To describe his mission, the Bible presents Jesus in many ways. He is referred to as the greatest Prophet ever known, that is, the greatest teacher. Scriptures say the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one who had authority. His messages were not presented as simply his opinion or a possibility but the truth.
In the vast majority of scripture, Jesus is presented as the Savior. In Mark 2:5, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” On Friday of this week, we will celebrate Jesus as the Redeemer, the “Suffering Servant.”
John talks about Jesus as a Shepherd. He says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). When we follow him, he will lead us into the depths of peace, joy, and understanding throughout our lives.
Jesus is referred to as the Lord again and again. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:28). Jesus is saying, I am God! I am not only a man, I am also God. I am the Lord.
Today is Palm Sunday, and we see the scriptures present Jesus as the King who rides into Jerusalem. It is the great message that he has come to be the Lord, the King of the world.
When a king visited a country, it was a great event, and they had all kinds of celebrations. Jesus, mimicking this, asked for a colt. Then he rode into the city on that Palm Sunday, with his disciples and crowds following him. The crowd shouted and threw palm branches before him. Some people were so overwhelmed that they took off their coats and placed them before Christ as he rode.
The focus today is on Jesus’ entrance on Palm Sunday as King and Ruler. Then, making it personal, the King of our lives who rules what we do.
When the religious leaders heard the celebration, they felt it had gone far enough. They decided that Jesus had to die, and it should happen right away on this particular week. So they went to Pilate and told him they wanted Jesus to be crucified. However, his crucifixion could not be ordered by the Jewish people. It would take orders from the Roman government. Pilate wasn’t sure that he wanted to do that, for he could find no guilt in him whatsoever. “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected.
Pilate then began to question Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
And Jesus said, “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?”
Pilate became rather angry and said, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
Pilate discussed his matter with the Jewish people who had brought Jesus and said, “It is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of Passover. Do you want me to release Ôthe king of the Jews’?”
The people shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas.” So Pilate released Barabbas to them and handed Jesus over to be crucified.
This is a traditional telling of Palm Sunday. Children wave their palm leaves in church on Sunday morning. Somewhere in your community you could well hear a part of Handel’s Messiah where Jesus is described as the one who is wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. Your church will have many services this week including Thursday night (Maundy Thursday) when we remember Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper, and we will bow at the altar and receive his body and blood as token and given to us that we might truly know we are forgiven. We will have Good Friday services when we hear the same old story that, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, never grows old.
This story is absolutely important, and it needs to be told every single year in its traditional form. But I think that we need to go a bit further and ask ourselves a very haunting question: We say Christ is King in our lives today, but is he, friend? Is he?
If you know Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are a citizen of two kingdoms. Most of us who listen to this program today are citizens of the United States of America. We have our leaders, and the scriptures tell us to be loyal to them. In a democracy, we know it is important to be of benefit in whatever way we can be to our country. As we look at the chaos in our states and in our nation, we see a crying need for the church to rise and let the name of Jesus be known.
But that kingdom, as much as we love it, is temporal. One day it will come to an end. However, the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ will reign forever and ever. Above all, the kingdom of God makes Jesus my eternal king. We thank God that we still have the right to say what I have said these words, for we don’t know what tragedies are possible in this country. But of the kingdom of God we know there is no end.
The church has not always been able to make these statements. Men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer went to the gallows because he said, “My kingdom is the kingdom of God.” Nazism failed; communism also failed, but the kingdom of God continues forever. Jesus Christ is our eternal King. That is the way we are to address him. We address him as our great Prophet, our great Lord, our Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. But above all, he is the King for all time. And so we sing, “Beautiful Savior, King of creation, Son of God, and Son of man.” That is Christianity, my friend.
Many would agree that Jesus was a great teacher, then leave it right there and point to other religious leaders as being equally great. However, those other leaders could not establish a kingdom that will know no end. That is God’s plan, and it is why we hear John 3:16 so often Ð that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Wherever this Palm Sunday finds you, friend, if you belong to Christ by grace through faith, then have the comfort of knowing your eternal King stands by your side and will one day take you to your eternal home to live with him.