Jesus is King

The Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as King
is the fulfillment of God's promises to serve as Theocratic King

©1999 by James A. Fowler. All rights reserved.
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Jesus is King

    All of the passages in the four gospels which relate the narrative of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem utilize the quotation from Zechariah 9:9. They regard the triumphal entry as a fulfillment of prophecy. "Behold your King is coming to you." Was this just a caricature of kingship that took place on that day? Was this just a mockery of misunderstanding taking place on that day? I do not think so; I believe that by the inclusion of this passage in the gospels, God is indicating that Jesus really was King. It is important for us to understand what it means to consider Jesus as King.

    In order to do so we need to take a broader look at Scripture as a whole and consider what God's intent was for Kingship in reference to the people He had created. When God created man it was His intent that He should reign as Sovereign, as King and Lord, in their lives and in their society. God intended to rule and control individually in the hearts of mankind, and collectively in the social function of His people. It was to be a spiritual and Theocratic Kingship. But he would not serve as King without the consent of man, having created man as a choosing creature, who could be a willing "subject" to God as King.

    Man chose against God's Kingship and Lordship. Man sinned at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This did not put man on the throne of his own life or in a humanistically-determined control over society. Instead, a false-lord, a psuedo-King began to reign in man and in society. Satan tempted Jesus, offering to Him his "kingdoms" of the world (Matt. 4:8; Lk. 4:5).

    As God continued to deal with fallen men, the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, became the "picture people" to illustrate how God wanted to serve as King within and amongst His people and to have a holy nation. God told Moses on Sinai what to tell the people about His intent:
"'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." (Ex. 19:5,6)

    But the Jewish people wanted a physical King like all the other nations. Samuel had been God's designated Judge to make determinations among the Jewish people. He was a poor example of a parent, and his sons who began to assist him as judges were not godly men. This was the "excuse" that the Israelite people used to demand a physical King.

    "And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his first-born was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.

    Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, "Behold you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." But the things was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. "Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day ­ in that they have forsaken Me and served others gods ­ so they are doing to you also. "Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them."

    So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. And he said, this will be the procedures of the king who will reign over you; he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. And he will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards, and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys, and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not asnwer you in that day."

    Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, "No, but there shall be a king over us, that we may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." Now after Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the Lord's hearing. And the Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to their voice, and appoint them a king." So Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Go every man to his city." (I Samuel 8:1-22)

    The Israelites selfishly and belligerently demanded a change of government, from the theocratic rule of God to a human monarchy, and in response God gave them Saul, the son of Kish, to be their King.

 "Now a day before Saul's coming, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel saying, "About this time tomorrow I will send you a men from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over My people Israel; and he shall deliver My people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have regarded My people, because their cry has come to Me." When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said to him, "Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people." (I Samuel 9:15-17)

   Samuel then introduces the first king of Israel to the people and explains the conditional contingencies of obedience necessary for the continued well-being of the kingdom.

"When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, 'No, but a king shall reign over us,' although the Lord your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chose, whom you have asked for, and behold, the Lord has set a king over you. "If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. "And if you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers. "Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes. "Is it not the wheat harvest today?" I will call to the Lord, that He may send thunder and rain. They you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the Lord by asking for yourselves a king." (I Samuel 12:12-17)

"And Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. "And you must not turn aside for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. "For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. "Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. "But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king shall be swept away." (I Samuel 12:20-25)

   It was not long before their first king, Saul, had himself sinned by assuming the role of priest as well as King, a type that was reserved for Melchisedek as a picture of Jesus Christ.

"And Samuel said to Saul, "You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you." (I Samuel 13:13,14)

    The second king over Israel was David, the son of Jesse, "a man after God's own heart." During the reign of David and his son, Solomon, the physical kingdom of Israel was great and magnificent. The Queen of Sheba could say, "The half was not told me!" (I Kings 10:7). But this was still just a pictorial physical representation of a much greater Kingdom that God had in mind for His people ­ the restoration of Divine Kingship over man in Jesus Christ.

    David knew Who the King really was, God Himself, and that there was a greater Kingdom coming. This is evident in many of the Psalms which he wrote:

"The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed....He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury; "But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee." (Psalm 2:2,4-7)

"For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm. God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne." (Psalm 47:7,8)

"They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power; to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty acts, and the glory of the majesty of Thy kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations." (Psalm 145:11-13)

   David knew the intent of God for a Divine, Theocratic Kingdom. God had made promises to David about the coming Kingdom, combining prophecy of physical descendants and his spiritual "seed", Jesus Christ.

"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant (seed) after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever." (II Samuel 7:12-16)

    But the promise of a coming Kingdom did not take away from what God wanted to teach the people about faithfulness and obedience. God always works with His people conditioned by faithful obedience. David understood the conditions and passed them on to Solomon:

"As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'" (I Kings 2:1-4)

   God verified to the same to Solomon:

"And as for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a manon the throne of Israel.' But if you or your sons shall indeed turn away from following Me, and shall not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you and shall go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples." (I Kings 9:4-7)

  What God promised to Abraham and David was not unconditioned. God's dealings with mankind always have the condition of a grace/faith relationship, which involves man's receptivity of God's activity.

   What happened to the physical kingdom of Israel? The Israelite people were disobedient and unfaithful. The physical kingdom began to fade and pass away; the conditions had not been kept and the promise was annulled, as promised. But despite the unfaithfulness of the Israelite people, God is not unfaithful, and His promise of a new and greater Kingdom would not be deterred.

    The physical kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms; the two-tribe kingdom of Judah and the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. There were brief revivals followed by continued disobedience, unfaithfulness and idolatry, as the Old Testament prophets tried to warn the Jewish people.

    The Old Testament prophets kept calling the people back to faithfulness, but at the same time prophesied of the coming Savior and King, the Messiah who would reign over God's people:

"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6,7)

"And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them. And they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever." (Ezekiel 37:24,25)

"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever." (Daniel 2:44)

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." (Micah 5:2)

"Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more." (Zephaniah 3:14,15)

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumh, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9)

    God is true to His promise of a King, true to His intent that the King over mankind should be Himself. God had promised David that his "seed" would establish the kingdom (II Sam 7:12). Jesus Christ was that "seed of David", the coming King, sent by God, as God, to restore God's kingship over mankind. (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; Rev. 22:16).

    The angel, Gabriel, told Mary prior to the birth of Jesus,

"He shall be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end." (Luke 1:32,33)

    John the Baptist proclaimed the coming Kingdom, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2) "Kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God" are used interchangeably in Matthew's gospel.

    Jesus began His ministry saying the same thing, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15; Lk 4:1). Repentance as a prelude to experiencing the kingdom indicates that it is a spiritual reality.

    The Kingdom of God is probably the central theme of Jesus' preaching. "The kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20). He used many parables concerning the "kingdom."

    The chief accusations against Jesus as His arrest and trial was that He claimed to be "king".

"Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus, and said to Him, 'You are the King of the Jews?' Jesus answered, 'Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?' Pilate answered, 'I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priets delivered You up to me; what have You done?' Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.' Pilate therefore said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.'" (John 18:33-37)

   They put purple robes of royalty on Him, put on a crown of thorns and gave Him a mock sceptre to ridicule His kingship:

"Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and arrayed Him in a purple robe; and they began to come up to Him, and say, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' and to give Him blows in the face." (John 19:1-3)

   Pilate presented the battered Jesus, saying, "Behold your King!" (John 19:14). The superscription on the cross read, "Jesus, King of the Jews" (Matt 27:37; Mk 15:26; Lk 23:38)

"And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, 'JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.' Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek. And so the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, 'Do not write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, 'I am King of the Jews,' Pilate answered, 'What I have written I have written.'" (John 19:19-22)

   The Jewish leaders wanted it changed, to read "He claimed to be 'King of the Jews'". But it was written in three languages and remained written just as God intended. That superscription represented the "finale" for any hope of a Judaic, Israelitish kingdom and king. It exploded any expectation for a continued physical, Davidic kingdom. The crux of the difference in the expectations is displayed on the cross! Jesus was not a physical King of the Jews alone; He was the spiritual King of God's spiritual kingdom among all men.

    From the cross Jesus exclaimed, "It is finished" (John 19:30) ­ "Accomplished! Completed! Brought to fruition! I have established My kingdom!" By dying He won the battle, the spiritual battle with Satan. He is the Theocratic King, the Divine King, who has conquered sin, death and Satan to establish His spiritual kingdom. The cross is His victorious battle; the resurrection is His coronation; Pentecost was the inauguration of the kingdom.

    In the first sermon of the church on Pentecost, Peter declared that David had prophesied of "his seed seated upon the throne" (Acts 2:30), and that by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God had done just that ­ raised up Jesus to be Lord and King!

    The preaching of the early church was of the "king, Jesus" (Acts 17:7); they were preaching concerning "the kingdom of God" (Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:31), and that "through much tribulation we enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). This latter statement indicates that the kingdom of God is not a "utopia"; it is a spiritual reality with continued physical hindrances here on earth, until consummated in the heavenly continuation of the kingdom.

    God used the physical kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament to pictorially portray the spiritual Kingdom that He intended to restore through His Son, Jesus Christ in the new covenant. "God is Spirit" (John 4:24) ­ His kingdom, His reign and rule and lordship is spiritual.

    The Jewish people in Jesus' day couldn't seem to see that. A servant-king, a despised king, a rejected king, a suffering king, a crucified King did not fit their proud, self-centered expectations. They were looking for a physical conquering King to wipe out the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom of David. Their conceptions of the Messiah as King were rooted only in the natural and physical. Their Messianic expectations were particularistic, materialistic, nationalistic, racist and wrong! They were looking for a national, Judaic, Israelitish kingdom, which included racial supremacism. Jesus and His message did not fit their system. Inherent in the message of Christianity is that Jewish particularism is ended! (Matt 8:11; 21:41; Lk14:24) -- it was only intended to be illustrative anyway ­ illustrative of a people "set apart" to function as intended. The kingdom of God is universal ­ ALL mankind can be restored to God's intent, by allowing God in Christ to rule and control in their lives.

    Christ gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:19), and Peter used the keys to open the kingdom, first to the Jews (Acts 2) and then to the Gentiles (Acts 10). God's purpose was no longer limited to a nationalist, racialistic group of people. God's kingdom in Christ is universal ­ the restoration of all fallen men.

"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for 'Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord wil be saved.'" (Romans 10:12; cf. Ephesians 2:14-16)

    What is the "kingdom of God" that God made available in Jesus Christ? It is a present, universal, spiritual and eternal kingdom. The primary meaning of the word "kingdom" is not "realm" or "territory", but "reign, rule and authority." It is not a physical residential kingdom with a specific and limited location, for the rule and reign of God cannot be thus limited. It is not a natural kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom ­ the lordship of Christ in the hearts of his people; His authority guiding and directing their lives. It is not a visible kingdom of outward observation:

"Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20,21)

   It is not physical:

"the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17)

   It is not of this earthly world:

"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36)

(Some would attempt to interpret Jesus' words as meaning "not of this world-system," but such fails to account for the context.) It is a kingdom that can only be entered by spiritual new birth:

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' .... "Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'" (John 3:3,5)

"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)

    Jesus would not allow the people to force him into their mold to be a natural, physical King:

"Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone." (John 6:15)

   Today, many people still want to impose that upon Him. They believe He came to sit on old King David's earthly, natural throne in Jerusalem, and that somehow He failed to achieve His Father's goal of making Him a political ruler. They imply that Jesus Christ came at His first advent as a political revolutionary seeking to overthrow the estabished political rule in Israel. They indicate that He offered a kingdom to the Jews, but they rejected it, so He withdrew the offer, postponed what he came for, and went to "Plan B" ­ died on the Cross, establishing a parenthetical mystery kingdom until His second Coming. At His second advent they believe He will acomplish what He failed to do the first time, that is to become the Priest-King in Jerusalem.

    This is the premise of the theory that is called "pre-millennialism." But I, personally, can find no biblical basis for the expectation of a physical kingdom here on earth ­ a one thousand year millenial kingdom. In fact, such an expectation seems to be contrary to everything the Scripture says about the Kingdom. The kingdom is not limited in duration to a thousand years, but is eternal; the kingdom is not physical, but spiritual; the kingdom is not Jewish, but universal.

    Neither did Jesus come to re-establish the old Davidic kingdom and thereby bring "good government" to the world; to reform society by enforcing high and moral and ethical standards. This is the premise of what is called "post-millennialism; reconstructionism; or theonomy." The premises of both pre-millennialism and post-millennialism blind Christian believers to the present spiritual reality of the kingdom of God. Both miss the point of Jesus' statement, "My kingdom is not of this world." ­ this physical world - (John 18:36). So many Christians today are as deceived about the Kingship of Jesus as were the Jews of Jesus' day. It is no wonder that they are not shouting "Hosanna!", nor allowing Jesus to reign in their lives in godliness.

    The kingdom, or authority, or rule of God is a spiritual reality in this present age, and it will appear in its final, perfected form in the eternity of the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns. The kingdom was established by Christ at His first advent, but only to those with eyes to see, spiritually. When He comes again, the whole world will see the power and glory of that present spiritual and eternal kingdom. There is the "already" sense of the kingdom and the "not yet" sense of the same eternal kingdom.

    Jesus is King. He is King "after the order of Melchisedec...King of Righteousness... King of Peace." (Hebrews 6:20-7:2) "His throne is forever." (Hebrews 1:8) He is "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 17:14).

    Christians are "a kingdom of priests" as was God's intent (Exodus 19:5,6). We are a "royal priesthood, holy nation" (I Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). Christians have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ:

"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13,14)

    Jesus is King for Christians right now. But Christians must never cease to learn the lessons of the Old Testament which were illustrative examples for us (I Cor. 10:11,12): Watch out for the Babylonians who try to carry off spiritual Israelites (Christians) into their false religious systems of idolatry with false pastoral kings. Watch out for the Babylonians with their false moral systems where ethical rules and regulations reign supreme. Watch out for the Babylonians and their false eschatalogical systems with far-out fantasies of what to expect in the physical future. As Christians we have all that God has to give us right now in Jesus Christ. "God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:3).

    Christians are still like those persons present at the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We are still shouting, chanting, singing "Hosanna" to the King. We "sing unto the Lord" (Isa. 12:5; Ps 98:1; Zech 2:10; Ps. 137:3).

    Is Jesus Christ reigning as sovereign in your life? King? Lord? Is Jesus Christ King in the kingdom of your heart? Are we prepared to let Jesus Christ reign and rule over the collective kingdom of His church? Are we praying evangelistically that Jesus Christ might reign as King over all peoples? These are the questions we must ask ourselves individually and collectively, as we understand that "Jesus Is King."

    The condition for His effective Kingship/Lordship in our lives is still that of faith - our receptivity of His activity. The condition is still the obedience of listening to what the Lord Jesus Christ ­ Jesus as King ­ wants to do in our lives, individually and collectively.

    Jesus is King ­ and we can still shout, "Hosanna!"