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Jesus our King
by the Rev. David Rienstra
minister of the Swedenborgian Church in St. Louis, Mo
From the March, 1994 Issue of Our Daily Bread

This is a very special time of year, when we look forward to the warmer weather and the newness of nature that comes with spring. It is also a special time in the church, when we celebrate that very special time in which the Lord entered Jerusalem riding on the colt of an ass. We celebrate the fact that the Lord's ride from Bethany to Jerusalem was to declare His Kingship.

We are also reminded that this day marks the beginning of the Lord's last week on earth, his last week of trial and temptation. We should never forget that the joy of Palm Sunday stands in the shadow of the crucifixion, just as that fateful day stands in the light of a more glorious one, the Resurrection.

The incidents that occurred during the Lord's ride from Bethany to Jerusalem, and what followed during the rest of that last week, have a deep spiritual significance, as indeed does all of the Word. In part this is why we are here today. We are to learn how we too share in that experience of the Lord's triumphal ride, and more important, to openly declare Jesus Christ as our King and our God.

We learn in the Word that Jesus and His disciples went up to Jerusalem for various religious functions at the temple. This particular occasion it was the Passover feast. The Passover festival celebrates the freeing of the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. People from all over the Holy Land made a special effort to be in Jerusalem for that festival, so there were a great many more people there than usual.

For Jesus, this was for more than keeping the tradition of the holy festival. He had already indicated to His disciples that He as the Son of Man must complete the work which He had come into the world to do, that He would allow Himself to be taken, killed, and on the third day rise again from the dead.

It has been thought that for Jesus to ride on a colt of an ass was to indicate his humbleness. That Jesus was humble is without question. He did not have to ride a donkey to prove that. He rode the colt of an ass to openly declare who He was and to openly declare His Kingship. It was customary for kings and judges of biblical times to ride such animals, especially when they were to be anointed as king. We can see why then the Scribes and Pharisees were angered and threatened when they saw Jesus enter Jerusalem in such a fashion.

For such an arrival, the people would place their garments in the roadway, and go before and follow after their king making a joyful noise, and they would wave palm branches. It was because so many of the people cut and waved these palm branches on Jesus' approach that in the Christian Church the celebration of the Lord's triumphal ride into Jerusalem came to be called Palm Sunday.

When we recognize this ride into Jerusalem as a regal act, we can also see why many of the people there began to get excited. The people had long yearned for a Messiah, someone who would break the rule of the Romans and restore Israel to a place of power and recognition. Those who knew of Jesus, and even those who didn't, would recognize that this kind of entry into Jerusalem was an open declaration of a king. We can also understand to some extent why many of that crowd who were shouting "Hosanna to the son of David." would later in the week join the mobs calling for the Lord's crucifixion. You see, they were not looking for a spiritual savior; they were not looking for a heavenly king. They were looking for a ruler who would solve their worldly problems. It is much the same today, wouldn't you say? When the people discovered that Jesus' intent was not to establish a limited earthly rule, but to provide the means of salvation for all people, a purpose that many of them did not understand, a great many of them withdrew their support and later in the week turned on Him.

Today we have come to this worship, and we join with Christians all over the world, to commemorate and celebrate this ride and this declaration that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one only King. This even is of monumental importance. It is said that the Lord's purpose was to fulfill the Scriptures. It was from this that the people recognized the Lord's declared kingship. This was in fulfillment of the Scripture. The prophet Zechariah had proclaimed, "Behold! Your king is coming to you: He is just and having salvation, riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey." What the people did not understand was the meaning beyond their natural lives. They could not or would not recognize any importance beyond the moment. The Lord's purpose was, is, and is always for people's eternal well-being. In every act, in every deed, the Lord's purpose was to insure that through Him, all people would have the means to eternal life. Jesus came into the world for two reasons: He came to restore spiritual freedom, and to glorify his human, so that He Himself could always be present to aid us in our own spiritual development.

In the Daily Guideposts a woman writes of Jesus' arrival on the colt that one phrase jumped out at her: "Whereon never man sat." She said, "I have seen enough western movies and read enough books on animals to know that breaking a horse can be a tedious job. The animal who has never been ridden will buck and pitch and make every effort to throw a person from its back. Yet this unbroken colt was submissive and accepted the Master with no struggle when the Lord had need of him. How wildly I struggle sometimes when my Lord has need of me! Too busy. I argue when asked to serve on a committee at church. I have no talent for that. Or I don't know how to do it. Get someone younger is always a good out. Or I did it last time, it's someone else's turn, and on I go like the stubborn animals that refuse to be broken. Why can't I humbly submit to Him and let Him use me as He needs?

That ties in pretty well with our own teachings. The ass or donkey corresponds to the faculty that we call the rational mind. The part of the mind which helps us to separate fact from fiction. It helps us to determine what is true and what is false. This part of our mind, however, can be influenced in two directions. It can be influenced by the sense, and it can be influenced by inner dictates which we call the spiritual. When our minds become overly influenced by the natural senses, then we are prone to make many mistakes about spiritual life. We will buck and pitch and resist - instead of allowing our minds to become submissive to the Lord.

The Lord choosing a colt that had never been ridden was to teach us that He alone brought this natural rational under Divine control. The acts of the disciples and the people symbolize our own need to put all that we are in the care of the Lord. This is the way in which we recognize and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our King and God.

The purpose of all this explanation is to help us during this holy week as we look forward to the celebration of the Lord's Resurrection. What is needful is that we recognize that the Lord does not seek only an earthly rule in our lives, but that he is seeking to open the way for us, for life eternal. If we seek only an earthly king, then we will have missed the point of Palm Sunday and Easter. If we look to the Lord as our Eternal Kung then not only will He be the ruler of our spiritual lives, but we will begin to see how active He is here and now. The Lord does care about us in this life, even though we are sometimes slow to see that. He does care what happens to you, to all of us, but more important, through his presence regardless of what happens in the world. He does provide for our eternal well-being.

Through this day stands in the shadow of the crucifixion, let it strengthen us so that we rejoice again with the Lord in Resurrection. As we consider the events of this week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection, explore with the Lord your deepest thoughts and intentions, and then let us return to this sanctuary not only to commemorate, but to celebrate with the Lord the institution of the Holy Sacrament of the Last Supper that the Lord shared with His disciples.


When He had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, "Why are you untying it?" just say this, "The Lord needs it." So those who were sent departed and found it as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord needs it." Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As He rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As He was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." He answered, I tell you if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

As He came near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God."

Then He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and He said, "It is written,

'My house shall be a house of prayer': but you have made it a den or robbers."

Luke 19:29-48

Reading from Swedenborg:

By the disciples putting their garments on the ass and her colt, was represented that truths in the whole complex were submitted to the Lord as the Highest Judge and King; for the disciples represented the church of the Lord in respect to its truths and good sand their garments represented the truths themselves. The like was represented by the multitude strewing their garments in the way, and also branches of trees. The reason why they strewed them in the way was that by "a way" is signified the truth whereby the person of the church is led. The reason why they strewed branches of trees, was that trees signified the perceptions and also the knowledge of truth and good, consequently "the branches" denote the truths themselves. This was done also in conformity with a customary rite; for when the highest judges and kings rode in their solemn procession, the princes of the people then put their garments on the asses and mules, and the people themselves strewed their garments on the way, or in their place the branches of trees; for the judicial function in heaven is the Divine truth from the Divine good, and the regal one is the Divine truth.

Arcana Coelestia (Heavenly Secrets), #9212

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