Monday, April 09, 2012

What Kind of King?

For Palm Sunday I preached as a character from Bible times who observed the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It was challenging doing a 20+ minute sermon of memorized script and acting it out. However, the power of storytelling really captures the imagination in a way that allows truth to penetrate. It is noteworthy that the Gospel accounts (Luke 19:28ff, and John 19) from which I drew my sermon content are written in a narrative form as well. Jesus often used stories to tell truth. Enjoy the story below that I wrote about the greatest Story that God wrote (is writing?) with Jesus as the King. The headings in bold were not spoken but I used them as milestones in my mind to walk through the script. May I present: What Kind of King?

Oh, shalom! I'm sorry I didn't see you out there, I was finishing up some work outside my house. My name is Jonathan. Are you just now getting to town?
--Yeah, the robbers are pretty bad on the road. Well, you missed a lot this week! You should have seen what happened on Friday... Oh, let me back up. You're not going to understand until I tell you what happened, what I saw last Sunday.

Last Sunday, you know how this time of the year all the pilgrims are coming down the road to Jerusalem, well here in Bethphage we're a little off the path but that road runs right by Bethany, a few miles from here and pilgrims are streaming into Jerusalem. Well, a lot more people than you're traveling with now because most of them are already here. So last Sunday, there was a big group coming down the road and they were coming into Jerusalem. You know, we are here on the East Side--some people like to go up the Mount of Olives, and let me tell you, if you haven't been up there yet, what a view! As you crest the top you will see Jerusalem, the Holy City, and you're right across from the Temple Mount and there's the East Gate and you're coming down the mountain. You're going to enjoy the pilgrimage you're on. But here I am getting off topic. Let me tell you what happened last Sunday. Well, the pilgrims were coming down the road and many of them were weary and weak and stopping at places along the road. And me and my brother Daniel, were getting some things ready, we are normally tradesman but this time of the year we like to sell a lot of our figs. We get rid of our old figs that we have dried and try to sell them to the travelers on the road because right now is not the time for figs. The trees here have little green buds on them that you can eat--the early figs, but we've got some old dry ones we are trying to sell. And by this time of the year people are tired from the journey, they're almost there, they stop a night in Bethany or here since it is a little cheaper than going on into Jerusalem.


So we go out to the road to sell figs and my other brother, Josiah, he goes down the road to get some news and he is running back and forth each day. Josiah comes to me and says, "the LORD is coming!" And I talk with Josiah and say, "Is it Him?" And he says, "Yes, he's staying at Mary and Martha's house." Let me tell you about the Lord, this Jesus of Nazareth. For three years, he's been teaching and we have heard word of him. I've got a cousin who says he saw him make a blind man see! The man could not see and Jesus took some mud and put it on his eyes and the man saw! I heard other people talk about this Jesus of Nazareth and they said he teaches like no one else, that He has this authority--it's not like the Rabbis in synagogue on the Sabbath. This Jesus, when he speaks, it's as if God himself is speaking.
I asked my friend what the Rabbi's think of Jesus and he said, "He makes most of them as mad as a hornet." They think, 'Who is this guy? He's just a peasant--some carpenter's son from Galilee.' But others are saying, "He is the Messiah, he's the promised one from God." Well, anyway, my brother Josiah comes back and says, "the Lord is coming, he's just a few miles away, staying in Bethany at Mary and Martha's house." This is the same Mary and Martha who's brother Lazarus was dead. My cousin, Shlomo tells me he went to Lazarus' funeral and that he was dead. He saw them wrap Lazarus up and put him in the tomb. But several days later, this Jesus of Nazareth came and the dead man came got up out of the tomb! So everyone wants to see this Jesus.


As you know, all the pilgrim's are streaming in to Jerusalem at this time of the year. We Jews are coming for the Passover, we're going to purchase the lambs to be sacrificed at the temple. We eat the Passover meal in the Holy City but this year Jesus himself is coming!. There have been rumors and discussions: "Is He the One, is he the promised Messiah?" He is shaking up things, I tell you! Many of the pilgrims that are coming decided to travel around Jesus. And now he was close by!

Well, when Josiah told me the news that Jesus was close by last Sunday, I was excited. But I still had a lot of things to do at the shop to finish up so I told Daniel, "When Jesus gets close, you tell me and we're going to go into town at the same time."
Well, I don't know what happened to Daniel, he's unreliable. So Daniel left and I didn't see him all day. So I'm closing up shop and our two donkeys--we have a mother and a foal--I went to tie them off out in front. I tied them really good because I was tired at the end of the day and I wanted to get some rest without having to watch them. You know you never can trust these pilgrims coming through--some of them wander off the main path and they take things. You have to watch out! I tied off the donkey and the colt and no sooner had I done it than I see two guys wandering down the road. I can tell by watching them that they have no clue where they are going because they are looking around and talking. So I stand off to the side and I see them point to my donkeys. They can't see me because I am standing in the shadows. And they walk over there and these two guys come up to my donkey and the mother and start trying to untie the donkey! I run over and say, "Just what do you think you're doing?" They look surprised but one of them motions to the other who says, "The Lord has need of this." When he said, "the Lord" my heart jumped. The Lord Jesus? The One? Then I said, "take them both! take them both!" He's over in Bethany right?
They seemed surprised that I would just give them the animals and they said, "Yes. We were told that we would find a donkey here and we only need the little one."
I said, "You can take the little one but no one has ever ridden on it" He can certainly carry packs or a person but he is not broken in."
They said, "we are going to take the little one."
I said, "Ok, take it." Then I asked them, "It's getting late but do you mind if I follow you?" They said, "Sure." Then I discovered they were followers of Jesus. They were the ones that were close to him. Not like all these other people who have been checking Jesus out but the very ones who know Him and have been walking with Him these 3 years.

Well when we arrived at the area, the place was packed with pilgrims. They tell me this is the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And Jesus comes out. I had to listen to the crowd to try to figure out what was going on. Finally, I spotted my brother Daniel and I said, "There you are! What's going on?" He says, "Jesus is going into Jerusalem."
"Right now, tonight?"
"Yes!" he says.
The sun's going down but it's only a few miles into Jerusalem.
Jesus, the Messiah, this one everyone has been talking about, with a large crowd around him, begins to go down the road. He rides on my donkey, my donkey!

It did not have a saddle but I saw some of his disciples take their cloaks off and put it on the donkey's back to make his ride more comfortable. He rides, and we leave Bethany, and we pass by Bethphage and my house, and then we go up the Mount of Olives and did I tell you already that it is a magnificent view? Oh? Well, it is part of the local pride of my little village. We go up the Mount of Olives and we come down the other side and guess what we see? People streaming out of Jerusalem who have heard about Jesus and are coming to meet him. The two crowds meet like a wave touching the shore and the excitement is contagious. Suddenly, someone shouts, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!"
And they begin to declare him king. And then someone in the crowd says, "Hosanna!, "Hosanna! Someone in the crowd says, *wait for audience participation*

I see some of them now taking off their outer garments and setting them down in front of him and it's like their are saying, "You are the King!" and they are bowing down in front of him. Some who did not have their cloaks on ran to cut down palm branches to throw down in front of him. And I look at Jesus... Is He the One?
There is a smile on His face, a confidence as he trots into town.
He's the One I tell you, the One we've been looking for all these years. And he accepts their praise. It sure seems like all that we sing from the Psalms are coming true "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!" Hosanna! Save us now! Save us from oppression. Come and deliver us from God's enemies. Deliver us!"

I tell you friend if you would have been here last Sunday. You would have seen the King.
He was not on a war horse... he was on a donkey. Much like King David had been, or King Solomon. But he was on the foal of a donkey and although he was confident and smiling, there was a humility in him that I had never seen in a king. The people continued praising and shouting. There was so much expectancy in the crowd with the season and the Passover, and all the pilgrims who have come to see God work. The crowds were at a fever pitch.

Then I saw some other guys, you know them, the Rabbis with their long robes and tassels, the phylacteries on their heads. And they could not control the crowds.
They were screaming, "Don't say that. Blasphemy! What are you doing?" They could not control the crowds so they worked their way towards Jesus and they said, "Teacher, tell your disciples to stop it!"
Everyone grew quiet for a moment because they wanted to hear what Jesus, the king, had to say. Jesus of Nazareth looked at them and said, "I tell you the truth, if they do not cry out then the stones themselves will cry out!" At that answer, the crowd erupted again, and we continued with the Hosannas and we saw the king go into the East Gate of Jerusalem and ride into town.


What an evening! I heard he went on to the temple, but I had to go back, and take care of some things with my shop. And I was exhausted after all the excitement of the day.
But let me tell you what happened the next day. I'm working in the shop and my cousin Shlomo comes in with a report from Jerusalem. He says, that on Monday Jesus went to the temple, which caused a big stir. But what Jesus did next after arriving was even more surprising. They say he looked around and saw those people---you know, those vendors that are sitting there in the temple with their coins and pigeons? And everyone is buying and selling, and buying and selling--and let me tell you, if you are a pilgrim you get gouged on the prices. Here it is , you as a pilgrim can't bring a sacrifice so you bring money to buy one like a lamb or dove instead.
Well, Jesus comes in and he starts turning over the tables and tells them "Get out!!! My Father's house is to be a house of prayer, it's to be for all nations, and you! you have turned it into den of thieves!"
The guys in the long robes were furious. Shlomo says, he saw them talking off to the side, plotting. But there was a fire in Jesus' eyes, a zeal for his Father's house... I'm sure he's the One.

Well, the rest of the week goes by and the people don't know what to expect. Many start to believe it will be a typical week.
But, after we had the Passover meal on Thursday I went to bed full of lamb. I lay there in bed wondering about the Deliverer to come, the Messiah to come. You know God sent a deliverer so many years ago to our fathers when they were in bondage and slavery in Egypt. And we have this Passover meal every year and we eat it and look for the One to come. Is God going to send another Deliverer? And I think about the King that we hailed on Sunday. I went to sleep late that night, only to be startled awake very early by my brother Daniel.
"Get up, get up!" He says, "Something's going on! We have to go!"
"Where are we going?" I say.
"I'll tell you on the way." he says. So I pull on my outer garment.
"Are we going to Jerusalem? What are you doing here, Daniel? I thought you were staying in town with uncle." (You see, we have an uncle named Antigonus who lives in Jerusalem.)
Daniel said, "Something is up. Some men came in the middle of the night and beat on Antigonus' door and said, 'We've got him! Come on, quick! We're getting the Sanhedrin together.'" Daniel said he couldn't sleep after that and he thinks they captured Jesus of Nazareth. So he ran to our village and we hurried back to Jerusalem. By this time the sun is starting to come up and there are people and crowds in the streets. I started asking, " What's going on with Jesus?"
Someone said, "Caiphas has got him."
"No, he's already been to Caiphas, and is sent to Annas." said another. So we ran over there but soon others said, "No that's old news. They took Jesus to Herod and now he's on his way to Pontius Pilate."

"Pontius Pilate? He's the Roman governor. Why would they take him there?" I said. And a pilgrim answered, "Some are saying that our leaders want the death sentence."
Daniel and I made our way through the crowded streets of Jerusalem to the Praetorium, the palace of Pontius Pilate. By that time, we saw many of the same people in the crowd there that we saw last Sunday. Some are now yelling, "Crucify him, crucify him!" We arrived late because they told me that Jesus had already appeared before the crowd with Pontius Pilate and Pilate said he had done nothing wrong. But Pilate took him back inside to question him further.
Some believe Pilate will let Jesus go but others point out that he already let Barabbas, the murderer, go in his place.

I pushed close to the religious leaders and they were angry. They said, "We demand this man's death." They tell the crowds that he's no messiah and is a blasphemer. Maybe so, the crowd is divided in its opinion.


Suddenly, Pontius Pilate comes out. And he leads out the king.
Pilate says, "Behold, the man."
I could tell that they had already beaten Jesus severely. His blood was dropping on the stone pavement. He did look like a king in a way. Someone had placed a very expensive robe on him. And he had a crown, of thorns!, on his head. The crowd quieted a little bit. Some to hear the judgment. Others were shocked into silence at the bloody sight of Jesus of Nazareth. Some even hid their faces to not have to look at him.
All I could think of when I saw him was the blood had seen the day before from our Passover lamb.
Jesus looked like a king, but "What kind of king would wear a crown of thorns? What kind of king would be whipped and beaten?"

The tense silence was burst by Pilate saying, "I find no basis for a charge against him. What do you want me to do with your king?"
And they said, "Crucify him. And the chant went out "Crucify him! Crucify Him!"
And Pilate said, "you want me to crucify your king?"
And the religious leaders spoke for all by saying, "We have no king but Caesar. If you let this man go then you are no friend of Caesar. Crucify him!"
And Pilate said, "Very well, you take him and crucify him."
Well, I had seen enough and I went home. That was yesterday. I thought, "what kind of king would die on a cross?"

**At this point in the sermon, I snap out of the character of Jonathan the shopkeeper and become myself again. Then I share that there are two ways to live, one with Jesus as king or with yourself as king. The first way results in having the king of the universe, Jesus, as your leader and forgiver--one who is a good master and loves you. The second way results in having yourself as king (though really sin and the Devil is your master, and he is a harsh taskmaster who hates you and wants to destroy you). When you reject Jesus as king of your life then (surprise, surprise) you are shut out of his kingdom forever. If you will humble yourself, admit that you have been his enemy, and trust what he did on the cross to pay for your sins, then Jesus will be your king and savior. What kind of king would die on a cross?-- A compassionate, mercifuly, and gracious one.**