Palm Sunday - A Different Kind of King

For the first thirty or so years of his life, Jesus went about largely unrecognised. The King of the universe, the Creator of all things, walking among us, unknown, un-noticed, undercover. Was he ever picked on or bullied as a kid? Was he ever pushed to one side in the synagogue? Was he ever not paid for a carpentry job that he did? 
He knew who he was, God knew who he was, but most of everyone around him had no real idea. He was just like everybody else. Even when Jesus started his ministry, people didn't know who he was. They thought he might have been another teacher or rabbi. His own family questioned him. 
He preached obscure messages, parables hinting at but hiding his true identity to most it seemed. Sometimes, through a healing or deliverance, a glimpse of who he really was would be revealed - more than a rabbi, more than a teacher – but they would be told to keep quiet for now. The Son of God, the Messiah, concealed. However, revelation often comes bit by bit, part after part, layer upon layer, over time.  
On what would become known as Palm Sunday Jesus knew it was time to pull back more of the curtain to reveal the King. It was time! A few days before the Passover, the highest religious festival of the Jews, Jesus made his way to the Jerusalem area, with its swollen population. What an audience! This was the moment for the big reveal, the big entrance. Cue donkey! 
Word got out that he was coming. A huge crowd gathered to greet him – not with a “Hello!” but a “Hosanna!” (“Save us!”) A victory parade – for a king, for the prophesied, long-anticipated, Messiah King – the King who had come to save his people. Waving Palm leaves, as Israel’s nationalistic symbol, just as we might wave the Union Jack as the Queen celebrates her Jubilee. 
At last, the recognition that Jesus deserved – the King has come. “Hosanna!” It’s what you would cry if you fell into the swimming pool and didn’t know how to swim – then the lifeguard arrives – Save us!  For thirty years unappreciated, unrecognised, now cried out to, even sung to, for salvation – as Israel’s king. We may have found some in the crowd chanting “Rid us of the Romans!” 
You know, it is one thing to sing songs of worship, quite another to live lives of worship. We may shout the slogans, but do we follow the footsteps? What kind of a king do we have here?  
This Christ King came with consequences – and ones that not everyone would welcome. This king came not to be served, but to serve – and called his followers to do likewise. This king came not to lord it over others, but to lay his life down for others, even his enemies, and called his followers to do likewise.  
This king wore not a golden, bejewelled crown, but the painful curse of the thorn. He was beaten black and blue with his own sceptre, a crimson robe mockingly laid upon his flogged and bloodied, shredded shoulders. Jesus came not to rule from a golden throne in an ivory-inlaid palace but reigned from a rough wooden cross – which he had to carry to his place of humiliation and execution. He was not a king with manicured nails. No, his nails were hammered in, piercing flesh. This king calls for followers – yet he calls from his cruel cross. He is Christ Crucified! 
Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) “… anyone who does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) The Way of Life goes through the Cross-road of Death. Sacrificial Life! 
“At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.” (John 12:16) That one editorial comment of John’s points us to look beyond the event to see something deeper. There's more here than meets the eye, more than the disciples understood at the time. 
If we want to worship Jesus as our King, then we need to worship him as the King on the Cross – he doesn’t offer us a kingship of any other kind. We may want him to be a different kind of king, perhaps a king in our own image, but he comes as a king firmly in his own image – a humble, servant-king.  
Instead of singing “What a Friend we have in Jesus” we may prefer the sentiment "What A Trend We Have in Jesus" - we want to follow the Jesus that fits in with our lifestyle, only while the going is easy. But we are not here to change Jesus, he is here to change us.  
Revd. Michael Hogg