Palm Sunday – A LSB #’s 905, 348, 422
Text – Matthew 27:37
And over His head they put the charge against Him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
THE CHARGE AGAINST HIM
Palm Sunday is a day when we like to think of the glorious parade Jesus was in as He entered Jerusalem. He arrived to the shouts of the people as King of Israel, “...Hosanna to the Son of David!...” (Matthew 21:9 ESV) Very few of the life events of Jesus are covered in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, but His triumphant entry into Jerusalem is one of those few.
For that reason, we might guess it has a lot more significance than the fact that it made for a nice parade. As we think about Jesus of Nazareth a large amount of our discussion centers on Him as Prophet. We consider what Jesus taught, the words He spoke, the miracles He performed, as He revealed the truth of God’s mercy to a world of fallen & hopeless sinners.
Especially at this time of year, approaching Good Friday, we also focus a lot of attention on Jesus’ role as Priest. The main job of the OT priest was to perform the sacrifices on behalf of the people. Jesus came to earth to be the sacrifice. As John the Baptist so aptly put it, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV)
This morning we’ll spend time meditating on the 3rd vocation of our Lord. The charge against Him read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” It was customary for the Romans to post the charges for which a criminal was being executed. Pontius Pilate chose those words even though he found Jesus to be innocent of the charge.
The Son of God did not fit any definition of king that the Roman governor could think of. Does Jesus fit any of your definitions of king? Do you also find Jesus to be innocent of the charge against Him? After this sermon, one of the young men of this congregation will be asked to answer the questions himself that were answered on his behalf at his baptism: “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, & in faith, word, & deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, even to death? Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession & Church & to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”
Those questions are very direct & to the point. Could you answer yes to them? If so, what sort of daily decisions would you make differently after having taken those vows? Would your language change? Would you rearrange your priorities every day of the week? The reason we ask such blunt & uncompromising questions is that they are vows taken before a King.
Remember what I asked just a few minutes ago, “Does Jesus fit any of your definitions of king?” Or, do you find Jesus to be innocent of the charge against Him? In this case, finding Jesus innocent is not a good thing. In other words, you don’t treat Him like He is your King even if you say you believe it. You see, there’s a reason we confess this in the Apostles’ Creed:
“…He ascended into heaven & sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living & the dead.” In His role as King, Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father & come the Last Day, He will separate the believers from the unbelievers. King Herod may have been nut job, but he knew enough to take this King seriously.
Early in the Gospel of Matthew there’s one reference to Jesus as King of the Jews. It begins chapter 2: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose & have come to worship him.’” (2:1-2 ESV)
When king Herod realizes that the wise men had skipped town, without reporting back to him, he, “…became furious, & he sent & killed all the male children in Bethlehem & in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16 ESV) King Herod hadn’t even met Jesus, yet did not consider Jesus to be innocent of the charge against Him. Would that the followers of Jesus be so zealous in their dedication to their Lord & King: “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, & in faith, word & deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, even to death?”
After the wise men search for the King of the Jews, that title isn’t mentioned again until Pontius Pilate brings it up at the trial: “Now Jesus stood before the governor, & the governor asked Him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’” (Matthew 27:11a ESV)
I think that’s where many people in our country today have gotten off the track. Like Pontius Pilate, we don’t really believe in Jesus as our King. Prophet? Yeah, that’s okay. Jesus was a good teacher. You & I have learned a lot from Him. Priest? Sure! That was a noble thing to do. What child of God could begin to think of rejecting Jesus’ crucifixion for our sins?
King? That’s more difficult. It’s uncomfortable, because if I consider Jesus as my King, then obedience becomes part of the equation. It’s okay to learn stuff from a prophet. It’s okay to grant that He gave His life for sinners. Being willing to take up my cross & follow Him, that’s another matter altogether. Vowing to be faithful to death is flat out unnerving.
What if I don’t agree with everything Jesus teaches? What happens when I want to make up my own mind about something? Can I really trust Him to know what’s best for me in absolutely all circumstances? If you put some effort into thinking about them, those questions are challenging enough & they are very generic.
So let’s make them more specific, or even personal. Jesus teaches that killing is wrong. What if the politician I’d like to vote for is in favor of abortion under all circumstances? A lot of people like to excuse that by saying, “Who am I to tell a woman what to do?” Yet, by not defending the child’s life you are telling the child what to do. It must die if the woman chooses. Another way of looking at it is this, “Who am I to tell a woman what to do?” In a sense you’re right. It’s not your business, but it is the business of our heavenly Father who created that child, & His word is clear: “You shall not kill.” If someone else is sinning & you refuse to warn them, God says that their blood is on your hands.
His 3rd commandment is also quite clear: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” That means, set the whole day aside for the Lord, not just one hour. Are you not satisfied with that decision on His part? Are you struggling to trust His judgment in light of all the things you have going on during the rest of the week? Is Jesus the kind of king you are looking for?
Prophet, Priest & King, it’s pretty clear which is most difficult to accept in our culture & in your very own heart. “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” You & I both would like to find Jesus innocent of the charge so that we are not accountable to Him for our thoughts, words or deeds. Though he had the sign posted, Pilate found Jesus innocent & washed his hands of it.
The Jewish leaders & the crowd also found Jesus innocent of the charge against Him. He was not the kind of king they were looking for either. They wanted a Messiah who would conquer the Romans &, unlike the Romans, rule their earthly kingdom as they saw fit. They wanted a king who would lead them to happiness rather than to holiness.
The high priests of the Jewish people denied Jesus as their king. Yet, on the cross, the ultimate High Priest was offering Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of those very priests & all the people of the world.
God sent His only Son to die for sins like murder & for refusing to warn someone who is considering an abortion. He died for those times you have better things to do on Sunday morning, or Wednesday evening, or whenever during the week it is that God’s house is open for you to receive His blessings of life & peace. For all the times you’ve found it uncomfortable to accept Jesus Christ as your King the ultimate High Priest laid down His life for yours. He did so willingly in order to redeem you from death. So His message as Prophet, Priest & King is: “The time is fulfilled, & the reign of God is at hand; repent & believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 ESV)
Over time, your King will enable your trust in Him to grow, if you only give Him the chance. Your Creator is powerful & wise enough to change your definition of king so that it perfectly fits with who Jesus is. Hopefully then you will find Him guilty of the charge against Him & accept Jesus as your King. Amen.
The King shall come when morning dawns & light triumphant breaks, when beauty gilds the eastern hills & life to joy awakes. Not as of old a little child, to bear & fight & die, but crowned with glory like the sun that lights the morning sky. The King shall come when mornings dawns & light & beauty brings. Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray: Come quickly, King of kings! Amen. LSB 348:1-2, 5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet