1 April 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation." On that first Palm Sunday, the Lord Jesus came. There He was, "Humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." No pompous or pretentious monarch. No overbearing Caesar with delusions of deity. He was the real deal. THE King of kings, simply riding into town, quietly receiving the praises of children and the adoring faithful.
Quite the crowd was gathered there, chanting psalms and rejoicing greatly! News had travelled about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and this meant two things: there were many who were amazed and receiving faith in Jesus as the Christ, and there were others from the Scribes and Pharisees who saw this as a blasphemous problem, feeling the need for Jesus to die for that sin. While that second group was off, likely lurking and working in the shadows, the first group, the adoring faithful, were welcoming Jesus to the capital city of King David, where His enthronement awaited.
But the enthronement envisioned by the adoring crowds was not at all what they anticipated; they were joyous as they imagined glory and peace coming to Israel as the King of the Jews came into power. "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! The King of Israel!" "Hosanna to the Son of David." They lifted their cries to Christ, their King, whom they knew would save them, even if in a different manner than they thought.
You are just like them. You want the King to be in the image you have made. You want a King of Glory, who will conquer and reign. You want the omnipotent Lord of the universe. And He is! But that doesn't mean He will reign and display His might in the way you want.
You want Jesus to give the perfect, moral, upright government on earth, free from Cook County antics, free from governors from both major parties that go to prison, and free from the manipulations from both sides of the aisle in Congress. You want Him to provide earthly rulers who will allow us to live in peace and openly practice our faith. You want respect for your Christian heritage and life. But He never promises those things -- not in his life.
You want Jesus to come and snap His fingers and make the financial challenges of this parish disappear. After all, He should help His Church, right? You want Him to just make a bunch of people show up for church, rather than actually have to invite someone. You want Jesus to be the King who displays the glory that you imagine.
If you look for Jesus to use His power and glory to simply fix the problems of his earth in the way you want, in the time table you want, you are sadly mistaken. He knows that many hardships and challenges are actually gifts that will draw you to Him, and bring you to realize that you can do nothing for yourself; Christ alone can speak and act to save you. And He does.
Your own desires can go against the plans and designs of the King of Israel. The power and force to do things "the right way" makes you and even the faithful on the streets of Jerusalem against the word and work of Jesus Christ. So stop. Stop trying to mold Christ in your image. Stop redefining who Jesus should be. Stop demanding your own misconceptions of your King.
Your King is this humble suffering servant, your powerful God, who gave everything up to suffer and die for you. Your King loves paradox, becoming weak so His strength is displayed, and dying that you might live. Your King is forsaken, abandoned by His Father, that you may be adopted forever. It is here, on His cross, where the King of the Jews comes into the fullness of His glory. The rough hewn wood of the cross is His crude throne. The twisted thorns on His brow, His crown. The blood pouring from His holy wounds, His crown jewels that adorn His royal body.
No, this is not the King you expected or desired. But He is the King you need! He has become flesh for you. He gives Himself in royal service to you. He sets aside His almighty power and veils His divine self, submitting to the earthly authorities. He lays down His life as a ransom for the many. Performing miracles, declaring orders, or sending legions of angel armies to fight off evil doers would not have helped you. King Jesus knew the only way to redeem and save you was this paradoxical enthronement -- this coronation on the cross.
And now, you are baptized into the royal family. You are made an heir of the Father on account of the saving work of Christ Jesus. He was forsaken. He was abandoned, suffering the very pain of hell as He cried out and prayed Psalm 22, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" There, in His being forsaken, He removed the abandonment you deserve. He made ready the royal courts of His Church to receive you. He has now sent His Spirit to call you to faith, and rescue you from such threats. He was forsaken, that you would never be.
"Hosanna! Save us!" you pray, with the ancient faithful of Jerusalem. "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel!" Jesus has accomplished your salvation by being the King you needed. He was enthroned on the cross as He died, that you might be rescued from death, and enjoy a resurrected life with Him forever. The King of Israel has come to save you. He came into Jerusalem on a humble donkey to win salvation as your King. Now He comes to deliver that salvation, as He rides the humble elements of bread and wine. And He comes to do that, even as you rejoice and sing, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!" Amen.