by Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Sermons from Seattle
Scripture: Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22
In the madness of the morning, you may not have heard it. In the kaleidoscope of craziness, you may not have heard the refrain. In the midst of the circus and the carnival, you may not have heard those words repeated again and again...those simple words underneath it all. Those words said: "Jesus Christ is king."
When you came to receive your palm cross today, you heard the same refrain over and over again. "Sons and daughters of Zion, rejoice, be happy, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on an ass."
What was that first hymn that you sang this morning, "All glory laud and honor, to you redeemer king, to whom the lips of children their sweet hosannas sing; you are the king of Israel, Davidís royal son, now in the lordís name coming, our king and blessed one." (At our contemporary 11:00 worship, we sang, "Oh, what an awesome God is he, oh what a great and glorious king...Christ is king, let all the world rejoice and sing.")
Or the great hymns that are sung today: "All hail the power of Jesus name, let angels prostrate fall." or "Crown him with many crowns, the lamb upon his throne. Crown him the Lord of Life. Crown him the Lord of Love."
In the madness of the morning, you may not have heard it clearly. In the kaleidoscope of craziness, you may not have heard the theme of the day that is: Jesus Christ is king.
That theme is found in both the Palm Sunday story for today and in the Passion Sunday story for today. I would like to tell you the Palm story and the Passion story that has to do with Jesus Christ as king. The two stories are so very different.
Jesus Christ was king for only one day. Some of you who are older and were raised on television back in the good old days, in the 1950s, may remember that TV program called Queen for a Day, starring Jack Bailey. Back in the old days, I used to watch Queen for a Day on our black and white television set. The theme was this: a person would come forward and get a wish, any wish that they wanted. The audience was all women. For example, if I were queen, I would wish that my blind cousin would have a new washing machine and a seeing-eye dog. Each contestant would give some sentimental wish, and the TV show had an applause meter. If your wish received the greatest applause, you would win and you got to be queen for the day. The queen then stood before everyone and granted the wish: a new washing machine and a seeing eye dog. ... After the show, a big white limousine would come and pick up the queen who would live a life of royalty for one day in New York City. But it was soon over; she woke up the next morning, and life was back to its normal routine. But she was queen for a day and was able to grant the wish.
Such was the mood of that first Palm Sunday. Christ was king for a day, and there were tens of thousands of people who were gathered. They took off their white outer garments like the one I am wearing, and a donkey came down the street, but its foots never had to touch dirt. The donkey walked on those beautiful coats. The people had palm branches and they waved them shouting, "hosanna to the son of David." There were 2-3 million people in the city of Jerusalem; it was just like the Sea Faire parade in downtown Seattle. There were mobs of people, shouting hosanna to the son of David. It was like a circus; like a carnival; and Jesus was king.
But by the next morning, they started to whisper, "crucify him, crucify him," and finally began shouting, "crucify that phony." Why? Because they thought he was going to be their wish king: "Jesus, I wish you would heal my blindness. Jesus, I wish you would cure my cancer. Jesus, I wish you would heal my personality problems. Jesus, I wish you would solve my financial problems. I wish. I wish. I wish." And when they found out that Jesus was not a wish king, they started to whisper, "crucify him, crucify him." ... Jesus was king for a day. Thatís one story about Jesus being king. Thatís the story from Palm Sunday.
And then there is the story from Passion Sunday. When Jesus was being tried before the Roman authorities, they asked of him: "Are you a king? We donít understand what kind of king you are. Are you the king of the Jews?" Finally, they threw him out with the Roman soldiers, and according to the story from the book of Matthew, he was standing in a courtyard with a full battalion, that is, 600 solders. Jesus was stripped down naked. Naked and exhausted, he stood before the soldiers who shouted mockingly: "We hear that you are king. Well, if you are a king, you should have on a red cape, a red royal road," and so they put a red cap on him and all laughed. "Ha, ha, ha. What a funny looking king you are. Hey men, if he is a king, he should have a spear. Letís get one of those palm reeds," and they got a palm reed and put it in his hands and said: "Thereís your spear. Hail Jesus, king of the Jews. Ha. Ha. Ha. Isnít that funny. If he is a king like Caesar, he should have a crown. Letís cut some briar bushes and make him a crown." They made a crown of briar bushes and pushed it into his head. They laughed and said: "Hail Jesus, king of the Jews. What a joke." These same soldiers took him up to Golgotha, nailed him to the cross, and taunted: "Jesus, King of the Jews, call your legions of angels to get you off the cross."
And so we find two very different stories: the Palm story where Jesus was the "wish king," to grant people their wish for the day, and the Passion story of what a joke.
You see, those soldiers didnít understand the nature of his kingdom, and they didnít understand what kind of king he was. They didnít and still donít understand when he said: "My kingdom is not of this world but in this world." They didnít understand when he said his enemies were not Rome, but his enemies were hatred and prejudice and violence and the evil that lurks in peopleís hearts. But they didnít understand it. They didnít understand it when he said that he came to set people free. They thought that freedom meant to be politically free from the Romans; they didnít understand that he came to set people free. They didnít get it. They didnít get it when he said that freedom was freedom from hatred and the need to beat up and destroy other human beings. He said, "I have come to set people free" and they didnít understand that kind of kingdom at all. When he talked about turning swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, they had no idea what he was talking about. So the killed him. Executed him.
But I would like to suggest to you that they did not kill the king or the Spirit of his kingdom. For that king and the spirit of his kingdom still lives on today, while those soldiers that killed him died a long time ago. I would like to suggest to you that this king and the spirit of his kingdom lives on and are the strongest force in the world. This kingdom will be forever challenged but never defeated. Let me illustrate.
Napoleon, if you read your history books, and his solders came riding through a beautiful church on their horses. On the church walls were hand painted frescos of Jesus, painted into the plaster. The solders came riding into the church on their horses, with their beer mugs flow and flying high, and they splashed their beer onto the face of Christ in the frescos. Every one of those soldiers grew older and every one of those soldiers died, and every one of those soldiers met the king, now eternal judge...face to face...and that king said: "I didnít like beer being tossed into my face. I donít like it when you desecrate my holiness."
It was Nikita Khrushchev in 1962 that sent up Sputnik into the heavens and then a short time later they sent up the Russian astronauts into space. A Russian astronaut came back to earth and famously and pompously stated: "We didnít see any battalions of angels up in the sky." You may remember Khrushchevís mocking in the newspaper, questioning, "Where were Godís battalions?" The Russian ruler laughed and sneered, "No angels with our astronauts." Time passed and Khrushchev died. Khrushchev then met the king of kings face to face who may have said: "Nikita, it is now time for you to meet my battalions."
You see, all kings die. All presidents die. All dictators die. Every one of them has died and few of them are remembered. In the thousands of years of history, their names are already or will be gone, disappeared, forgotten, but there will be one king...one name that will continue. The spirit of his kingdom is alive today as much as it was 2000 years ago.
The great nations will rise and fall. Think of the great nations today. The United States, Russia, China, Germany, France, England, Japan, and in two thousand years from now, their names will be like Pamphilia, Gad, and Silica. For all the great nations which are so powerful today have their nanosecond in history, are gone and their names are barely remembered. That kingdom and the spirit of Godís kingdom will live and shine when all the kingdoms of the earth have since passed away.
And in every generation past and present, there is always that group of skeptics who come to the conclusion that God does not exist. There are always the so-called great intellectuals of every generation (Shaw, Camus, Sartre, Huxley, Voltaire, Menken) who say that there is no God. Every high school sophomore and every college sophomore comes to the enlightened conclusion with their pea brain that there is no personal God. Time goes by, and all those sophomores grow older and still older and older still; and as those skeptics and atheists are getting ready to die; and they say to themselves: "God, I hope you exist. I may not have believed and walked with you during my time on earth, but I secretly hoped that you, God, live and exist. I hope that there is future life with you." Such is prayer of a dying sophomore in their old, old age. They die and meet the king face to face, and the king says: "Surprise. You were wrong in your conclusions about me. Your hopes at the end were right."
What I am suggesting to you is that they execute Jesus in every generation, but no one has been able to kill the king. No one has been able to kill the spirit of his kingdom. Kings have come and gone, and kingdoms have come and gone; and intellectuals have come and gone. All of them have at one time challenged this king with their weapons or intellect, and then, they have all died. But the king? The king and the spirit of his kingdom live on into Godís eternal future. You see, the king is the Spirit of the Living God and there is no earthly king, no nation, no skeptic who in any way compares to the everlasting king, the Ruling Spirit of the Living God.
And therefore on this day, in the midst of the madness of the morning, did you hear it? In the midst of the carnival and the circus, did you hear it? Did you hear that word again and again; "Jesus Christ is King. Crown him with many crowns." Amen.
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