Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zech. 9:9)
Jesus fulfilled that prophecy upon his entrance into Jerusalem. He was claiming to be king, and the people were acknowledging him as such.
The phrase King of the Jews is found four times in the Gospel of Matthew. A careful examination of those uses will reveal why the Palm Sunday accolades were superficial at best.
Jesus was born King of the Jews.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?”(Matt. 2:1-2)
Jesus was tried King of the Jews.
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed (Matt. 27:11-14).
Jesus was mocked as King of the Jews.
And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head (Matt. 27:28-30)
Jesus was executed as King of the Jews.
And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matt. 27:35-37).
Born, tried, mocked and executed as King of the Jews. The action word that is missing from this list is the word followed.
Yet, follow me was a request that Jesus repeatedly made (Matt. 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21). It’s just that so few were listening.
Two thousand years later the King makes the same request of us. Will you follow me?
The lesson from Palm Sunday is this: It’s a lot easier to cheer the king from the sidelines, than to follow him where he leads.