A Strange King Indeed (Sermon on John 12:12-43)

Text: John 12:12-43

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

What would you do if a king were coming to your house? If you’re like me, you’d sin and wish you had a bigger, better house. But you’d quickly realize you can’t afford one and would do everything you could to clean up your place as much and as fast as possible. You would want to present your home in the most hospitable way possible.

What would you do if a thief were coming to your house? You’d probably do everything you could to barricade every possible point of entry. You’d probably make sure that you got all of your valuables in a safe place. And you’d probably situate yourself in front of all your prized possessions so that you could protect them.

Well, there are two ways of looking at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem – one is right and one is wrong. You can look at Jesus’ entry the way the people do – as a king, or you can look at it the way Jesus does – as a strange, thieving King. (You can probably guess who is right.)

Jesus' Triumphal Entry Palm SundayThe people in Jerusalem that Palm Sunday looked at Jesus’ entry as the coming of their King. They did everything they could to spiff the place up for the King who was riding in on a donkey. They cut the palm branches and laid them and their cloaks on the road in homage to this King. They shouted royal praise to Jesus who was coming “in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”

The crowd did all of this because they had heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. A King who can overcome the power of death sounds like a good kind of King to have. If your King could undo death, well then, life will be good.

The people welcoming Him thought Jesus would establish an earthly reign and overthrow their enemies. They thought He would set up a kingdom that would last forever and ever. They thought He would bring a kingdom full of glory. They had visions of “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Maybe to update that, they had visions of tenderloin on every high-end stainless steel grill and Beamers in every slot of their four-stall garage.

But that is not how Jesus looks at His coming to Jerusalem. Jesus has come to be King, but He has come to be a strange King. He has come to be anointed not with oil, but with His own blood. He has come to be crowned not with gold and jewels, but with thorns. He has come to be enthroned not on a throne of glory, but the throne of a splintered cross. Jesus has come to be a thieving King who steals their sins in His death on the cross.

Jesus hadn’t kept this a secret either. He had repeatedly said that He was going to Jerusalem to be handed over, suffer, and die. Jesus knew that He was coming to His coronation as the suffering, crucified, sin-stealing King.

Even as Phillip and Andrew tell Jesus there are some Greeks who wish to see Him, Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. The hour has come for the grain of wheat to die and fall to the earth. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be lifted up from the earth.” Jesus says these things, and His soul is troubled.

Jesus’ soul is so troubled at the type of King He has come to be that He asks, “What shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour, this kingship’?”

“No,” Jesus says, “for this purpose I have come.”

Jesus will not deny His coronation as the strange King who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus is the King who bore your sins in His body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus, the King of sorrows, came in order to bear your grief and carry your sorrows; He was a King who came to be pierced for your transgressions and crushed for your iniquities (Is. 52:13-53:12). The Son of God came to humble Himself, to die a sinner’s death, and to suffer the wrath of God. This strange King came to wrap Himself in your sin. The sinless One came to become sin (2 Cor. 5 21). God laid on Christ the iniquity of us all.

Blessings from the CrossOn the cross is Christ’s glory; on the cross, Christ is lifted up. On the cross, your strange King won your freedom from sin and death that separates you from God. On the cross, Jesus pulled off the greatest caper of all time by stealing the sin of the whole world. Because of the cross, your sin is no longer yours. Through this strange King’s death, there is forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Dear friends, this Holy Week let us follow this strange King to His death so that through His death we may be with Him and live eternally in His blessed kingdom (Jn. 12:25-26). Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

About Pastor Sam Wellumson

Rev. Sam Wellumson is pastor at Christ the King Free Lutheran Church of East Grand Forks, MN. He completed his undergraduate degree at University of Northwestern St. Paul, MN and his M.Div. from the Association Free Lutheran Theological Seminary in Plymouth, MN. Sam also currently serves as the Vice-chair for the AFLC’s Board of Publications & Parish Education. Sam and his wife, Sarah, have four children.


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