I am guessing that some of you haven’t been to a pro sporting event but for those of you who have been, often the lead up to game time is really spectacular. I thought I was going to see Micheal Jordan in his third to last basketball game in Chicago and the intro was beyond cool. Bonnie and I went to a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game last fall and it was way cool. Purdue’s is the best in Indiana. Excitement. The crowds ready, on your feet, announcer’s revved up, fight song, and the team enters. It’s showtime. They even do it at Princeton games. Excitement, fever pitch cause here comes an electrifying event cause the home team has come to win.
Listen to the same thing from John 12: 12-18 “The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him.
Everything that happens this day at Jerusalem is focused on that type of excitement and fervor in the crowds. For 3 years Jesus has been building His ministry toward this day, He has performed one miracle after another miracle, after another miracle, he has healed the sick, the lame, the blind, the leprous. And for 3 years Jesus has attracted one crowd after another to teach them about the coming Kingdom of God.
And then, not more than about week before this, he goes to the home of Mary & Martha and raises their brother Lazarus from the dead. By the now the Jerusalem the crowd is primed and ready to go because the winner has arrived, they thought. But they didn’t understand or know that Jesus was on a different agenda. He had come to deliberately declare that HE was: The King of Israel, The anointed one, The promised Messiah, The one who had been predicted for centuries by the prophets of God.
About a year before this Jesus was teaching a large crowd out in the country and it was dinner time, so Jesus instructed his disciples to feed them. The 7 loaves and the 2 fish fed them all with 12 baskets of bread left over! The crowd was so impressed that they wanted to make Him a king then. John 6:15 says that “… When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
That crowd sensed then that Jesus had the power to be the long awaited King of Israel. But the kind of Kings they wanted wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. They wanted an earthly King. A king who would not only sit upon the throne of David but to lead in the battle against the hated Romans. He was everything you could hope for in a leader. He was charismatic, decisive and powerful. He was capable of feeding thousands of soldiers, heal the wounded, raise the dead.
What army on the face of the earth could stand against such a King? But when it became apparent Jesus wasn’t the savior the crowds wanted, they turned on Him. They called for His blood… and they crucified Him. They wanted an earthly King, but that wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. He had no intention whatsoever of establishing an earthly kingdom.
He told Pilate “…“My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36 In Luke 17:21 Jesus declared “…For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” Romans 14:17 taught us “… For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
We have discussed on Tuesday nights what we think the Kingdom of God is and it’s been interesting but I propose to you today that the kingdom of God is the church. That’s what Jesus came to establish. That’s the Kingdom that Jesus had come to rule and reign. Colossians 1: 13 says “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Listen carefully, right now we are IN the Kingdom of God. Jesus is our King right NOW.
The Kingdom of God never was intended to be a physical kingdom, because earthly kingdoms are far too limited to accomplish the goals Christ had in mind. The church is not this building. The church has never survived in the long run when the attendees of the church think it’s all about the building. The church does not need the building because the church is meant to be a force on the move for the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 16:18 Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” In other words, the Church is built upon the foundation and power of Jesus Christ, not wood, brick and morter. The church was designed to be a vibrant force with the power to overwhelm the gates of Hell. How far do gates move? Gates open and shut, but other than that, they don’t go anywhere. That’s because gates aren’t designed to move… they’re designed to protect.
Jesus didn’t save us to be on the defensive and to hide behind walls. Jesus saved us so that we could take Satan down. Our objective is to take Satan on… to take the battle to him! For Jesus to create a physical kingdom with earthly boundaries would have limited His church. But Jesus declared “… the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21
You take this Kingdom wherever you go. And no worldly kingdom has the power to stand against it. There is no kingdom on the face of this earth that can stand against the Kingdom of God when the church is on the move outside of its 4 walls… because Christ’s kingdom is not meant to be limited by physical boundaries. The church has citizens in practically every nation on earth and the church’s power is only limited by our imagination (or lack thereof).
Secondly, the minute you think the Kingdom of God is about the physical church, often all you desire to do is protect it with all your might. Now you know what the leaders of the military always rode on until recently, a stallion. A man of prestige and might and honor until recently, rode a majestic stallion. A man on a stallion, is a mighty man, a protector and leader of a kingdom. That man looks good and will be honored in a mighty way and the kingdom will be protected against all threats.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. A donkey is generally not considered to be a animal of war and we don’t associate it with military power. In fact a donkey is pretty much a humble creature. We have several owners of horses here in church, do any of you own a donkey? If you charged $10 for a ride on either a horse or donkey – which would you choose? I definitely propose that if you’re a man you’re picking the horse! If I pay $10 to ride, I want to be on something manly… not a humble donkey.
Jesus chose an unimpressive, humble animal to ride into Jerusalem on because His kingdom was NOT going to be about military might and coercion. Now that’s important for us to remember because there are times when we’re tempted to treat His kingdom in exactly that way. Even I’m tempted by it. We have people in our life, friends and family members We want to coerce them, use our might with them so they know Jesus. Seldom works.Because the Kingdom of God is not about force and coercion. It’s about prayer. It’s about love. It’s about setting an example.
Finally, Jesus hadn’t come to set up a earthly kingdom because earthly kingdoms are almost always focused on who’s in charge. When Jesus’ disciples talked Him about His kingdom… do you remember what they asked? What was the number one issue on their minds? Mark 10 tells about James and John coming to Jesus and asking for something. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” Mark 10:36-37 What did these boys want? They wanted to have authority and position. But the Kingdom of God isn’t about authority and position… it’s all about ministry. Jesus taught His disciples that His kingdom was going to be different from earthly ones in this significant respect
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. Luke 22:25-26
And then He told them: “I am among you as one who serves.” Luke 22:27 You see: Jesus hadn’t come to exercise authority… Jesus came to serve. He came to seek and to save those who were lost. He came to meet our needs and lift us up out of the mire of our everyday lives. He came to minister to us. And that is the mindset He wants to build into His Kingdom on. He created the church to be a team effort.
Yes, you’ve got preachers, committee heads, and people in unnamed positions and others who have positions of responsibility in the church. But there is absolutely no place in the Kingdom of God for grandstanders, kings, and controllers. There is no place in the church for people who want control and authority. The church is designed to be a place where everyone serves everybody else.
Most know who has been the coach of the team that won 11 men’s basketball championship, yes it’s Purdue graduate John Wooden. He won all those championships because he focused on and created TEAMS. If you watch many basketball games, you’ll see that many teams have a “go-to” guy who is the anchor of the team. But individual accomplishments and records held little value to Wooden. Every year he put together the best group of players he could find and the 5 men who best complemented each other and worked together were the ones he started.
His motto was, “The most important player when we win – is the rest of the team.” Wooden encouraged his players to acknowledge the assists of their teammates. If one player received a pass that allowed him to score, Wooden wanted him to give the other man a wink or point to him as they moved down to the opposite end of the court. A new player once asked Wooden “What if the other player isn’t looking when I point to him?” Wooden just smiled, “Oh don’t worry. He’ll be looking.”
That’s the kind of teamwork that Christ wanted to build into His church. Jesus wanted to establish a Kingdom where all the citizens would work at building each other up. In fact Church should be a place of “one anothering.” Jesus said “This is my command: Love one another.” John 15:17
And the Bible goes on to say we should be…
“devoted to one another” Romans 12:10
“Accept one another” Romans 15:7
“serve one another” Galatians 5:13
“bear with one another” Ephesians 4:2
“encourage one another 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Be kind and compassionate to one another” Ephesians 4:32
And we should “forgive one another, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Church is not about me. And it’s not even about you. It’s about Jesus Christ and all the people around us He came to save. And when we do it right…when we give Jesus and His kingdom the kind of attention they deserve… people will want to see the Jesus we say we belong to. After Jesus had been acknowledged as being King by the crowds we’re told that some Gentiles came up to one of the disciples and said: “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:20
When we do Church right, Jesus will get the glory and people will come to us to ask to see and know about the Jesus we serve. When we do church right, after the celebration of today, Palm Sunday, we know that God’s home team will always win.
Are you building the kingdom, are you really building the kingdom, the kingdom that is outside the four walls of this church, the true place that matters.