Living Under the Reign of God - Palm Sunday

A triumphant entry into Jerusalem! Crowds shouting with joy, waving palms and olive branches, calling out to the One they wanted to be their ruler and their savior. They cry out with messianic fervor, “Hosanna! (Save us!) Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Words designed for the entrance of a mighty King. The crowds in Jerusalem 2000 years ago longed for a leader – a mighty military king who would free them from the yoke of the Roman Empire, and bring in a reign of peace and prosperity similar to the years of King David centuries earlier.

The people wanted a King, and Jesus was a King…  but not quite the type they hoped for. A few days after Palm Sunday, others would question Christ about His kingdom, but in a very different context. The crowds would no longer cheer for Jesus, but jeer against Him, with the governor Pontus Pilate sarcastically asking, “Are you the King of the Jews? Where is your kingdom? What type of kingdom will you rule over?”

Jesus the King, Jesus the Christ, Jesus the awaited Anointed One, who promised to usher in a new kingdom! The crowds wanted a kingdom. Pilate and the religious leaders feared this kingdom. Yet the irony of the whole situation was that Jesus’ reign and kingdom have nothing to do with what the crowds imagined and what the leaders feared. And this same problem continues even today, among so many Christians who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ and His Church.

People want a king of power and dominion; yet Christ offers a reign of humble service and love and compassion for all people.

People want a king of strength; but Jesus teaches a path of utter humility.

People long for a king to offer comfort and prosperity; while Christ guides his followers to a life of simplicity, sacrifice, self-denial and even possible suffering and martyrdom – quite opposite the prosperity the world dreamed of.

People long for a King who will destroy their enemies; while Jesus ushers in a kingdom that forgives one’s enemies – a kingdom of divine love, unlimited mercy and constant compassion even towards one’s enemies.

People want a king of victory; our Lord, however, offers a surprising type of victory – not an earthly triumph, but a much more significant conquest over the darkness and evil of the devil, sin and death itself!

Yes, the crowds cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” on Palm Sunday, yet they quickly became disillusioned by the kingdom which our Lord offers and by Holy Friday some of these same people change their cries of “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

This story of Palm Sunday, and all that follows throughout Holy Week, raises a fundamental question we all need to wrestle with today. “Do we truly want Jesus as the Ruler and King of our lives? Do we even understand what type of King Jesus longs to be in our lives? And are we willing to live under the reign He offers?”

As we journey through the holiest of weeks during the next seven days, Christ will remind us clearly of the path every Christian is called to follow. Today on Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey – humble, unassuming, and meek. Living under the reign of Jesus doesn’t imply dominating over others, but means voluntarily becoming humble, unassuming, and meek in our daily encounters with others. A follower of Jesus does not seek to control others, but lives in humility and meekness with one another.

On Holy Thursday at the Last Supper we see a king who lowers Himself to the level of a slave when He washes the feet of His disciples. “Do you know what I have done to you?” our Lord asks His disciples. “You call Me teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Living under the reign of Jesus entails serving one another, even in menial ways, and never waiting or demanding to be served by others. In fact, it is through such humble service to others that we joyously discover the meaning and purpose of life itself.

On Holy Thursday evening in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see a king who gives up His own will, in order to fulfill the will of His Father. “If it is Your will, Father,” Jesus prayed, “take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not My will, but Your will be done.” Living under the reign of Jesus involves not only learning what the will of God actually is, but struggling throughout life to lay aside our own egocentric desires in order to fulfill God’s plan. Our life is not our own, Jesus teaches, and living under the reign of the Lord guides us to place His ways before our very own!

 

On Holy and Good Friday during the Passion of Christ, we witness a king who loves the world so much, that he willingly accepts whippings, beatings, a crown of thorns, and ultimate death by crucifixion, all for the salvation of the world. Living under the reign of Jesus means that we also learn to sacrifice – our time, our treasure, even our very own lives – all for the salvation of others. We live our lives for other people, putting their well-being before our own. Following Jesus teaches us not to count the cost and get tired from giving, but to willingly offer everything we have, even life itself, all for the glory of God!

On the Cross on Good Friday, we witness a king who looks down upon those who are crucifying Him, and is able to say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And He not only forgives those who crucify Him, but also forgives Peter who denies Him three times, as well as all His beloved disciples who abandoned Him. Living under the reign of Jesus implies living with mercy and forgiveness at the center of our lives. A follower of Christ cannot hold a grudge, or remain bitter, or allow hatred to poison our souls. Instead, living under the reign of Jesus teaches us to love as He loved, to forgive as He forgives, and to show mercy and compassion upon all people!

 

Jesus is the King of the universe, and His reign will rule for all eternity. The big question, however, is whether we will accept to live under His reign here and now. Will we accept to live under a reign of humility and meekness; to live under a reign of service to others; to live under a reign of crucifying our own ego and replacing it God’s will; to live under a reign of sacrificing for the salvation of others; to live under a reign of forgiving others, and showing mercy and compassion to all those around us, even those who are crucifying us?

Two thousand years ago on Palm Sunday, a crowd welcomed Jesus as a King, only to later reject Him. On Palm Sunday this year, we celebrate the entrance of a King, but the fundamental question remains – will we gladly become servants of this King, or will we choose to reject living under His reign?

Let us all strive to live under the reign of our Lord and King Jesus! A blessed Palm Sunday to all!

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