What Kind of King is Jesus?

Rev. Bradley Swire   -  

When we conjure images of kingship, our minds might drift to scenes of grandeur and power: majestic robes, gleaming crowns, and the commanding presence of a ruler, flanked by an army, parading into a city with undeniable authority. This picture, not unlike what we see in tales and films — think of the spectacular entrance of royalty in Aladdin — has historical backing. Indeed, figures like King Herod Antipas and Governor Pontius Pilate entered Jerusalem with such pomp and circumstance, surrounded by soldiers and chariots, to display their dominion, especially during significant times like the Passover festival. This grand entrance was a clear statement of power and control.

Yet, amidst these demonstrations of earthly power, another procession took place — one markedly different in its nature and message. A well-known man from the region, famed for his miraculous healings, profound teachings, and his revolutionary way of connecting with others, made his entrance. But this man, Jesus, chose a simple donkey for his ride into Jerusalem, without the accompaniment of soldiers or the trappings of wealth. This choice might seem peculiar, given that Jesus spent most of his ministry on foot, even walking some 90 miles that day from Galilee, only to ride a donkey for the final half mile into the city.

This act was a profound fulfillment of prophecy. Over 500 years prior, Zechariah prophesied: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The donkey symbolized humility and steadfastness, traits attributed to King David, the shepherd king. Thus, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, he was unmistakably declaring his kingship — but a kingship of a different order.

The crowd’s reaction, waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” was not just a sign of celebration but of recognition and hope. They saw in Jesus not just a miracle worker but the Messiah, the king prophesied to deliver them. Yet, the question lingered: what kind of king is Jesus?

The answer unfolds in the events of the Holy Week. Jesus demonstrated a kingship characterized by humility, service, and sacrifice. He confronted the corrupt practices in the temple, challenged the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, taught the values of compassion and service, and shared his final meal with his disciples in the posture of a servant, washing their feet. His journey culminated on the cross, where he was enthroned not with gold and silver, but with thorns and nails, a king who laid down his life for his people.

What kind of king is Jesus? He is a king unlike any other — a king who serves rather than be served, who loves unconditionally, and whose reign is marked by grace and mercy. In a world where power often corrupts and leadership can be self-serving, Jesus presents an alternative vision of kingship. He invites us to a kingdom where love is the highest law, and service is the greatest honor.

As we reflect on the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the subsequent events of Holy Week, let us ask ourselves how we are called to embody the values of this kingdom in our own lives. How can we serve as Jesus served, love as Jesus loved, and live out the radical humility and compassion that he demonstrated? In doing so, we not only honor our King but participate in the unfolding of his kingdom here on earth.

Jesus, the king who rode on a donkey, who washed the feet of his disciples, and who died on a cross, offers us a model of leadership and a way of life that turns the world’s values upside down. In his kingdom, the last are first, the humble are exalted, and the greatest are those who serve. What a king we have in Jesus — may we follow him more closely, love him more dearly, and serve him more faithfully.