Mark 11:1-10 (NIV) 1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ” 4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
My dear friends in Christ,
Why do we crave leadership, someone to make all the hard decisions in life, and then struggle with the leaders God gives us? We want a leader. We don’t always want the right kind of leader. The Israelites, led by the prophet Samuel, wanted to be like the nations around them. They wanted a king to rule over them. Samuel warned them what would happen when they chose a king to lead them. A king would take their sons to serve as soldiers and workers in his kingdom. He would put their daughters to work as cooks and bakers. He would tax the people heavily, taking a percentage of their crops, flocks, and herds. Finally, he would enslave many of them. “But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles’” (1 Samuel 8:19–20 NIV).
Israel’s situation helps us understand why they wanted a king. Samuel had grown old, and handed his leadership position to his sons, Joel and Abijah. Samuel’s sons were not like their father. They took advantage of their leadership position—they accepted bribes and perverted justice.
Israel wanted a King. They didn’t realize that they already had one--the Lord. The people could have turned to him for a solution. The Lord would help them! Instead, Israel came up with their own solution. The people wanted a king they could see. They didn’t trust the Lord, who they couldn’t see, to lead them and fight for them. The Lord told Samuel, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Samuel 8:7 NIV).
Israel wanted to be like every other nation. They wanted a king. They wanted to be independent. After the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, they no longer had a king. They were under Persian rule. Then the Greeks came and conquered Palestine. Then it was Rome and the Caesar. Israel wanted the promised Messiah to come and be their king, an earthly king. On Palm Sunday, many were hoping Jesus would finally free them from Rome! Did you hear what they were shouting? “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” (Mark 11:10 NIV). They wanted a king who fit their expectations.
We have a picture in our heads of what a good leader is—solid governors, representatives and senators, a President we can respect and follow. We want leaders who will make all the hard decisions, get them all right, and ensure our “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” No matter who is elected, they never quite live up to our expectations. We listen to the talk in Washington D.C. and wonder if anyone tells the truth. We see our leaders taking advantage of the laws for their constituents instead of focusing on the best interests of the entire nation. We hear them talk about “cleaning out the swamp” and see them sucked into the same quicksand.
We want good leadership at home and at church and school. Wives, how often are your husbands good leaders who put your needs ahead of their own? They aren’t perfect, are they? How often do pastors live up to expectations? Teachers? Pastors and teachers aren’t perfect. Neither are our expectations!
Let’s be honest, God’s leadership doesn’t live up to our expectations either. Just like Israel, we really don’t want him to be our King. We want him to powerfully answer our prayers and lead and rule in a way that won’t affect our pursuit of happiness. As soon as we are unhappy, whose fault is it? God’s. After all, doesn’t God want me to be happy? Doesn’t he want my life to go as smoothly as possible? I want a King, but I want him to be my kind of King! If he isn’t going to take care of me the way I want, I will look for someone else to lead me.
If the Lord isn’t leading us, who will? Paul warned in Ephesians 6, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). Satan is ready and willing to be our king. He promises he will give anything we want—looks, success, a nice bank account, a beautiful house, and more. The only catch? We need to bend our knee before him and worship him. Is it worth it? Becoming Satan’s subject comes at a cost--our souls, sold for an eternity. Is it worth it? Jesus asked, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36 NIV).
Lent is for sinners. It is for sinners who want their own kind of king. It is for sinners who often follow the wrong king. Lent is for sinners who already have a King, and he is the King we need!
Our King knows everything! Did you catch it in Mark 11? Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him to find his ride into Jerusalem. He described exactly what they would find as they entered the village. He even told them what to say in case someone asked them what they were doing. “They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go” (Mark 11:4–6 NIV). Jesus already knew! The most amazing part of his knowledge? Zechariah had written this over 500 years earlier: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 NIV). Jesus knew everything, including what he needed to do to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies. We have a King who knows everything, and used that knowledge to carry out his work of salvation!
We have a King, even though he doesn’t look very kingly. Caesar would have arrived with a colossal spectacle—a long parade of soldiers, powerful horses and chariots, slaves! Here comes Jesus. No kingly robes, no crown and scepter, not even one soldier or slave in his procession. Could this be the King the Lord had promised for centuries?
The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2, “[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6–8 NIV84). Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, humbled himself. He stepped down from his heavenly throne. He set aside his glory and power. He became our King, crowned with our humanity and his perfect humility. That’s why he entered Jerusalem on a colt instead of a chariot. That’s why palm branches waved around him instead of showers of rose petals and gold coins. Our King didn’t come to sit on David’s throne and rule in Jerusalem forever and ever. He came in answer to the crowd’s prayer which is also our prayer on this Palm Sunday.
Prayer? Yes! The crowds shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9–10 NIV). We say and sing, “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday. Does anyone remember what it means? “Hosanna” means “Lord, save us! Lord, help us! Lord, rescue us!” We have a King who rode into Jerusalem to do exactly that—to save us. Jesus gave up his heavenly glory--something a king would never do. Without a word Jesus accepted a purple robe and a crown of thorns--something a king would never wear. He remained silent as the soldiers mocked him instead of fighting for him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” He took the beatings, being spit upon, and finally crucified with a sign above his head that read, “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26 NIV).
This is the King we need? Why would Jesus accept such humility, such punishment, such a horrible death? Because that’s what the King does. Jesus went to the front of the battle and fought for us! He crushed Satan and all his armies. He attacked sin and defeated it. He took on death itself and conquered its power. The King did all of this because his eyes were focused on a prize—he saw you and me. Jesus was willing to do all of this to be the King that sinners so desperately need!
We are servants of this King who has conquered sin and the grave. Even now, he is ruling and reigning over all things. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “And God placed all things under [Jesus’] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22 NIV). Jesus is King here in the United States. He is guiding every decision, every law, every action our government takes. Jesus is in control! Jesus is King in our marriages. He gives husbands the ability to lead with unconditional love and wives to submit to and support their leadership. Jesus is King at Salem Lutheran Church and School. He gives pastors the right words to say at the right time. Jesus fills our teachers’ hearts with love for students and parents. He leads members and parents to love our all of our called workers as his representatives. Jesus is King and he is guiding everything that happens right here in Stillwater, right here at Salem for our benefit because he wants his kingdom to grow and flourish!
Lent is for sinners who have a King—the King! Today we celebrate our King’s arrival in Jerusalem. Thursday night we hear the King promise, “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Friday we gather in the darkness and hear the King shout, “It is finished!” Next Sunday, we’ll gather here to celebrate our King’s resurrection from the dead—proof that he has conquered our enemies forever! We crave solid leadership. We want a King and we have one! Jesus, our perfect King, came to lead us every step of the way. As we follow him into Jerusalem today, keep following him, keep shouting your “Hosannas!” “Lord, save us!” Amen.