King of what? (Palm Sunday)

April 2, 2023

There’s a famous scene from the movie Aladdin, where the poor peasant boy of the same name pretends to be a prince, and rides into town trying to impress His desired princess. There are horses, soldiers, a monkey, and even a marching band. They wave flags, sing a song, shoot off fireworks and march into town with a big to-do. “Prince Ali” sits atop his majestic animal throne and is paraded into town as the biggest deal since sliced bread, all in an attempt to win the heart of a woman who is real royalty, by disguising himself as such. In truth, he is a fraud, a fake, and perhaps worst of all, a nobody. Throughout the film, his heart and his head remind him of this fact, over and over again, as his biggest fear – being “found out” – drives him to become almost the exact opposite of the person he truly is and the person the princess wants him to be. For most of the movie, Aladdin is, the prince, of lies. 

Most of us have built the scene described in Matthew 21 up in our minds until it reaches Prince Ali parade proportions. If you aren’t familiar, the story reads like this; 

Matthew 21:1–11 (ESV)

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Sounds like a pretty big deal doesn’t it? And it was, but not for the reasons you might be thinking. In reality, the parade was probably pretty small. Jerusalem is a huge city, and at that time, it was occupied, not just by Rome, but by all sorts of religious observers, there to celebrate Passover. Whether a nominal or zealous Jew, you probably had found your way into Jerusalem and were settling down for the week ahead. So in a city filled with tens of thousands of people, a gathering of perhaps a few hundred might not have been something to write home about. The cries of Hosanna, the laying down of cloaks and the waving of palms – all things done to welcome victorious kings returning from battle – inflate the feeling that this procession was a pretty big party. But more likely, was that it could only be heard from a few blocks away. 

These things all beg a very important question. They must believe that this Jesus is a king, but then, king of what?

The jews? The nation of Israel? Some metaphorical kingdom of God to which He kept referring? All those in attendance, including His own disciples, probably had differing opinions and ideas as to who King Jesus, was, and would be. A mighty warrior. The restorer of Israel as a sovereign nation. A political powerhouse. A religious righter of wrongs. And yet, it doesn’t seem Jesus intended on being any of those things.

When you aren’t concerned with pomp and circumstance, you can give up the mighty steed for a donkey’s colt. When power isn’t your goal, you’re ok with giving up majestic robes for peasants cloaks. When people are your purpose, you lay down everything else to pursue them. 

That’s who He was. That’s who He is. The Son of Man and the Son of God. Come to seek and to save the lost, and to show us God in every way. He was and is, King Jesus. King of what you, ask? King of Heaven and Earth – and hopefully, your heart.

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