The King Unrecognized
“And when Jesus was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?”—Matthew 21:10
The pages of human history are replete with instances of royal occasions. There have been accessions, ascensions, and acclamations with such ceremonial auspiciousness that people of all lands have become irrepressively hilarious at the pompous procedures. Preparations in the extreme are planned and presentations of appropriateness are bestowed upon the regal subject, but Israel’s King was accorded no such honors. “He came to His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). The kingdom was unrealized, for the King was unrecognized. This blindness is solemnly momentous and singularly meaningful in both sacred and secular history.
In Zechariah 9:9 we read, “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy King cometh to thee, just and having salvation; meek and riding upon an ass.” One of the greatest Jewish commentators (Rashi) says, “It is impossible to interpret it of any other than King Messiah.”
The promise is explicit. The King Messiah was to come to Israel. He was to be the Just One. He was to bring salvation. He was to present Himself in meekness and humility. Approximately five centuries later this official presentation took place. It was consonant in every respect with all inspired prediction, yet the populace at Jerusalem bluntly inquired, “Who is this?”
The text states that the city was moved by the coming of Jesus, but not with the compassion nor with appreciation. The Greek word for “moved” suggests the thought of agitation. It is here that Isaiah’s utterance finds application. “We hid as it were our faces from Him; we esteemed Him not.” The procession moved on. Children cast palm branches in His course as a fitting expression for the King of Peace. Some Hosannas were shouted to be sure, but displeasure was the prevailing attitude. The details of the procession were, eveidently enough, conforming minutely to the prediction of the prophets, but who, they demanded, would be so irreverent as to desecrate such sacred measures? With bitter dismay they covered their faces lest the very sight should corrupt their minds. “And when Jesus was come near, He beheld the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this THY day, the things that belong to THY peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41).
It is fitting also to call attention to the prophet Daniel’s prediction. Said he, “After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off.” That is to say, sixty-two weeks of years (Heptads) subsequent to the restoration of Jerusalem which was permitted under Artaxerxes, the Messiah shall be rejected. The many evident facts in the case, together with the testimony of reputed chronologists, bring us to the very occasion suggested by our text and commemorated yearly throughout the world on what is known as “Palm Sunday.” Hence, the great rejoicing and loud shouting called for by the prophet Zechariah have now been deferred to a future time when “every eye shall see Him and they also which pierced Him” (Revelation 1:7).
Who is this? Today, as in Jerusalem 19 centuries ago, this same interrogation arises concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. It embodies the same form of unbelief, incorporates the same unwillingness of consideration and evidences the same manner of skepticism. Sometimes, of course, there may be honesty of desire in the heart of the inquirer. He will know and sweet will be the knowledge to him, but he who covers his eyes will remain unenlightened, for no one is so blind as one who refuses to see. Covered faces always eclipse vision.
In whatever vein the question was asked along the pathway which the humble beast of burden bore our Lord, did it elicit a definite response? Yes, according to the context, a multitude shouted back a reply but the answer was utterly devoid of even a slight intimation of the Messiah, the King, the Prince, the Just One, the Bringer of Salvation. Truly, He was unrecognized by the masses.
“This is the Prophet of Nazareth!” was the concerted and unhesitating reverberation. “The prophet—of Nazareth?” Well was it known that such a comment could only augment the already bitter attitude of the populace. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” This was a common colloquialism. It was a favorite expression of youth. It found excessive usage among the uncouth. It was even employed by the more refined when it seemed more mentally convenient to be crude than cultured. As many of our undignified expressions today are used to produce emphasis, so also was this term. Jesus passed by without proper recognition by the people.
Cold type and literary limitations preclude the possibility of a vivid and appealing treatment of this subject, but the whole matter is both tender and touching. Be anticipative of a time of indescribable joy and blessing; then, fail to recognize its arrival. Yearn with inexpressible intensity for a most precious gift; then fail to see it proffered. Dream of meeting the dearest One in heaven or on earth, the One Who is altogether lovely, Who alone can fill your soul with hope and confidence; then, miss Him. The King was unrecognized.
Nothing is so crystal clear in the whole purview of Scripture as the pronouncement of the Saviour’s advent—the Just One, having Salvation. In the Old Testament, He was the hope of the patriarch’s longing, the blessing of the high priest’s serving, the message of the prophet’s dreaming, the theme of the psalmist’s singing, the subject of the poet’s writing. In the whole fibre and framework of prophecy, He was then as He is now. Who is He? “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Do you recognize Him?
“When the fulness of time was come—“ Who can comprehend the meaning of the verse of Scripture? Schedules seem so utterly irrevelant to Omniscience. However, “God sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4). This is good news! Do you recognize it? Daniel, the prophet, wrote to his people Israel about the Son of God (Daniel 3:25), but they hid as it were their faces. The King Messiah was not recognized.
There is striking unanimity on the part of all inspired writers concerning the impeccability of the Savior. Perfections relate exclusively to deity. Noah and Asa were said to have had such qualifications, but these were vouchsafed unto them by Jehovah even as believers are perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28). The earth waited until God tabernacled among men to see the perfection of beauty (Psalm 1:2). Thus, the Apostle Paul attests that Christ was the very personification of perfection (1 Corinthians 13:10). He is perfect in His will (Romans 12:2), perfect in His Word (Psalm 19:7), perfect in His way (2 Samuel 22:31) and perfect in His work (Deuteronomy 32:4). When the angels sang of His advent and announced His bringing peace to men, it was but a re-echo of the perfect peace predicted by the prophet (Isaiah 26:3). He was the Prince of Peace, so pathetically unrecognized in this world of horrible conflicts.
“The city was moved.” This was statedly a move of rejection. No neutral position is discoverable in face of the universal spiritual challenge. What will you do with Jesus? He is presented as the earth’s only Savior and only righteous Sovereign. The force of facts relative to His saviorhood and sovereignty should move us all to a definite acceptance of Him. “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” “He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “He died the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.” Have we recognized Him? By faith the revelation comes.