Jesus, the Kind of King Nobody Wants: A Sermon for Palmarum on St. John 12:12–19

Palm Sunday iconJesus is the kind of king that nobody wants. Just before His royal entry into Jerusalem, two of His disciples, James and John, were “arguing over who would get the best jobs in the Jesus administration.”[1]They were looking for a well-paid, highly respected and powerful position to the right and left of Jesus’ throne.

What James and John didn’t know was that Jesus’ throne wasn’t one of these luxurious and comfy thrones made out of gold and posh fabrics. His throne was severe in appearance, without any semblance of anything that even approximates luxury or comfort. Our Lord’s throne was austere, chilling. There was nothing particularly special about the type of wood that was used to make it. What set this throne apart was the crimson red paint in which it was covered, and the nails and disfigured corpse by which it was adorned. But it was a throne all right. It even had a royal decree posted at the top: this is King Jesus (Matthew 27:37).

This was no throne James and John wanted any part of. If this is what living under the reign of Jesus looks like, it’s time to find a new kingdom. Jesus is the kind of king that nobody wants, not even his own disciples.

If Jesus’ own disciples didn’t want Him as their King, this went triple for Herod. Herod made the same mistake as the disciples, thinking that Jesus’ kingship meant the establishment of a new political reign on earth. For Herod and many others, Jesus represented the end of Roman rule. Most regarded this as a good thing. Herod, obviously, did not. But both missed the point. Jesus’ reign did absolutely nothing to sway the political climate in anybody’s favor. He didn’t back one candidate or get involved in smear campaigns to get Himself elected. His political advice is really quite simple: honor the leaders He has given you and pray for them (Matthew 21:21; Romans 13:5–7; 1 Timothy 2:1–3; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13–14).

If the Gospel is political, it’s only in this sense: the kingdom of God is a monarchy, and Christ is sovereign. God doesn’t favor countries or political parties. America is no more special to God than Iraq. He loves them equally. Nor is America the bastion for Christianity that people sometimes think it is. There are many countries in the world today whose populations have a much higher percentage of Christians than America. Maybe we ought to get an Armenian flag in here. Over 95% of their population is Christian. Here in America only about 62% of people even claim to belong to a Christian congregation, and even fewer actually ever go to church.

The Christian’s true citizenship isn’t in some village or country. It’s in heaven, where there are no national flags or political parties; where nation is never pitted against nation. In heaven there is no American vs. Korean, Lutheran vs. Catholic, Republican vs. Democrat, or conflict of any sort with anybody—not even your in-laws. Now not all of the people who fall into these categories are Christians, but there are many who do. And for those who are, you are all one in Christ Jesus. Might as well learn how to get along now. But the fact that there are some people you just can’t stand is proof that Jesus is the kind of King nobody wants, not even you.

Consider the type of King Jesus is. He rides into Jerusalem with no military vehicle or secret service. He needs no protection because He’s not interested in self-preservation. He’s there to give up His life for a treasonous people. They didn’t want Him as King, but He’s going to have a benevolent reign anyway. Jesus is love, love which is self-giving even when it comes to His enemies.

That’s the sort of King Jesus is, and that’s the sort of conduct He expects of His subjects. If you don’t that, you don’t like Jesus. So repent and stop being your own highest priority. As Jesus told the mother of James and John, “Whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:27–28). As the Apostle said, this is the mind you are to have among yourselves (Phil. 2:5).

So what kind of king do you really want? You’d probably never say this out loud, but in your heart you want a powerful leader who encourages you to hold grudges, get revenge, hate your enemies, and live life any way you please; a leader who would much rather give you what you want than what you need; one who encourages you to put yourself first and take all of the “me time” you like. There is someone like that, and all he asks of you is the same thing he asked of Jesus: to bow down and worship him. In return, he will give you all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matt 4:8–9).

The problem with Satan’s kingdom is that its days are numbered. Satan thinks he’s king, but he’s really only a prince. He has some authority, he has some worldly power, but it’s limited. His glory is a fading one; his kingdom is passing away. So what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

You may not want a King like Jesus, but He’s exactly the sort of King you need. He didn’t need the popular vote: He had the only one that matters. God Himself elected Him from the foundation of the world, not to live in worldly luxury, but to die for His enemies and rise again that He might reign over them forever.

To live under Christ’s reign is to live by grace. What does this mean? To live by grace is to treasure the grace Jesus gives you in the Sacraments above all else—both the spoken Sacrament of the Gospel and the visible Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist—and then to live as if that actually made any difference at all.

Soli Deo Gloria

[1] Fr. Larry Beane, Palmarum sermon from 2006.

+Rev. Eric Andersen
St. John 12:12–19
Palmarum, 2015: “Jesus, the Kind of King Nobody Wants”
Zion, Summit:
Immanuel, Hodgkins:

Categories: Sermons

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: