The Man Who Would Not Be King: Thoughts on Jesus in Jerusalem.

Mark 11: 1-11

11When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10   Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.   

Author Henry Miller describes celebrity pretty well:

“Fame is an elusive thing / here today, gone tomorrow. The fickle, shallow mob raises its heroes to the pinnacle of approval today and hurls them into oblivion tomorrow at the slightest whim; cheers today, hisses tomorrow; utter forgetfulness in a few months.


We humans are certainly a fickle bunch.

We know what we want, the way we want to get it, and we want it right now.

And if we don’t get it, things can get ugly pretty quick.

Every time I read Mark’s description of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, I think of Miller’s quote.

And it goes without saying that Miller’s words are timeless.

Which brings us to today’s text.

It’s what we call Palm Sunday.

Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

He has come a long way, timewise at least, to this day.

Born, baptized and anointed by God as God’s Messiah.

He has accumulated disciples and many followers.

He has performed many miracles and preached that the Kingdom of God has arrived.

For centuries the people were expecting God to send them a such a king.

All the prophecies pointed to Jesus.

He had the power to heal and the authority to speak.

So well-known that his arrival in Jerusalem is anticipated and bound to generate large crowds who just want a look at him.

And he has become famous.

A celebrity.

And now here he came, down from the Mount of Olives, on a donkey.

Just like the prophet Zechariah had said the new David-like king would.

Fame, celebrity, authority, power.

The people were prepared to follow.

But Jesus was the man who would not be king.

At least not that kind of king.

And every time I read this text, I think of Kipling’s story, “The Man Who Would Be King”.

Kipling’s story is about two former British soldiers on an adventure.

Daniel Dravot and Peachey Carnehan have decided to become kings.

They have cache of modern rifles and plan to find a king or chief in some remote location, help him defeat his enemies, and then take over.

That is exactly what they do.

They find Kafiristan.

The tribal chief is having a dispute with a neighboring community.

Danny and Peachy offer their support.

They have some background on local rituals that make them seem a bit mystical.

They have unusually fair skin.

They are brave warriors.

And they have rifles.

Danny and Peachy are considered virtually god-like by the Kafiristanis.

With the rifles, the conflict ends quickly.

Danny and Peachy then use their mystique and authority to become the kings of Kafiristan.

But when they are found out – that they are neither gods nor devils but only men – their subjects revolt.

They are denounced as frauds, despite all they have done for the people.

Daniel is killed and Peachy is driven insane carrying Daniel’s head around in a burlap sack for the rest of his life.

People actually did this sort of thing in Kipling’s day.

Go to places and try to become a king.

It rarely lasts.

Kipling’s story is based, in part, on the life of James Brooke, a name well known in Malaysia.

I learned this story when I was in Malaysia in 2010.

In 1833, Brooke inherited £30,000, which he used to purchase a merchant ship.

Brooke sailed for Borneo in 1838.

He arrived on Borneo in August to find an Iban and Bidayuh uprising against the ruling Sultan of Brunei.


Brooke and his crew were well armed.

They joined the Sultan and crushed the revolt.

Brooke then did an about face and turned his guns on the Sultan.

In return for not deposing the him, the Sultan granted Brook the title of Rajah of Sarawak.

Basically king of the northern part of Borneo.

Brook’s family remained in power about only about 100 years.

Then they were gone.

Just history.

Fame is an elusive thing / here today, gone tomorrow.

The pinnacle of approval today and into oblivion tomorrow.

Both stories, the fictionalized and real, depict the manor by which people often acquire – or are given – power in this world.

A place has a need for governmental change.

Someone makes promises, gains a following and demonstrates authority and power.

And so, they are selected to take charge.

At the time of Jesus arrival, Jerusalem was such a place.

The people wanted a change in government.

They were tired of the Romans and their puppet Herod.

Someone who would throw out the Romans and re-establish the Davidic line.

They wanted a return to the days of David and Solomon when Israel was a world power.

After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus goes to the Temple.

His first task was to go in and tear up the Temple courts.

Throwing out the money changers.

The people are delighted!

This was the guy alright!

The man who would be king!

But then … nothing.

Sure, Jesus tormented the Scribes and Pharisees for a few days.

Sure, he told a couple of parables that drove the Temple folks into a murderous rage.

But …

He did not lead a rebellion against Rome and Herod.

He did not use his power to make himself king.

He kept talking about the Kingdom of God.

You see, the people wanted him to be talking about the Kingdom of Israel.

He was not what they expected.

He was not what they wanted.

He was … disappointing.

And that meant trouble … for Jesus.

That is what happened to Daniel and Peachy.

That is what happened to Brooks’ family.

It would have happened to King Jesus.

“Fame is an elusive thing / here today, gone tomorrow. The fickle, shallow mob raises its heroes to the pinnacle of approval today and hurls them into oblivion tomorrow at the slightest whim; cheers today, hisses tomorrow; utter forgetfulness in a few months.

And it is the same with us today.

On many levels.

Soon our children will be on summer break.

No school for two plus months.

They come running out of the building on the last day, expecting a two-month party.

Most of their plans will not turn out the way they want.

And they are disappointed … probably by the next morning.

They get bored.

Things get ugly.

Adults are the same.

As soon as you get a new phone, you see another that looks really cool and you are ready to throw out the new one for a newer one!

We are always searching for newer, bigger, better, bolder.

Our satisfaction interval is brief indeed.

Look at our relationships.

Elected officials, athletes, employers, family, friends.

When our needs are not met, we turn on those who disappoint us.

Time to get rid of our favorite player.

Time to get rid of the politician we voted for just last election.

Time to get a new job.

Time to get a divorce.

Time to join a new club.

We set expectations and when our expectations are not met, we cast aside those who disappoint us.

So, it was with Jesus.

He enters Jerusalem as a conquering hero.

He is here to become king and to oust the Romans.

At least that is what many expected.

So, he was hailed.

They cried Hosanna!

“Save us”.

Can you imagine the excited anticipation?

God was going to act like he did in the days of Moses and Joshua and David!

The world was about to change.

Here was the man who would do it.

Here is the man who would be king.

But the adulation does not last!

His poll numbers dropped like a stone.

It took only 4 days.

The miracle worker and prophet?

He’s a fraud!

We need to be rid of him as quickly as we accepted him.

No one complains when he is arrested by the Sanhedrin.

No one complains when he is hauled before Pilate.

Those “hosanna” people?

Nowhere to be found.

Those disciples?


His closest friend?

Denies him!

Some of those palm wavers were now screaming: “Crucify him!”

How could such a thing happen?

Because Jesus was not what they expected.

He was not what they wanted.

But why wasn’t he?

Why didn’t God just give the people what they wanted?

A new King David?

Maybe because had Jesus done what the people wanted, the way they wanted it done, he would have been considered perhaps a great king, like David.

But only for a time.

Then he would be lost to history, like David.

Or Brooks.

But that was not God’s plan.

Jesus came not to exercise political power.

Jesus was here to exercise divine power.

He did come to save, just not the way the people wanted.

Just not the way people expected.

And the people did not like it.

Their response?

“This is not what we want.

Crucify him.”

Now this was no surprise to Jesus.

He knew of their expectations.

He knew they would turn on him.

But he also knew what they needed.

They needed an eternal Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God.

And to do that, he had come to Jerusalem, not to take over, but to die.

And so that is what he did.

Jesus saved his way, not our way.

We have changed not at all since those days in Jerusalem, really.

We are a still fickle bunch when it comes to what we believe.

We struggle to understand what God is doing in our lives and what God is doing in the world.

We have troubles at home, at work, at school, in the community, in the nation, in the world.

We know how we expect it to be resolved.

We know how we expect it to work.

We know what we expect God to do.

But God does things differently.

And we get angry when God does not fix our problems.

When God does not do what we expect of him.

Or when God does not do it the way we expect him to.

When God does not become king!

A king who tells everyone to do what we want them to do.

And so, we turn away.

We find something, or someone, else to worship.

We are a really fickle bunch.

But thankfully, God knows it.

God has always known it.

And yet he still loves us enough to fight for us, die for us and defeat death for us.

Even when we don’t appreciate it.

He invites us into his kingdom anyway.

He does not become king in our world, but rather invites us into a world where he is already king.

Where things are as God wants them.

And if we think about it, it’s better that way.

Hosanna in the highest heaven.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. AMEN

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s