Hosanna to the Son of David – Sermon for Palm Sunday 2015

Hosanna to The Son of David

Zechariah 9:9-12

Palm Sunday

March 29, 2015

Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

             King David had a mess on his hands. Not Goliath, for he had dealt with the imposing Philistine in his youth, and now the King was much older. The mess wasn’t the ordeal with Bathsheba and Uriah, although it was connected to that sordid affair. No, King David had a different sort of mess on his hands: the mess of succession. Who would be heir to David’s throne? It might seem like a simple question to those of us who know the answer, but it was not so simple for the Kingdom of Israel as their aging sovereign 2-slice-bannerapproached death. Remember, this was a young monarchy; David was only the second king in the nation’s history. While David had been a successful king, it was not clear who the next king would be. In fact, the kingdom had never faced this problem before.  Even David had been anointed king while Saul was on the throne, but David was not Saul’s own son. The kingship of Israel had not yet passed down from a father to one of his sons. Add to that the understandable fact that because David took the throne after Saul, Saul’s descendants felt cheated. They wanted Saul’s heir on the throne.  Toss Absolom’s rebellion into the mix, a rebellion severe enough that King David was actually forced to flee the palace and royal city of Jerusalem while one of his sons took the throne by force. And although David did finally defeat the uprising, along with the uprising of Sheba that followed closely on its heels, the damage to the King’s reputation had been done.

King David had a mess on his hands. Not Goliath, for he had dealt with the imposing Philistine in his youth, and now the King was much older. The mess wasn’t the ordeal with Bathsheba and Uriah, although it was connected to that sordid affair. No, King David had a different sort of mess on his hands: the mess of succession. Who would be heir to David’s throne? It might seem like a simple question to those of us who know the answer, but it was not so simple for the Kingdom of Israel as their aging sovereign approached death. Remember, this was a young monarchy; David was only the second king in the nation’s history. While David had been a successful king, it was not clear who the next king would be. In fact, the kingdom had never faced this problem before.  Even David had been anointed king while Saul was on the throne, but David was not Saul’s own son. The kingship of Israel had not yet passed down from a father to one of his sons. Add to that the understandable fact that because David took the throne after Saul, Saul’s descendants felt cheated. They wanted Saul’s heir on the throne.  Toss Absolom’s rebellion into the mix, a rebellion severe enough that King David was actually forced to flee the palace and royal city of Jerusalem while one of his sons took the throne by force. And although David did finally defeat the uprising, along with the uprising of Sheba that followed closely on its heels, the damage to the King’s reputation had been done.

wpid-Photo-Aug-29-2008-710-PM           Now, just two or three short years after Absolom’s rebellion, with the King’s health and ability to rule in question, with the descendants of Saul lurking in the shadows, always a threat to rise up in a rebellion of their own, it came time to for David to finally name his successor. Two camps arose in the palace. In one corner was David’s son Adonijah, who teamed up with the captain of the guard, probably promising that he would be general of the entire army if he supported Adonijah. The two of them conspired with Abiathar the High Priest, who, so it seems, saw the writing on the wall that if Solomon was crowned king that he would lose his favored status in the new king’s court. Because all of his older brothers had already died, Adonijah was the oldest living son of David and thus felt that the line of succession should pass through him. After all, that’s the way the other kingdoms of the world operate. That’s just what makes sense.

But God had other plans. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had no interest in simply mimicking the commonly accepted practice of the world’s kings, so he did things his own way. He had earlier promised David that his throne would have no end, a prophecy that applied ultimately to Jesus and his heavenly kingdom, but which far too many Jews understood as a promise that the political nation of Israel would never fall. This promise, given through the prophet Nathan, was subtly connected to Solomon, the son of Bathsheba, for he was not yet born when the promise was made, and the promise of an eternal throne was made concerning a son who would be born to David, not one who had already been born, like Adonijah. Yet for some reason, David had not publically named Solomon as successor to the throne, although most of his inner circle knew that was the plan. When Adonijah proclaimed himself heir to David’s throne, David had to act. So the prophet Nathan came with Bathsheba and reminded David of the promise God had made concerning Solomon, and told David to take action. David needed to do something so that all Israel knew Solomon was his chosen heir to the throne, so he held a parade. Solomon was paraded to a place called Gihon just outside Jerusalem, a place where the Ark of the Covenant was being stored until the Temple was built in Jerusalem. There, where the Ark was, Solomon was anointed with holy oil and proclaimed king. And the people rejoiced. And Solomon was paraded back into Jerusalem, through the streets, right up to the palace and throne to take his seat as the one who would continue the line of David.

And throughout this entire parade, Solomon rode astride a donkey. Not a war horse. Not a camel. Not even an elephant. A donkey. The chosen king, the son of David, the one who did not match the world’s expectations, the one who would continue the line of David’s unending kingdom was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem on the back of a donkey while the crowds rejoiced and celebrated his arrival. The Prophet Zechariah drew upon this imagery over 500 years later when he promised that the Messiah, God’s chosen king, would enter Jerusalem on a donkey. And Jesus fulfilled this prophecy 500 years after that. Separated by 1000 years, the chosen offspring of David paraded through the streets of Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.

For it is ultimately Jesus who fulfills this prophecy. He is the Son of David who sits upon the throne of the kingdom that has no end. He is the king who defies earthly expectations. As one Christian author puts it:

Both the Jews and Jesus wanted to restore David’s kingdom – but in different senses. To most of the Jews in Jesus’ day, David was great because of his political exploits. To Jesus, David was great because he acknowledged his offenses against God and was enveloped by God’s grace. Yes, Jesus was continuing the kingdom of David, but it was not the kingdom that the politically oriented Jews wanted.

The kingdom God was bringing centered in Jesus and His redemptive work. He became truly God’s king on the cross. The subjects of this kingdom were those who accepted only Jesus but also his work.[1]

This is the kingdom of which we are subjects. Jesus is our indeed king, but he is a king that makes no sense to the world around us. We are citizens of a kingdom that makes no sense to the world around us.  But why would we expect anything different? Why would we expect the world’s understanding? Why would we want it?  We live in a world that turns a blind eye to the murder of an unborn child, declaring that the fetus was palm-sundaynever really a life in the first place.  We live in a world that seeks to muzzle the proclamation of the gospel in the name of tolerance.  We live in a world that seeks out and beheads God’s children for their faith. These are the things that apparently make sense to our world, and yet for some reason, we continue to seek this world’s approval.

We are too often eager to let the world or our own sinful flesh set the standard by which our king or his kingdom is judged. We are told that the church is dying, that if we don’t change our ways we have no hope for the future. We are left grasping at shadows, told that if we don’t accept the world’s philosophies, if we don’t embrace the world’s sexual ethics, if we don’t fit ourselves into the world’s mold that we no chance to survive. Too often we allow the world to set the parameters of the conversation, and we are quick to run for cover when we hear that the sky is falling and the church is dying. But this is not our world’s church, so why should we let our world tell us if it is dying or not? This is our Lord’s church, and our Lord doesn’t operate according to the world’s standards. When the world wants a king to ride in on a majestic animal like a Roman Emperor would, our Lord chooses a donkey. When the world wants us to get swept up in the ever-changing winds of public opinion, our Lord gives us the firm foundation of his word, and his word stands forever.

His kingdom stands forever.  That’s the point of what we will be celebrating and observing over the next eight days.  Our Lord has established for himself a kingdom of the redeemed. He established it through the new testament in his blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. He established it by allowing himself to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men with a kiss, by standing silently before his accusers, refusing to capitulate to their demands where we would have caved in. He established it by remaining being obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. And he demonstrated his kingship by bursting forth from the tomb, for the world’s sepulcher of death cannot hold the Lord of life.  And now we are being shaped in his image. We are standing before the Pilates of our own. We are now asked, “What is truth?” We are now being tried and tested in our confession. We are being told to simply reject our confession so that we can go free.

JesusOnCross_01 But freedom in the world is captivity to death. We rejoice in the freedom of knowing that our Lord has already won the victory.  The dying world cannot overcome our Lord’s kingdom of life. It may not be much to look at compared with the world’s estimation, but I suppose a donkey wasn’t much to look at either. Yet the humble means of a donkey delivered David’s heir to the throne of his kingdom that would have no end. The humble means of bread and wine, of water and word deliver David’s Son to us today. It may not follow the world’s pattern of how things ought to go, but I suppose young Solomon being anointed over David’s eldest son Adonijah didn’t fit the world’s pattern either. And neither does a God who dies, a God who wins victory by subjecting himself to defeat, to weakness, to humiliation. But that’s what this week is all about: the God of the unexpected. The God of humiliation and rejection coming to us in unexpected ways to claim us as citizens of his heavenly kingdom which has no end.

So ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die. O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin over captive death and conquered sin. Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die. Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain. Then take, O God, Thy power and reign. Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, for he is David’s Son and David’s Lord. He is our King, and His kingdom has no end.

[1] Scaer, David What Do You Think of Jesus? p. 77

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s