Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018
David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus). The Jebusites who lived there 5 said to David, “You will not get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David. 6 David had said, “Whoever leads the attack on the Jebusites will become commander-in-chief.” Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command. 7 David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. 8 He built up the city around it, from the terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city. 9 And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him. (1 Chronicles 11:4-9)
“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” By the time of our first lesson, that would be easier said than done. David now reigned as Israel’s sole ruler. Saul had killed himself after losing the battle with the Philistines. David’s closest friend, Jonathan, had died too.
Enemies still surrounded Israel. The Philistines were raiding Israel unchecked while enemies still threatened Israel in the south, east and north as well. But one rebellious group still stood firm within Israel. They lived in the high impenetrable fortress town named Jebus. Jebus was the last remnant of the Canaanite peoples left to be conquered from the days of Joshua. Hundreds of years had passed, but no Israelite had been able to take the city.
Now David and his men were looking up at those imposing walls. “Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” The Jebusites were not the least bit afraid of David. They said to him, “You will not get in here.” It looked like they were right.
Throughout the ages this city would repel countless attacks from armies numbering hundreds of thousands. It would outlast year-long sieges. How in the world would David and his hundreds of men be able to conquer this unconquerable fortress?
As always, David and his men trusted in the true King of glory. “Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty — he is the King of glory.” No wall is strong enough to keep the Almighty Lord out. No army is so strong that they can stand against the Lord. And so despite going against every logical and tactical inclination, David and his men attacked.
In what sounds like an understatement, the book of 1 Chronicles tells us, “Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.” On that day the city of Jebus became the city of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel to this very day. More importantly, the king had arrived. “David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David.” As impressive as the city had been before, David would infinitely improve it. “He built up the city around it, from the terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city.”
Throughout the next thousand years Jerusalem would continue to be the center of life for God’s people. David’s son, Solomon would build the temple of the Lord in it. Hezekiah would improve the walls and reroute its springs. And men like Zerubbabel and Nehemiah and Ezra would help rebuild it after its destruction.
The city of Jerusalem had seen quite a bit over the years. So had her people. By the end of the Old Testament, after seeing sieges and wars and destruction, many of the people had had enough of kings. Can you blame them? So many conquering kings had abused them and destroyed their city. And their current king, Herod, wasn’t even a Jew! Jerusalem’s golden days of kingly glory seemed to have come to an end.
It can be very difficult to wait years for something. It is far more difficult to show patience in the midst of suffering. Have you given up waiting for the return of the King? It is easy to fall into the temptation of giving up. The world we live in has no time for the arrival of a king, either from heaven or from earth. The devil tries every day to fix our attention on temporary, earthy worries. Our sinful nature wants to be king, and will fight against anyone who claims to be one. After daily fighting against these temptations and struggling with sin, we feel as tired as Jerusalem. Fatalism soon sets in as we wait for the next disaster to wreck our lives. “Who is this King of glory?” turns in to “Where is this King of glory?”
On Palm Sunday the King had finally arrived. Great David’s greater Son road in to the City of David itself. Jesus’ entrance could not have been more different from David’s. In place of enemy soldiers shouting there were crowds singing “Hosanna!” Instead of rushing up battlements by foot, Jesus road in on a colt. Instead of having to break down doors, the gates of Jerusalem were wide open. And in place of a conquering king riding a warhorse, we see our loving Savior humbly riding a peaceful donkey.
Yet the conclusion of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem could not have been more different from David’s. David finished the battle as the victorious conquering king, ushering in a new era for God’s people. He and his men stayed alive and won the city. It was exactly the opposite for Jesus. The gracious cries of “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday would soon give way to the angry shouts of “crucify him!” on Good Friday.
Knowing all this, Jesus willing rode in to Jerusalem anyway. While the crowds placed palm branches and cloaks on the ground for Jesus, the people said perhaps more than they realized. ”Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” The people may have been hoping for the return of David’s physical kingdom. But great David’s greater Son came to win for them, and us, a better kingdom – a heavenly kingdom.
Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday became the eternal fulfillment of David’s words: “Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” Those open gates and ancient doors of Jerusalem pale in comparison to the eternal home Jesus has won for you.
Pay attention to the details of this new, heavenly Jerusalem Jesus has won for you. In the book of Revelation tells us there will be no temple or sun or moon. The streets will be paved with gold, pure as glass. There will be twelve gates, and they will be wide open. And greatest of all was the detail King David looked forward to the most: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”
Do not give up waiting for the second coming of your King. Continue to faithfully pray to you Father in heaven “Thy kingdom come.” And continue to say with patient faith: “Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors” and look forward to the day when “the King of glory” brings you in to heaven forever. Amen.