March 30, 2018
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
In the name of + Jesus.
For centuries, only the pagans had kings. Apart from the enigmatic Melchizedek, God’s people were a free people under the kingship of the Lord. From time to time, God sent prophets and judges to preach repentance, but His people were not ruled like other people. “The kings of the Gentiles rule over them, and those in authority are called workers of good, but not so with you,” says Jesus to His disciples on the night in which He is betrayed. The kingdom of God is ruled in a way quite different from other kingdoms.
Yet, the people of God clamored for a king of their own. God resisted for a time, because a king who rules with an iron fist is antithetical to His kingdom. But eventually, God will turn people over to their sins if the insist. He gave them a king. But that did not work out so well. King Saul, the first king of Israel, was everything you’d ask for in a king—tall, strong, a military man. But he lacked faith in God. A summary in 1 Chronicles says, So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse (1 Chron 10:13-14 NKJV).
Even before Saul met his demise, David was anointed as the succeeding king. In David, Israel now had a king close to the heart of God. That doesn’t mean that he was without his troubles—David’s claim to fame is that he was a murderous adulterer. But what set him apart is his repentance, precisely what King Saul lacked. Psalm 51, the Psalm that concluded tonight’s Psalmody, is David’s song of repentance, which we take up for ourselves each week in the Offertory.
But David’s reign was not eternal. Even though he was a forgiven sinner, he was still a forgiven sinner, and the wages of sin is death. The corrupted flesh he inherited brought him to an end. So David rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David. The period that David reigned over Israel was forty years; seven years he reigned in Hebron, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years. Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established (2 Kings 2:10-12).
The king is dead; long live the king.
David’s son was also a king after God’s heart. And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places (2 Kings 3:3). King Solomon was known, though, not for his repentance, but for his wisdom. During one of those sacrifices, the Lord offered to grant him a gift, Solomon requested wisdom—which was itself a wise request.
But even though Solomon walked in the statutes of his father David, he also contracted the same corruption of his father. Like his father, Solomon’s weakness was women. His wisdom waned, and he took 1,000 wives—which is the Bible’s way of saying that he took many women as wife or mistress. This introduced another complication: For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David (1 Kings 11:4). After a long and troubled life, Solomon has no explicit record of repentance like his father, King David. Yet, the book of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon reveal contrition for a rebellious life, and imply faith in the promise of God. Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place (2 Chron 9:30-31).
The king is dead; long live the king.
If the reign of David and the reign of Solomon were troubled, what followed was a downright failure of rule. The kingdom was split, and many kings succeeded their fathers. Most were evil and some spectacularly so. Only a half of half of the remaining kings were good kings, and of them, they only are considered good because they repented of sins and unbelief.
The reign of kings in Israel and Judah became progressively worse until God sent a foreign power to take Israel captive. The last kings were either imprisoned or put to death.
The king is dead; long live…well…there were no more kings.
For four centuries there was no king in Israel. Even after the return of the exiles in Babylon, there wasn’t a true king like David or Solomon, or even one of the later kings. Some took the name of “king” like Herod and his son, but they weren’t truly kings. By that time, Rome was running the show, and Caesar ruled Rome. The “kings” of Israel were more local rulers with limited power.
And this is what made Palm Sunday so exciting. Zechariah had prophesied that Israel’s King would come riding on a donkey. And sure enough, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. People shouted, Hosanna!—exactly what you would say when a king enters the city.
But this is what got Jesus killed. The religious rulers wanted Jesus dead because of His blasphemy (which wasn’t blasphemy; He was upsetting their entire religious order). But Caesar really didn’t care about religious squabbles. The accusation that could stick with the people who had authority to put Jesus to death was that He had designs on being a King. This is the charge made to Pontius Pilate, and the line of questioning he pursues when Jesus is before him.
It’s interesting that when Pilate asks Jesus if He is the King of the Jews, Jesus doesn’t come right out and say yes. “You are saying it,” responds Jesus. He doesn’t take crown for Himself. At least not the way that Pilate is thinking of it. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now My kingdom is not from here. Then Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king? Jesus answered, “You are saying that I am a king” (Jn 18:36-37).
So, having committed no other crime, this is the charge for which Jesus is crucified. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Of all the troubles of the kings of old, none of them had ever been crucified by their own people for the simple fact of being their king. But there hangs Jesus, the Crucified King—crowned with thorns, robed in purple, enthroned on a cross.
The king is dead…
The long history of Israel’s kings comes to a close. The very thing they begged for, they now put to death. There is no son of the king to take over, no heir apparent to the throne.
But this King is different from all the other kings who came before. Even David, the prototype of Israel’s kings, rested with his fathers—and still does so to this day. But the rest of the Crucified King is much shorter. He needs only a Sabbath day, and very early on the first day of the week, is the return of the King.
The King Is Dead; Long Live the King
In the name of + Jesus.
Jacob W Ehrhard