Summary: Palm Sunday. Jesus enters Jerusalem as King, but none of the people see Him for the true King He is.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Would the real King Jesus, please stand up?”
These last two weeks there have been several stories in the news about the re-burial of England’s King Richard III. He died in battle in England, 1487, which is 4 years after Martin Luther was born, to give you an idea of the time, and was buried in the chapel or chapel courtyard of the Grey friar’s monastery. His body was discovered two years ago, under, of all places, a parking lot. You’re the king of all of England, and you end up buried under a parking lot?
One of the first things they had to do on finding the skeleton, was to identify it. Just who is he? Is this the real King of England?
That’s a question we find in our gospel readings today. We began the service with a reading about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem from Bethany, down the mount of Olives. He is riding on a donkey. The crowds are cheering and waving palms. Just like we did earlier. And they are shouting, Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel. The people are happy to receive a king. Then the week goes by. Now we are in the judgment hall of the Roman governor, Pilate. He asks Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Pilate, of course, is concerned. Because Rome does not want competition. If he is a rebel, an insurrectionist, something must be done. Pilate decides that Jesus is not a troublemaker.
Then he asks the people, "What shall I do with 'the King of the Jews?'" Not. "What shall I do with 'Jesus?'" But “the King of the Jews?” There it is again. The people say, "Crucify him."
Jesus is turned over to the Roman soldiers. They are hitting Jesus and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” It is almost the same words that the cheering crowds of the palm parade were using: “Hail.” and “King of the Jews.” But while they shouted it with gladness, the soldiers sneered at it in derision.
Now Pilate is back on the scene. He writes out the sign to be posted on the cross of Jesus. What does he write. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Jesus is on the cross. A crowd is there, and in the crowd are scribes and Pharisees. They say, “Let this 'King of the Jews' come down and save himself.”
We are unable to escape this refrain: 'King of the Jews.' So we ask ourselves, which of these kings, the one on the donkey, the one before Pilate, the one the crowd condemned, the one mocked by the soldiers, or the one on the cross jeered by the sPharisees, is King Jesus? It almost feels like an episode from the TV game show, To Tell The Truth, where there was a set of three people, one of them the real guy, and the other two imposters. And you want to ask, “Will the real, King Jesus please stand up?”
Well, then? Which one is the real King Jesus? All of them, and None of them. Of course, all of them are the real King Jesus, because all of them are the same person, the same Jesus. No imposter actors here. Jesus is real. Quite real.
And that is the same reason that none of them are the real King Jesus. For you see, none of these, the crowd at the parade, Pilate, the rioting people, the soldiers, the Pharisees at the cross, none of them saw Jesus for who He is. None of them saw the real Jesus. Oh, yes. Their eyes worked just fine. They didn’t need glasses. At least as far as we know. They saw, however, the King they wanted to see, and not the King who was before them.
The Palm Sunday parade goers saw a King who would give them freedom for their country. They are saying words from the prophets. They are giving Jesus the credit as Messiah, the promised one of God. But they don’t know, they don't see, His real role as Messiah. They are looking for a different liberation, a different king.
Pilate sees a Jesus who is mostly a fool. Perhaps wise. Certainly well intentioned. And not a threat to Rome. Which is why he tries to free Jesus.
The rioting crowd. They have been stirred up the Jewish leaders. They don't seem to see a king at all, more like a kingpin of crime. Whatever they see, they don’t see in Jesus a king that they want.