The Public Exaltation of Our Lord
March 19th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
THE PUBLIC EXALTATION OF OUR LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-19-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Public Exaltation or The Public Acclaim of Our Lord.
Now the reading of the passage this morning is in the twenty-first chapter of Matthew:
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage
Sometimes our people call it “Beth-page”:
unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto Me.
And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
And this is a quotation from the ninth chapter of Zechariah:
Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved saying, Who is this?
And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
All of this came to pass, all of this happened in the springtime of the year. The winter rains are now over and the whole earth of Palestine is carpeted in emerald. Jerusalem is just about in the same latitude as the city of Dallas, and springtime to them is as springtime to us. The whole earth becomes verdant, emerald, green, quickened, and alive. And at that time of the year, at this time of the year, the city of Jerusalem was surrounded with thousands and thousands and uncounted thousands of pilgrims who were pouring into the city from the ends of the earth.
The Easter date is the Passover date—Easter Sunday follows, it’s the first Sunday after the full of the moon, after the vernal equinox. That’s why it does vary during the course of a calendar year. And the full of the moon was chosen for the Passover because the children of Israel in bondage in Egypt fled that night out of their slavery towards the Promised Land, and God chose the full of the moon in order that His pilgrims might see where to walk and the way to go.
So this is the full of the moon and the pilgrims are pouring into Jerusalem by the uncounted thousands. Sometimes Josephus will speak of as many as one or two million Jewish people who have converged on Zion at the Passover time of the year. The whole earth around Jerusalem at this time is blanketed with tents, some of them white, some of them black, the people everywhere.
Now at that time, the Lord is in Bethany. And the multitudes are even greater there because thousands and thousands of people have come to see Lazarus [John 12:9], whom the Lord raised from the dead [John 11:39-44], as well as to see the Prophet of Nazareth who raised him from the dead. In the story you cannot help but notice the great emphasis among the multitudes. Verse 8, “And a great multitude spread their garments in the way” [Matthew 21:8]. And the next verse, verse 9, “And the multitudes that followed before, and the multitudes that followed after” [Matthew 21:9]. And verse 11, “And the multitudes said” [Matthew 21:11]. You easily find yourself in a teeming throng of thousands and thousands of people.
Now this is a very unusual story. For one thing, nowhere else in the life of our Lord did He ever use an animal. He does here; He rides into the city of Jerusalem [Matthew 21:6-9]. Everywhere else in His life and in His ministry, He walked in those long, tedious journeys. But the most astonishing of all the things in this story is this: this is prepared and purposed publicity, and at no time ever in the life of our Lord did He ever court public favor, did He ever give Himself to overt publicity. All of His ministry heretofore, has been somewhat private, and certainly the opposite of a courted announcement.
- For example, in the forty-second chapter of the Book of Isaiah: the prophet said of the Lord, “He shall not strive nor cry neither shall His voice be heard in the streets. A smoking flax He shall not quench, a bruised reed He will not break” [Isaiah 42:2-3]. And the life and ministry of our Lord were like that; private, quiet, beyond [Matthew 12:19-20].
- For example, when He was endowed, when He was endued by the Holy Spirit for His messianic ministry and the dove came down upon Him, the form of the Holy Spirit; no one saw that but John the Baptist [Matthew 3:16].
- For example, when He was tempted in the wilderness, no one was there but the Lord and His great adversary, Satan. And when Satan suggested that for publicity the Savior cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, the Lord summarily refused [Matthew 4:5-7].
- For example, when the Master wrought those marvelous miracles of healing, he would say to the blind man [Matthew 9:28-30].
- Or the leprous man [Matthew 8:1-4], he would say, “Tell no man.”
- For example, when the Lord healed the daughter of Jairus, the Book says He pushed outside all of the family and all of the company and all of the mourners and took with Him Peter, James, and John [Luke 8:51-56].
- For example, when the Lord was transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration no one saw that but Peter, James, and John [Matthew 17:1-9].
- For example, when they sought by force to come and to make Him a king, the Lord sent away His disciples, and the Lord sent away the multitudes, and He Himself withdrew into a mountain apart to pray [John 6:15].
- For example, when the Lord delivered those marvelous discourses in John 14, 15, 16 and the prayer in 17, He was in an upper room, hidden away with His disciples [Luke 22:11-12].
- For example, when the Lord prayed in agony in Gethsemane He was alone, leaving even Peter, James, and John behind [Matthew 26:38-39].
I have just chosen those as typical examples of the entire ministry of our Lord. He shunned publicity; He did not court public favor. The grand exception is the story of our text this morning [Matthew 21:1-10]. All of this has been carefully arranged, this colt and the mother have been carefully chosen, and tied up for the purpose. And arrangements have been made with the owner for the disciples to come, and certain words the disciples would say, and certain answers that he would give [Matthew 21:1-6].
And into Jerusalem rides the Lord Jesus, publicly acclaimed by the multitudes who are following after, and by the multitudes who are going before [Matthew 21:7-10]. This is the one and only time in the ministry of our Lord where the presentation of Himself as the Messiah of God is publicly broadcast, acclaimed.
Why? There are several things that enter in to this public declaration of the Son of God. First, this is the covenant day of all history. All that has happened in the years before has been preparing the elect people of God for the coming of their Messiah, Lord, and King. As Zechariah wrote in the ninth chapter of his prophecy:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee, just, having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
…And His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River even to the ends of the earth.
This is the day toward which all history has been moving for thousands and thousands of years. And when these who were shouting “Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna! Salvation to our God” [Matthew 21:9], when they were shouting those words of acceptance and acclamation, the scribes and the Pharisees and the elders and the rulers of the temple dared our Lord to interdict such acclamation. “Tell them to be quiet, such blasphemy!” [Luke 19:39]. And the Lord replied, “If these were to hold their peace, the very stones would cry out unto God” [Luke 19:40]. This is the great offering, the great presentation of the Son of God as the King of Israel, as the Savior of the world, as the Messiah from heaven, the glorious triumphant covenant day of all history has come.
And you find that again in the avowal of our Lord, when He was placed in the witness box before the Sanhedrin. And the high priest said, “I adjure Thee by the living God, tell us whether Thou art Christ, the Son of the Blessed” [Matthew 26:63; Mark 14:61]. In all of the ministry of the Lord heretofore, He has never allowed it to be made known, or to be said, or to be broadcast that He is the Messiah of God. It was fraught with so many of the connotations of political revolt against Rome, and a thousand other materialistic conceptions, that the Lord refused it and never let it be known or said or published or preached that He is the Messiah of God. Yet here, as He is adjured by the high priest, before the court of the Sanhedrin, “Art Thou the Christ, the Son of God?” He replies plainly and doubly, “I am: and henceforth thou shalt see the Son of Man coming in clouds and glory with all the heavenly angels” [Matthew 25:31; Mark 14:62]. It was then that the high priest rent his clothes and said, “He is guilty of blasphemy, what do you think?” And they replied, “He is guilty of death!” [Mark 14:63-64; Matthew 26:63-66].
Well, there must be some reason in the mind of God for this public spectacle in Christ; His presentation to Israel, the public avowal that He is the Christ of God [Matthew 21:1-10]. There must be some reason in divine providence, in the wisdom of God, for so public an acclamation and presentation [Matthew 21:1-11].
And the reason is easily found. It is the purpose of God that the death of Christ for the sins of the world [1 John 2:2], shall be an open and a public spectacle, looked upon by thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands, and known by thousands and thousands and thousands. What an astonishing thing God hath done in the death of Jesus Christ! [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12-13]
Augustine said, “This triumphal procession into Jerusalem is not nearly so much that of a king as it is the procession of a victim to the sacrifice.” Look at that: the public crucifixion of our Lord. It could have been as effective, in the washing away of our sins [Revelation 1:5], in the acceptance of the blood of expiation in heaven [1 John 2:2], had Christ died secretly and apart. And it might have had some dramatic overtones accompanying it, had it been secret and apart, had He died like Moses. No man knew or knows where Moses fell asleep in God, and no man knows of his tomb until this day [Deuteronomy 34:5-6].
What an astonishing thing that God should have purposed to make the death of Christ so public. It could have been dramatic as when Isaac was offered on some lone mountain far, far away [Genesis 22:1-10]. But the death of our Lord is to be open before the eyes of the whole world. And when the Lord is raised up there are so many people passing by, there are so many thousands and thousands of pilgrims present, there are so many tongues and languages who are looking upon it, that the Roman procurator felt compelled to announce the reason for the execution of Christ in three languages—in Hebrew, and in Greek, and in Latin: the public death of our Lord [John 19:19-20].
And this is a part of the purpose of Christ in us: the public acknowledgment of the death of Jesus for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. God has made it an integral part of our very salvation, without which no man shall find himself forgiven of his sins. It has pleased God that the death of Christ shall be public and known and acknowledged. As Paul said to King Agrippa, “This thing was not done in a corner” [Acts 26:26]. The Pharisees and the scribes and the leaders purposed to destroy Christ secretly, and not at the feast [Mark 14:1-2]. But God said, “Openly and at the feast” [Mark 14:12], where the uncounted thousands of pilgrims were gathered around. And it is the purpose of Christ and of God that we who are saved shall be identified with Him in that commitment and in that immolation and in that death, openly and publicly.
For example, He is described as the Passover of God. He is the Passover Lamb. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” [1 Corinthians 5:7]. And the blood of the Passover had to be placed on the lintel above and on the doorposts on either side [Exodus 12:5-7, 22-23]. This house is openly and publicly set apart for God. Why could you not put the blood on the back door, or why could not you hide it in a closet? Because God says that this sacrifice is to be openly and publicly made, and it is to be openly and publicly acknowledged by My people. This house is a house set apart for God. These are people under the blood, open and public.
I for a long time wrestled around with a problem in history that I couldn’t understand, and that was why the Roman Empire persecuted the Christians; for Rome was very broad-minded in all of its provincial dealings with religion. Rome was exceedingly broad-minded, exceedingly so.
When Rome conquered any province they left their religion intact. If they wanted to worship Neptune here and Venus there and Isis yonder and Osiris there and Juno and Jove and Diana and Artemis, anywhere, that was fine with Rome. Rome never entered into the coercive compulsion in regard to matters of religion. And if you ever visit the Eternal City, the most perfectly preserved of all of the ancient buildings in the world is the Roman Pantheon built by Agrippa, the friend of Julius Caesar, in 44 BC; the Pantheon, all the gods. But Rome persecuted the Christians unto death; fed them to the lions, crucified them, burned them at the stake, exiled them. Why? So many years I thought, “Why is it that Rome, though their governmental policy was so broad-minded about religion, why should Rome have persecuted the Christians?”
Well, I found the answer. You see, Rome was perfectly willing to accept Jesus as another god. Here’s Jupiter, here’s Juno, here’s Jove, here’s Artemis, here’s Diana, here’s Janus, very happy to have another god, Jesus. But the Christians said, “Not so, He belongs in no Pantheon!” And in the days of the growth of the Christians faith, the worship of the emperor became the sign of loyalty to the state. And when they brought the Christians before the Roman magistrate, all they desired of the Christian was that he take a little pinch of incense and cast it on the sacrificial fire that burned in front of the Roman emperor, the image of the Roman emperor. And the Christians refused. And in the second church of the seven churches of Asia, the church of Smyrna, it is called the martyr church [Revelation 2:8-11]; for those early Christians laid down their lives, openly, publicly, rather than to take a little pinch of incense and cast it on the fire before the image of the Roman emperor.
Our acknowledgment of Christ and our commitment of Christ is to be open and public and unashamed. As the Lord said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” [Revelation 2:10]. If it costs us our life, we are to be openly and publicly identified with the blood and the sacrifice of the crucified One. I am a Christian, and that’s in the very heart of our salvation.
If thou will confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto [righteousness]; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him shall I deny before My Father in heaven.
But whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall I confess before My Father which is in heaven.
[Matthew 10:33, 32]
Our public identification with Christ is inwoven in our salvation. You teenagers: in life, in word, in example, in circumstance, in incidence, wherever you live; if you, by act or by word or by silence, deny your Lord, He, “If I am ashamed of Him, He is ashamed of me.” The public display of Christ is in the mind and will and purpose of God. As the author of Hebrews says, I am also to bear His reproach, going outside the gate unto Him [Hebrews 13:12-13], outside the camp; if it costs my life, if it costs my popularity, if it costs anything, it is a call of God to us, openly and publicly to identify ourselves with the Lord: the blood on the lintel, on the doorpost on either side, outside the house where the whole world could see [Exodus 12:5-7, 22-23].
Ah, I’ve now come to the third part of my sermon, but I must not take time to elaborate on it. We are talking about this unusual thing of the public presentation of God. First, His public offering of Himself as the Messiah of heaven, the covenant day of all history when He came into Jerusalem to give Himself to the nation as their rightful Lord and King [Matthew 21:1-11]. Second, we have spoken of the public, the public immolation of our Lord, crucified before the gaze of the whole world [John 19:16-20] and the demand of God that we stand by that cross at any cost, at any sacrifice, even unto death—a public committal of our lives to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13].
The third I have not time to preach on, the third great public event of our Lord. First: riding into Jerusalem as our King [Matthew 21:1-11]. Second: lifted on the cross for the sins of the world [John 19:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:3]. The third and coming great public event is the exaltation and acclaim of Christ will be when He comes with ten thousands of His saints [Jude 14], when the heavens shall be rolled back like a scroll [Revelation 6:14]. As the livid lightning flashes across the bosom of the sky, so He shall come, openly, publicly [Matthew 24:27]. The text of the revelation is Revelation 1:7:
Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him,
and they also who pierced Him: and all of the families and tribes of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Christ is coming openly and publicly, before the gaze of the whole world. And even those who nailed Him to the tree will confront face to face the living God [Revelation 1:7]. Oh, what a day, what a day!
And Lord, grant to me and to us—to me and to mine, to you, and to all who hear this message, that we should not be as those who wail at His coming: lost, lost, unprepared and ungodly. But we shall be with these who rejoice in that acclaim, “Even so, come blessed, blessed Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20], the public, open, unashamed acknowledgment of Jesus the Son of God and our Savior. This is what Palm Sunday is about, and this is what that public, triumphal, royal entry into Jerusalem meant [Matthew 21:1-10]. Oh, the Lord bless the truth and the message to our souls.
Now while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; while we sing this song, while we make this appeal, come today. Come this morning. Come now. “Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children; all of us are coming.” Or one somebody you, on the first note of the first stanza, into that aisle and down here to the front, come now, make it now. Come on the first stanza, “Pastor, here I am. Here we come.” And the Lord attend your way, while we stand and while we sing.