The King at Calvary
The significance of what happened on the cross.
I hope I never get over the power and magnanimity with which our Lord Jesus Christ is described in Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 26,
Q: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A: Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.
Throughout his life Jesus demonstrated his rightful claim to kingship by healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, and outcasting the demons. He operated with authority derived from the sovereignty of his personal-absolute Father. His ministry was that of a veiled King going to war against sin, death, and the devil. From the moment of the Incarnation, Jesus was on a mission moving ineluctably towards a great battle.
This past Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week; the celebration of Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. All four of the Gospels recount this event, and in John 12:12-15 we read, “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it was written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’”
We should understand Jesus’ actions as deliberately chosen in order to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-13, a prophecy depicting the victorious King riding in not on a war horse, but on a donkey, symbolizing his arrival to bring peace. As he rode in the people cried “Save us!” (The meaning of “Hosanna”) as they hoped for a king to deliver them from oppression.
But before his people could receive this peace an enemy first had to be defeated. And nowhere were his enemies more soundly defeated than at Calvary. That place where the wrath of God was satisfied and the powers of hell emptied.
In a few days we will commemorate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Two days marking the sacrifice and passion Jesus underwent on the cross. Undoubtedly, the Saturday following is the darkest day in human history. A day when we remind ourselves that the light of the world was snuffed out, and life himself was killed. But it was not to remain so. For our king rode in victoriously knowing the ultimate outcome of the battle.
When thinking on this theme let us not forget that in addition to the enemies defeated, we who were once rebels against our good God have been subdued and brought into the Kingdom. The image is a powerful one. We who were once at enmity with God, violent opponents to his rule, have been won over and invited to feast at his table. His victory means we no longer engage in a futile fight, but enjoy his perennial peace. He is a powerful and magnanimous King. Let us praise him as such.
Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in D.C. and cohost of The Will & Rob Show.