
2. Understand how Jesus is king past, present, and future.
3. Determine a specific way to recognize the kingship of Jesus in his or her life.
How to Say It
Arc de Triomphe. Ark du treh-ONF.
Mardi Gras. MAR-dee Grah.
Napoleon Bonaparte. Nuh-POLE-yun Bo-nuh-PART.
Philistine. Fuh-LISS-teen or FILL-us-teen.
Daily Bible Readings
Monday, Mar. 26— Jesus Is the Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4–10)
Tuesday, Mar. 27—Jesus, God’s Son (Hebrews 3:1–6)
Wednesday, Mar. 28—Children Praise Jesus (Matthew 21:14–17)
Thursday, Mar. 29—Give Thanks (Psalm 118:21–28)
Friday, Mar. 30—The Lord Needs It (Luke 19:28–34)
Saturday, Mar. 31—Blessed Is the King (Luke 19:35–40)
Sunday, Apr. 1—Christ Will Return (Revelation 1:1–8)
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Why Teach this Lesson?
What are your students passionate about? Listening to their conversations can be revealing. Sports teams, new possessions, and children’s accomplishments will top many lists. The older meaning of the word passion, as used in connection with Passion Week, refers to the suffering of Christ. But that is not how we normally use that word today. The word now means an enthusiasm or intense fervor about something.
In the small town where I live, two popular actors recently visited while doing research for a movie project. People were passionate about seeing these celebrities. When the two walked into a local restaurant and made their way to a private dining room for dinner, patrons already seated made cell phone calls to friends and family. The sidewalk in front of the restaurant was soon lined with people hoping to get a glimpse of these men.
As Jesus made his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem at the start of Passion Week, both elements of the term passion were present. Jesus was entering a week in which there would be intense suffering. But among the people who lined the way there was fervor and enthusiasm. Your students need passion for Christ while comprehending the passion of Christ.
This week’s lesson is the first in a set that begins to focus on Jesus as he is found in the book of Revelation. This lesson and the next come during two important days in the church calendar: Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday (Easter). These two Sundays bracket a period in Jesus’ life called Passion Week—his final week leading up to the crucifixion.
The events of Passion Week are always worth studying and pondering anew. Taken together, the rest of the lessons for this quarter will allow students to see Jesus as more than the main character in the events of Passion Week; he is also the reigning Lord of all creation. This is the glorious picture found in the book of Revelation.
A. Palm Sunday as Triumphal Entry
The title and words of the old spiritual “Ride on, King Jesus” recall the day when Jesus was received into Jerusalem as king. The welcome of Jesus into the holy city on the Sunday before his crucifixion has long been called the triumphal entry. This event is found in all four of the Gospels, each having some unique details. Although the Gospels do not make any reference to this event as a “triumph,” it does bear some relationship to the ancient custom of welcoming a victorious king or general back to his home city.
The city of Rome had a tradition of staging triumphal processions. This parade would include the Roman legions, enemy prisoners, wagons loaded with booty, and the victorious general in a special chariot. Sometimes a new triumphal arch would be created. This custom was revived by the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, whose Arc de Triomphe in Paris was commissioned in 1806 for the glory of the French army.
The triumphal entry of Jesus was a way of recognizing him as king. What did it mean for those present to acclaim Jesus as king, and what does that mean for us today? This week’s lesson will examine some of the implications involved in recognizing Jesus as king in our lives.
B. Lesson Background
Jewish law specified three important pilgrimage festivals for which all able-bodied Israelite men were expected to appear at the temple (see Deuteronomy 16:16). They were Passover (very closely associated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Pentecost (or Feast of Weeks), and Tabernacles. Passover came at the middle of the Jewish month of Nisan. This was in the spring, in March or April.
Passover was more than just a religious holiday. Since it marked the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage, it was seen as a remembrance of the birth of their nation. Thus, it had strong patriotic and nationalistic overtones. It was ironic, then, to celebrate a national day of freedom when all Jews knew that their nation had again been subjugated, this time by the Romans. This surely made it a bittersweet holiday! As observant and loyal Jews, Jesus and his disciples were expected to celebrate Passover, and they did so willingly.
In Luke 9:51 we see that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” For the next 10 chapters of that Gospel, Jesus and the disciples were on the pilgrim’s journey to the temple city for the spring celebration of Passover. This was not a quick trip, and they were in no hurry. Traveling south from Galilee they passed through Jericho, a small city just north of the Dead Sea. This was a common route for travelers to Jerusalem from the north, and Jesus’ band was doubtlessly a small part of thousands making the journey.
While in Jericho, Jesus was confronted by a blind man who understood Jesus’ true identity. The man called out to Jesus as the “Son of David” (essentially the same as saying Messiah) and begged to be healed. This healing took place in the presence of the crowd, and they praised God (Luke 18:35–43). In Jericho Jesus also had a dramatic encounter with a height-challenged tax collector named Zacchaeus. Jesus used this occasion to clearly state what he was about: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).
When his business in Jericho was finished, Jesus and his followers began the ascent to Jerusalem. Although Jericho is only about 15 miles from Jerusalem, there is a change in altitude of some 3,300 feet. It was a hot, dusty climb, but we can imagine the growing excitement of the pilgrim throng as it approached the beloved Jerusalem. This is the setting for the primary passage of today’s lesson, Luke 19:28–38.
I. Christ As Source and Goal (Revelation 1:8)
A fitting opening to today’s study comes from the first chapter of Revelation. Here the apostle John is being introduced to the key figures in his heavenly visions. This includes God the Father and seven spirits (Revelation 1:4). Jesus is introduced and described extensively in Rev 1:5–7. Dramatically, he speaks for the first time to identify himself in the verse before us.
8. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
It is striking to see that Jesus does not use the descriptive terms John has employed for him in Revelation 1:5–7. Instead, Jesus uses the terms reserved for God in 1:4: who is, and who was, and who is to come. Revelation is never afraid to describe the risen Jesus in terms that remind us of Old Testament descriptions of God.
There are three parts to Jesus’ self-description in the verse before us. First, he is the Alpha and the Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, akin to our A and Z. Jesus is thus the beginning and the ending. He is the source and the goal for all of creation. Second, Jesus’ claim that he is the one who is, and who was, and who is to come is an affirmation of his eternality; he is not bound by the constraints of time (compare Exodus 3:14; John 8:58).
Third, the verse before us refers to Jesus as Lord and as the Almighty. Often the Old Testament writers referred to God as “God Almighty” or “the Lord Almighty” (see Genesis 17:1). It means that he is the commander of all the armies of angels and that no power in Heaven or earth can stand against him. In the Old Testament, nothing is more powerful than the Lord Almighty. In the book of Revelation, nothing is more powerful than the risen Lord Jesus.
What Do You Think?
How does realizing that Jesus is almighty and eternal (the one who was, is, and is to come) have a positive effect on your faith? How should this realization affect your daily life as a Christian?
II. Christ As Lord to Be Served (Luke 19:28–34)
Peter preached that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38). As we move into Luke 19, that period is nearly over. Jesus has come to Jerusalem for the most sobering and important part of the plan for human redemption. Jesus alone is aware of what is about to happen, but his disciples play their parts by making preparations for his entry into the holy city.
A. Disciples Given a Mission (vv. 28–31)
28. After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Jesus and his disciples leave Jericho to make the long climb to Jerusalem. This is a couple of days before what we call Palm Sunday, for they do not travel on the Sabbath (Saturday), and the trip is difficult to finish in a single day.
We can imagine a large throng of pilgrims making this climb, singing some of the joyous Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120–134). One they may sing is Psalm 122:1-2: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.”
29. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them,
Approaching from the east, the band first comes to two small villages near Jerusalem. We do not know the precise location of Bethphage (meaning “house of figs”). But Bethany (“house of misery” or “house of dates”) is at the foot of the Mount of Olives, less than two miles from Jerusalem. Bethany is the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11:1). This seems to be Jesus’ “headquarters” for the coming week (see Matthew 21:17). Jesus probably arrives in Bethany just before the Sabbath begins (John 12:1).
30, 31. “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”
The village to which the two disciples are sent is Bethphage (see Matthew 21:1, 2). The two men are asked to do something very puzzling: fetch a colt belonging to someone else. If accused of being thieves, they are to answer that Jesus, the Lord, needs to use the animal.
This request shows us two parts of Jesus’ plan. First, Jesus’ simple instructions indicate his authority. To steal a colt is a serious, punishable offense. But that is not what Jesus is doing, and the men obey with confidence. Second, Jesus acts in order to fulfill prophecy. Matthew 21:4 makes it clear that what is about to happen is a fulfillment of Old Testament predictions about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (see Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9).
The fact that this animal has never been ridden has a dual significance. First, it offers a sense of holiness for the occasion. This is an ordinary animal but special in that it has never been mounted by any other person. Unknowingly, the owners have been preparing for Jesus’ royal ride for many months. Second, Jesus’ ability to ride an unbroken donkey is a way of demonstrating his lordship over all of creation. He is the prince of peace, whom even the untamed animals obey.
What Do You Think?
How will the faithfulness of those who followed the instruction of Jesus to retrieve the colt inspire you to be faithful in following his instructions?
B. Disciples Serve Their Lord (vv. 32–34)
32. Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them.
We can imagine the surprise and wonder of the obedient disciples when they find everything exactly as Jesus had predicted. There is no way to explain this except to believe in the supernatural knowledge and authority of Jesus.
33, 34. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
The details of Jesus’ prediction even extend to a confrontation with the owners of the colt. Jesus’ foreknowledge has already covered this, so the disciples answer as he had advised them. They give no long rationale such as, “Jesus of Nazareth is in town for Passover and needs to borrow a donkey because he wants to ride it into Jerusalem.” They merely assert, “The Lord needs it.” In so answering, they demonstrate both their confident obedience and their submission to the lordship of Jesus the Messiah.
III. Christ as King to Be Praised (Luke 19:35–38)
Artists have attempted to illustrate what Jesus’ triumphal entry may have looked like. Composers too have worked to bring the event alive musically. All of these efforts fall short of the joyous, even riotous celebration that accompanies Jesus as he enters the holy city. This is shown by the reaction of Jesus’ jealous opponents: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (Luke 19:39). Jesus responds that if he did this, “the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). This indicates that the joy of this occasion is inspired by God himself. If God is behind such rejoicing, who are humans to stifle it?
A. Preparing the Way of the King (vv. 35, 36)
35, 36. They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
The crowd quickly joins the excitement of the celebration, improvising the best parade possible. There is no royal saddle for the donkey, so the disciples throw their cloaks up on the beast. These are their best clothes, their big-city, high holy day celebration clothes. There is no red carpet or newly paved street, so those in the crowd toss their cloaks to cover the dirt and give an air of elegance to the procession. This shows the size of the crowd, which may be sufficient to have garments that cover the mile or so of this march. Matthew 21:8 says the crowd is “very large.”
What Do You Think?
How can you worship Jesus with significant gifts and by speaking up during hostile circumstances?
We are reminded that King Jesus does not receive the trappings of human royalty in the Gospel of Luke. At Jesus’ birth, he is not laid in a royal bed in a palace but in a manger in a stable (2:7). He does not send out his emissaries with troops and lavish transportation but on foot with no money (10:4). Even so, they preach the kingdom of God (10:9). Jesus taught that his ideal kingdom members are not the rich and powerful of the world but those as little children (18:16).
Visual for Lesson 5
This chart will help your students see how
the events of Jesus’ final week all fit together.
BLEEX—no, that’s not the sound of something getting bleeped out of a TV program. It’s an acronym for Berkeley Lower Extremities EXoskeleton. The University of California developed the device to help people carry heavy loads. For example, firefighters can use a BLEEX as they struggle up the stairs of a building while carrying heavy rescue equipment.
BLEEX is not a hypothetical science-fiction gadget we have seen in Star Wars–type movies. BLEEX is real. It is a set of strap-on metal legs and power unit. Sensors and a hydraulic system assist the normal motions of the human body. As a result, the 100-pound exoskeleton and a 70-pound load can feel as light as 5 pounds. Imagine the superman impression one could make while transported by a BLEEX!
Had Jesus used something like a BLEEX to enter Jerusalem, the media undoubtedly would have focused on the contraption rather than on Jesus. By riding a humble beast such as a donkey, the attention was appropriately focused on Jesus himself. Jesus’ significance came from who he was, not from the technology he used. That’s important to remember. People today are enthusiastic about technology, and we use technological innovations at times to further the cause of Christ. But to allow technology to overshadow the message and identity of the king would be a grave mistake. —C. R. B.
B. Praising God (v. 37)
37. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
Our age is obsessed by the cult of celebrity worship. Many long to know every detail of the lives of their favorite stars. We often witness the folly of assuming that famous people are wise and/or good examples. This verse shows us that the triumphal entry celebration is much more than celebrity glorification.
The crowd is not praising Jesus because he is famous. They praise God because in the ministry of Jesus they have seen the power of God displayed. This is the crowd that traveled with Jesus from Jericho, where he had dramatically healed a blind man just shortly before.
C. Blessing the King (v. 38)
38. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Like the city of Rome, Jerusalem also knew of triumphal processions. The non-biblical passage 1 Maccabees 13:49–53 recounts a triumphal entry into the city with praise, palm branches, and music in 141 b.c. Many centuries earlier, David returned to the city in triumph after slaying Goliath (1 Samuel 17:54; 18:6).
This type of victory procession is also reflected in Psalm 118. The psalm begins with a conversation between the king and his army as they approach Jerusalem, giving praise to God for the victory (vv. 1–18). In verse 19 they arrive at the gates of the temple and ask to be admitted. Once inside, they are filled with praise (v. 24). The celebration calls forth a blessing from the priest (v. 26). Then the king’s sacrifice is accepted for the holy altar.
This mighty refrain is taken up by the crowds of Jewish pilgrims as Jesus enters the city: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Although Jesus had won no military battles, they recognize and celebrate his kingship.
What Do You Think?
Many who hailed Jesus as king undoubtedly were expecting him to reestablish the realm of an earthly Jewish kingdom. What are some ways that you can safeguard yourself from being lulled into speculating about the events surrounding his second coming?
Jesus’ triumphal entry is characterized by more than a Mardi Gras–like party spirit, however. The crowd’s spirit is one of worship. The acclamation is not at all inconsistent with that of the angels at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
No P. T. Barnum, No April Fool
Bridgeport, Connecticut’s annual Barnum Festival is an upbeat civic event celebrating the life of P. T. Barnum (1810–1891). Barnum was the nineteenth-century circus king and was once the city’s mayor. Barnum was called “The Prince of Humbug.” He enjoyed playing hoaxes on people, all in the spirit of creative capitalism.
Barnum saw his sideshows as harmless ways of fooling people while giving them their money’s worth in good, clean fun. His “Cardiff Giant,” his “161-year-old nanny to George Washington,” and his “Fejee Mermaid” are legendary. He even wrote a book entitled Humbugs of the World (see www.ptbarnum.org).
Jesus of Nazareth was no P. T. Barnum. There was no humbug, no hoax, no April fool in what Jesus offered the crowd that joined his entry into Jerusalem. He was not motivated by the idea of accumulating earthly possessions. Many had seen his miracles, heard his authoritative teaching, and witnessed his humility. Many people joined his procession that day; many probably deserted a few days later; some stuck with him for the rest of their lives and into eternity. Will you follow Jesus today? —C. R. B.
Several years ago, I was in a crowd that was addressed by Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch of Great Britain. I was within a few dozen yards of the queen, and I saw and heard her clearly. She seemed to be a fine woman. The reality, though, is that her authority as queen is very limited. Our world no longer embraces the concept of hereditary monarchs who reign absolutely.
A central theme in the Bible is the kingship of Jesus. Jesus does not inherit a kingdom from an earthly father or win it through his accomplishments. His kingship is not bestowed upon him by adoring citizens of the realm. He is king, has always been king, and will always be king. There will be challengers to his throne, but he will reign supreme (1 Corinthians 15:24-25). Many rejected him as king (see John 19:15), but in the end he will receive their acknowledgment (see Philippians 2:10-11).
What Do You Think?
If you decided to live life with the kingship of Jesus always in view, how would your life change?
What are the personal implications of Jesus’ kingship? Does he reign in your life? Consider the question this way: When you willingly disobey King Jesus, do you fear his wrath (see Revelation 6:16)? The New Testament teaches that those who reject the reign of the Lord will be crushed in “the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). Those who love him, those who serve him, will be those who obey him. When Christ reigns in our lives, we can be free from the fear of God’s mighty wrath (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
What Do You Think?
It can be very difficult to reason with skeptics who prefer to focus on the imperfections of Christians. How can we turn the conversation away from criticisms of individual Christians to a focus on Jesus’ right to be king of everything?
If you claim citizenship in the kingdom of God and of his Christ, is your allegiance absolute and consistent? Is your loyalty unwavering, even in the face of opposition? Are you able to let go of your own selfish desires to serve the King of kings without reservation? May God bless us as we each strive toward perfect and unreserved service, so that one day we will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).
Thought to Remember
Celebrate the king!
God in Heaven, we repeat the refrain: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to bring us salvation. May he reign supreme in our lives, now and forever. In his blessed name we pray, amen.
Underwood, Jonathan ; Nickelson, Ronald L. ; Underwood, Jonathan: New International Version Standard Lesson Commentary : 2006-2007. Cincinnati : Standard Publishing