Who is this? – Matthew 21:8-10 (NLT)
8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!” 10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
Triumphal is a word that could be used to describe the above scene. And the people loved it! Jesus did not sneak into town by way of a back road. He made a grand entrance! A King’s entry. Ironically, he didn’t ride into town like a conquering hero with pomp and power on a mighty steed leading a Roman legion in a victory parade. No. Jesus made his entrance into Jerusalem humbly, seated on a colt, an animal fit for burdens and heavy labor. Not only that, the animal on which he rode was borrowed. He made his royal entrance in a manner that was meek and lowly. It prompted people to ask: Who is this?
Sometimes the answer to that question varies depending on who you ask and the stories they recall. Getting a full picture requires putting together many pieces. How might those closest to Jesus have answered this question?
“He’s our prophet,” Luke might say. “I remember one day in the synagogue when he announced his mission statement, some of those in attendance were highly offended. They started to say things like ‘isn’t this that Carpenter?’ ‘Wasn’t his mother Mary?’ ‘Where did he come up with this idea that he is fulfilling the prophecy?’ Jesus challenged them by saying that a prophet was without honor in his hometown.”
“Jesus was a teacher,” Matthew might announce. “We were with him when he healed the people on the Sabbath. We were there beside him when he preached the Sermon on the Mount. We stood in awe as we watched him feed thousands with a few meager provisions. We listened reverently as he taught us how to pray. Many who heard his teachings were astonished because he spoke with such authority. News about him began to spread through the region.”
“He had power over nature,” Mark might proclaim. “One day, we were in a boat crossing over to the other side. And a great windstorm rose up. The waves beat against the side of the boat. We started to take on water. We were so afraid. And there was Jesus in the back of the boat. Fast asleep. When we woke him up, we said, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we perish?’ That’s when Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves. ‘He said, Peace, be still!’ The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. We were astonished and said to each other, ‘Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
“He raised the dead,” John might remark. “We were there when he brought Lazarus back to life. Mary and Martha were full of grief after their brother died. Even though he had been in his tomb for four days, and they missed him so much, they didn’t blame Jesus for not getting there sooner. They were women of faith and understood that Lazarus would rise again in the resurrection at the end of time. That’s when Jesus told them, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die’.”
“He was the Christ, the Son of God,” Peter might declare. “I remember shortly after Jesus fed the 4,000, we were all at Caesarea Philippi. And Jesus asked us who people said he was. We told him what we had heard various people saying: ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ And then Jesus asked, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ I remember I responded without hesitation: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus told me that flesh and blood hadn’t revealed it to me; it had been revealed to me by God the Father who is in heaven. It had been revealed to me because of my faith, and faith is the rock on which the Church is built, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!”
Who is Jesus? He is a prophet, teacher, healer, one who has control over nature, one who raises the dead. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:10) who will lead believers to pasture; he will feed them with the Bread of Life. He will give them Living Water from the fountain that never runs dry. Jesus will preserve the downtrodden by his Spirit and make sure they have a life of spiritual plenty in a world of great scarcity.