The Magi came from the east in search of a king. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” they asked. They knocking on the door of the royal palace, because where else would you look for a king? But He wasn’t there.
The star in the sky that they had followed from the East said to them, “this way. Follow me.” And they did until they came to a house in a village called Bethlehem where a man named Joseph and his wife named Mary and their baby named Jesus were staying. And when they saw the LITTE CHILD, they knew they had found “he who has been born king of the Jews,” which is a real stretch, if you ask me. But it was their ‘eureka’ moment and “They opened their treasures, and offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:2, 9-12).
The gold would come in handy for when Joseph would take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt for security reasons. Do you remember how, when Israel made their great escape OUT of Egypt, that before they left, the Egyptians loaded them up with all their gold and silver jewelry as their way of paying homage.
Now, the New Israel, which is located in this virgin-born child, is loaded up with gold from foreigners as He goes back into Egypt. It was their way of paying homage to a king.
But what’s with the frankincense and myrrh? Incense and spices like these were only used for one thing – to cover up stink. Frankincense and myrrh were particularly used to pack around a dead body to cover the stink of decomposing flesh.
This is what the women were bringing to the tomb on that 1st Easter morning, and what Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of – THE AMOUNT THAT WOULD BE USED FOR A ‘ROYAL BURIAL,’ THE BURIAL OF A KING. So, we wonder, are these Magi from the east, anticipating the death of this KING and already making their offering to His ‘ROYAL BURIAL’?
In the account of the Passion of Our Lord according to St. Mark, we just heard that there was a meal that took place BEFORE the Passover meal in the Upper Room.
This meal took place in the village of Bethany at the home of a man named, Simon the Leper. A woman is present. She has come with a gift for Jesus – an alabaster flask of perfume which she proceeds to break open and pour over His head. The disciples, who were also there, being very pragmatic men, get upset that expensive perfume was wasted like that. But Jesus says, “She has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” (Mark 14:8). It was her way of paying ‘homage’ to her king.
From Bethany, Jesus begins the long anticipated journey to Jerusalem. When He gets to the village of Bethpage, He stops and orders a donkey to taxi Him to Jerusalem – NOT BECAUSE He was tired or didn’t want to walk anymore. His entire life has been SCRIPTED AHEAD OF TIME by the Prophets – and never more closely and in such fine detail as during this Holy Week.
The Spirit of the Lord put inspired words into the mouth of the prophet Zechariah to declare. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, YOUR KING is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9).
The people who lined the side of the road expressed their support and approval of Him. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest.”
They had high hopes that this Jesus of Nazareth would be the KING they had been waiting for since the days of King David – One who would restore national pride and dignity and make Israel great again. If they had had a red carpet, they’d have rolled it out. But they didn’t. So they threw their cloaks down onto the dirt road and spread palm branches on the ground instead. It was their way of paying homage to their king.
By my how fast things change. Jesus understands what the Magi understood, and the woman in Bethany understood, and Nicodemus understood. For this King to be the King He came into the world to be, this King must die.
Palm Sunday is not the rally for political change that Israel thought it was. It’s actually a funeral procession, led by the One who is proceeding to His death.
He quickly He goes from being seated on a donkey to being seated on a cross;
- from crowds cheering ‘Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David!’ to crowds jeering, “we have no king but Caesar.”
- Here they cry, “Hosanna!” – ‘deliver us.’ But later, they cry, “save yourself if you are the King.”
- Along this road, they take off their cloaks to lay at His feet. But at the cross He was stripped of His clothes and they cast lots for them.
Two of His own disciples, who had been with Him on the road to Jerusalem, would later, on the road to Emmaus, confess their deep disappointment with Him saying, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21)
There was however, another crowd that witnessed Palm Sunday and who saw things more clearly than they did and that we do.
Would you take your bible please and turn to Revelation 19:11-16. (Page 1040) Let’s hear how the multitude of the company of heaven describe what they see as Jesus rides into Jerusalem.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev.19:11-16).
Here is Palm Sunday in High Definition. The white horse is the donkey. The robe dipped in blood is His flesh, flogged and pierced. The sharp sword from His mouth is His word that convicts us of our guilt AND forgives us all our sins. He treads the winepress of God’s fury for your sin and empties the cup of God’s wrath by drinking it down to its dregs for you.
Behold ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords.” And He is YOUR KING – who comes to “hosanna” you from sin, death and hell. Not by covering up the stink of our sin and our death with perfumed spices – BUT WITH HIS OWN HOLY BLOOD – MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD AND SILVER AND FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH AND THE MOST EXPENSIVE PERFUME. For His doesn’t mask the smell of sin and death, it takes your sin away, and transforms your death into life, and fills your nostrils with the pleasing aroma of heaven itself.
For now, there’s still a lot about this world AND about my life that stinks and sometimes we feel like we want to puke. But the glory days will come, of that you can be sure. For,
For “God has highly exalted him who made Himself nothing – FOR YOU. And “God has bestowed on him, who humbled Himself by become obedient to death, even death on a cross – FOR YOU – the name that is above every name…” FOR HIS SAKE, the day is coming when we will see all of this as clearly as those in heaven do right now.
But for now, we live by faith in our crucified King. We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to all who expect victory apart from the cross, and life apart from the death of that which is killing us.
For now, we welcome Him and praise Him as He comes to us – under the most humble and lowly appearance.
- Riding on His Gospel – declaring His life creating and recreating Word – just as He did in the beginning.
- Riding on the water of Holy Baptism – setting you free from your captivity to death and the devil just as He did Israel through the Red Sea.
- Riding on the bread and the wine – giving you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith– just as He did in the Upper Room.
So, let us give Him the homage He is due.
- As the Magi gave Him their gold and silver and frankincense and myrrh,
- and Nicodemus his spices,
- and the woman her expensive perfume,
- and as Israel threw down their robes at His feet,
let us throw down our sins at His feet and repent.
- “Let us put off our old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires,” and lay it at His feet.
- “Let us take off all bitterness, rage, anger slander and every form of malice” and lay it all at His feet. (Ephesians 4:22,31)
- “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 14:13-14)
- “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)
- “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” (Hebrews 10:22-24)
This is how we pay our homage to Christ, OUR King. This is how we say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”