Sermon 03-28-2021: “If Jesus is Our King”

Scripture: Mark 11:1-11

Remember the famous “cantina” scene in Star Wars? Just before Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, C3PO, and R2D2 go to the cantina, they drive their landspeeder through an imperial checkpoint, with stormtroopers. The stormtroopers are looking for the two droids, who happen to be in this landspeeder. The stormtroopers stop our heroes and ask for identification. And it seems like the good guys are about to get caught: And Obi Wan says, “You don’t need to see identification.” And the stormtroopers repeat back, “We don’t need to see your identification.” And Obi Wan says, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” And the stormtroopers repeat back, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.” Obi Wan: “We can go about our business.” The stormtroopers: “You can go about your business.”

It’s some kind of Jedi mind trick… Obi Wan can make these people do what he wants them to do!

And it seems like, whether George Lucas knew it or not, that scene was mimicking real life—what we find in today’s scripture, in verses 2 and 3. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go to Bethphage, a village located a mile or so from Jerusalem. “There,” he says, “you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat”—and by the way, we know from Matthew’s description of this event that this is the colt of a donkey, not a horse. But Jesus said that when they find this baby donkey, “Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why  are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”

But do you see how Jesus seems a little like a Jedi here? When he wants to, he has the power merely to give the word and complete strangers—even ones that are miles away—seemingly have no choice but to obey. 

It’s pretty cool—you’ve gotta admit! 

The gospel writers want to show that Jesus is exercising his sovereign control over the world: Because Jesus is the world’s true Lord and King, he has all the power necessary to accomplish whatever he wants to accomplish!

This is important to keep in mind because this event, called the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, inaugurates Holy Week, or Passion Week, the last week of Jesus’ earthly life before his death and resurrection. He is in complete control of all the events that follow—including his arrest, his suffering, and his death on the cross. As he says in John’s gospel, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again.”1

Jesus is King. He’s in complete control of our universe. He has all the authority and all the power… 

But you know what our problem is, don’t you? Our problem is, we’re a bunch of democrats!

And I know, I know… Some of y’all—not all, but some of y’all—are like, “Them’s fightin’ words, Pastor Brent! Don’t call me a Democrat!” But I’m not talking about the political party; I’m talking about small-D democrats… in the historical sense. We don’t like kings telling us what to do. We really, really like to vote.

And if we’re honest—if we examine our thoughts, words, and actions—it’s as if we vote against our King Jesus every day! We vote against him, for example, when we don’t go to him every day in prayer. We vote against him when we don’t spend time every day hearing him speak to us through his Word. We vote against him when we don’t make worship at church a priority on Sunday, much less any other day of the week. We vote against him when we’re unable to tithe—yet we usually find the money we need for every other financial priority. 

We vote against him when we’re too embarrassed to witness for him. We vote against him when we make other things king over our lives—whether it’s career, or school, or money, or popularity, or relationships, or sports, or hobbies. We vote against him by things we watch on our smartphones, our streaming services, our TVs, and our tablets. We vote against him when we are unfaithful to him in our sex lives.

How are you voting against him in your life right now? I can’t think of a better time to repent than on this Sunday in which our scripture emphasizes that Jesus is King!

In my quiet time recently I’ve been journaling my way through the Book of Hebrews. In chapter 3, verse 1, the author writes, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus…”2 And those words, “who share in the heavenly calling,” stood out. Similarly, in Ephesians 4:1, Paul urges his readers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” 

You and I have been called, and we are being called… by our King Jesus… right now! Do you remember being a kid, playing outside in your neighborhood, or in someone’s yard, and your mother would call you in for dinner. You would stop whatever else you were doing… and go. Or imagine if the president of the United States called you to the White House. You would drop everything and go. Suppose some famous celebrity—I don’t know, George Clooney or Jennifer Garner, or Chris Pratt or Emma Watson—called you and said, “I really want you to be in my next movie,” you would drop everything and go! It doesn’t even matter that you don’t know how to act!

Back in the ’90s, I loved a punk rock band from Washington State called Sleater-Kinney. They were a band consisting of three women. And I went to a concert of theirs in Atlanta. I was standing near the stage door when two of the three members of the band walked out and brushed past me on the way to the concession stand in the lobby. They said, “Excuse me,” as they passed by. Very polite. And I looked at my friend, Keith, who was with me, and said, “That’s Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein!” No one else seemed to notice them in the crowd. And I’m like, “They touched my shirt! I’m never going to wash this shirt again!” But my point is, if Corin or Carrie had come up to me and said, “Listen, Brent, we know you play guitar. Would you mind joining our band and playing guitar for the rest of the tour?” I would be like, “You bet I will!” I would answer that call.

My point is, we all have someone who means so much to us, who is so important to us, that we would drop everything else in our lives and answer that call!

But consider this: If you are a Christian, that means that the King of the Universe—the very One who created the universe and everything in it, including you and me, not to mention presidents and Hollywood actors and rock stars—this very King is calling you… by name. He wants you. He has a plan for you. He has a mission for you. He has a purpose for you.

Are we willing to drop everything for him? How can there be someone or something else that takes a higher priority than your King Jesus? It’s crazy when you think about it!

So obviously we vote against Jesus our King when we who are his disciples fail to put him first in our lives. But that’s not the only way we vote against him… 

Consider the following story which is told about Alexander the Great… 

A general came to him one day and said, “I’ve been a loyal soldier for you all my life. Now my daughter is being married and I would like you, if you would be willing, to pay for the wedding.” Alexander the Great said, “Fine. I will do that. You’ve been a good soldier. Go to my treasurer and tell him what you need and he will give it to you.” 

He went to the treasurer and when he told him what he needed, the treasurer ran to Alexander the Great and said, “Did you say you would give this man anything he asked for?” 

“Yes,” said Alexander the Great. 

The treasurer replied, “Do you know how much it is going to be?” 

“No,” said Alexander the Great. 

“Let me tell you how much he’s asking for.” 

Then he told Alexander the Great of the enormous sum that had been requested. The treasurer thought Alexander the Great was going to be enraged, but he said, “Give it to him.” 

The treasurer said, “What?! Why?” 

Alexander replied, “Don’t you know what an honor this man is doing me? By asking for such a ridiculous sum, he shows he believes that I am both rich and generous.”3

My point in sharing this is to say that we “vote against our King” not just by failing to put him first, but by failing to believe that he’s our good and generous and infinitely resourceful king who enjoys giving us, his subjects, what we ask for. We honor Christ our King by praying boldly for what we want. He longs to prove to us that he’s rich and generous. It brings him glory to do so!

There’s a hymn by John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” which includes this stanza:

“Thou art coming to a king/ Large petitions with thee bring”—in other words, “Y’all don’t be afraid to ask him to do large things for you. “For his grace and power are such,/ None can ever ask too much.”4

Of course you know that doesn’t mean that God will always give us what we pray for! As I said last week, only God can know all the millions of consequences that would result from even one small event happening—including getting what we pray for. But I like the way Tim Keller puts it:

When we pray, God will either give us what we ask for, or what we would have asked for if we knew everything that he knows.

I also like the way a 20th-century Anglican archbishop William Temple puts it: “When I pray, I find that coincidences happen. When I don’t pray, coincidences stop happening.”

My point is, because Jesus is our perfectly good and loving king, we honor him by asking for what we need… and he enjoys giving us what we ask for!

The crowds who’ve gathered on on this first Palm Sunday are showing Jesus that they believe he’s the king—at least a certain kind of king. They acknowledge that in verses 9 and 10 when they cry out, “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!” 

They are hailing him as the Messiah, in the line of King David, prophesied by scripture, who will come at long last and defeat Israel’s enemies—particularly the Roman Empire and its king, Caesar—who invaded their land in the first century B.C. and put an end to Jewish independence. 

For a hundred years, the Jews have lived under the oppressive yoke of a hostile occupying power. And many people in this crowd of worshipers had recently seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead—or at least they had heard credible reports about about that miracle. Surely a man with this kind of power, they think, can defeat the Romans once and for all—and give Israel back its freedom. Give them peace. Give them prosperity. No more high taxes. No more senseless killing.

Jesus is telling the crowd on Palm Sunday that they’re right… he is the king… and in five days, on Good Friday, he will even wear a crown… only, it will be a crown of thorns. His throne will be a bloody cross. And from that throne, he will defeat Israel’s enemies, and the world’s enemies—enemies who are far more powerful than mere flesh and blood humans. He will defeat sin, Satan, and death.

The crowd doesn’t understand that, of course. They’re waving palm branches because that’s how they greet conquering military heroes. That’s how they greeted a Jewish priest named Judas Maccabaeus, two hundred years earlier, who led a military victory over invading Syrian forces. He rode into Jerusalem in a triumphal entry.

But unlike Judas Maccabaeus, Jesus does not ride in on a war horse—on a great stallion—into Jerusalem. Instead he rides a donkey. But not only a donkey: the colt of a donkey—a baby donkey, in other words. 

Do you know what kind of king does that? 

The kind of king who’s about to be slaughtered by his enemies. The kind of king who is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. The kind of king who, according to Zechariah 9:9, is “endowed with salvation, humble and unassuming and riding on a donkey.”5

Remember what happens on the cross: An exchange takes place: Jesus takes our sins upon himself. He agrees to suffer the death penalty for them. He agrees to suffer God’s wrath for them. He agrees to suffer hell for them. In our place. In return he gives us his righteousness. It’s a cliché that I say often, but it’s true: Christ lived the life we were unable to live and he died the death that we deserved to die—in order that God’s enemies—that is, you and me before we believed in him—will now become his friends. And not only his friends, but his beloved children.

If you’re a parent, think of how you love your own child or children. Think of that unbreakable bond of love that you have for your children. Would you take a bullet for them to save them? Of course you would! Would you jump in front of a bus to save them? Of course you would! Would you jump on top of a live grenade to save them? Of course you would! 

O.K., but would you sacrifice your life to save Osama bin Laden, for example? Or what about the terrorists took down the World Trade Center on 9/11? Or what about that 21-year-old man who murdered ten people at that supermarket in Boulder, Colorado last week? Or that other guy who killed eight in Atlanta the week before. Would you die for people like them?

Of course you wouldn’t! No one is that merciful, that compassionate, that forgiving.

No one except God… God in the flesh… Jesus Christ. Scripture says that Christ died for us, the righteous for the unrighteous, while we were still his enemies.6 As we say every time we receive Communion, this “proves God’s love for us.”

Indeed it does.

That’s the kind of king who comes riding in on a donkey’s colt. 

But please note: Jesus will only be riding on a donkey’s colt the first time he comes.

Because, friends, I need to warn you from God’s Word that when Christ our King comes the second time, he will not be riding a donkey’s colt. He will be riding a white horse—a war horse. And he won’t come to make peace with his enemies, to show mercy, to forgive. He will come to judge and punish and pour out God’s wrath. He will come to finally put an end to all evil and suffering. He will put an end, once and for all, to that evil nonsense that we saw in Boulder last week, or in Atlanta the week before! Christ is going to avenge all of this evil. Justice will be done! 

John, the author of today’s scripture, writes about the Second Coming of our King Jesus, and he tells us, in Revelation 19, the following:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!… He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.7

One pastor put it very well when he said, “We don’t want to meet our king riding on a white horse if we’ve rejected this same king when he rode on a donkey.”8

Have you rejected this king? Are you rejecting this king? Repent now. Turn to him and be saved!

Because now is the season of mercy and grace and forgiveness. Friends, please accept God’s offer of salvation—accept the terms of the peace that he offers—while there is still time! Both Jesus and the apostles warn us repeatedly that time is running out. That Christ this moment to turn to him, to repent, to ask him for his gift of salvation! And we’re not entitled to another moment of life. Every moment is a gift of God, and he guarantees us no future moments.

And whether Jesus returns in our lifetime or not, our time is up when we die. When we die, we will have no more moments to choose Christ, to choose forgiveness, to choose salvation.

And you know your heart… You know that if our King Jesus judges you and finds you guilty and condemns you to hell because you’ve repeatedly rejected his offer of salvation, he will be justified in doing so. Because time after time Jesus has come to you, has knocked on the door of your heart, and invited you into a saving relationship with him. And you’ve said no… and you’ve said no…and you’ve said no again.

And don’t think that Christ our King will be impressed or flattered because you went through the motions of getting confirmed when you were 12 or 13, or you got baptized, or you walked down an aisle of church and prayed a sinner’s prayer—you know, that one time, decades ago. And apart from that one moment, your life is indistinguishable from the lives of non-believers!

So test yourself. Examine your life. Maybe you’ve said to Christ, repeatedly, through your actions if not your words, “I don’t want you. I don’t accept your terms of peace. I’m not willing to change my life, to repent of my sin, to make you Lord of my life. I’m not willing for you to be King of my life.” Well, guess what? At some point God is going to respect your wishes. He’s going to finally give you what you want—what your life has proven that you want. 

In the end, God is going to leave you alone. In hell

As C.S. Lewis puts it in a book about hell called The Great Divorce: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”9

Which will you be?

  1. John 10:18a-b NLT
  2. Hebrews 3:1 NIV
  3. Tim Keller, “Gospel Movement: the Role of Prayer,” 27 June 2018, Accessed 25 March 2021
  5. Zechariah 9:9 AMP
  6. See 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 5:10.
  7. Revelation 19:11-16
  8.  John Piper, from his sermon entitled “Jesus Declares His Kingship,” preached March 24, 2002.
  9. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: HarperOne, 1946), 75.

4 thoughts on “Sermon 03-28-2021: “If Jesus is Our King””

    1. Would you please tell our bishop that! This is obviously a very well-kept secret! 😉 Thanks, Lee! Happy Easter!

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