Blessed Is the King!

Meditation on Luke 19:28-42

Palm Sunday 2021

Pastor Karen Crawford

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 4381

One of the small groups of our church that I really enjoy is Prayer Fellowship. I am so glad they continued meeting on Thursday mornings throughout the pandemic, switching from in person to conference call. They continue to share prayer concerns for the community, support one another and help carry each other’s burdens, offer words of comfort from Scripture and devotions, and they pray.

     Last Thursday in Prayer Fellowship, we heard about one of our church families—the Emigs—who had a house fire. Laura Emig’s mother—Sue Olinger—requested prayer, especially for the children—9-year-old Owen and 5-year-old Kailyn, who have sung in our Cherub Choir for a number of years. The family was not hurt physically, but are grieving both the trauma of the fire and the loss of things that had special meaning to them.

    Sue called me yesterday and shared more of the story. A week ago Friday, when the family was out of the house for work and school, a neighbor saw smoke and came to investigate. He saw flames coming out of their garage. His call for help saved their home and their dog, praise God! But gone was the 32-by-40 foot building that was much more than a garage to them —it was part of their home, a getaway and hangout for the family, as well as a storage area for special things. Owen’s baseball bag and 4-wheeler were there, as was a desk that Ryan, his father, had made in high school. There were baby clothes that Laura was saving from the kids, antiques, and much more.

     Sue picked up the kids at school that day and tried to prepare them for the loss on their way home, though she had not yet seen it. “It was devastating to drive up the driveway and see nothing,” she said, but a charred pile of rubble. Only a few posts remained.

   I am sharing their need with you as a prayer request and a challenge to serve. How will the Spirit move you to respond to bring hope, comfort, and healing to the family?

    The call of the Gospel is to love and serve with kind words and deeds, all in the name of Jesus Christ our humble, self-giving King.

***

    Jesus is revealed as the King of kings today in our Palm Sunday reading in the gospel of Luke. This account is in all 4 gospels—Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, with some different details. The message to us in all four is that this is no earthly ruler! This is the long-awaited Messiah, the Son who will suffer for the sake of the world.

The disciples still don’t understand that this is not their earthly king, though he has cleansed lepers, healed the sick and paralyzed, given sight to the blind. Jesus has never misled them, but they see him as they want to see him—and they want a king to replace the cruel and corrupt puppet kings of the Roman Empire.

“They celebrate his arrival in Jerusalem as if this were the beginning of his enthronement,” says theologian and historian Justo Gonzalez. “At this point of apparently impending victory, it is not just the inner circle of followers, but ‘the whole multitude of the disciples’ that acclaim the new king now marching toward Jerusalem.” Like soldiers and citizens welcoming and honoring a general returning from an exceptional victory, they are waving branches, laying down their cloaks on the road before him and praising God joyfully “with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,” saying,

    “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38).  This is an echo of Luke 2, when the heavenly host praise God and sing at Christ’s birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

     In both of these passages in Luke, the emphasis is on the God who brings peace through His Son.  As Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and Colossians 1:20, “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

   Christ on a borrowed donkey and not a chariot like an earthly king or a conquering general, claims for himself the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  

   Gonzalez contrasts our humble, self-giving Jesus and his followers’ celebration of him to a worldly ruler in ancient times: “People acclaim him as earlier their ancestors acclaimed Alexander, or as the Romans acclaimed Caesar and Pompey. He does not wear a crown of laurel, but soon will wear one of thorns. Alexander rejoiced over his conquests; Jesus will weep over Jerusalem.”

     Only in Luke do we find this detail of Jesus, when he comes near and sees the Holy City, and is overcome with grief for His people! He will once again emphasize the peace that he offers to those who believe in him. “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

   This is the second time in Luke that Jesus has lamented over Jerusalem. When Pharisees come and advise him to leave because King Herod wants to kill him, Jesus says, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’” He is warning them of what is to come: the cross and resurrection and Christ’s work for salvation.

    Not everyone will embrace God’s love shown in Jesus Christ. This brings the Savior of the world much sorrow. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he says in Luke 13:34, “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you.”  He is talking about his entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey that we remember on Palm Sunday, “And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Sure enough, when Christ and his followers arrive in a noisy procession, coming down from the Mount of Olives, the Pharisees, who do not recognize “the things that make for peace,” are in the crowd. “The scene is politically charged,” Gonzalez says. “Judea is part of the Roman Empire. No one can claim to rule over it without the support of Roman authorities, yet Jesus’ disciples loudly proclaim him a king. It is no wonder that the Pharisees wish to silence them.”

     “Teacher, order your disciples to stop,” the Pharisees say.

    “I tell you, if these were silent,” Jesus says of his disciples, “the stones would shout out.”

    His response is an echo of the psalms that tell of all God’s Creation praising the Lord, such as Psalm 96:11-12, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.”

    His response reminds us of a hymn we sing at Christmas. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing. And heaven and nature sing. And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.”

***

 Friends, on this day that marks the beginning of Holy Week, a day that is both Palm and Passion Sunday as our worship service draws to a close, let us consider our humble, servant king, who calls us to be like him and to be bold, like his disciples, in declaring our faith, no matter the risk to ourselves. No matter the Pharisees who wish to silence us. How may we demonstrate God’s love and compassion, especially to people in need and those who don’t yet know “the things that make for peace?”

   May the Lord open our eyes and bless us with opportunities to do God’s loving work. And may you and I keep in our hearts, minds, and prayers the Emig family, who have suffered the trauma of a fire and the loss of some things that were meaningful to them.

     May we imitate the generosity of the Lord, who has made peace with God through His body and blood as we remember every time we partake of the bread and cup. Christ comes down to us, heals, restores, unites, and prepares us for ministry when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, as we will in a few minutes. He will continue to do the work of transforming his new creation. We will be re-formed, renewed and refreshed, then, once again, sent out as Christ’s Body for the world.

   The title, “King of the Jews” will lead to Christ’s arrest and charges. He will be sentenced to die. They will write on his cross the title given to him by the magi, Pontius Pilate, and the Roman soldiers.

   What will happen to all his followers who enthusiastically waved branches, and laid down their cloaks as Jesus rode on a donkey to Jerusalem, fulfilling the words of a prophet?

    Where will they be when Christ is scorned and rejected, tortured and crucified—those who shouted and sang a hymn of praise that long ago day, “Blessed is the king!”

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, we cry out, like the earliest followers of your Son, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Help us, gracious God, to be faithful to the call to discipleship, no matter where it takes us and stretches us, no matter what work you have for us to do. Thank you for your love and forgiveness through your Son, who equips and transforms us by the Spirit so that we may be sent out as Christ’s Body for the world. Open our eyes to the needs around us and fill us with hearts of compassion to care for people as much as you do and give generously of ourselves to help others. We thank you for the neighbor who saw smoke and reported the fire at the Emig’s house—and that no one was hurt, including their dog. Comfort them in their grief. Bless them with joy. In the name of our King of kings and Lord of lords we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton, Ohio since January 2019. Come and visit! God's love is here for you!

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