We arrive this week at a reminder that the Bible is no ordinary book. It claims to be the word of God, and it can be shown to be what it claims – The supernatural work of God.
The Gospel of Matthew is peppered with references back to the Old Testament scriptures. There is good reason for this. Matthew is demonstrating that Jesus Christ is the foreseen and foretold Messiah of God come to free his people.
Those Old Testament scriptures were written several centuries before Jesus came, and yet they specifically fit the identity of the person of Jesus – his life, work, death and resurrection.
Only God could have done this. Only God could have foreseen the events described; only God could have arranged the events foretold; only God have caused them not just to be written down, but for those writings to be preserved and revered for centuries.
The particular reference back we come to this week is recorded in Matthew chapter 21 and verse 5. It says:
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold thy King cometh unto thee meek, and sitting upon as ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
It is a direct quotation from the Old Testament book of Zechariah, chapter 9 and verse 9. This reference joins the catalogue of such references from the Old Testament recorded by Matthew as evidence that Jesus Christ was the Messiah [or “Christ” in Greek] expected by the Jewish people.
It refers specifically to the events on what we call “Palm Sunday” when Jesus was welcomed like a king as he entered Jerusalem in the final few days before his crucifixion. In his honour, people scattered their garments and branches from trees in his path, and Matthew records them crying out:
Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord
Of course, Jesus did not come as earthly kings and rulers come in great pomp and splendour, with armed guards in expensive vehicles, displaying the power of their might to impress and overawe the people.
No Jesus came as an ordinary person, in humility; welcomed by people who knew of all the good he had done; honoured for his sincerity and gravity; welcomed in love, not out of fear.
Jesus lived a very ordinary life until he took up his teaching and healing ministry at age 30. Then he became a penniless itinerant preacher, dependent on the generosity of others, without a fixed home or having any assets or pension plan. He travelled, taught and healed continually over some 3 years before coming to Jerusalem first to acclamation and within days to politically inspired condemnation.
This Truth and this Example must be reiterated and asserted constantly in this materialist age when religious leaders with position, titles and even wealth dominate the public image of Christianity.
Jesus lived to please God, and to serve God as God had ordained he should; and we are called to do exactly the same – that is to live as God has taught us in the NEW TESTAMENT, living lives honouring God now, and with God as our hope in eternity.
To live in humility and obedience not counting the cost to our pride, to our purse or to our prospects. Living as he calls us to live, leaving the working out of our circumstances to God according to his preordained plan for us.
What is amazing is that God had it all worked out to the very exact day, in a very exact way.
If you remember back to the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel in chapter One, Matthew elaborates the generations from Abraham all the way down to Jesus. And in verse 17 of that chapter Matthew points out to us the very exact number of generations from Abraham to King David; from David to the exile of the Jews to Babylon; and from that time of exile to Christ. Three periods each having a particular character and course of events, and each being exactly fourteen generations.
God has the entire history of our world in his plan and purpose. It is not out of control. No. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, God works all things after the counsel of his own will.
That means that we are not to be worried about the turn of events in our world. No. What we are to be concerned about is to follow the example of Jesus we see here and elsewhere: living in humble obedience to God. Allowing God to be God in our lives by living as he says we should, and not being preoccupied with wealth and ambition like the lost world about us.
And even when we get it wrong, or think we got it wrong, God however puts it right. As the apostle told the Roman believers, chapter 8 and verse:
and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren