Text: St. Matthew’s Passion
Date: Passion/Palm Sunday + 4/9/17
The kingdom of God comes to us all by itself without our prayer. Martin Luther in his Large Catechism says the kingdom of God came as He “sent his Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience.” He didn’t ask us for permission. He just did it.
Today we heard kingdom talk. The crowds greeted Jesus as He entered Jerusalem, saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” So the Introit psalm for this day reminds us of our Advent hope, saying, “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” Then twice from the words of Psalm 24 the question is asked, “Who is this king of glory?” The answer: “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!” So we with God’s people ever since that first and final Passover greet Jesus as “this king of glory.”
It is needful, however, that this question was asked twice and is asked of us again today. “Who is this king of glory?” For there seems to be some confusion about it, about Him. Even at first sight, not on a mighty steed but on “a donkey’s colt” He came, humble not as Lord or king but as a servant.
So who is this strange king and what is His glory? “Jesus stood before the governor who asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You have said so.’” But was Pilate joking? The soldiers of the governor thought so, stripping Jesus and putting a scarlet robe on him, and fashioning a crown made out of thorns. “And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” Then was it mockery or an accidental moment of truth when “over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews’”?
“Seek whom you may,” says the hymn, “To be your stay, None can redeem his brother. All helpers failed; This man prevailed, The God-man and none other, Our Servant-King Of whom we sing. We’re justified Because He died, The guilty being guiltless” (LSB 557:2). Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. He is not like an earthly king. He is called “our Servant-King” as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s third Servant Song. “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” His kingship is not of this world, for, though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be bragged about, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, humbled even to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Not with any of the trappings of earthly royalty are we told of this King’s glory. This King’s glory was when He was lifted up on the cross there becoming the Redeemer by whose blood we are cleansed from all sin (1 John 1:7).
In this Great and Holy Week we, with the whole Church throughout the world, gather before the true glory of our salvation, the true glory of our King: “Behold the cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world.” O come, let us worship him.