[Note from Daniel: Yes, we are electing a president, and Jesus still reigns as King. This will be the theme in the weekly series beginning on Easter Sunday and continuing through Pentecost, as we focus on how Jesus reigns through the stories in the book of Acts. Robert Pelfrey and I will trade weeks writing the series, and I asked him to write this introduction for today, Palm Sunday.]
In this crazy political season there are three kinds of people showing up to the often out-of-control rallies. One person is absolutely sure this candidate is America’s only hope. This is my candidate who thinks just like I think, and therefore, this is God’s candidate. Another person is absolutely sure this same candidate is the worst thing that could ever happen to America. If this candidate is elected, all hope is lost. This candidate must be stopped! And the third person is at the rally because it’s a spectacle with TV cameras and celebrities. They’ll eventually move on to the next flavor of the month.
It’s funny how crowds don’t change. This also describes the people in the crowd on Palm Sunday—which, make no mistake, was very much a political rally. There were many in the crowd who were sure Jesus was their kind of leader—he would conquer their enemies, save them from economic hardship, protect them from foreigners, and make them the greatest nation in the world. Also part of the crowd was a large group of the Jewish leaders. They were sure Jesus was the worst thing to happen to their nation, especially because he threatened their power and way of life. This Jesus must be stopped! And another big part of the crowd was there for the spectacle. They’d watched Jesus, seen his deeds of power, and now they wanted to celebrate the flavor of the month.
The thing is, Jesus definitely is a Savior, a Conqueror, and a King—but not in the way the crowds expected. Jesus would save the world from sin. He would conquer death. And he would be the humble King over God’s kingdom, a kingdom of mercy, justice, peace, forgiveness, and love. And the crowds—the Palm Sunday crowd and today’s political crowd—don’t want any of that. It’s astounding how quickly and easily people will leave their faith behind in the name of worldly power. It’s why so few in that huge crowd—including Jesus’ closest followers—were still with him on Good Friday. Do you really think most of today’s Christian voters would be any different? A king who refuses to play the media game and promote himself, who refuses to be a celebrity? A king who allows himself to be captured, beaten, and executed? A king who humbles himself in faithful obedience to God—no matter what? He’s a loser! We only like winners.
But in that Palm Sunday crowd—and maybe among so-called Christians in America today—there are a few, a very few, who recognize that this loser is our only hope. He’s not just the hope of a nation, but the hope of the world. No amount of weapons, no economic plan, no foreign or domestic policy, no amount of celebrity or political power, not even living in the greatest nation in the history of the world can make us free and give us the life that this King can. This King who sits on a donkey, who washes feet, who lays down his life—this is the world’s true King. “If you, even you, had only recognized…” (Luke 19:42).