When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the promises made to David about a son, and made to Israel about a king, had not been forgotten. There had been no real kingdom for hundreds of years. There had been great heroes, but no true kings. David’s line had not been raised up. But some people still held to the promise. How could God deny himself? He would keep his word. A king would come. And when they looked at Jesus, they recognized that king.
Do you remember how people called Jesus the “son of David”? Poor Bartimaeus, sitting on the side of the road leading out of Jericho, shouting again and again, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” A few days later, on the way into Jerusalem for Passover, throngs of Galileans hailed him again as “the Son of David,” the “king of Israel.” Again, I ask, why Jesus?
Remember the promise made to his mother, even before his birth: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Remember that he was born in, of all places, Bethlehem, the town of David. The prophet had hundreds of years earlier said, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.”
For centuries Israel had waited for a king, the king, the son of David. Then one day in Galilee a charismatic young man – about David’s age when he assumed the throne – a man born in David’s hometown, whose leadership ability was off the charts, whose spiritual life was inspirational, began traveling through the countryside. And the first words he spoke were: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Now we begin to see why, on the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people were shouting to the Son of David, the one coming in the name of the Lord! Jesus borrowed a young donkey to ride into the city, and so reminded everyone of the treasured words of the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” On that day it seemed as if all the promises of God were going to be fulfilled: after all these years, David’s greater son had finally arrived.
And five days later he was dead. God’s promises, once again, seemed like empty words. Here, in viewing what for Jesus’ followers was the greatest of disappointments, is a wide-angle theme to remember: God’s ways are not our ways, and his time is not our time. We’ve seen it again and again. God promised Abraham a child, but Abraham and his wife could not and did not conceive for twenty-four years. He promised his people a land of their own, but it took them forty years to enter it. He promised David a kingdom in perpetuity, but the kingdom cracked within two generations, and was broken to bits within a couple of hundred years. He promised Israel the return of the king, but just when they thought he had arrived, he was executed.
God hardly ever does things the way we think he should. Why send the long-awaited king to a cross? Why inaugurate the kingdom by having the King crucified? Here is where we need a wide-angle lens in looking at the Bible. Yes, he is King, but he is also the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Manna of our souls. He is the Captain of salvation. He is the Son of David, but he is also the Son of God. There are depths to him that even a wide-angle lens cannot take in because God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.
If some of God’s people stopped trusting his promises when they saw their king executed, they stopped trusting three days too soon. The resurrection vindicated their trust in God. And if you and I stop trusting when we see our hopes withering and our prayers falling to the ground, we stop trusting too soon. God will keep his word. As Solomon son of David once put it, “Not one word has failed of all the good promises [God] gave.”