Who’s The King We Serve?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

I. Hosanna! 

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest! Save us now Lord! Save us now! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! These are the words that we know so well as we celebrate this Palm Sunday, as we march toward Easter, the resurrection Sunday, and commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus within the city of Jerusalem! We hear these words stated with such boldness and vigor, with such affirmation as the people lift up Jesus as he walks through the street.   They acknowledge that he is the one who comes to save.  Hosanna! Save us now Jesus! Save us now! They are honoring the fact that he is the King they choose because he has acknowledged their worth and affirms them far beyond what the Emperor had ever done.  They may not know how he is going to save, and they may have an incorrect notion of how he might save, based on the ancestral stories they have heard over and over again passed down from generation to generation.  But they know that this man, this King has come to save God’s people, that he comes in the name of the Lord, and has affirmed and loved the people who have suffered oppression and been cast out in the constructs of society.  If no one else would save them, surely he would, because he saw their condition, he saw their pain, but most of all he saw them – he peered deep within their soul and showed them a love like no other.

We see such a majestic scene as Jesus rides on a donkey toward the temple in Jerusalem. Crowds have gathered around on each side of the road.  There are so many people that they are standing shoulder to shoulder, chests touching backs as people are leaning on one another to achieve a better look, people are peering through any space that they might take in better look, bodies are touching each other, people are breathing each other’s air, and there are likely some that are moving throughout the crowd pressing in, jumping up and down, or moving along the path so they might get even the slightest glimpse of Jesus as he moves on the road with great majesty.  As he travels along, those that stand around are waving branches of palms in the air lifting up their voices in praise and adoration. Hosanna! Hosanna! Words that proclaim, Save us now! Save us now!  They begin spreading their cloaks on the ground, showing their acknowledgement of Jesus’s royalty, saying that Jesus was too holy to walk on the ground that everyone else walked on.  As they proclaimed their adoration, they were saying that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the King, the heir of David that had come to save God’s people, they were acknowledging that he was the one from God they had been waiting for as they proclaimed: Hosanna!  Save us now! Somewhere in their hearts they knew that this was that Messiah, that Jesus was the one from God that they had waited for generations! And now was the time to proclaim his status! Jesus was not the Emperor, but the one sent by God! And they were making a significant statement that their allegiance was to God and the one he had sent for their salvation, not Caesar.

            The majestic vision of Jesus on a colt seeks to recreate a scene that had been done so many times before.  A scene that proclaims the praise and adoration of a soldier after a courageous victory in battle.  Often times when a soldier had been victorious in battle he would march through the town toward the temple, and people would shout words of acclamation, bow down before him, throwing flowers at his feet, laying their cloaks on the road for him to walk on, and waving palm branches in the air.  They would praise him with adoration because his victory had saved the people, his victory had withstood the trial of the enemy.  The victor was celebrated by the people for being their hero.  And this active triumphal entry of Jesus into the town of Jerusalem sought to proclaim this same victory in Jesus, a victory yet to come as Jesus would bring about the salvation of the people. So as the people gathered in the streets they were proclaiming that Jesus was their hero, Jesus was their savior, Jesus was the one they were choosing.  But what war had Jesus won?

 II. Jesus Or The Emperor 

            Well, the victory Jesus was proclaiming, was likely a victory that the people were not entirely ready to understand.  A victory that we who live over 2000 years later understand with more clarity as theologians, disciples, and church fathers have helped us to understand.  However, the bold statement alone, of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt, was a symbolic gesture that indicated to the Jews, the people of God, that the time had arisen for the Messiah to save God’s people.  Quite often, the imperial governor, Pontius Pilate, would ride into town with great majesty, to proclaim to the Jewish people that Rome was in charge, Rome had power over their lives, Rome was the victor over the Jewish people, and as Rome was watching the people had to accept the fact that they were vassals underneath Rome’s authority, control, and oppression.  This march of the governor into town was meant to remind the Jewish people that not only was the Emperor the ruler of Rome, and thus the ruler of the known world including their “meaningless” lives, but the Emperor was the only one who was bestowed the honor of saving the people by the gods.  Even if the Jews had been told for generations that a savior would come, it was impossible and blasphemous against the Emperor, because only he had been bestowed the power of the gods to save.  A grand gesture meant to keep people in their place.

            So as Jesus began to take his journey of triumphal entry into the city, as he made preparations for this march into the city of Jerusalem, he was making a proclamation to the people of Israel, the people who lived in occupied territory under oppressive rule, that times were changing.  In some cases it might look like, Jesus was standing in protest, mocking the Roman Empire.  He is proclaiming that their rule is no longer, that God is above all that they proclaim to own.  He was proclaiming that the time has come for the reign of the Kingdom of God to begin.  That he is the King above the emperor, because even the Emperor must bow to the Son of God.  It is of note that this is the only time in Mark that Jesus calls himself Lord, because he knew the time was near for him to take his place, and take on the mission that was set before him.  So he stood in this place acknowledging who he is and what he must do as the Son of God. He is saying that it is not Rome that is all powerful, but God that is all powerful, and he stands as the Messiah, the son of God.  He proclaims that he is the King and that the Emperor is just a regular man.  Bringing the challenge to the people and proclaiming, “Who is the King you are going to serve?”

            As Jesus is making his triumphal entry, and making his declaration statement that he is the messiah, in many ways, he is gathering a procession of the oppressed, the rejected, the outcast, the powerless, and the vulnerable, proclaiming that it is time to release the hold that Rome had on them and giving them freed to let go of the notion of the overhanging oppressive rule of the Roman Empire.  Jesus was riding a colt into town with great peace, not demanding praises after a violent victory, nor hanging superiority and power over the people.  He was proclaiming empowerment for those who were rejected and acknowledging that the time had come for the people to be saved, and it had nothing to do with the Roman Empire.  Instead of a soldier who had wielded victory with violence and destruction, Jesus was coming in triumphant victory without violence and promoting peace that commands all nations and has the power to save all people.  Jesus was saying, “The time has come for the people to be saved.  Who is the King you are going to serve?”  And the people responded with shouts of acclamation, Hosanna! Hosanna! In the highest! Save us! Save us now Jesus! You are King! You are the Messiah!

 III. Who Is The King You Are Going to SERVE?

As we stand in this moment at the end of the Lent season, headed into Holy Week, celebrating this Palm Sunday, we are faced with the same question.   Who is the King we are going to serve?  Are we going to be like the people of Jerusalem that shouted Hosanna in the street, or are we going to the let the world reign as King over our lives?  Are we going to let the world promotes violence and hate reign, as our country has experienced several shootings within the past two weeks? Or are we going to let the love and peace present in Jesus to reign?  Are we going to let the world that promotes the rich while neglecting the poor reign?  Or are we going to let the ways of Jesus reign as we serve the homeless and feed the hungry?  Are we going to let the world reign as it dehumanizes those that are imprisoned as vicious animals? Or we going to let the ways of Jesus reign as we seek to visit and uplift those who are imprisoned?  Are we going to let the world that promotes divisions caused by race, gender, and class reign? Or are we going to allow Jesus to reign as he promoted the connection of Jew and Gentile and the equality of women? Are we going to let the world who ignores those in need reign?  Or are we going to allow Jesus to reign who catered to those in need and specifically brought attention to the poor, outcast, and the vulnerable affirming the humanity that society had denied them?

In this moment we are called to be like those within the scripture this morning and take the cue that Jesus is giving us.  Jesus is saying that he has come to save the world.  He is saying that he is coming to bring liberation.  He is saying he is the Messiah, the son of God.  He is saying that in the midst of all the chaos within this world, he is the one that we have been waiting for. Jesus it the King of royalty that challenges societal norms and proclaims his power over life and death, extending freedom, life, and salvation to those that society has denied it to.   So will we choose to proclaim Jesus as King over our lives, and make his ways our ways and take part in God’s work within the world?  We are called to proclaim that this Jesus is the King, this Jesus is the Messiah.  And be so assured in him that we proclaim Hosanna in the Highest! Save Us now Lord because we know that you are God!

 IV. Make The Ways Of Jesus Your Ways

But how do we do this?  How do we proclaim that Jesus is the King of Our lives?  It means that we are supposed to put on the mind of Christ.  We are supposed to make his ways our ways. We are to intentionally seek to intimately connect to God in ways that all of our actions are intrinsically fashioned in the ways of Christ, that we might show God’s love without even thinking about it.  We are to fully love God and love out neighbor as ourselves.  We are to proclaim that Jesus is the King of our lives by adopting his ways and his teachings into our way of life.  This means that we are to function with love and peace that all others can feel.  This means that we are called to serve the homeless and feed the hungry as we have when we do the homeless run and donate to food pantries and the food bank.  This means that we visit those in prison affirming their humanity as people that are seeking reformation and paying their debt to society, while rejecting the notion that they are savage criminals.  This means we are to embrace love and reject the forces of this world that seek to divide in racism, sexism, and classism. This means that we are to affirm the poor, vulnerable, and outcasts that society has rejected. We are to internalize the ways that are like Christ within our very being.

And when we proclaim Jesus as the King of our Lives, we remember that as we approach Holy Week, Jesus was beaten for our sins, whipped for transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.  He was stretched out on a cross because we were separated from God.  Jesus bore our sin, and laid it on the cross.  Jesus endured the punishment for the sin we have committed.  Jesus loved us so much so that he laid his life on the line.  But that was not the end of the story.  As he hung his head and died and breathed his last, this was not the end of the story.  Jesus laid in the tomb for three days and was resurrected granting to new life and extending grace to all who might receive it.  But as we stand on Palm Sunday we have not reached the victory of resurrection that comes on Easter morning, but we look forward to the promise of the victory that is coming.  As we proclaim Hosanna! Save Us now! We look forward and know that salvation is coming! And the choice is made easy. Who’s the King We Serve? Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone! Amen.