Sunday School Lessons on Jesus

Introduction

Christ is King

This week’s lesson is the first in a set that be-gins to focus on Jesus as He is found in the book of Revelation, during two important days in the Christian 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” recalls 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. This event is found in all four of the Gospels.

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 pilgrim-age 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 Ro-mans. 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 “steadfastly set his face to go to 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 and Jesus healed him.

I. Christ As Source and Goal(Revelation 1:8)

A fitting opening to today’s study comes from the first chapter of Revelation. Hem 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 1:5-7. Dramatically, He speaks for the first time to identify himself in the verse before us.

8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

It is striking to see that Jesus does not use the descriptive terms John has employed for HMI in Revelation 1:5-7. Instead, Jesus uses the terms re-served for God in 1:4: which is, and which was, and which is to come. Revelation is never afraid to describe the risen Jesus in terms that remind us of Old Testament descriptions of God.

Christ As Lord to Be Served(Luke 19:28-34)

Peter preached that Jesus “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed 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 ‘slaking preparations for His entry into the holy city.

A. Disciples Given a Mission (vv. 28-31)

28. And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending 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: “1 was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, 0 Jerusalem.”

29. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples.

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. Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering yes hall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? has shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.

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 rid-den 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 un-tamed animals obey.

B. Disciples Serve Their Lord (vv. 32-34)32. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto 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. (See question 12, page 272)

33, 34. And as they were losing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, The Lord hath need of him.

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 hath need of him. 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. Com-posers 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: “Master, rebuke thy disciples” (Luke19:39). Jesus responds that if He did this, “the stones would immediately 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. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they net Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.

The word him refers to the borrowed animal. 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 outer garments 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 great.” We are reminded that King Jesus does not receive the trappings of human royalty. At Jesus’ birth, He is not laid in a royal bed in a palace but in a manger in a stable 2:71. Jesus taught that His ideal kingdom members are not the rich and powerful of the world but those as little children (18:10).

BLEEX

BLEEX—no, that’s not the sound of some-thing getting bleeped out of a TV program. It’s an acronym for Berkeley Lower Extremities Exo-skeleton. 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 don-key, 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 technologi-.1 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. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that 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.

C. Blessing the King (v. 38)

38. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh 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 passage1 Maccabees 13:49-53 recounts a triumphal entry into the city with praise, palm branches, and music in 141 BC. Many centuries earlier, David returned to the city in triumph after slaying Goliath, the Philistine giant (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 be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord. Although Jesus had won no military battles, they recognize and celebrate His king-ship.

Jesus’ triumphal entry is characterized by more than a Mardi Gras-like party spirit, how-ever. 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, good will toward men” (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?

Conclusion

A. Jesus the King: Past, Present, and Future

Several years ago, I was in a crowd that was ad-dressed 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 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 fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (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).

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, thou good and faithful servant: . . .enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).

B. Prayer

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.

C. Thought to Remember

Celebrate the king!