What kind of king does the church have?
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
27 Jun, 2024

When earthly power is within reach, people vie for it with enthusiasm, competing sometimes ruthlessly to be able to lord it over others. In our nation although we have seen how some in power can act with integrity, genuinely in the public interest as they see it, yet there are plenty examples of those who are merely venal, using their position and privileges for manifestly self-serving reasons. This is so different from the lordship and reign of Jesus Christ in His own church. Although all power in heaven and earth belongs to Him, the way He treats us is in keeping with Him being meek and lowly in heart. David Dickson finds this principle illustrated in Christ’s last journey to Jerusalem before His death. His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was not on a splendid war horse but on an ordinary donkey. In the following extract from his writings on Matthew 21, David Dickson demonstrates that as Jesus was on His way to sacrifice Himself to gift His people with salvation, His greatness is seen in the care He shows for the little ones.

Christ is resolved to lay down His life, and now, the nearer He draws to His suffering, the more He reveals himself to be the promised Messiah, in whom the promises were accomplished. Also, lest anyone made a mistake about the nature of His kingdom, He gives evidence in His poverty that His kingdom is not of this world, borrowing an ass to ride on (Matthew 21:1–11).

He wants His people’s willing loyalty

Jesus has the right to use whatsoever it pleases Him to make use of, as He shows in commanding the disciples to “loose the ass and her colt, and to bring them to him” (v.1–3). Also, whatsoever impediment can occur to any of His servants in the course of their obedience to Him, He foresees it, and provides for it to be removed. “If any say ought unto you …” etc. He knows that the owner of the ass will be there, and what he will say, and foretells how He shall dispose his will, and move him to let them go without any more ado, for the hearts of kings and all are in His hand.

In this way He lets His disciples see a glimpse of His Godhead, saying, “Straightway he shall send them.” Yet although He is Lord of all, yet He wants to make use of what His friends have with their own consent, so that they may be reasonable servants, bestowing with good will what He calls for.

Also, He is not ashamed both to profess Himself Lord and Master, and yet to be so far emptied as to have need of the service of an ass. “Say,” saith he, “the Lord hath need of them.”

He is true to His promises

Matthew then makes an observation on this passage from Zechariah, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy king cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (v.4–5). From this we learn that our Lord will see to it that all things written of Him shall be fulfilled. He is the promise-maker, and the promise-performer also. That is why it says, “This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.”

It is not our deserving, but God’s purpose and promise, which is the cause of our Lord’s gracious behaviour toward the world. For now, as He is about to be killed in Jerusalem, yet He rides in as king, to accomplish promises made to the church by the prophet Zechariah. To know of Christ, and of His coming to His people, is the very essence of the church’s joy and gladness. Whatsoever their grief may be, this is sufficient to be their comfort. The Spirit says for comfort, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy king cometh.” It doesn’t matter how the world fares, it is “the daughter of Zion,” the company of the blessed and believers in Jesus, whose comfort God has a care for.

He makes Himself accessible to the least deserving

However, not only the dull multitude, but even the daughter of Zion is asleep to the gracious tidings of the gospel, and needs to be stirred up by a “Behold!” to observe the Messiah coming. “Behold thy king!” Our Lord is a king, however lowly He looks – in fact, the Lord of lords, and King of kings.

The church has a special interest in Christ, and He has interest in His church as His own special subjects, for whose good He governs all the matters of the world. “Thy King cometh unto thee.” This is the glory of His crown, that He is so gentle and merciful to us that He will not forsake the work of our redemption, neither for our mis-deservings and provocations, nor for the injuries done to Him by His adversaries because of us. He is “meek.” The manner of His kingdom is spiritual, not like the pomp of this world, for He sits on no stately horse, but “on an ass’s colt,” so that the poorest of His subjects should not be deterred or debarred from access to Him.

He accepts the little things His people do for him

Matthew then notes the disciples’ obedience and success. “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” (v.6–7).

When we have a clear call, our part is ready obedience, without troubling ourselves what may be the success of the outcome. It is our part to honour Christ, as far as we can — and to lay aside our ornaments to glorify Him, like they put their clothes on the ass and the colt. Christ is content with any state which is to keep in His kingdom here on earth, with what His disciples can provide for Him. “They set him thereon,” and so He rode.

“And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way. Others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way” (v.8). The people are moved, and do honour unto Christ. However base our Lord’s kingdom may seem to spectators, yet He can bring to Himself as many subjects as He pleases, and so purchase Himself glory, not only before a spiritual eye, but also in the sight of the world. “Great multitudes spread their garments in the way.” It is each one’s part to honour our Lord, and promote His kingdom as they are enabled, some one way, some another, some spreading their garments, others cutting down branches of trees, and strawing them in the way.

He makes ordinary people fearless about confessing Him

The multitudes (v.9) took in their mouths words of Psalm 118, where it is prophesied of the coming of Christ, to shew himself king.

The Lord can open the eyes of whomsoever He will, to see His glory, and to give Him honour as the true king of Israel, and to perceive the predictions of prophecies to be accomplished in him.

Usually the more insignificant sorts of people are the ones whom the Lord chooses to set forth His glory, and to trumpet His praise. When those who ought to know Christ and honour Him, do not, God can raise up others to glorify Him. Here the church-men mis-regard Christ, and God stirs up the multitudes to confess Him.

When it pleases Christ to display His kingly power, He can cause the meanest of His subjects avow him, and set forth His glory, even in the faces of His raging enemies. Here (without fear of the corrupt church-men’s excommunication) the people make joyful acclamation to His honour, they pray for the prospering of His kingdom, and they confess that salvation is its fruit (for “Hosanna” in the Hebrew means, “Give now salvation, we pray”). They acknowledge Christ to be the promised Messiah, “the son of David,” to be sent by God, and in God’s name, into the world, to be the Blessed, and the fountain of blessing, to His subjects. “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” (v.9).

His glory will be unavoidably obvious to His enemies

So Christ enters openly, in state, into Jerusalem (v.10).

When it pleases Christ to take to Him His kingdom, He will avow Himself king in the midst of His enemies, just as He here rides in this glory into Jerusalem.

Yet, where the greatest show of religion is, it is no new thing to see Christ to be least known. The city of Jerusalem asks, “Who is this?” (v.10). Where He is minded to honour Himself in suffering, He shows Himself so evidently that even His enemies must take notice of Him.



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