Beckett: Christ the King (Palm Sunday 2017)

Philippians 2:5-11, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Today is Palm Sunday, which its significance comes from John 12:12-29Palm trees grew abundantly near Jerusalem, which became a Jewish national symbol that appeared on Judean coins. So as King of Israel, Jesus properly walked amongst their national symbol. This was the fulfilment of a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9-12:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and He shall speak peace to the nations; His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

In fulfilment of this prophecy, Jesus came riding in not as a mighty king on a stallion—or in black SUVs for our day—but as a humble king on a donkey. The people correctly understood Him to be King of Israel, but they misunderstood the kind of king He is. They thought Jesus was going to bring peace in their time. Yes, He is the king of peace. He brought peace between His people and God—He reconciled us to the Father (Colossians 1:20); but earthly peace will come later in the new heavens and the new earth. After all, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). He came to divide the sheep from the goats—God’s people from God’s enemies (Matthew 25:33; 10:34-39; Luke 12:49-53).

In spite of this, however, Jesus promises to give His disciples His peace (John 14:27). What does this mean for us? Our sins are forgiven, and He gives us the peace of a clean conscience. Jesus knows our sorrows, our distress, our darkness, anything and everything that may beset us. As we raise our palms up to Jesus this Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus laid down His palms for us. He obeyed the Law of God, fulfilling it for us, and laid His palms on the Cross for us as He took our sins and God’s wrath upon Himself, suffering the agony of Hell itself with the momentary separation from God the Father (Matthew 27:46).

He died the death we deserve. Jesus knew He was God, but He never exhibited that reality in the form of control. His demonstrations of His Godhood is always seen in salvific acts. Jesus could have cast Himself down from the Cross, as His mockers demanded (Luke 23:35-38), but He did not. Because of His sacrifice, we are no longer the old Adam; we are now new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). He forgives the adulterer, the murderer, the homosexual, the liar, the thief, the slanderer—every sin no matter how small or great we measure it to be. He forgives it all by the covering of His blood on the Cross. And so we lift up our palms, rejoicing in our King of Israel, as we wait for Him to once again walk among us triumphantly.

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