Sermon inspired by this video.
How would you summarize Jesus teachings? Golden rule, love your neighbour, love you enemies? How we summarize the teaching of Jesus, tells us a lot of who we think Jesus is. Is he a police officer out to enforce the law? A vengeful super-human who came to show his wrath against the corruption of religion? Is he a teacher come to help us learn more about God? Is he a lover who came to bless the world with the strumming strings of his heart?
More important than who we think Jesus is, is who does the Bible show Jesus to be. Three of the four gospels give an incredible summary of Jesus’ teachings. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.” He didn’t come to slap our hands for playing with garbage, or love us despite our failure, or heal the sick. He came to herald the kingdom of God. Not only did he speak the message, but lived it out. The king isn’t coming someday to rule over the new heaven and new earth. The kingdom has come. Jesus is the king!
What is royalty to us? Fine robes, crowns, houses larger than your neighbour’s swimming pool? Perhaps the king rides in a chariot pulled by the best horses? When he stops to address the people, a red carpet is rolled out so that his feet don’t mingle with road dust. The secret service hems him in on all side to keep away those who might do him harm. He can’t talk to certain people in case the press catches him in the wrong part of town and spins a story to rival grandma’s wool sweaters or grandpa’s big fish.
Jesus did not announce his kingship with such regal regimen, but came to share a message, live and die for it. His kingdom is one of humility.
The Triumphal Entry – Matthew 21:1-11
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
What made Jesus the king, and why did there need to be a king? The people shouted, Hosanna which means “save.” What did this new king come to save them from, and how did they get into such a mess in the first place? Isn’t God King of the whole Earth? Didn’t he already rule over everything? Why do we need a new king? Because somewhere along the way, the world became a mess. God was taken off of his high throne in the clouds, the boss usurped by his middle managers. Us.
The story starts perfect. A perfect world. A perfect kingdom. A perfect rule.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Have you ever thought our yourself as royalty? Perhaps your bird-nest hair doesn’t look like a crown, and the weight on your shoulders not a royal robe. When the world rolls out before us, it is not the red carpet but road paved with sorrow. Those surrounding us are not to protect us, and no matter how careful we are, gossip is worse than the most slanderous headline. But the world wasn’t always this way.
We were created, fashioned, designed to reflect the likeness of God, the image of one who does not rule the world with an iron fist, but with his love. He chose us to rule the world for him and through him. His kingdom had come and established a throne in our hearts, but we held a mutiny and put a snake in his place, thought that maybe we could do a better job of ruling this world without God. The world is in chaos, havoc wreaked from the seed of sin in our hearts. We were made to take care of each other and the world around us, but instead we take care of ourselves and nothing around us. We took God off of His throne.
When Jesus comes proclaiming, “the Kingdom of God is here!” he is announcing that the time has come for God to take back the world from us. A new king to throw us off of the thrones we fashioned for ourselves and raise his Son up in our place. The power of the proclamation rests in the feet of the one who brings it. The promise of the king is more practical when our world is torn to bits.
Moses prophesied, before he died, that a day would come when the Israelites would turn away from God, hearts grow hard like Pharaoh’s, raise themselves up on Tower of Babel stilts and try to walk with the gods. But man can’t make stilts meant to hold that much weight. Such pride and self-passion will be the downfall of God’s chosen people, and it was.
The people waded through the rise and fall of judges, birth and death of kings, until Jerusalem fell. God used the armies of Babylon against them as he had once used Joshua’s band of wanderers to conquer Canaan. The Israelites come back from being exiled in Babylon to see the fruit of their labour. The temple lays in ruins, smoke billows from the city, an ashy haze obscuring brick walls. Jerusalem is defeated. The kings from the line of David have been taken captive and executed. The kingdom lays in ruins. The Hebrews remember their wicked ways, walk through the memories from shackles to shambles, and cry. They are left thinking, “is the covenant still on? Is God still coming to redeem us? Is this the end? Have we messed up so badly that God has left us for good?”
A watchmen spots a messenger off in the distance. Weary, worn, but alive. He stops for breath as he crumbles through the city walls. Chilly morning air pushes clouds of dust before him, great heaves of a messenger come with good news to these down-heartened people. “God hasn’t left you. He still cares. Yahweh is still king.”
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Looking down at the feet, you would think, “they must have been mistaken.” Beautiful feet do not come with callouses running them bare, they are smooth. They are not caked with road dust, but touched with perfume. Cuts and scrapes do not adorn pretty feet, instead it’s gold and glitter. There is beauty in the dust and hope in the scrapes and scars. The feet are beautiful because of the message that they bring, the story that they proclaim to people who thought the end had come. “Our God reigns!”
We put ourselves on the throne of our lives and experience the destruction of Zion. Jerusalem falls as we put our foot down when we should bring grace, too laid back when we should be strong, surrender to the corruption in this world around us instead of standing firm. The temple is desecrated when we yell at our wife, punish our kids out of rage, drink away the pain. Anxiety flies kamikaze aeroplanes into our throne room. Lies throw spears at the backs of our friends. All in the name of the king: me with the sole advisory counsel of myself and I. But, as we witness the destruction we have caused, are humbled by our sin and left wondering, “have I gone too far? Will God ever come back and claim the throne I have destroyed?” the beautiful feet of Jesus come proclaiming good news. News of peace, good tidings, salvation, “God still reigns.”
When Jesus came riding into town on that Palm Sunday long ago, he came saying, “I am that messenger here to proclaim that God reigns. His kingdom is here!” He called twelve disciples to follow him, a symbol of the twelve tribes of Israel, calls them to live under his rule, his reign, and his ways. He showed the people what this kingdom was to look like through his teaching and his actions.
Jesus didn’t ride into town to wipe out the roman empire, but to re-claim his place on the throne of our hearts. He didn’t ride into town on a great war horse. Just a simple donkey. A young colt. A humble animal. He wasn’t dressed in royal robes, but those of a servant. The people didn’t role out a red carpet, but hacked off whatever palm branch they could find to lay at his feet.
The people shouted, “This is a son of David! He is a king from David’s line. This is our Lord, our Master. He is our king.” But God’s kingdom doesn’t look like the one we have made for ourselves. He doesn’t put himself first, but thinks of us. Jesus came like the runner in Isaiah to herald a new king coming, himself: the king of an upside down kingdom. Jesus kingdom looks like peace.
This confused the people. They recognized the royal signs, understood the prophecies, but couldn’t see the jewels beneath the dirt on his feet. Vs. 10 – “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” This couldn’t possibly be the king, could it? He says he is bringing the kingdom of God, but He doesn’t act like a king. He tells us what following him should look like, and it doesn’t sound like the laws we are used to. How are we supposed to provide for ourselves through peace and love? Jesus gives us the best example.
The chief priests and leaders of the day were so enraged by how people were reacting to Jesus kingly entrance, they decided he had to die. Jesus didn’t respond with a sword, nor did he hide from his fate. He looked his enemies square in the face and said, “I love you. I love you enough to die because of you, and for you.” He brings his rule through a sacrificial act of love for his enemies. He didn’t just throw candy instead of hand-grenades, he threw himself at their feet.
Jesus came to show us what God was getting at in the Garden of Eden. He came to show us what ruling over the Earth in God’s place and with God’s power looks like. Jesus, though he was God, came as a human: in the flesh. He left his throne above to establish his throne in our hearts, to share the Good News that there is a new king. When Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom he healed the sick, clothed the naked, comforted the depressed: looked out for everyone and everything around him before himself.
Jesus re-instated the reign of God over the Earth by being the true Image-bearer on our behalf! He showed us what it looks like to be an image of God in this world, so that when people look at us, they see him reigning through us. He showed us that peace, love, and grace can stand up against adversity, and he faced the worst adversity of all.
Some people didn’t want God back on the throne of their lives. They sought to kill him because in a counsel of me, myself, and I, there is no room for God. I have to step down, or myself needs to surrender, and that isn’t going to happen to me. So, we bring our spears, pierce the skin of this messenger who came to tell us of a king that came to kick us off of our throne, one we’ve been ruining since we first took hold of it. A crown is placed on his head. Royal robes cover the strips of skin that remain on his back, and he is exalted up, not onto a throne, but on a cross. A sign hangs above his head, “King of the Jews.” We hold Christ in mutiny, still thinking that we know better how to rule this world that God. How beautiful are the feet on that mountain who bring Good News. The feet pierced for us.
Jesus, came to share a message of what life can be like, how amazing life can be if we just surrender to him, and stop trying to run this world on our own. We were never meant to carry this much weight. Jesus can carry it for us. He defeated death, reigns as king, dealt with all that weight of sin and corruption, placed it on his shoulders at the cross, and conquered it with his life and his love.
Is Jesus the king in our lives? Do we give him a place in our hearts, let him tell us how to care for the world around us? Or do we worry about ourselves before we look at him. When we look at his feet, are they beautiful? When we see his head, do we see the crown? When we hear his voice, do we hear the sound our king, or is Jesus just some off-colour fanatic who thinks he knows better than we do?
The truth is that he does. He does know better than we do. He is not the king who only knows palaces and jewelry. He knows what it’s like to be in our shoes. That troubling situation you’re in today? He has been there. How did he make it through? Not by crowning himself. Jesus, the man, listened to his Father, the King. He put God on the throne of his life and said, “not my will, but yours be done.” May we do the same today and rejoice in the good news of peace and salvation brought to us by the beautiful feel of Jesus who conquered the Enemy with his love.