Popular Kingship

A new king, from humble origins, came to exalt the lowly and abase the haughty. This king was not born in a royal palace in Jerusalem. He was born in small town Bethlehem where King David’s line of ordinary people began.

According to Dr. Luke’s genealogy (Lk. 3:23-38) this new king did not come through the line of Solomon and the kings of Judah. This new king descended from David’s little-known ninth son Nathan.

One day this king made a slow assent up to Jerusalem, the city of kings. He’s not riding a majestic steed. He’s riding a beast of burden – a donkey (Zech. 9:9). There are no trumpets and no royal entourage. There’s just a ragtag band of disciples and a lot of everyday folk waving Feast of Tabernacles palm branches with great expectations of a mighty warrior king in their midst.

The large crowd that had come for the festival had heard that this king had come to Jerusalem. They had heard that he had done a wonderous sign: called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. They wanted to see for themselves. They took their palm branches and went out to meet him.

This king had visited the lowly in their districts, in their towns, in their homes, and in their synagogues. The grass roots had been acknowledged and now they respond to the populist king as he heads up the hill. The disciples, still thinking in kingdom overthrow terms, energize the crowd.

“Hosanna!” they shouted. “Welcome in the name of the Lord! Welcome to Israel’s King!”

The Pharisees, who were plotting to kill Lazarus (Jn. 12:10) whereby destroying any evidence of a sign and disheartening his followers, called out to the king to have him rein in his disciples. But the king responded, “If they stayed silent, the stones would be shouting out.” Every bit of the groaning creation, including the lowly stones underfoot, would have a say in the matter. This king would not throttle his followers. But that day, he did throttle their political dreams.

This king did not overthrow the local Roman authority and establish himself on a throne. No. This king, in a matter of days, would overthrow death and establish new creation life with access to his ages old throne room where he sits robed in majesty and strength (Ps. 93:1-2).


God used lowly salvation agents to bring about a reversal of status, not just for the agent but also for Israel and the world.

Hannah, a lowly and alone salvation agent – a barren woman in a society that mocked the barren – is given a child, Samuel. This prophet and judge would one day anoint David, the socially insignificant son of a peasant farmer, to be King. Samuel anointed David in Bethlehem. Jesus, born in Bethlehem, descended from the line of David, as described above. Hannah’s motherhood and reversal of status, as Mary’s later, would lead to the salvation of Israel and of the world.

Hannah prayed (1 Sa. 2) a reversal of status prayer that foreshadows a king (David):

“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies
    because I rejoice in your victory.

 There is no Holy One like the Lord,
    no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly;
    let not arrogance come from your mouth,
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
    he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low; he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

 He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
    but the wicked will perish in darkness,
    for not by might does one prevail.
The Lord! His adversaries will be shattered;
    the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
    he will give strength to his king
    and exalt the power of his anointed.”

Mary, with a similar theme in her song of praise, says this in The Magnificat:

“My soul declares the Lord is great,

My spirit exults in my savior, my God.

He saw his servant-girl in her humility . . .

Down from their thrones he hurled the rulers,

Up from the earth he raised the humble.

The hungry he filled with the fat of the land,

But the rich he sent off with nothing to eat.

He has rescued his servant, Israel his child,

Because he remembered his mercy of old,

Just as he said to our long-ago ancestors-

Abraham and his descendent forever.”

And here’s, David 2 Sam. 2:28:

You deliver a humble people,
    but your eyes are upon the haughty to bring them down.

And in Psalm 18:27

For you deliver a humble people,
    but the haughty eyes you bring down.

As we have just seen, agents of salvation from the lowest ranks of society have their status reversed. This is brought about by God on behalf of the humiliated, oppressed, and the poor. God elevates the lowly – those forgotten and disenfranchised by those in power – and brings down the proud.

Palm Sunday is a reminder that the world sees things one way – as a Game of Thrones – and that our King doesn’t play games.


Prof. Richard Bauckham:

RICHARD BAUCKHAM JESUS AND THE EYEWITNESSES The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony – YouTube

Could it be that form criticism thinking has morphed into advocacy for a “Living” Theology that, like with advocacy for a “Living Constitution, seeks to add what culture seeks to add, e.g., the normalization of perverse sexual relations.

The Authenticity of the Apostolic Eyewitness in the New Testament with Professor Richard Bauckham – YouTube