This week the title is “Unexpected — the king who serves” and it is the unfolding enigma of Christ the victorious King who was also the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah. This is based on the verse-by-verse Bible study found here April 10: Lord of the unexpected
His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was not king-like but riding a young donkey like a peacemaker. He taught about the kingdom of God and with help from the church planter Paul, we see how life in the kingdom of God cannot be the world’s way of status or power. He starts us off in a lifetime lesson in learning to defer, so that Jesus can be seen to exercise His guidance and His rule.
This is a profound message with life-changing implications — told here all too briefly. Of course, it leads up to the greater story of victory on the Cross and new life in resurrection, a major component of our spiritual experience if we are living by trusting Jesus.
Let’s start by setting the scene with some verses from Psalm 118 that pilgrims would sing as they approached Jerusalem. This was taken up by the crowd, a kind of victory chant as they welcomed Jesus, remembering the miraculous signs and wonders He had done among them:
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation.
22-23 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, and I will exalt You.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Those who studied the Scriptures, especially the Scribes and the Pharisees, knew about this part of the story because it had been told long before by Isaiah. But few could have seen how that story could fit this context. The Galilean rabbi, perfectly filled with the Spirit, who had shown miraculous signs of His divine nature and supernatural wonders of God’s goodness and grace for three years, was to become the person described in Isaiah’s story — the obedient servant of God who was cruelly abused for his loyalty.
Knowing the full story, as we do, makes reading this preview all the more poignant. This is about somebody who spoke God’s words, was totally obedient to God’s instructions, and as a consequence, took terrible punishment in a submissive spirit. This is our Saviour and also our model. Lets hear this in Isaiah’s prophetic words:
4 The Sovereign Lord has given Me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens Me morning by morning, wakens My ear to listen like one being instructed.
5 The Sovereign Lord has opened My ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.
6-7 I offered My back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps Me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates Me is near. Who then will bring charges against Me? Let us face each other! Who is My accuser? Let him confront Me!
9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps Me. Who will condemn Me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.
Isaiah is drawing a prophetic picture of how God allowed His Son to suffer terrible torment — physical and emotional abuse of the worst kind.
This is a picture of someone who was guided by the truth and who was meticulous in speaking the truth yet was falsely accused and unjustly convicted.
Our world is a battle between truth and lies at so many levels. We see it on our news media every day — the war that apparently isn’t a war but a liberation movement, the horrific atrocities that it is said were made up by the media. Jesus voluntarily entered this world. And He experienced it — the lies, the false accusation, the intimidation and bullying.
In this next part of the story, we see Jesus entering the holy city to praise and to acclaim, welcomed as the anointed one of God, prophetic teacher and miracle worker and feted as king and Israel’s deliverer. But as we know, this was a confused, conflicted and easily deceived community. In the days that followed, the mood was to change unexpectedly. It will turn to a complete reversal.
28 After Jesus had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29-30 As He approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying to them, “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.
31 “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'”
32-33 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.
36 As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
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:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,”’ He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Jesus took on that evil at the cross and overcame it in His death and resurrection.
He showed us what it looks like to confront in the opposite spirit — not by force, not by arguments, but by being totally submissive to God the Father.
All of this is unexpected behaviour but in God’s kingdom order, it is powerful behaviour. In Jesus we learn a new way to be strong.
In this next part of the story, Paul writes to Christians in Philippi and draws out the way the kingdom of God and the control of man are polar opposites. In the kingdom of God there is only one authority — the Lord Jesus. We experience his lordship as we diminish our standing, deferring to him to make room for the One who is exalted:
5-6 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus who, being in very nature [or in the form of] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage…
7 …rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature [or form] of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name…
10-11 …that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
As we bow our knee to the name of Jesus, we experience Jesus’ presence in unexpected ways. We learn that as we make space He draws close. That permeates our relationships and inspires our thinking. We discover that when we make ourselves less, He becomes more. This is an unexpected way of relating to the Lord who holds unexpected values. But whatever the world thinks of this upside down order, this the way it works.
We are entering a season where it appears that everything went wrong. God allowed what appeared to be so wrong so that in Christ Jesus, what is wrong in us, could have a path to be made right. That touches every part of our lives. And, as we start a lifetime’s lesson on how to live differently, we do well to remember that, however we used to do it, God does it differently.
It’s about learning to place less reliance on ourselves and more on Him.