Sunday of the Passion - Palm Sunday
March 20, 2005
The Gospel: Matthew [26:36-75] 27:1-54 [55-66]
Sermon: "More than a Conqueror, King and Priest"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Matthew [26:36-75] 27:1-54 [55-66]
More than a Conqueror, King and Priest
Palm Sunday Year A 2005 - March 20, 2005
Every year we are struck by the dichotomy of the readings on this day. We begin with Jesus entering the holy city of Jerusalem. He rides into the city like a conqueror. Branches are waved before him as banners. Other branches and clothes are spread along the ground as if he was a royal king. He goes to the Temple like a high priest and he drives the moneychangers out. Jesus has entered like a conquering warrior, been praised like a king, and gone to the Temple like a priest. Immediately we think of the messianic proclamations of the prophets of old. Jesus appears to have fulfilled the prophetic words. Now, all he has to do is to take his place on the seat of the High Priest, overthrow the Romans, and be the leader the Jewish people want him to be. Do we see the problem at hand? Do we understand what would have happened if Jesus had followed that path? If Jesus had followed that path then the world would be just as it was before.
Now, we may be wondering how we can reach that conclusion. We reach that conclusion because one conqueror replacing another has been the tradition of the world forever. The strongest warrior conquers an area. The leader is proclaimed king and then he dies, only to be replaced by someone else. The cycle of conquering and death just keeps spinning. The average person is caught in the cycle. They fight and die with the latest leader or they lose everything as a farmer or merchant as the tide of winning and losing swings back and forth through the land. Poor men, women and children are beaten, enslaved or killed.
Now, Jesus could have come to Jerusalem in such a manner. However, Jesus could not. Jesus was not to be like other mortal warriors and kings. He was not coming to bring a temporary peace to the world, a peace that would last as long as he lived. He was coming to bring a peace that would last forever. However, to get there the road was indeed going to be hard. So, he enters Jerusalem in glory, but it does not last long.
Jesus' glory among the people is short-lived. He does not do what the people expect. He does not establish a new ruling power. He does not chastise the Romans. He does not uphold the Law as they understand it. In fact, he challenges the Law as they understand it. He heals the inf1rn1 on the Sabbath. He teaches about the love of God. He challenges the priests and they are the ones the crowds look to for guidance. Jesus does nothing they expect of the Messiah. Some of the people become indifferent. The scribes and the priests want him killed. Even one of his own will stop believing in him and betray him. He does not fit the mold. He is different. He is only a misguided prophet they believe. However, Jesus is not a misguided prophet. He is not a conqueror, king or priest in the world's understanding of those titles. He is so much more.
He is not a conqueror who uses violence to manipulate people. The world seems to think that violence overcomes violence. Teddy Roosevelt believed that when he claimed, "Walk softly, but carry a big stick." Violence only begets more violence. Just look at the feud between the Hatfield's and the McCoy's. Jesus is going to show that there is only one thing that can overcome and conquer violence and hatred, love. The love of God is stronger than anything the world can do. Not even death can overcome that love, even death as we saw it today on the cross. Jesus will conquer all of the hurt, pain and anguish with love. He conquers the pain and death the world offers by persevering in his love for God even as dies on the cross.
Likewise, Jesus is not a king on a throne as the world thinks of a king. We think of kings and we immediately envision powerful men. We see tall men, ruddy, handsome and wise. We think of David or the pharaohs of Egypt. The reality is so very different. If you don't believe it just think about the future King of England. However, Jesus is a king. His throne is not in a gilded room with royal colors and plush surroundings. We don't see Jesus in that setting. We see Jesus in a different way. Most often we see Jesus lifted on a cross. His arms held wide by the nails. Jesus' earthly throne shows how much he is willing to give for the whole world. He doesn't give gold or silver. He has none of those to give. He has something more wonderful. By dying on that cross with his arms wide apart he takes all of the sin of the world. He bears it with him into his death. He bears the sinfulness of the world on those bleeding, bare shoulders and buries the sin of the world with him never to rise again.
Finally, Jesus is not a priest as the world thinks of a priest. The world thinks of priests as holy people. Priests absolve people of their sins when they are confessed. In fact, the priests in Jerusalem believed that by killing Jesus they were removing a sinner most severe. He broke all the religious laws. He had no respect for their authority. They would remove this sinner and absolve the people of Israel by his death. They could not know how wrong they were. Oh, they did kill Jesus, but they did not absolve the people. Jesus did. Jesus took all that humiliation, rejection, pain and suffering inflicted upon him. He took it in his open arms and then carried it away. He absolved the world as he died on that cross. He absolved you and me, those who believe and those who have yet to hear. Jesus opened the door for everyone to have eternal life with God the Father.
The people looked for a conqueror, a king, and a priest. They had one in their midst. They had the conqueror who came with love. They had the king who ruled by example. They had the priest who absolved the world. He is here with us today. For Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Messiah for the world. He is our Messiah. So, today we sing Hosannas. We sing Hosannas to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We sing praise to our loving God who sent the Son to offer us eternal life.
And all of God's people say,