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When Jesus rides in

By Robert C. Crosby

“Wake up, honey! It’s time! We don’t want to miss it.”

July 29, 1981. The clock had not yet struck 4:30 a.m. and my wife was wide-awake.

“Come on, Robert. You promised! It’s time to get up.”

Pam’s reason for waking me was not to go outside and view some rare lunar eclipse or shooting star, but to watch, of all things … a wedding … on television. But this wedding would be watched by more people at once than any other in history. It was the fairy tale union of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

After I rubbed most of the sleep out of my eyes, shuffled down the hallway in my pajamas and took a few sips of coffee, I joined Pam and hundreds of millions around the world to watch the crowds in London make way for their new royal couple. There were many memorable sights to behold, as I recall — the parade, the regalia, the pomp, the majestic cathedral, the endless names of the groom recited by the bride during the vows — but what I remember most was the ornate carriage proudly drawn by horses … majestic white horses.

Another white horse will one day appear to herald a wedding infinitely greater than that of England’s royal couple. The horse’s Rider will change the world as we know it. That Rider is already the centerpiece of history thanks to His earlier visit 2,000 years ago. But when He came to Earth the first time, He rode a very different animal — a humble donkey’s colt.

The first entrance — gently on a colt
Jesus rode a colt that had never been ridden (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30) right into Jerusalem at the onset of His final week, a week that began with a parade and ended with a cross. We celebrate the event on Palm Sunday. What a moment it must have been.

By this time in history everyone in Judea knew about Jesus of Nazareth. His messages had stirred souls, converted prostitutes, opened blind eyes and infuriated religious leaders. His words had called men out of graves and caused others to want to place Him in one. As crowds watched Him enter Jerusalem on that brown colt, many had a coronation in mind; others, an execution.

In the people’s eyes, a joyous chapter was opening; in Jesus’ view, one was coming to a close. A hammer was about to fall; and a Kingdom about to come.

Before making His grand entrance, Jesus directed His disciples to a particular donkey and its colt tied to a hitching post. The animals belonged to someone else, but He needed them.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He did not come as a conqueror. He came gently and humbly on a borrowed donkey’s colt. He received the homegrown adulation of crowds that spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus and cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road (Matthew 21:1-9). Jesus’ coming on that day reminds me of the words of a beloved hymn, “Softly and Tenderly.” That’s how He entered on the first Palm Sunday — softly and tenderly.

He came humbly, on a colt. No pomp. No chariot. No army. But there was something majestic about the moment. One man found it irresistible. Standing on the sidelines, he saw beyond Jesus’ humble form. This man slowly removed his cloak and laid it before the colt. Then another standing by him did the same, and another, and still another, until the street was paved with fabric.

An excitement filled the air as Jesus slowly entered the city on that little brown colt. He was riding in on their praises. They were helping prepare the way of the Lord. Palm branches formed a royal canopy that shaded the head of the Master. Shouts of honor erupted the moment they saw Him and were sustained as He made His way closer to the temple.

This is the Jesus I learned about as a child in Sunday school lessons — sweet Jesus, meek and mild, gentle and kind. Yes, He came gently that day.

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Jesus the Christ

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The second entrance — forcibly on a white horse
On Palm Sunday Jesus came on a colt, but there is a spectacular celestial thoroughbred waiting this moment for the ride of his life. This white stallion is groomed, saddled and ready to ride as no horse ever has before. At the appointed moment, Jesus the Rider will lift himself onto that steed and give the charge to the armies of heaven to begin their journey to Earth.

Here is the vision as John saw it:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. And the one sitting on the horse was named Faithful and True. For he judges fairly and then goes to war. His eyes were bright like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him, and only he knew what it meant. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword, and with it he struck down the nations. He ruled them with an iron rod, and he trod the winepress of the fierce wrath of almighty God. On his robe and thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16, emphasis mine).

On this journey Jesus will reveal a side to His person not seen in His first visit. The Suffering Servant will suddenly show himself as the Sovereign King. The power once incarnationally concealed will be powerfully revealed. Meekness will break forth into majesty. Words once hidden in parables will now openly strike the souls of men as a sword. The eyes of the Rider that once wept with compassion will now burn with fire. The Lamb will turn Lion and will rise to full roar.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the first time, it was to open a new day of salvation and forgiveness for mankind. When He enters the next time it will be to close that door forever. All of the testimonies and evidence at that point will be in. The verdicts for man and mankind already sealed. The time for punishments and acquittals will have arrived. For the lost, it will be too late. For the redeemed, it will have only just begun.

The other side of God
There is a side of God’s character that most people today do not wish to consider, much less study or meditate on, and that is His wrath and judgment. We are warmed by the images in paintings and movie depictions of a gentle Jesus strolling into Jerusalem on a placid brown colt, but have we trembled at the image of the Rider who will thunder in on a white horse?

John the Beloved stands alone in that he saw not one, but both the donkey and the stallion in God’s stable. He was privy as an eyewitness and through a vision to look upon both of these events. He saw the entrances of Christ, both the wonderful and the terrible.

Unfortunately, when we hear the word wrath some think of an out-of-control father or husband who abuses the people in his life. That is not what the Bible means when it speaks of the wrath of God.

The wrath of God is just as real as His love. The Bible tells us that we are now in a season in world history that Isaiah called “the year of the Lord’s favor” (61:2 NIV). Because of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross and His resurrection, God has given Earth this time to recognize His gift of forgiveness and to repent. When we do, He gives us His grace and forgives us. But this time of grace is clearly that — but for a time.

Like every good book, there will be a final chapter. God’s plan for mankind in this season of grace does, in fact, have a last page, a final paragraph. For those who have received Jesus and the way of forgiveness, that page will usher them into everlasting life; for those who have not, into everlasting punishment. Objects of God’s mercy or objects of God’s wrath (Romans 9:22,23) — the Bible says we are all one or the other.

Many people today do not have ears to hear even one word about the wrath of God. They want to keep Jesus on the colt — meek and mild. Paul the apostle advises us, however, to recognize the truth of both facets of God’s nature: “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22, NKJV).

You may ask, “Why do I need to consider the wrath (or the severity) of God? What possible good will that accomplish?”

The fact is, there are at least three reasons why we need to consider God’s wrath:

First, we need to consider the wrath of God to make sure that we avoid it. Unless you and I have accepted God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that we are objects of His wrath because of our sin. Until we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ and received Him as our Savior, we have only the wrath of God to face. But, once we have been born again (see John 3), we have only the grace of God to look forward to and the promise of heaven forever.

Second, we need to consider the wrath of God in order to fully value our salvation. Only then will you and I know what we have been saved from. After John saw the Revelation and the doom facing the lost people and nations of Earth without Christ, I am convinced he appreciated his salvation all the more.

Third, we need to consider the wrath of God in order to warn others (1 Thessalonians 1:9,10). A fresh view of the wrath of God that will one day be poured out on this planet will increase our concern that everyone hears the good news of forgiveness and grace through Jesus. Unless we know of God’s wrath, we know of no need for His grace. The fact is, the knowledge of hell makes heaven all the more attractive.

Make no mistake
Nearly 22 years ago my wife urged me to “wake up” along with half of the world to watch a royal couple
entering a city and led by white horses. Even though I wanted to go back to sleep, she was convinced that “we don’t want to miss it.”

Make no mistake. In the Old Testament, Zechariah predicted One who would come on a donkey’s colt hundreds of years before He ever did. The prophet said, “He is humble,” and yet described Him as “your king … coming to you” (9:9, NLT). On that day, Palm Sunday, Jesus did arrive, and just as the prophet said — humbly on a brown colt, offering grace.

But there is much more, and you don’t want to miss it. John told us of the Rider who would come again to strike down the nations and rule them with an iron rod. On that day, He will arrive boldly on a white horse pouring out God’s wrath.

As surely as Zechariah’s prophecy came true on Palm Sunday, so will John’s in an hour and moment that we know not.

Palm Sunday is a wonderful day to look back to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and remember the way He came the first time — humbly on a colt. But the chosen Bride, His church, needs to do more than look back; we need to look ahead. The Bible makes it clear: Believing hearts don’t just look back to a cross and a colt; they look ahead to a Rider King who will come unmistakably and mounted on a white horse.

Robert C. Crosby is pastor of Mount Hope Christian Center (Assemblies of God) in Burlington, Mass.

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