King of Kings

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Palm Sunday

King of Kings

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and His only Son Jesus Christ, Amen.

       Tales of a man called Robin Hood can be traced as far back as 1370. Some say he was a caricature or amalgam of stereotypical bandits who found his way into common folklore. He was a heroic outlaw who fought against injustice on the downtrodden. He was of noble birth who gave up his status in elite society to steal from the rich and give to the poor. His main fight was that against an usurper king who wished to take control from the true king, his brother, who was fighting a war in a distant land.

       This Robin Hood had some characteristics in common with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus was of noble birth yet lived with the poor. Anything he had; he gave to the lowliest. He fought for justice for the poor in spirit. He fed the hungry, healed the sick and gave comfort to those without hope. He also challenged the usurper, Satan, who wished to take over creation from the true Lord of heaven and earth.

       One of my favorite tales of Robin Hood was when the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John, conspired to trap Robin Hood in a contest of archery. They put up a purse of silver coins to lure Robin Hood into their snare. Robin Hood accepted the challenge more for the title of ‘Best Archer in the Land’ than for the coin. Also, he wished to humiliate his enemy in the face of the entire kingdom.

       Robin Hood knew the contest was a trap, yet he went anyway. He knew he would be facing the entire strength of the evil prince in his own stronghold. He knew that he could be captured and killed… But he still went.

       Now this is where the story of Robin Hood diverges from the passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Robin Hood enters the trap out of arrogance and bravado, and, as most heroic stories go, he narrowly escapes the trap through wit and charm (and a little help from his merry men). Also, he never ever really defeats the evil prince; that is done by the return of the true king, King Richard.

       When King Richard returned, the people rejoiced and his evil brother was cast down from the throne to be banished forever. All those imprisoned by the evil prince were given pardon, declared justified by the true king.

       We have a glimpse into the minds of a people in the Middle East 2000 years ago. Where, the people of Israel heralded the entrance of their king, a man named Jesus, into their holy city of Jerusalem.

       For thousands of years the people awaited the coming of their messiah, their holy king, and lifted their hands in prayer and praise. Generation after generation had passed down the history and the prophecy that led to this day. This was not King David or King Solomon or any of the other kings of Judah, but the final and last king, the king of kings.

       They gathered in the streets, a great multitude, waving their colorful cloaks and palm-branches they had cut from the trees. They cheered and shouted praises in joy. “Hosanna! “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

       Little did they know that they would soon be mourning the death of their king. In a few days, he would be put on trial before the leaders and rulers of their country and he would be sentenced to death by crucifixion. This king would never sit on any earthly throne.

       If this Jesus of Nazareth were like every other man who wished to overthrow an evil prince, his death would be the end of the story. Many of the people who lauded his entrance into the great city of Jerusalem did not truly know this king.

       They did not know that this man from Galilee, humble and riding on a donkey was their salvation. You see, they were looking for an earthly king, a man and not their God. They were looking for the one who would overthrow the Roman overseers and return to them full autonomy in their promised land.

       Many of them saw the procession. They saw the miracles of healing the sick and of the feeding the crowds. ‘Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.’ [John 12:18] Yet there were others among the people who did not wish to see a new king sit in authority over them, so they plotted and schemed to kill him.

       In their selfish greed, they could not see a good king. Their sin was so thick that they could not see their Messiah. They saw only a man who threatened their power and control. This darkness would not allow them to see whose kingdom had come.

       They did not see and they did not believe. Once Pontius Pilate judged the carpenter from Nazareth for crucifixion, their messiah was no more. Once the palm-branches had been cast aside or burned in the fire, their king was forgotten, and so they did not believe his resurrection from the grave or see his victory over sin, death and the devil.

       We gather here today rejoicing as the people of Jerusalem did so many years ago. We are blessed. We are not in darkness. We know that our Redeemer lives. We have the benefit of the light of our king. We have the Holy Scriptures, which tell us the rest of the story.

       It is true that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried. It is also true that on the third day he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father from whence he will come again to judge both the living and the dead.

       At that time, Jesus Christ will sit in the judgment seat and every tongue will confess him as king over all creation. Why does not God the Father, the giver of the Law, sit in judgment? Because Jesus became human to live in our flesh and fulfill the Law perfectly. Who better to judge humanity than he who, as a man, has satisfied the will of God completely?

       Like our ancestors of old, we may look to Christ Jesus as our king, but not as our savior. We look at him as the one who will overthrow the evil princes of this world. He will rule over us in peace and harmony; and he will give us everything we need. He will feed us, heal us and care for us. He will take from the rich and give it to us.

       And so we confess Christ as Lord with our mouths but we do not always confess it with our hearts. Like the people along the roadside in Jerusalem, we shout loudly, wave our palm-branches and our colorful cloaks, but that is all we do.

       When our Lord and King is spit upon, we do nothing. When the name above all names is removed from our lives by our government, we turn away ashamed. When our children are taught that our Savior was not a real person, we do not protect them. What is worse, is when our so-called leaders and wise men say that Jesus was not really our King, we believe them.

       We are sinners who would rather live in peace and denial than in the confrontation of truth. We do not want to fight for the Gospel because we might suffer or be killed for our beliefs. The devil has done his work well. Like those who chose the release Barabbas, we choose the murderer instead of the life-giver.

       Pilate confessed Christ as ‘King of the Jews’. The soldiers, although mockingly, truthfully confessed Jesus as king. A thief crucified at Jesus’ side confesses him as Lord. And when the centurion, who stood facing him,’ at the foot of the cross, ‘saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”’[Mark 15:39] It is time for us to confess Jesus Christ as Lord with our voices and our hearts.

       If you have denied Christ in the past, return to him now. Our king is a gracious, just and forgiving king. If you have denied Christ as Lord by your thoughts, your actions and your words, do not go into the night in your sin. Repent as St. Peter repented and be made whole again by the grace of God and the mercy of your true king, Jesus Christ.

       We are at the end of our Lenten journey, our repentant journey. This coming week we follow the passion of the sufferings and death of our Savior, the beloved, true and only Son of our Father in heaven. We mourn his death, but we rejoice in his resurrection.

     Ever since the time of Moses the people knew our Lord would save us from our sin. Those who have kept their faith in the One True God and not in an earthly king will be vindicated. Those who followed false idols will not be saved, but those who follow the true king of heaven and earth will be set free. On that day, God will say to His people:

    “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your King is coming to you;

He is just and having salvation, [Zechariah 9:9]

       The blood of the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world. This is your sin and mine. With his blood on the cross, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, a new covenant has been forged and a new king now rules this land and this people.

       Because of the blood of my covenant, declares the Lord, I will set your prisoners free. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double honor to you. [Zechariah 9:12] Today, I will forgive you! No one can usurp this king’s authority. Jesus Christ is the man who became king and is the One True God of all.

       St. Paul tells us, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.’ [Philippians 2:5] ‘God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.’ [Philippians 2:9] Take comfort in the promise of your King and your God. He has given you life eternal at his side. Do not fear the name of Jesus Christ for it is his name to which every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord. [Philippians 2:10]

All hail the power of Jesus’ name and crown him Lord of all.