I don’t know about you but I never really gave much thought to who Jesus Christ was until I was 17 and began attending a weekly high school youth group each Wednesday night—for all the wrong reasons. I was in the thick of filling out applications to various colleges and at that time many of them had a question about your involvement in religious activities. I had none since we didn’t attend church as a family, not even on Christmas or Easter. And since no one in my family had ever attended college, I wanted to give myself the best chance possible to gain acceptance. But I wanted to do so honestly so I began attending this weekly youth group. It was there that I first heard teaching about who Jesus Christ is. And after about nine months of regularly attending—I continued to attend even after my college applications had been mailed off—I realized that I not only believed that Jesus had actually lived here on earth, but that he still lives—and I wanted to know him. And so on May 20th of my senior year in high school after spending some time reading a Bible in my bedroom, I closed the door, got on my knees and told him I wanted to follow him for the rest of my life. And so, by his mercy and kindness, I have.
The first verse of the hymn we just sang was a common one at the little Bible Chapel I began to attend regularly:
In times like these you need a Savior,
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One;
This Rock is Jesus, The only One!
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
These words resonated so very much with me when I was a young believer of the age of 18. Back then (we’re talking 1979—and I’ll save you the math: I just turned 57!) I remember thinking with all of my teenage earnestness, “Oh, yes, in times like these we do need a Savior. In times like these we certainly need an anchor. How wonderful that I’ve now found Jesus upon whom my life, my anchor, can take hold and stabilize. For he is indeed the Solid Rock. He is indeed the One—the only One!” In looking at this hymn afresh this past week, I realized that it had borrowed words spoken by King David that testified to the LORD, Yahweh, and had rightly applied them to Christ Jesus, who is also God, God in the flesh. In Psalm 18 David begins by stating, “1 I love you, Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” And these words in the hymn reminding us that in times like these we need a Savior—an anchor—Jesus the Solid Rock resonated with me not only when I was 18 but continue to resonate with me now.
But here’s the thing. Stating that we need Jesus the Savior in times like these needn’t be assumed to be a political statement about the state of our nation under President Carter back in 1979 when I was 18 nor about the state of our nation now under President Trump in 2018. For the fact of the matter is that since the time of the Fall, we humans have taken this world that God so wondrously created and proclaimed to be good, reflecting the goodness of its Maker, and we have too often made it bad:
We’ve made it bad by neglecting the poor who are in need;
We’ve made it bad by sending out packages meant to explode in order to hurt or kill those who open them;
We’ve made it bad by mass shootings in schools, concerts, and even churches—the focus of many protests this weekend;
We’ve made it bad by polluting its air and streams;
We’ve made it bad by enriching our own lives at the cost of hurting the lives of those who are less fortunate than we;
We’ve made it bad by creating nuclear and chemical weapons capable of causing massive suffering and death;
We’ve made it bad by uprooting trees and other natural wonders and creating concrete highways and strip malls.
You get the idea. We humans too often take God’s good creation, both its human and natural states, and use it to destructive ends. Now in stating these many ways we have caused things to go awry, I’m not denying that we whom God has made in his own image have also done much good by way of art and literature and philosophy and advances in medicine and technology that have enriched and enhanced our standard of living or by providing shelters for the homeless and hospitals for the sick. But my point in providing contemporary negative examples of ways in which we have damaged God’s originally good creation is that this is too often the outcome when we humans go on our way, unguided and uninterested in following the ways of our Maker and LORD. For when we neglect God and his ways, the representative evils I listed are too often the result.
And it is because of human nature’s tendency, untethered to God, to resort to all kinds of evil and abuse of one another and the created world that makes me say with a certain level of certainty that people since the time of the Fall have ever felt, “In times like these, we need a Savior.” In times like these we need someone who will rescue us from the suffering and evil that ail us. This reality, this perceived awareness of our need for rescue is no different now than it was for those living during the time of Christ’s Incarnation. For those living in Jesus’ day lived under an oppressive Roman government. And, to make matters worse, even Jewish believers in Jesus’ day lived under oppressive and demanding religious leaders who rather than fulfilling their call to care for and shepherd God’s people instead lorded their power over them. So it’s no wonder that when Jesus entered Jerusalem as kings would, riding on colt, he was viewed as the answer to all of their political and religious problems. And so they cried out, “Hosanna!” an expression of praise meaning “Save!” or “O Save!” And they went on to declare, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” In proclaiming these words the crowd was referencing another psalm of David and oftentimes in Scripture when an Old Testament verse is quoted, a whole theological emphasis or teaching is being alluded to. In this instance, Psalm 118 is a psalm that begins by thanking God for his goodness and enduring love. It then focuses upon the LORD being our refuge and help. And it even contains an allusion that both Jesus and New Testament writers apply to him, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” And then come the verses from the psalm that the crowd in our passage is quoted, “25 Lord, save us! [or “Hosanna!”] Lord, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.” So, again, the crowds on this very first Palm Sunday were looking for an earthly King, a leader who could save them, who could deliver them from their oppression under Roman and Jewish rule. And notice how they went on to further associate Jesus with Israel’s greatest king as stated in verse 10, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” So those living in Jesus’ day, as has been true of people throughout human history, were essentially saying, were essentially feeling, “In times like these [we] need a Savior, In times like these [we] need an anchor.” So these crowds had determined that Jesus was the Savior and Rock who would deliver them from the political and religious oppression they were experiencing. And so they hailed him as their earthly King.
Now it is this wrong expectation and desire for Jesus to be their earthly and political king that helps explain how it’s possible for the crowds to have praised and extolled Jesus as their sought-after king on this first Palm Sunday—and to mock him as “King of the Jews” just five days later. And the irony in all of this is that the charge that was made against Jesus that led him to the cross revolved precisely around whether or not he was King of the Jews for later that very week Pontius Pilate asked him straight out, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And even after he was arrested, Jesus was disparaged by the governor’s soldiers who mockingly knelt before him as they taunted, “Hail, king of the Jews!” These soldiers then went on to spit upon and strike him repeatedly with his own staff before taking him away to be crucified. And finally as Jesus hung on the cross, per the custom at this time, the reason for which he hung, that is, the crime he had committed was noted and placed above his head for all to see, namely, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS,” a sign that was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Now when the “chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews,” Pilate left the sign as it was, answering, “What I have written, I have written.”
So Jesus, who in our passage was embraced for being the one who had come in the name of the Lord; who was blessed for inaugurating the kingdom of their father David (vv. 9–10), ended up being sent to hang on the cross in agony for being King of the Jews. Again, the crowds’ looking to Jesus to be their earthly king was precisely where they got things wrong. For God in Christ didn’t take on human flesh in order to be a mere earthly ruler. No, as Jesus declared before Pilate while being interrogated by him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Do you see what Jesus was saying here? He could have prevented his arrest; he could have prevented all of the abuse he received; he could have prevented his dying on the cross. But he didn’t. Because Christ’s purpose in coming to earth and taking on human flesh wasn’t so that he could deliver people from Roman and religious oppression. No, he came to do far more than this. God in Christ came to earth to conquer Satan, sin, and death; God in Christ came to earth to conquer all that destroys and harms us. For these are the things that have ever caused us to long for a Savior and a Rock in times like these. And by his death on the cross, Christ disarmed and destroyed all of these once and for all. Christ came to earth to die for our sins in our place; Christ came to earth to destroy the prince of darkness, the father of all evil; Christ came to earth to destroy death. Christ did all of this that we might turn from away from our self-destructive ways and turn to him who is the Lord and Giver of life and so be able to live with and enjoy him now and for all eternity.
So we mustn’t make the mistake the crowds made on that first Palm Sunday. We mustn’t look to Jesus and try to make him what we would like him to be. We mustn’t look to Jesus and try to make him something other than he actually is. For the question this passage begs us to ask is this: Do we accept Jesus on our terms—or his? Our terms might be that we’ll accept him if he takes care of whatever is ailing us at this moment. But listen to what Jesus went on to tell Pontius Pilate after stating that his kingdom was not of this world but from another place. First Pilate replied, “You are a king, then!” And then Jesus went on to clarify, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” And the most important truth to which Christ Jesus testified was this: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Do we believe this? Do we accept this? Again, do we accept Jesus on his terms rather than our own? For at the end of the day,
it’s impossible to view Jesus simply as a good and moral person—though he certainly was that;
and it’s impossible to view Jesus simply as a wise person—though he certainly was that;
and it’s impossible to view Jesus simply as a compassionate person—though he certainly was that;
and it’s impossible to view Jesus simply as a forgiving person—though he certainly was that;
For if we believe all of these very true qualities about Jesus but don’t also view him—don’t also accept him—don’t also submit to him as God in the flesh who as God presented himself as the only way to the Father; as the most important truth we could ever know; as the only means for us to have eternal life, then we haven’t really believed in the Jesus of the Holy Scriptures. For if we don’t accept that Christ Jesus is who he claims he is, then we are no better off than the crowds on that first Palm Sunday, placing our mistaken expectations upon him and seeking to follow him on our terms rather than his.
Brothers and sisters, again, since the time of the Fall we humans have lived in times of needing a Savior and have stood in judgment and perhaps even despair over the many things that ail our particular day and age. Yet as theologian Harry Blamires has observed in providing his own representative list of evils, our judgment upon this world
…is properly expressed when we turn to our contemporaries and say: “Look what we’ve done, you and I; luxury here and famine there; juvenile delinquency, prostitution, alcoholism, the revival of slavery, racial discrimination; look what we’ve done. Look what our human nature produces when it gets a free hand, unrestrained by God. Do you want it like that? Do you like it? Is that your idea of a worth-while world?”
So Blamires provides one list of what unrestrained human nature produces when it gets a free hand; I provided another representative list drawing from events in our own day. And I’m certain that each of you here can provide your own lists both at the macro-level of ills that ail this world at large and at the micro-level of ills that afflict our own personal lives—even ills of which we may or may not be the cause and for which we have no solution despite our best efforts. So we need to ask ourselves the questions Blamire poses: “Do [we] want it like that? Do [we] like it [like that]? Is that [our] idea of a worth-while world?”
But the good news in all of this is that all of the problems that ail us; all of the worries that plague us; all of the trials that harm us are why Christ Jesus came. In times like these, when we need a Savior; in times like these when we need an anchor; we can be very sure that if we do accept Jesus on his terms, our anchor will hold for he is a solid Rock. Now this doesn’t mean that all of our problems and suffering will go away, no. But it does mean that we can know and turn to Jesus Christ who unites us to our loving and heavenly Father and, by his indwelling Holy Spirit, will guide, sustain, and help us persevere to the end of our earthly days at which time he will welcome and embrace us to dwell with him in our eternal home.
I want to suggest that the problem the crowds had on that first Palm Sunday wasn’t that of expecting too much from Jesus, but of expecting too little. For they were looking to Jesus to be a king who would deliver them temporarily from the oppression of Rome and of their religious leaders. They misunderstood the kingdom of their father David to be an earthly kingdom rather than an eternal kingdom. They didn’t realize that when God in Christ, Son of the heavenly Father, came to earth he already was King over all of earth and heaven, for he was a King even at the time of his birth. They didn’t realize that because Jesus’ kingship was cosmic and eternal, he had come to conquer and defeat our worst foes for he had come to conquer defeat all evil in Satan and all sin leading to death. They didn’t realize that Christ the King had come to begin to establish his kingdom on earth that we, his children; that we, his people, might be used by him to shine his light into the corners of darkness on this earth in which he’s placed us that others might come to see and bless Jesus as their eternal King; that others might see and bless Jesus whose love, as the psalmist testified, endures not only now but forever.
So this Palm Sunday it’s good and right that we do declare Jesus as King—not necessarily that he might deliver us now from whatever may be ailing us but because we can know with certainty that he is with us; and he is for us; and he will never leave us; for not even death can separate us from his eternal and steadfast love.
And so let us join the crowds and cry out “Hosanna,” knowing that we can indeed bless Jesus Christ, who is King not only on earth but also of heaven;
Let us join the crowds and bless Jesus knowing that he reigns supreme and calls us to do his will while we are on earth even as it is ever being done in the heavenly realms;
Let us join the crowds and praise Jesus our King who will guide and comfort and help us in times like these for he is our Rock and our Savior;
But let us go beyond the crowds in knowing that Jesus, our King, came to die that we might live and will one day call us home that we might live with and love and enjoy him not only now but forevermore for he is a King not only for times like these but for all eternity.
Let us pray.
 In Times Like These, Text and Music Ruth Caye Jones.
 See also Psalm 62 where David similarly attests, “1 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. 2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
 Vv. 1–4: 1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.”
 Vv. 8–9, 13–16: 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes…. 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and my defense[Or song]; he has become my salvation. 15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
 Verse 5. See Matthew 21:42–44: 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”; Mark 12:10–11: 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?”; Luke 20:17–18: 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”; Paul and Peter (respectively) later use the image of the cornerstone to refer to Jesus: Ephesians 2:19–22: 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.; I Peter 2:4–10: 4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
 John 18:33. See parallel accounts in Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 22:3.
 Matthew 27:27–31: “27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” See parallel accounts in Mark 15:16–20; John 19:1–3.
 John 19:19. See parallel accounts in Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38.
 John 19:20–22. Emphasis added.
 John 18:36.
 John 18:37–38.
 John 14:l6.
 The Christian Mind, p. 103. Emphasis added.
 Notice King Herod’s response when the Magi state they are seeking Jesus, born king, in Matthew 2:1–3: 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
 Romans 8:38–39: 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.