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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Sermon: King Jesus Has A Nice Ring To It ~ John 12:12-19

Note: This sermon was preached at a high school chapel at Cumberland Christian School.

The recent engagement of Prince Harry to American actress, Meghan Markle, has brought the world expectations of the next royal wedding. Now the speculation begins: who will be on the guest list? What will her dress look like? What music will we hear? How much will they spend on each other’s rings? The expectation immediately brings to mind images of Prince William and Princess Kate or Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Dianna, in an open horse-drawn carriage, leaving Westminster Abbey and traveling to Buckingham Palace, greeted by thousands of adoring British citizens, cheering the new, happy Royal couple. The passage we read this morning is of another royal processional, although of a different nature. Come with me as we step into that band of disciples, following Jesus in that processional so long ago.

Jesus stands at the front of the crowd, on his way to Jerusalem for Passover. It’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter all rolled up into one. It’s time to remember and celebrate that time so long ago when God saved the people of Israel from the empire of Egypt. Campsites are spread out across the plains of Jerusalem as far as the eye can see. All the Jewish people have come home for THE holiday of the year.

As they make their way up to the city walls, people are whispering: “He’s here, he’s here!” The disciples begin to notice that the crowds they see are not going UP to the city like they are: they’re coming DOWN from the city to meet them! “There he is!” they shout, “the man who raised Lazarus!” “It’s our king!” others exclaim. “And just in time for Passover!” “Maybe God will save us again!” “Lead us out of Rome just like Moses led us out of Egypt!” Palm branches, covered with long, thin leaves make their way through the crowd, waving to the traveling preacher and miracle worker, welcoming the man they call “king”. “Down with the Roman empire!” several shout, but the crowd soon takes up another chant, taken right out of Israel’s songbook: “Save us now! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel! Save us now! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” Many of those who are following Jesus make their way through the campsites, telling everyone, “He’s here! Our king is here! Did you hear about Lazarus?! He raised him from the dead! He’s going to do the same for us!” Even several of the disciples begin to join in the chant but are silenced by a quick glance from Peter, James, and John. I imagine Peter turning to Jesus, knowing what his master is like with these kinds of crowds. “Is there anywhere you would like us to take you to get away from all this noise?” he asks. “Go get me a donkey,” Jesus replies. “I’m going up to Jerusalem.” Peter is shocked. “But I thought you didn’t want the crowds to make you a king?” Jesus repeats: “Go get me a donkey. I’m going up to Jerusalem.” With a smile, Peter turns to James and John: “He’s saddling up. Just what we’ve been waiting for. King Jesus has a nice ring to it.”

This crowd, under the weight of Roman oppression, have built their hopes up. They want their own nation with their own king, not these foreigners. They are tired of being told what to do and how much to pay in taxes. They want Israel power for themselves. So they’ve been reading the Bible, trying to figure out when God is going to give Israel back power for themselves. And they stick all these hopes on Jesus. They have their own agenda for Jesus to fulfill, no matter what he might say. They want Jesus on their side and against all the people they don’t like.

The politics of this event aren’t unfamiliar to us in 21st century America. A few weeks ago, a special Senate election in Alabama was big in the news. When Judge Roy Moore won the Republican primary, he gave a victory speech, featuring words of American nationalism and Christian triumphalism. “There’s nothing too great for God,” he said about his victory. He went on to say, “This is a time for victory. It’s a time to remember the struggles we’ve gone through, but it’s also time to rededicate our lives to God and to the Constitution, and to our country, to our families. Let’s go again and make America great.”

Marrying Christian faith and politics is not just a Republican or conservative tendency. Several years ago, when announcing new executive orders on gun control, President Barack Obama quoted Jesus: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

There is a long-standing American tradition of reimagining Scripture to strengthen our own political hopes. Our legacy ranges from using Scripture to fuel the victories of the Civil Rights Movement to justifying the atrocities of slavery. So we are left with this question: do we follow Jesus because of who He is or because we use him to enforce our own power? King Jesus has a nice ring to it. But do we ever wonder whether we define “king” the way Jesus would?

Now, I’m sure you’re asking the question: “Mr. Carr, what does this have to do with me? I can’t vote, and even you can’t vote in Alabama. Why are you talking about politics in a Christian school chapel?” Because politics isn’t just about what happens in Washington D.C. and voting for a president every four years. It is a question of power. It is a question of who is in charge. And politics happens in the classroom.

I remember sitting in English class with one of my not-so-favorite teachers who is no longer here. While waiting for the bell to ring, I did what all of you do. I turned around and talked to my best friend. When the bell rang, I proceeded to finish my thought, but she was ready to start class. “Mr. Carr,” she said, “I’ve recently seen some disappointing behavior from you.” I spun around and gave her a look of confusion. She didn’t interact with me outside of second period. I always handed my assignments in to her on time, unlike many others in the class. Who was she to be disappointed in me? Who was she that I would even want her approval? I knew Jesus was on my side. “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” King Jesus has a nice ring to it.

So what about you this morning? Is there a version of Jesus you’ve found to stick up for you when you argue with your parents? Is there a version of Jesus you’ve found to stick up for you when a teacher is being “unfair”? King Jesus has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The trouble is King Jesus isn’t here to give us power. And he isn’t at Jerusalem to give the crowds power.

“Go get me a donkey,” Jesus says to Peter. “I’m going up to Jerusalem.” I imagine John quickly responding, “Jesus, I’m sure we can find a white horse. Ride into Jerusalem in style, like a king coming home in victory.” Jesus is not distracted by his comment. Jesus smiles and quotes a Scripture from the prophet Zechariah that John knows well, ““Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt! He shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’”

John looks at Jesus with a puzzled expression, but the donkey is soon brought to him and he mounts it. As he rides into Jerusalem, the crowds continue to chant: “Save us now! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel! Save us now! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” Little do they know that in a few days, this king will be nailed to a cross by Roman hands. And Jesus never turns from his march to the cross in Jerusalem to entertain the cry of the crowd.

Up in the city of Jerusalem, the religious leaders are looking down on the crowds rushing to this rabble-rouser. “Rome won’t be happy about this,” they are saying to one another. “Governor Pilate will be quick to call in the troops.” “Our nation is at stake!” “He can’t defeat Rome. He doesn’t even have a weapon.” “No, he just runs His mouth enough to make trouble for the rest of us.” “Can’t we put a stop to it?” “You can do nothing. Look, the world has already gone after him!” This rings a bell for one religious leader. Nicodemus whispers under his breath, “For God so loved the world….” The religious leaders continue their argument: “We can’t do anything as long as he is still here. But maybe the crowds won’t follow a dead king.”

Jesus is no political hero. Jesus is no friend of Israel power. Jesus is no friend of Roman power. He isn’t in the business of coming to give ordinary kingdoms power over one another. The Jewish religious leaders and the Roman invaders, two sworn enemies, will be allies by the end of the week to rid the world of an ordinary troublemaker. Or so they think. God will answer the prayers of the crowd to “Save us now!” but not in the way they anticipate. Jesus doesn’t save them by a military victory, but by being executed. He doesn’t start a war on behalf of Israel or for Rome, but lays down His life for Roman and Jew alike. Jesus doesn’t keep the cycle of death going, but comes in resurrection. He doesn’t affirm any of the world’s power structures, but is treated as the enemy of them all. He isn’t on any of our petty sides, trying to get power over one another, to be in charge, to be the boss. He is in the business of bringing the power of God for life and peace. Instead of bringing revolution, He brings peace. Even the Apostle John confesses he and all the other disciples did not understand Jesus, until the cross. Only in the cross and the empty tomb does King Jesus make sense. King Jesus has a nice ring to it.

So what about politics and classrooms and parents? If Jesus doesn’t come to affirm power or to help flip it in a revolution, what does He have to do with them? “For God so loved the world He gave….” He gave to teachers and students, presidents and plumbers, parents and children.

Jesus is not the champion of students against teachers, or of teachers against students. Jesus is not the champion of plumbers against presidents or of presidents against plumbers. Jesus is not the champion of children against parents, or of parents against children. He could easily have chosen the path of power and left us all in the dust, but instead, he chose the long, hard road of sacrifice, continually choosing to give Himself to us. Rather than demand our service, He gives us His. He brings peace to teachers and students, presidents and plumbers, parents and children. King Jesus has a nice ring to it.

Of course, he did that in His death and resurrection, but what about now? Is he still that kind of king? Does he still serve the world in that way? Today, he serves the world through you and me. When he died and rose, He claimed us as His own. And He doesn’t just love us and leave it there. He pours out His love on us so that it overflows into the world around us. He loves us so that the world around us might see His love.

Jesus expresses his love for Cumberland County and the world through His presence on this campus. He made sure children who live in families struggling financially had Christmas presents through our elementary students. He sent 84 shoeboxes to children in third world countries for Christmas through the National Honors Society. He gave homes and medical care to people in Haiti through our mission teams. He gives peace to teachers and students, presidents and plumbers, parents and children through His children at Cumberland Christian School. King Jesus has a nice ring to it.

So as you go through the rest of your school day, how is Jesus bringing peace to this community? How is he bringing together teacher and student, no longer on different sides, but together reflecting the love of Jesus? How is he bringing together parent and child, no longer on different sides, but together reflecting the love of Jesus? How does he reflect His love for this campus through you? Where on this campus can everyone see Jesus is king? ‘Cause King Jesus has a nice ring to it.

Cumberland Christian, the good news for you today is that King Jesus brings peace to you, teachers and students, presidents and plumbers, parents and children. Through you, King Jesus brings peace to teachers and students, presidents and plumbers, parents and children. So may you know the peace He brings this morning. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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