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The Subversive King

Subversive : Intending to overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system.

If – understand – life & ministry – Jesus – subversive – core.

That it was undermining an existing system. If you understand the life and ministry of Jesus, you know it was subversive to it’s core. That it was undermining an existing system.

One of my goals in this study of the book of Matthew is that you would begin to see the life of Jesus not just as an abstract set of stories, but as a cohesive whole.

And there’s no way to do that without understanding the culture that Jesus lived in.

And so for us today to say that Jesus is King, that can be pretty safe.

But for the people saying this in the first century it was anything but safe. In fact, for many of them, it cost them their life.

Matthew 21:1-13

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, (Matthew 21:1)

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. (Matthew 21:2)

If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21:3)

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: (Matthew 21:4)

“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.’ ” (Matthew 21:5)

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. (Matthew 21:6)

They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. (Matthew 21:7)

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. (Matthew 21:8)

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!” (Matthew 21:9)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10)

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:11)

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. (Matthew 21:12)

“It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:13)



For a lot of people in 2017, the story of Jesus kind of exists in it’s own separate universe. That it’s kind of in religious world and not in the real world. – Kinda feels like a fairytale. – Once upon a time there was a virgin who gave birth to a son who loves his enemies and dies to save us all.

The reason it has this feel is because we tend to divorce it from real history.

And one of the reasons we do that is this: If we can compartmentalize our lives into our religious life and our real life, then we don’t have to follow Jesus in our real life.

As a pastor, one of the great tragedies is seeing people pretending to be committed to Jesus, but being unwilling to live their live the way he tells us to live it.

But I want to tell you, that truly being a follower of Jesus requires you to make some tough choices. And it requires that we live in a way that sometimes we don’t feel like living.

Having conversations with people that we don’t feel like having.

But so long as we treat Jesus as a Fairy Tale, we never have to make those hard choices.

In this part of the life of Jesus, it starts becoming very clear that a lot of people have the courage to follow Jesus and a lot of people don’t. When it starts costing them something, they take off.

So what I want to do take a couple minutes and paint a picture of the culture that Jesus was living in so you can see how subversive, how undermining his ministry really was.

Jesus lived in a time where Rome dominated the known world.

If you go back 3 centuries, you see it really begins with this guy named ‘Alexander the Great’ who was a genius and a maniac. – He wanted to conquer the entire world.

His idea was this: If you want peace on earth, is what you need is one culture and one ruler, and it should be him.

Called “The Hellenization”

Didn’t conquer the whole world, but it’s amazing how far he got.

And his dream continued.

The dream of Rome conquering the world.

And his dream really reached it’s climax during the time of Christ.

The Roman Empire was powerful, and horrible, and huge. – MAP

It went from Europe, to arabia, down to North Africa. It was massive.

1.7 Million square miles of land

56.8 Million people

They would use the phrase ‘Pax-Romana’ – which in latin means ‘The Peace of Rome’.

And how would Rome bring peace? By killing the bad guys. IE anyone who opposed them.

They were master at torture.

These were the guys who invented the cross.

Where it would take sometimes days of agony before they would die.

It wasn’t uncommon if you were traveling around the Roman Empire to see dozens or hundreds or in a few cases thousands people being crucified at once.

They would go into a country and say: ‘We’re here to bring peace. Submit to us or die.’

And this would produce in a weird and horrible way: Peace.

Peace through terror.

So 5 days before his death, Jesus comes and rides into Jerusalem – the capital city – and he rides in on a donkey.

Not even a full grown donkey, but a colt. – Male donkey, younger than 4 years old. – Basically a wimpy little donkey.

Wasn’t an accident – Jesus did it on purpose.

It’s deeply symbolic.

Jesus wants – teach us something –

Jesus wants to teach us something about who he is and what he came to bring.

We learn 3 things.

Of course Jesus is the King, but specifically, he’s the confrontational king. He’s a counter-intuitive king. He’s the coming king.

1. Jesus is the counter-intuitive King.

Jesus comes and rides into Jerusalem on a tiny little donkey.

Wasn’t an accident – Jesus did it on purpose.

Stanley Heirwass – a great theologian – calls it a parady of the great rulers of his day.

Back Story

It was a great and triumphant entry, but in a way that is almost mocking other great and triumphant entries.

That same week, Pontius Pilot, the roman governer also came in to the city.

He doesn’t live in jerusalam. Didn’t care much for commoners.

So, at Passover. – The jewish holiday remembering their liberation from oppression.

This was a good time for people to get the idea to revolt and rebel. – This actually happened multiple times.

So the roman governor knew that he couldn’t just chill in his mansion, but instead had to come down to oversee.

So in the same week – Jesus and Pontius Pilot BOTH come to Jerusalem.

But he is not riding a donkey.

No Pontius Pilot rides, what is known as a war horse.

Jesus – donkey // Pontius Pilot – war horse

“Mighty governor! Great – Powerful!” Strength, glory, dignity.

Meanwhile: Peasant, preacher, prophet – nowheresville galilee.

Riding a wimpy kid donkey and then these poor people surrounding him and recognizing him as the real king.

Appear slightly ridiculous. Might have been some people laughing.

Both Jesus & Pontius pilate come to down, from competing and contrasting kingdoms.

It shows us that God brings us what we need, not what we think we need.

When people go to God for the first time, they usually go to him because we need something. Almost everybody I know goes to God because they have a problem.

Tim Keller — New York city — 9/11 – tripled. Tim Keller – well known pastor in New York city tell the story of 9/11 and how all the churches in New York City at least tripled the weeks after 9/11. For like 1 month.

Why? They were scared; they were threatened. They were alone, so they showed up.

Another example: There’s a pastor in Philadelphia who tells the story of getting a panicked phone call to go to the hospital to help a family who just got really bad news.

Well when he gets to the hospital, the man comes and says ‘I’m so sorry, we don’t need a pastor. They read the x-ray wrong and I don’t really have cancer, so I don’t really need to talk to a pastor.’ So he left.

He kinda missed an opportunity there. What he needed to say was ‘That’s incredible! I’ve never met a person that’s never going to die. Wow, you don’t need a pastor. Tell me what it’s like to live forever.’ But he didn’t cuz he’s a pastor, and we’re nice people. – So he just went home.

The point is that people come to God when the need something.

But like I’ve said multiple times in this series: We don’t even know what we need.

The jews of Jesus’s day thought they needed a glorious King to overthrow the Roman government. And free them from their oppression. They didn’t get that. Instead they got what they ACTUALLY needed, which was a savior. Someone to free us from our sin and show us the heart of the father. That’s not what they thought they needed. But it was exactly what they needed.

But it was counter-intuitive.

Please keep in mind that when you come to him, virtually always, he going to give you what you really need not what you think you need.

2. Jesus is the confrontational King.

Up until this point, Jesus is working very hard to hide his identity. Please see the message ‘The Messianic Secret’, but now he’s going on full display knowing full well that this will lead to his death. – He’s defying the ever so violent Rome.

He’s mocking the powers that be.

And he’s taking the worship from Cesar for himself.

After he rides into Jerusalem, he goes into the temple to cleanse it from corrupt religious leaders and he refers to the temple like this : “My house.”

The only person that has a right to clean up a house is the owner. And he’s saying ‘I am God’ and ‘I am King.’

So he’s putting people in the position that they’re either going to have to crown him or kill him.

Do you see how confrontation he’s being?

You have to either worship him or destroy him.

I’d like you to consider what this means for you. The fact is that you can’t read about Jesus in the Gospels without, in a certain sense, him saying that to you.

He’s saying you can either crown me (make me ruler over everything) or kill me (have nothing to with me) but I will not be ‘liked’. You can worship me, or kill me, but to casually ‘like’ me is not an option.

There’s too many people in the world that want to just casually admire and use him when it’s convenient. But that’s just not an option.

I could say it like this : “My name is David Eiffert.” So you can’t say to be “Come in David, but stay out Eiffert.” I don’t have the ‘David’ part and then the ‘Eiffert’ part. It’s all or nothing.

In the same way, you can’t say ‘Come in Jesus, stay out Christ.’

  • You can’t say ‘Come in Savior, but stay out Lord.’
  • You can’t say ‘Come in comforter, stay out King.’

You can’t have part of Him. – “I’ll obey ‘that’ but not ‘that’.

Doesn’t work.

Jesus comes and he loving comforts you with a choice: ‘Follow me or don’t. But you have to choose.’

3. Jesus is the coming King.

Jesus didn’t come to defeat the Roman Government, but he did come to save the world.

Hebrew Phrase “Tikkun Olam” “To repair the world.”

We believe that that’s found in Jesus. He’s what God has sent to repair the world.

Sometimes I zoom out and I just think: God save us.

I wonder if any of you remember from when you were a kid that you would get a palm branch and wave it, and had no idea what you were doing.

Do you know what that means? It’s looking forward to the day in which the palm trees wave their own branches because it says in:

“Then the trees of the wood will sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to rule the earth.” (Psalm 96:12)

…The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

Some people think that’s metaphorical, some think it’s literal. I don’t really care.

It’s looking forward to a time when the brokenness of the world is just a memory.

Where there’s harmony, and peace.

It’s the end of death, and decay. And suffering; it’s the end of sickness. It’s the end of everything that’s wrong with the world.

That sense of dread that can live in our heart for far too long, that’s all going away.

Close (Communion)

Jesus wasn’t the God people were expecting.

But He’s the God we needed and he’s the God we need today.

It goes against what the world will tell you should be important.

And we’re called to follow Him, to give our whole lives to him, and when things feel broken and messed up, to trust in Him and participate with Him in healing the world.

Now we come to His table.

As pass: In what way have you not made Christ the King of your life?