During the week a ministry friend of mine told me about another minister, by the name of John
, who when preaching for a call selected the text … “There was a man sent by God, his name was John.”
What are you saying at that moment if you choose a text like that?!
It’s almost as inappropriate as a minister who chooses ‘The Triumphal Entry’ as the text of his first sermon at a new church!!!
What am I trying to say???
I will admit that we did have a sense of arrival when we got here.
Given the current logistical challenges there was a real sense of relief and I guess even triumph as we approached the NSW/Qld border; and then as we got our furniture into our new house.
We had managed (thank you Lord) to steer our way around lockdowns, isolations, the Brisbane rental crisis, RATs and PCRs … we are here.
However, there was one factor which helped keep our sense of perspective in all of this. Kept our entry into Qld from being triumphalistic.
As we rounded the corner, past the Gold Coast Airport and the big billboard which still reads “Welcome to Queensland” loomed large; a strategically placed road work sign warned us, in bright orange lights, to PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
In that moment it made me laugh. But over the last few weeks it also made me think.
As we embark on this new season of ministry together .. that is such a great and timely warning, proceed with caution
In this time of excitement, eagerness and expectation, proceed with caution
As we begin to plot our future course, proceed with caution
Because today’s passage shows us that no matter how clear
Jesus is about His mission people get confused
. Jesus is clear. People are confused.
I want us, as much as possible, to have clarity and to avoid that confusion. I want us to proceed with caution
I wasn’t particularly planning to preach this passage for my first sermon here.
But as I was reading through Matthew during January it struck me that at the beginning of chapter 21 as Jesus is coming to the pointy end of his earthly ministry, as the dorsal fin of the cross circles on the horizon, Matthew is dealing with a prevailing confusion
Up to this point Jesus has been very clear about who he is and what he has come to do and how that will transpire for him and those who follow him.
And I am convinced that this is something we must be clear about as we begin our ministry together here at MPC.
What are we here for? What’s the objective?
MPC does not exist to bolster my ego or further my reputation. If that ever seems to be my motivation please call me out.
MPC does not exist to pander to your proclivities. I promise that if I see that I’ll call you out
MPC exists to honour and serve the Risen Lord Jesus and to declare His name locally and globally – across the table, across the fence, across the road, across the world
I heard of the Brisbane offices of a local law firm being referred to as the world headquarters for their company.
This is the world headquarters of MPC ministry and mission … exciting isn’t it?
We are on about … Presenting Christ to everyone and everyone mature in Christ. Growing followers of Jesus However you want to say it.
We exist to declare and honour the name of the Risen Lord Jesus so, from the very start, let’s proceed with caution.
How do we proceed with caution?
By being clear and avoiding confusion. Let’s take a look.
We proceed with caution by …
In the opening verses of Matt 21 Jesus is being very clear about who he is and what he has come to do.
That may not seem immediately obvious.
But it’s there in v1-3
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
Now, for the previous 20 chapters Jesus has been walking
everywhere, even walks on water!
Walking all around Galilee and lately walking with intent along the road to Jerusalem.
But now, just as he is about to crest the rise which will bring the city into view he instructs a couple of disciples to go get a donkey and her colt.
If anyone questions them say, “the Lord needs them.”
In v6-7 we see that Jesus intends to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
Understand, Jesus doesn’t need the donkey because all of a sudden he’s very tired or just sick of walking
By entering Jerusalem on a donkey Jesus is making a very clear statement about who He is and what He has come to do.
He is the one the prophets foretold, the king entering Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
Matthew is referring to the prophet Zechariah and in v5 he gives us a summary of what Zechariah says.
v5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
One of the major themes of Matthew is that Jesus is the King
and this episode helps develop that theme.
And even more as you look at the full version of what Zechariah says about this King.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
This King comes in humility
but he will bring a great victory.
He might be riding on a young donkey,
But warhorses and chariots will fall before him.
This is the king who brings lasting salvation to his people,
peace to all nations throughout all the world.
I grew up in a small farming community where any young man worth his salt drove a V8 Holden ute with fat wheels, a twin (exhaust) system and dark tinted windows. For all the various colour combinations they all looked and sounded much the same.
So you may be able to imagine the reaction I got when I drove my bright red, VW convertible Superbug into town with it’s fibreglass spoilers, flared guards, giant whale tail – I stumbled on it at an auction in Sydney.
It was indeed a statement of sorts – mostly that I couldn’t afford a V8 ute. Local police felt it was a cry for attention.
Jesus is making a very clear statement about who he is by what he drives.
He is the true and promised King who will win a decisive victory and deliver salvation for all the world.
But this victory will be won through humility
and this salvation will be achieved through sacrifice
The truth of this victory and salvation is the Son of God come to earth as a man to lay down his life so that we might live.
– we’ll consider that in Phil 2 in a few weeks.
God stepping down from his throne for the good of those shaking their tiny fists in his face.
– the perfect life of the Son of God laid down for rebels and sinners.
Be clear. There is no other way of salvation. Faith in Jesus is our only confidence before God.What Christ has achieved on our behalf is our only hope. Faith in Jesus is our message to the world.
Humility and sacrifice is our manner. We follow the King who did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matt 20:28.
And it is the call of every disciple that we lay our lives aside in service of the King – whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matt 16:24.
We proceed with caution by being clear; Christ is King. And we proceed with caution by avoiding confusion.
While Jesus is clear the people are confused. To be sure they do roll out the red carpet …
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
This is how you make way for a king. Cloaks and branches spread along the road so that the feet of his steed in effect hover above the pavement.
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
These are the words with which you indeed honour an Israelite king. It seems like these guys have got it all together doesn’t it?
But it is no accident that just a few verses away in this same chapter Matthew records the only one of all of Jesus’ miracles that is not restorative
; in fact it is destructive.
He curses a fig tree for giving every indication of being healthy and yet bearing no fruit. It’s a mir-able; a Burke-ological term for a miracle that acts like a parable.
The point is that words and actions apart from faith is a dangerous condition.
Faithfulness is more than calling Jesus King and singing a few songs about Him.
The fruit of faith is a life, your life, shaped by that the rule and command of that Kingship. The people are caught up in the moment, they show honour and sing praises and yet it’s nothing more than the madness of crowds.
By the end of the week most of them will be baying for Jesus’ blood; “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
But even as Jesus rides into Jerusalem amid the cheers and accolades there is confusion.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Earlier (Matt 16) Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Answer: One of the prophets.
Despite all their accolades and serenades they are confused. They do not yet understand that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour. As Jesus told Peter, that truth must come from above.
At the moment our daughter is annoyed with one of her brothers… with good reason I might add. She has logged him out of her Disney+ account and changed the password. He’s out of the herd – for the time being.
I am so thankful that Jesus does not treat us we deserve; that he does not lock us out of His Kingdom.
While there is confusion among the crowds there is no confusion for Jesus. He understands that apart from his sacrifice we are all condemned.
This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of the day when Queen Elizabeth II was informed of her father’s death; making her Queen of England and the Commonwealth.
For 70 years she has been one of the best protected people in all the world. And with good reason, as there have been very many attempts on her life – even in Australia when a log was placed on railway tracks her and Prince Philip were travelling on between Sydney and Orange.
The total cost of this protection has been estimated at around $57 million! Saving a royal life is expensive.
Consider the cost of your salvation.
The thing I love about Matthew’s account is that despite the confusion and the fickleness and even the hatred and derision expressed toward him by the crowds, King Jesus still goes to the cross that they may be saved … that we may be saved … that I might be saved.
King Jesus gives his life for his subjects.
We do live in a world which is confused and fickle. A world which is prone to reject Jesus and his church. And as we bump up against that confusion it is often very tempting to write people off, to express anger towards their rejection, and maybe even long for them to “get what they deserve.”
I often feel that way as I read through some of the responses in the comments section of the online newspaper I read.
However, if we as a church are going to proceed with caution in honouring and proclaiming the name of Jesus faithfully, and responding appropriately as those who have been shown amazing grace then we too will love those who revile us and pray for those who oppose and malign us.
We will be a church who earnestly prays that God would have mercy on our nation and turn stubborn hearts to him, just as he has done for us.
We will exhibit to others the love that Jesus has lavished on us.
I don’t suggest that this response is always easy or natural, however that will be a sign that we are indeed proceeding with caution.
I have started the process of becoming a citizen of Queensland.
I made big strides the other day.
- Driver’s Licence changed.
- Rego and number plates changed.
All on the same day. Good start.
To obtain a Qld licence I had to surrender
my very cutting edge, very convenient digital NSW licence.
In return I got this … a piece of paper licence … with the instruction to take with me everywhere I go, it’s very important – doesn’t look very important.
Surrender is a good word to describe the process of citizenship.
Surrender to King Jesus. Surrender to the one who while we were still sinners died that we might live.
Friends as we move forward into this new season of ministry pray that we would proceed with caution.
That we would be clear about the Kingship of Jesus. That we would not only avoid the confusion of the world, but speak the gospel truth into it.
Equipped to Proceed with Caution
Personal and corporate – regular sitting under the Word.
- Personal daily Bible reading habit.
- Stats on church – weekly mindset.
Need of the work of the Spirit in us.
Apart from Him we remain dead; hearts of stone.
- Promote His fruit in our lives.
One final thing – pray for me. When you say grace, “Lord thanks for this food and we pray for Hamish that he would help us proceed with caution.”