year during Lent we are focusing upon Jesus as King: the King of the Jews and
King of all people. Our King.
do you think of when you think of a king? The greatest king of the Jews was
Solomon. His throne was made of ivory, and overlaid with the finest gold. The
six steps leading up to his great throne each had carved lions on both sides.
At the back of the throne was a calf’s head, a symbol of kingly might. The
armrests were elaborate, and his footstool was made of gold. Wise King Solomon
truly built himself a glorious throne.
as magnificent as his throne was, the one who sat on it was even more
impressive. Early in his rule God had invited him to ask for anything. But,
Solomon didn’t ask for the things kings normally want: riches, or a long life,
or victory over his enemies. He asked for wisdom to rule God’s people, and God
was pleased to grant his request. He became known all over for his great
wisdom. The Queen of Sheba came 1,200 miles to test him with hard questions,
and his answers left her breathless. He spoke 3,000 Proverbs and wrote 1,005
all that glory couldn’t stop Solomon’s life from coming to an inglorious end. Sadly,
his heart increasingly turned away from the Word of the Lord and made him a
tyrant. So, while his lips still poured forth wisdom, the way he lived made him
no more than a hypocrite. “Rejoice in the wife of your youth,”
Solomon taught (Proverbs 5:18), while he rejoiced in 700 of them. “How
much better to get wisdom than gold,” he said (16:16), while his greedy
royal hands grasped for as much as they could gather. “The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom,” he wrote (Psalm 111:10), but he lived as though
he feared everything but the Lord. A royal hypocrite, indeed.
Wednesday is a time for us to recognize and admit to our own hypocrisy. In
today’s Gospel Jesus spoke against the way of those religious show-offs, the
Pharisees. But let us not “tsk-tsk” too loudly at what those show-offs did.
You’ve certainly never stood on the street corner and prayed so that others
would see you, as they did, but how often have you stood there and lied,
telling people that you were praying for them when you weren’t? How often have
you not prayed at all in public because of what others would think? How often
have you been unwilling to pray for others because you were angry with them? We
must all admit to our hypocrisies.
King Solomon and the Pharisees aren’t the only hypocrites. There’s a reason for
those marks of mortality on our foreheads. There’s a reason those words first spoken
to Adam, “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19),
into our ears this day. The reason is the inglorious, show-off hearts of ours
that seek a religious “Atta boy.” Glory-seeking hearts are never content with
being seen by the only eyes that matter—the eyes of our Father in heaven. We
need to remember that His eyes are always upon us, and are the only eyes that
matter at the end.
so, we repent and turn to our Father, who has eyes of mercy. He is gracious and
merciful and abounding in steadfast love. And He loves giving rewards to those
who confess their unworthiness. He remembers that you are dust, and to dust you
shall return, but above all He remembers His mercy and His promise to rescue
sinners. He sees that wretched state of yours and sends you a king wiser than
Solomon to help you. A Greater Solomon, in fact. The King of kings, whose
throne in heaven would have made Solomon’s throne look like a deck chair, yet
who left heaven to take on your flesh and blood and come down and rescue you.
Jesus is seated on a green, grassy hill in today’s Gospel. Teaching with
authority and pouring out the gold of His Word, He should be seated on a golden
throne, but He sits on the ground and His feet rest on dirt. He is not
surrounded by twelve carved lions, but by twelve flesh-and-blood sinners whom
He considers His sheep. He teaches us about a Kingdom that cannot be earned, but
only received by faith in Him.
King Jesus not only talked the talk; He walked the walk. For you He left that
pretty, grassy hill, so that His whole earthly life would be a walk to another
hill, an ugly one outside of Jerusalem called “Golgotha.” What drove Him there
was His immeasurable love for you and for His Father. On the way there, He blew
no trumpet as He readily helped the needy in body and soul, doing so until His
hands were stretched out and pounded onto a cross to heal our sinful hands.
Even though He was God in the flesh, He didn’t stand on the street corners and
impress people with His prayers; He was content to continually leave the crowds
to pray alone to His Father in heaven. This was a King who was willing to serve
everyone, even the most sinful and undeserving, to do what we should do and
show forth the mercy of God.
Jesus is different from all other kings. While wise King Solomon built a throne
for himself and his own glory, Jesus did no such thing. He was content with the
One that His Father prepared for Him. It wasn’t a throne made of ivory and
overlaid with the finest gold. It was made of wood, to be covered with the
finest blood—His blood, God’s blood. It didn’t have an impressive backrest, or
armrest or a golden footrest. His throne was an ugly, wooden cross. He mounted
it to die an inglorious death for inglorious sinners. To that ugly throne He
dragged all your phoniness and mistrust so that He might triumph over it in the
resurrection and seat you with Him at God’s right hand.
Jesus is just the king we need: a crucified King. God’s Wisdom in the flesh.
The Father’s reward for you. The King with the perfect heart, who by His
precious blood has atoned for all your sins and given you an eternal Kingdom
you could never earn or merit. The King whose glory is not found in might, or
gold, or many wives, but in being a faithful husband to one wife: to you, His
beloved Church whom He has absolved and adorned with the magnificence of His
forgiveness and enriched with the wealth of His holy life.
King of heaven now calls you sinners to this altar to drink His very blood from
the royal goblet, which imparts to you the forgiveness of sins, and enlivens
you with courage to be His kingdom of priests for the sake of your neighbor. Yes,
this day we remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. But we are
now dust which God has joined to His Son and raised as new men and women, His
own precious and beautiful people because of the love of our crucified King!