King for A Day
You're real familiar with Jesus as the Prophet predicting His death, the fall of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. You know Jesus as the Priest who sacrifices Himself and intercedes on behalf of sinners. Well today we get to know Jesus as the King. From Jericho to His entry into Jerusalem Jesus acted like the king He is. Into Jericho He led a royal procession with loyal subjects following. He stopped in a majestic way and commanded blind Bartimaes to be brought before Him and commanded sight be given to him. Then going through Jericho, Jesus led a parade whose route was so packed with spectators that little Zaccheus had to climb a tree to see Jesus. Once more Jesus stopped His royal train, and like a king tells Zaccheus that He must be his houseguest. Then in the verses right before our text, Jesus told a parable where He portrays Himself as a powerful king. Here is the one time in Jesus' earthly ministry that He acted like the majestic king He is, but it's only for a day.
Yes, Jesus shows Himself to be the king of this situation. The text opens with Jesus going "on ahead." This Greek word is used when speaking of a eminent, prominent, or royal person. Jesus is in charge here, and His first royal act is to "commission" 2 of His disciples to get Him a donkey to ride. Nowhere else in the Gospels does is say that Jesus rode anywhere. People assume that Jesus rode with Mary on a donkey when the holy family had to flee to Egypt, but nothing is said about how they traveled. Here the point is that Jesus will not walk into Jerusalem as He had many times before.
When kings came to a city in peace, they came riding on a donkey. If they came to war against the city, they came riding on a horse. Jesus comes riding on a donkey. He is purposely claiming the title that rightly belongs to Him, King of the Jews. The prophet Zechariah had predicted that the king of Jerusalem would come riding on a donkey. See the kingly picture here. Jesus stops His procession. He sends 2 disciples to get the donkey rather than going to it Himself. He waits as they lead the donkey to Him. They place Jesus on the beast as servants would their king. Then off come their garments. It's only fitting that the King of the Jews should ride into His city on a carpet of garments that have come off the backs of His subjects. Although Luke doesn't mention the palms, this is where they came in. Palms were like the national flag of the Jews. Jerusalem had welcomed other victorious rulers with palms.
Jesus is the king of this situation, but He is only king for a day. Today everything happens according to His will. He goes first, others follow. He stops they stop. He sends for a donkey; they go and get it. He doesn't get on the beast, they enthrone Him. He rides into Jerusalem while His subjects walk, shout His praises, and dirty their garments. His rules supreme, but only for a day. In 4 short days, this King will be handed over to sinners and the powers of darkness. He'll pray telling His heavenly Father what He wills but add in anguish, "Thy will be done not Mine." He will want support from His disciples and not get it. He will want His Father by His side as a damnable death closes in on Him and will not get that either as His Father forsakes Him who hangs on a cross covered by our sins.
Jesus is king of the situation, but only for a day. He also shows Himself king of creation in this text. This is one of the few times that Jesus acts as the Lord of all creation that He is. Most of the time that Jesus walked the earth, He veiled His kingly, divine nature. If He had not, birds would have bought food to Him when He hungered like they did when Elijah hungered. Fish would have jumped in the boat to offer themselves to their Creator. The trees would have bowed down to place their fruit before Him. Birds would have followed Jesus around constantly singing the praises of their Creator if Jesus had not veiled His kingship over creation.
Today, Jesus doesn't veil His rule over creation. You can see this in the text. Jesus tells His 2 disciples that if anyone asks them why they are taking the donkey to say literally, "The Lord of it a need has." Jesus is asserting His lordship over this particular donkey. You can see this even more clearly when you realize that the Greek doesn't say its "owners" challenged the two when they came for the donkey but literally the "lords" of the donkey did.
Here Jesus clearly asserts His kingship over that of others. He has a divine right to this beast even though it had never before been ridden. This is kind of like you picking a brand new car up at the dealer and just before you can get in a police officer runs up and says that he has need of it. The difference is that you would probably be screaming in protest as the officer squealed your tires. Here, with but a word from the Lord of the donkey those who owned it in the eyes of men let it go with no questions, no promises to return it, no explanation of where it is going.
Jesus is king of creation. I think of the hymn "Beautiful Savior" which asserts Jesus is brighter and more beautiful than all of creation. And He is here, but only for a day. In 4 days the Pharisees who here can't get King Jesus to silence the crowd are going to easily arrest Him, beat Him, mock Him, and nail Him savagely to a cross. And on that cross, even creation itself will desert Him. The Sun will turn away from Him in shame, in disgust. Why? Because God the Father will have made Him to be sin, says St. Paul. Jesus hangs before creation as the child molester everyone feels good about hating, as the wife beater everyone knows deserves whatever he gets, as the terrorists who doesn't deserve to live. Jesus hangs before creation as only you and I deserve to hang.
Today is Jesus' day in the sun. 5 days from now the sun will hide its face from Him, and this is what is so important to see. Nothing changes between Sunday and Friday. Jesus remains the King of creation and Lord of all things great and small. Jesus is still the holy, unspotted Lamb as He hangs on the cross. He doesn't deserve to be there at all, but He hangs there so you don't have to. God the Son, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit all agreed that rather than shame you before all creation, God the Son would be so shamed. Rather than give you up to the ridicule of your fellow creatures, the holy Creator, God the Son would be so forsaken. Can you see then how the last thing the Triune God wants is for you to ridicule, mock, and shame yourself because of your sins? Can you see that only denies what Jesus went through on the cross? If Jesus finished enduring the suffering your sins deserve, why then should you make yourself suffer for them?
Jesus is king of all creation, but only for a day. Jesus is also king of re-creation. Just days before in Jericho was the first time Jesus ever publicly accepted the title for the Messiah, Son of David. You remember how during His years of ministry Jesus was always telling people not to tell others about miracles He had done? Here look what happens. "The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen." One shouts, "I saw Him raise Lazarus;" another shouts, "I saw Him heal a leper;" still another shouts, "I saw Him feed thousands of people with just a few fish and some loaves of bread."
The crowd is shouting language that is only used of the long promised Christ, the Re-creator of this fallen creation, and Jesus doesn't try to silence them. He revels in it. He who before this had been recognized as the Messiah only by a few disciples and demons, is now praised by all for being that. What joy! What vindication! At last His subjects recognize Him for who and what He is. This is so fitting that when the Pharisees demand that Jesus rebuke His disciples He replies it would do no good. "If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." On this day even creation must testify to the King of Recreation. The King of Heaven must be praised on earth today.
Jesus is the King of Re-creation. He will restore all that sin, death and the devil have robbed us of. As He moved through this world in His earthly ministry, He did that here and there. Eyes that quit seeing were made to see; ears that couldn't hear were opened; hearts that quit beating beat again. Jesus came to bring us back to where God always wanted us to be. Today, at long last, everyone recognized this, but only for a day.
This is where it gets a little complicated. To recreate, to restore creation, Jesus had to take upon Himself all that was wrong, fallen, and evil in creation. He could've banished all this with a word sending it into the abyss of hell, but we would have gone with it. When our parents fell, all of human nature became infected with the disease of sin. There was no separating us from our sin. You all feel this at those times when your heart is so utterly fallen and disgusting to you that you wish you could just pluck it out and throw it away. You can think of no way of getting the sinfulness out of there without getting the heart itself out.
This is the problem Jesus was faced with. He wanted to destroy sin without destroying us. He wanted to redeem us from sin not with sin. So God became Man, took on our flesh and blood; He joined our mortal flesh to His immortal nature. So we would go where He went. He would go to heaven; therefore, we would go to heaven. But first He had to go to hell. He had to go to hell to suffer and pay for our sins. Having done that, He could rise without our sins yet still having our mortal natures. So the only way for the King of re-creation to do His work was to suffer and die. This didn't make sense to His subjects, so they all deserted Him. For a day they were willing to shout the praises of their Re-creator, but when He was content to suffer and die helplessly, that was too much for them to take.
Is it too much for you to take? It's too much for many. Many are content to ride with the King of re-creation into Jerusalem, abandon Him to the rejecting, suffering, and dying that happens on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and meet Him again on Easter Sunday. Don't do that. It's not that Jesus has to have us go with Him, but we need to go with Him. We need to see that there is only one path to re-creation and it is one of suffering. There is only one path to the Easter tomb and it goes by the bloody, disgusting cross of Calvary. Just as there is no quick, painless, easy way to learn a foreign language, get in shape, or lose weight, so there is no quick, painless, easy way to re-creation. It takes the blood, sweat, and tears of God Himself.
And friends, this God promises that His path is our path too. The only difference being we don't bleed, sweat, cry or die to pay for our sins. That's a done deal. But we will bleed, sweat, cry, and die in being re-created in the image of our God. Paul, Peter, John, and Jesus Himself all warn us not to think it strange when we have persecution, hatred, pain and suffering in this world. The path to our Easter will have its Maundy Thursdays and Good Fridays. As Jesus went, we go, but we go with a king. Jesus was king for this day but went to His Maundy Thursday and Good Friday without His royalty to suffer as we deserve. We go to ours assured that Jesus reigns now in an eternal day. His day of kingship never passes and that is what helps us pass our days...even our Maundy Thursdays and Good Fridays. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Palm Sunday (4-13-03), Luke 19:28-40