1 Samuel 8: 10-24. 1 Kings 9: 15-19. Matthew 21: 1-11.
The crowds walking in front of Jesus and those walking behind began to shout, ‘Praise to David’s Son! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God!
Praise to David’s Son.
Isn’t this a strange thing to shout?
The David that they are shouting is the David that as a shepherd boy defeated the giant Goliath,
the David that composed the 23rd Psalm, ’The Lord’s my shepherd’,
the same David that became King David, who ruled Israel over a 1000 years before Jesus was born. This David started a dynasty of kings that ruled until the people were invaded and enslaved and sent into exile.
And the people are shouting, ‘Praise to David’s Son.’
They are shouting that Jesus is the rightful inheritor of that title, for Jesus to be their king as David once was.
Doesn’t this seem strange to you?
Earlier in our Children's Address we asked what kings had...
Jesus didn’t have any of that stuff.
Jesus didn’t have castles or armies or servants.
Jesus didn't have great wealth.
If we look at the list that Samuel makes of what kings will do, Jesus hasn’t done any of that stuff.
Jesus hasn’t enlisted people into his army and forced people to pay taxes. He hasn’t built a huge powerbase to threaten other world leaders.
Jesus hasn’t done any of that kingly stuff, yet they shout, ‘Praise to David’s Son!’
So as there was an original ‘David’s Son’ that became king, Solomon, I thought I would look at him and see how Jesus compared.
Solomon takes up a lot of space in the Bible.
But here are the things that stick out for me...
Solomon builds the first Temple to God (27 metres long, 9 metres wide and 13.5metres high), which is great.
But he builds his palace just a bit bigger (one room, the Hall of Forest of Lebanon was 44 metres long, 22 metres wide and 13.5 metres high). Which I think shows Solomon’s priorities. God was important, really important...but he was just a wee bit more important.
Solomon liked to build. From our first reading we see that he built and rebuilt many cities.
Of course he used forced labour...or as we would call them, slaves. At one point he has 550 people watching over the slaves. How many slaves does he have that he needs 550 people to control them?
The more I read about Solomon the more he reminded me of another group of kings.
A group of kings that was all powerful and wealthy beyond imagination.
A group of kings that was used to using slaves to build their cities and their temples...the Pharaohs.
And that was the problem with Solomon. It was all about Solomon being on top...like the Pharaohs of old.
There is a prayer that Solomon gives when he opens the Temple. Huge prayer, impressive prayer, as you would expect as the very first prayer of the Temple is opened. And the prayer ends like this...’May the Lord our God remember at all times this prayer and these petitions I have made to him. May he always be merciful to the people of Israel and to their king, according to their daily needs. And so all the nations of the world will know that the Lord alone is God—there is no other.’
That’s all very noble, we pray that God listens to our prayers and gives us our daily needs. Though I suspect that what Solomon thinks is his daily needs are a bit more than most folk would think was their daily needs...but the real kicker is this, the last line.
‘May you, his people, always be faithful to the Lord our God, obeying all his laws and commands, as you do today.’
‘May you...’, NOT ‘May we...’ as far as Solomon is concerned there is one rule for the really rich like him, and one rule for everyone else...because he is the king.
Compare that thought with another.
When the Queen of Sheba visits Solomon she says this to him, ‘Praise the Lord your God! He has shown how pleased he is with you by making you king of Israel. Because his love for Israel is eternal, he has made you their king so that you can maintain law and justice.’
According to the Queen of Sheba, Solomon has been blessed by God, but he has been blessed for a reason, to do something important...to create a society where God’s law and justice can be seen.
Solomon, the son of David, instead created a country that mirrored the Egypt of the Pharaoh's.
Where the kings were all powerful,
where they took what they wanted from whom they wanted,
where they created huge armies to protect their wealth and their power,
where they built their wealth on the backs of slaves.
Does that sound like Jesus?
And if it doesn't sound like Jesus then why were they shouting, ‘Praise to David’s Son.’
Maybe they had seen something, something worth cheering.
Jesus hadn't created an army to defeat his enemies.
But when he fed the crowd of 5,000 people with five loaves and 2 fish he separated them into groups of 100 and of 50, military groups. And these groups were not formed so that they could defend Jesus, these groups were formed so that they could be fed and strengthened.
This was a man who used his power to help others rather than help himself.
Kings were isolated from their people so that they didn’t catch stuff from them. When King James VI of Scotland, King James I of England, went down to London to claim his crown he didn't enter London for years, because the plague was there. He only entered the city once it was safe.
Jesus didn’t avoid the people to prevent himself from being infected, he healed the people.
Kings had powerful friends and they surrounded themselves with powerful people. They didn't waste their time with people that didn't matter.
Jesus often stopped to help people that had no power.
The blind man who everyone ignored, the girl that was dying, the woman that was bleeding, the mad man that the villagers had chained in the caves of the cemetery...these were nobodies, people of no influence...yet Jesus looked after them.
There wasn’t anyone that Jesus didn’t help...Roman centurions, the Samaritan woman, Greeks, children...even lepers.
It was as if Jesus knew that he was blessed by his heavenly Father, but used that blessing to do something. Not feather his own nest, not build up his power-base, but to create a community of justice and peace. And people could see what Jesus was doing. It was a community that they wanted to be part of.
If there was to be a new kingdom, then why not make it kingdom where the important priorities are not getting more and more power and wealth and possessions?
Why not make it a kingdom where we can bring resources together to help each other,
where it is not about me but about us,
where people would seek first what God would want of them,
a kingdom not of possessions but of relationships,
a kingdom led by someone not out for as much as he could get.
Imagine a kingdom where the rulers served the people, rather than the people served the rulers.
Wouldn't that be a kingdom to shout about?
So what has that to do with us?
I think there is always a tension between the kingdoms of Solomon and Jesus within us.
I am sure that in Solomon’s head he honestly believed that what was best for him was best for the country.
The bigger his army the more secure the people would be.
The thicker the walls of his cities the more secure his people would be.
But in the end, the truth was...he would sacrifice any number of slaves to keep his walls strong, he would sacrifice any number of his soldiers to keep his power strong.
But he would never have sacrificed himself.
But to Jesus, his life was a giving of himself for others.
The thing is, we can convince ourselves that we are followers of Jesus when we are really followers of Solomon.
Imagine the wealthiest church in the Church of Scotland.
Imagine that they have the chance of linking with the poorest church in the Church of Scotland.
I imagine that the wealthiest church in the Church of Scotland would have lots of spare money that would be helpful to the poorest church in the Church of Scotland. More importantly I imagine that the wealthiest church in the Church of Scotland would have an abundance of leaders and smart folk that could help the poorest church in the Church of Scotland with practical jobs like finding treasurers and administrators.
Do we think the wealthiest church would gladly give up having a minister of their own to share their minister with the poorest church?
What does your gut instinct say?
The true test is this, would the wealthiest church not wait to be asked, or forced to link with the poorest church,
seeing how much they had to offer the poorest church, volunteer to link with the poorest church?
But what about us?
We’re doing OK.
Others churches aren’t doing as well.
How much would we be willing to share? Would we actively look to see how much we could give to other churches, other groups?
My problem is that we never drift upstream.
You get a twig and fling it in the water and it will drift downstream, it will go with the flow.
And the flow of the world is to look after oneself.
The flow of the world is the way of Solomon, I am the king of my world and God has blessed me and if I give to you then I will be less blessed.
The challenge of this passage is that the way of Christ is the way of sacrifice.
That God has blessed us, and blessed us for a reason, so that we can give those blessings to others.
It’s a tough ask.
But it is an ask based on a man who had the wealth of heaven, all the blessings of heaven, and he gave them up so that we might find the same blessings.
He didn’t need to come...but he wanted to, because that was the depth of his love.
Whatever it took, whatever the sacrifice, he would do, because that was the depth of his heart.
And when we truly see that, when we truly believe that,
then that love spreads into our heart, we too get a vision of blessing others through the blessings that God has given us, we too see people as worthy of giving of our sacrifice.
And we might even be able to say, ‘Praise to David’s true Son! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God! For the vision he has given us is a vision to follow with all our heart.’