Fear Not, Your King is Coming. Palm Sunday 2016
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 12:12-19
March 20, 2016
“Don’t Fear: Your King is Coming”
A large crowd that has come to Jerusalem for the Passover feast goes out to meet Jesus. The crowd chants for Jesus. Maybe it’s like the chants we hear in this year’s political rallies. But they aren’t chanting for a president with a four-year term. They are chanting for a king. Kings have a lifetime term. And they are chanting for this king to “save” them. “Hosanna,” the crowd chants, meaning, “Save us, we pray.” They chant, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” Which means that they see in Jesus not just a qualified man; they see Him as the one God has sent to be their King and to save them.
The chanting crowd, for once, is right. Jesus is the King sent by God. He doesn’t stop them from cheering Him and begging Him for salvation. He accepts their praises and rides the donkey’s colt to the gates of Jerusalem.
Jesus is King. He is King of Israel, King of the Jews. He is also the King of the Church, which is why we sing to Him, each week, the same words as the crowd, as He comes to us in His Body and Blood: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord!”
And Jesus is not only King of the Jews and King of the Church. He is King and Lord over the whole earth, as we heard in the epistle to the Philippians: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11)
Only there is a problem, a great and grievous problem. Jesus is the King sent by God over the whole world. Yet the world rejects God’s King. There is a worldwide rebellion against Him.
The Jews and the world rejected Jesus as King because He did not seem like a King to them at all. In our world kings are known by their majesty and power. They inspire submission by their majesty, and they have power and might to suppress and destroy rebels.
But Jesus seemed to have neither. He had no splendor except the splendor of righteousness and innocence. And Jesus never used force. Where people rejected and resisted His Word He did not force them to accept Him, nor did He take vengeance on those who rebelled against His reign.
Since He was without majesty and did not use the sword, first the Jews rejected Him and crucified Him. The world followed, and so did much of what is called the Christian Church, in despising Jesus and rebelling against Him.
The same contempt and rejection of Jesus as King dwells in our flesh. Christians mourn over it, but it is there still, daily looking for opportunities to deny that Jesus is King, saying, “What will Jesus do anyway? He won’t punish me if I reject Him and serve myself. He never does.”
Of course, what it whispers to us is completely wrong. As King, Jesus will one day take vengeance on those who despise and reject Him. “…If that wicked servant says to Himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him…and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites,’” Jesus warned His disciples not long before His death. “’In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 24:48-50)
Remember who Jesus is. He is the highborn, only Son of the Father. He is the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). He is from eternity. Yet He was willing to live among us as a brother, in flesh and blood, to teach us the way of salvation, and to do miracles in our presence, testifying that He was the King who came in the name of the Lord. But He was rejected by the Jews, scorned by the world, mocked by much of what is called His Church. Even our flesh remains rebellious against this King whom God has anointed.
They can only happen because Jesus doesn’t take up His power and punish the rebellious. Isn’t it past time for Him to do so, to silence their lying mouths and bow their haughty necks? Shouldn’t He come to Jerusalem and destroy them rather than go meekly to the cross? Isn’t it time for Him to put a stop to the world’s mocking of Him, and silence the lies that are spoken in His name in the churches?
One day, Jesus the King will do these things. He will judge the rebellious. And if He did it today He would not be cruel, but just.
And yet, He doesn’t come to Jerusalem that way, in righteous anger and vengeance. “Fear not, daughter of Zion,” says the prophecy, “Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” Instead of saying, “Your King is coming to give you what you deserve for your rebellion,” it says, “Fear not, Daughter of Zion.”
Jesus the King isn’t coming to make war on the people who have rebelled against Him. If He did, who would stand? Even His disciples were days away from abandoning Him; Peter was going to deny Him as his Lord and King.
Instead Jesus the King comes in peace. That is the significance of His riding on a donkey instead of a warhorse. He is coming in peace toward the chief priests and Pharisees, toward the crowds that chose Barabbas; in peace toward His disciples, in peace toward this crowd chanting “Hosanna”. He also comes in peace toward you and me, though we have also rebelled against Him.
He doesn’t come so that we can continue to rebel, make no mistake. But He comes to forgive our rebellion by shedding His blood.
That’s why He doesn’t reject the praises of this crowd. When they call Him their King He accepts it with joy. He doesn’t cast away His people.
They have all rebelled and failed Him in the past and all of them will prove disloyal again in a few days. Yet He lets them praise Him as their King, just as He accepts it when we call Him King and Lord and praise Him. He doesn’t hold against us our past rejection and treachery. When we turn in repentance, wanting to sin no more, believing that this King will be gracious to us, He receives us as His people. He forgives our rebellion and remembers it no more.
He does this because He is what the crowd calls Him. He is the blessed, salvation-bringing King who comes in the Name of the Lord. Jesus comes in His Father’s name to do His Father’s will. He has not come to make a name for Himself, but to do the will of God. And the Father’s will is not that Jesus destroy us rebels, but that He bear our sins.
Matthew’s Passion story makes this clear. In Gethsemane, Jesus prays, “My Father, if this cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matt. 26:42) The cup Jesus had to drink is the cup of God’s wrath against our sin. And when He was later arrested, and one of the disciples tried to save Him, Jesus told him that the Scriptures required that His suffering on the cross “must be so” (Matt. 26:54).
Jesus is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord, the King who comes to do God’s will. And the will of God is that His Son bear His wrath against us.
Jesus accomplishes this will of the Lord. Hanging on a cross under the inscription, “The King of the Jews”, Jesus cries out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” That is the kind of King Jesus is. He doesn’t come to administer God’s damnation, to wreak vengeance on us, as we deserve. He is coming so that the Father’s vengeance may fall upon Him for our sakes.
That’s why the crowd waves palm branches before Him and He does not reject it. Palm branches mean joy and victory. Jesus comes to bring His people joy through His grief and agony. He comes to bring the people of His Kingdom victory through His loss. The joy He brings is the joy of being justified before God. He gives this joy when, after being cursed for our sins, He rises for our justification (Rom. 4:25). And the victory He wins is over death and Satan. He strips them of their power by once and for all paying the ransom and debt that releases us from their ownership.
This is why John cries out: “Fear not, Your King is coming.” Our King is not someone that terrified sinners should dread. We should go out to meet Him shouting “Save us,” and rejoicing that He is the King who comes in the Lord’s Name. He comes to do the will of God, and God’s will is to save us from our sins. That is why He came to Jerusalem.
He comes for the same reason now: to absolve us of rebellion and treachery; to speak to us the words of Spirit and life; to give us His holy Body and Blood, which cleanses us from sin and delivers us from death.
And when our King comes again in His glory and majesty to judge, we will also not be afraid of Him then. He is the King who loved us and gave Himself for us, even to the death of the cross!
Lord, when Your glory I shall see,
And taste Your kingdom’s pleasure,
Your blood my royal robe shall be,
My joy beyond all measure.
When I appear before your throne,
Your righteousness shall be my crown
With these I need not hide me.
And there in garments richly wrought,
As your own bride shall we be brought
To stand in joy beside You.
LSB 438 st. 4
Soli Deo Gloria