Christ Lutheran Church Upper Darby
March 28, 2021 Worship Sermon - "Blessed is the Coming Kingdom"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16: Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1--15:47
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor, David.
Like many of you, I spent the better part of January 6th pouring over the news as the insurrection was unfolding in Washington. I watched the horrifying videos of the crowds crashing through the security fence, breaking through the doors, and entering the capitol. But then there was this bizarre video someone had taken from the capitol rotunda. It showed hundreds of protesters milling around aimlessly, looking at the portraits on the walls, not quite sure what to do next. I don’t know what they had expected to happen once they got inside the building. Did they expect that they could just take over the controls of government? Were they prepared to deal with the pandemic, to negotiate with North Korea and China, to oversee the military and make sure America’s nuclear arsenal remained secure? As I watched all these people wandering around aimlessly, wondering what to do, I realized that this particular coup attempt was not going to work… thank God!
I have a similar feeling when I read Mark’s version of Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem. I put “triumphal” in quotes because Jesus had already been very clear with his followers about what would happen when he arrived in Jerusalem, and it had nothing to do with triumph, at least not in the way we usually think of triumph. Three times he told them that he was going to Jerusalem to die… not to chase out the Romans, not to become king, not even to re-establish the Davidic monarchy.
But, for whatever reason, the crowds just couldn’t hear what Jesus was saying. When Jesus enters Jerusalem, they laud him as a conquering hero, and they shout, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor, David.” Their ancestor, David, was the quintessential conquering hero. He had subdued all of Israel’s enemies and under his rule, Israel reached the apex of its power. A thousand years later, in Jesus’ day, people still looked back nostalgically on David.
Now, for the record, David’s kingdom wasn’t as great as people remembered it to be. There was a lot of corruption and David’s own son, Absalom, led a rebellion against David. But that’s how nostalgia works: it makes us forget the uncomfortable details and remember only those aspects that make us feel good about ourselves.
So, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the hordes of people with their red Make Israel Great Again hats all had the kingdom of David in mind. And you can feel their disappointment when they get into Jerusalem and nothing happens. They escort Jesus into the city as if they were preparing for his inauguration. But he just looks around, and then leaves. And the crowds are wandering about aimlessly, not quite sure what just happened. Where was the revolution they were hoping for? Where was the Davidic king they were anticipating?
Nostalgia not only distorts our understanding of the past; it limits our ability to imagine what might be possible in the future. We’re so focused on trying to resurrect a past that wasn’t all that good in the first place, that we miss opportunities to create a future that is better.
Fortunately, God is not bound by our nostalgia. The crowds of people in Jerusalem may have been hoping to resurrect the kingdom of David; but God had a different kind of resurrection in mind… the resurrection of all humanity. Jesus did come to inaugurate a kingdom, not the kingdom of David, but the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed is a kingdom of healing, and forgiveness, and liberation from demonic powers. The Kingdom of God is not limited to a particular nation or dynasty. It is an eternal Kingdom focused on the redemption of all humanity.
When we wave our palms and shout “Hosanna” on this Palm Sunday morning, let us keep our eyes focused on the coming Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed… the Kingdom of God. God is still alive and active in our world, opening up new possibilities for a future in which all humanity will be saved.