Today I got to watch a favorite movie from my childhood with my little boy, The Lion King. In interest of full disclosure, he’s still a little young for it and ended up playing a lot and occasionally looking up at it. I was glued to it though. There’s something stirring about some of those scenes in the movie, like the one I picked at left. Simba, the long-lost king returning to claim his birthright. Sound familiar?
It’s amazing how many stories in cultures all around the world feature a long-awaited or lost or forgotten king returning to the throne that belongs to him and setting right the wrongs in the kingdom. Admittedly I’m most familiar with western examples of the pattern: King Arthur claiming the sword in the stone, Aragorn in Lord of the Rings being crowned King of Gondor, and even Odysseus returning from his long voyage to rescue Ithaca. Why do we obsess with this idea of a longed after king? The one who rightfully rules returning?
Some of you may have guessed where I’m going with this. As you may know, tomorrow is Palm Sunday. The day Christians remember Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy of the Hebrew scripture recorded several centuries before by the prophet Zechariah. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) It’s really one of the most interesting confluences of prophetic fulfillment and is worth studying on its own (particularly Daniel 9:24-27), but I’ll try to stick to my point, which is more general. On that day nearly two thousand years ago, the hearts of Jerusalem’s expectant throngs were stirred with the arrival of the King of Kings. Their long awaited Messiah, Who would deliver them and right all the wrongs of the Jewish state. Of course, history bears record alongside Scripture that the Lord Jesus was not long welcomed in such manner, and was crucified with the crowds that had cheered him shouting jeers instead. He had not come to be the sort of king they wanted.
There’s something so powerful about the moment in any story when that rightful ruler steps forward and pronounces his claim to the throne. It’s always portrayed like the booming thunder of a storm and stands the hairs of our arms on end. “The King has returned…” I would submit to you, that perhaps our hearts are thrilled at this, because deep within, they feel that longing for the world we live in. Broken and a source of continual grief, this world is not as it should be and we understand that. We all long for something better, something more. For a different ruler to step up and set right the world. What Christians celebrate at Easter is, when the tomb was opened and Jesus Christ stepped forth, the King had returned. “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-55) Though most of the Jewish people didn’t recognize it then, and many fail to see it now, the Lord Jesus stood forth on the morning of His resurrection having dethroned death and renounced Satan’s claim on this world. Since that day, He has come and for every welcoming heart, liberated His people, drawing them to His side in preparation for the day when coming in the clouds He splits the sky and sets right all.
Like Simba in The Lion King, who was thought to be dead, Christ is alive and that is indescribable. It’s everything we long for. Our King is working among His subjects and one day He will stand in the final victory and every hope of the ages, every story of the triumphal returned king, will have fulfillment. Little wonder we get chill bumps when we consider, “The King has returned…”