The Crown (Easter 2024)

At Gateway Church in Austin, we began Passion Week with Palm Sunday and a message called “The Crown”

Too often in our faith journey, we have the right king, but the wrong kingdom in mind.


Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Discussion Questions

Message Video:

Message Audio:

Message Notes:

We oftentimes refer to God’s Kingdom as an upside down kingdom.  A place where our human logic can find itself turned upside down because of the way Jesus lived his life on earth, and how he challenged us to live the same way. 

  • First shall be last, and last shall be first
  • Our weakness is our strength
  • We receive by giving
  • We gain life when we lose it
  • We are raised up/exalted when we serve

So it is of no surprise when we see Jesus, in all of his glory, power and strength, show up for his monumental moment in Jerusalem and he does it in a way that is upside down to people’s expectations.

A week ago we spent time pondering The Crowd who celebrated Jesus’ welcome to Jerusalem with palm branches,cheers, and what some called the triumphal entry, BUT they didn’t truly see him for who he was.  He didn’t parade as a triumphal ruler with legions of soldiers high on his horse or camel.  No, he came humbled and riding on a borrowed donkey his disciples found for him.  

Then we see the week progress with final thoughts, a final meal, a final time of prayer, only to be arrested, mocked, and hailed as the king of the Jews.  A crown of thorns was forced on him, a purple robe wrapped around him, a long walk up Golgotha’s hill, and eventually he was nailed to The CrossThe savior of the world was mocked, given a mocked king’s crown and robe, and led to a gruesome execution.

He was then laid in a tomb, while he descended into darkness to prevail over it, and to bring life and freedom to all of humanity. He resurrected from death and darkness, and he overcame the grave.  In his resurrection he exchanged the pain of a crown of thorns, for what was inevitably his, The Crown set aside for a true King. 

Jesus did know what would take place, and he was a man of his word. He took on the weight of the world, lived in a way so that he could truly be the ultimate sinless sacrifice. We see this throughout his time on earth, he said something would happen, and it would. 

How many times do we say things about ourselves hoping for them to be true?  
How many times do we believe things about ourselves that really aren’t true?  
Or at the very least we say things in a way that exaggerates what is true. 

So one might say, I’m a family person.  We hope that to be true of ourselves, but is it really true?  Do we actually spend time with our family, do we think of them often, encourage them, find comfort in their presence, or do others find comfort in our presence?  Or is it that we love family at times when the culture says we should be with them?  Easter weekend, Christmas week, a major holiday or birthday. Or is it just certain family members we seem to care about – the ones under our own roof but not the extended family beyond that and certainly not the in-laws?

Another person might say, I want to be the best at my craft and grow in my career path.  We would all hope to say we work hard, we know it takes sacrifice, but are we still willing to sacrifice to grow.  In a post-pandemic world, can we even get through a 40 hour work week, much less go the extra mile when asked. Can you as a student actually wake up to make it to your 8 am class when we say our education is important? 

You see, we want these very things to play out in some way in real life, but do we line up our lives to make them happen, or do we self-sabotage along the way?  We are human after all, and our desires change, our outlook changes, our willingness to sacrifice changes.  But in the end, we inevitably fall short so many times, and the way we see ourselves as still being the person we say we are, serves as self-deception.

The Scriptures speak to this very thing.

In a letter to people he is investing in and helping to grow spiritually, a church planter named Paul writes in Galatians 5:3-4

3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else…

So when it comes to issues of God, and us exploring, knowing and telling others about God, it could be easy for us to project our own blindspots onto God. 

  • Is God who he really says he is?  
  • Was Jesus truly who he says he was?  
  • Does God really want us to believe all these things we learn from pastors and teachers about who he is?  

The answer is no.  We cannot always believe what humans say and project about God, but we can trust what God says about himself.  So let’s lay a foundation that is true of God, and not one that is made up by us.

In Numbers, a book in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament, the prophet Balaam was known for his sorcery, for deceiving people, and for manipulating other spiritual situations to get what he wanted.  But when he encountered the reality of God, the God of Israel, he couldn’t help but speak the truth of God’s character. He couldn’t manipulate the situation with his gifts and talents, and he this wayward untrustworthy person was then used by God to bring truth, and not lies. In his second encounter with God this is an excerpt of how he described God after what he heard God say:

Numbers 23:19

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

We are made in the image of God, that is true, but God is not a reflection of our humanity, he does not lie the way we as humans do.  He then goes one step further with the second part.

“Does he speak and then not act?”  “Does he promise and not fulfill?”

These are rhetorical questions that have no need for a response.  They are powerful questions that are read more like statements.  

This is exactly what God is working to convey through Balaam to his chosen people.  When I speak something, will I not act according to what I just said?  When I make a promise, can you not rely on my ability to come through? 

God’s language is strong and confident, and when we read Jesus’ words in the New Testament of Scripture, we hear the same type of confidence and boldness.  Jesus too could be taken at his word, and what he said came to pass.

At the last supper Jesus said he would be betrayed.

From Matthew 26:

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

  • I’ve often wondered why Jesus would call out someone at the dinner table who had already set a course of action into motion that would alter the course of history.  We don’t know exactly Jesus’ motives, but we do know that it garnered a response from every disciple there, even the one who knew he was guilty. 

Jesus said that he would be deserted, and that Peter would disown him.

From Matthew 26:

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd,  and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. 

* Now this is getting eerie and Jesus is saying how things are going to play out, and they do, but not before some pushback from Peter and the disciples.  Jesus is flat out letting them know that upon his capture and death, all of the fairweather friends will disappear, even the most vocal and passionate one of them all, Peter.  

* We all know people like Peter, who talk a big game, but when push comes to shove, they have no ability to fully stand their ground on an issue, or lay it all down for loyalty. Jesus knew this, called it out, and those who were faithfully following him learned quickly how flawed and inept they were. 

Jesus called his shot

  • For those of you who have no idea what this means, it’s simple.  In every sport, when an athlete has high skill and gets bold, they will tell their opponent exactly what they’re going to do next.  When the opponent tries to stop them, and even though they know the play, cannot stop it, this is referred to as calling their shot.
  • So, when challenged on his authority by spiritual leaders of his day, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in 3 days.” – John 2:19
  • This caused great confusion because people literally thought he meant the destruction of a physical temple, like we learned about in the Passion devos this last week, Jesus was referring to his body as a temple, and that he would lay down his life, only to be resurrected 3 days later.

If you do not know why you’re here this Easter, it is this prophetic moment that Jesus said would take place.  A few billion people all over the world are celebrating today the culmination of a sinless life, a horrible death in the greatest exchange of all time, our sin and shame for his forgiveness, a burial into death and darkness. TODAY is the day we memorialize his resurrection from death and darkness, his victorious life means we can have life and victory in Jesus’ name. 

If what Jesus said took place, then we can take him at his word.  So how do we celebrate him today, and what does it mean for us?  

During the process of arrest and arraignment to death, Jesus was brought before multiple groups of religious people and government officials.  The religious people of the day were not able to find cause to take Jesus’ death into their own hands, so they needed to walk the process of allowing the Roman government to do their work for them. In one of those conversations, Roman governor Pilate, Jesus is asked a very direct question in John 18:33-37: 

“Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “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.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “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.”

Jesus said he had a kingdom (and every kingdom has a king)

If everything we read about Jesus comes to pass, then how can we not, in all of its upside kingdom ways, accept that in this upside down kingdom, Jesus is the King, and every King has a crown.  I don’t think Jesus’ preferred way of speaking of himself was to walk around calling himself King.  But we do know about how Jesus sees himself. I want you to take a deep breath, listen to this verse and reflect on it as the band leads us, then we’ll come back together and close out the service for today.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus         Just to take Him at His Word

Just to rest upon His promise         Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord”

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him    Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend

And I know that He is with me         Will be with me to the end

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him         How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus         Oh, for grace to trust Him more

Are these the words that can be true of you today?  

Are they the words that you even hope to be true of you today?  

This song wasn’t written on a mountaintop experience from someone who had found victory.  No, this was written by Louisa Stead in 1882 in the middle of her sorrow, as she lost her husband to a drowning accident.  She was writing about this upside kingdom where in our weakness, God’s strength is made perfect in us.  She was writing about this kingdom where our sorrow is turned to joy.  This place where we can lay down our burdens at the foot of his cross, and in return we find hope.  We can cast our cares upon him, because he cares for us. 

Many of us in this room, and watching/listening online have made that decision to believe in Jesus, but have we made him the king of our lives, have we crowned him as King?

And some of us have never made this profession of faith in Jesus.  Maybe you would say today, I believe that Jesus is a man of his word, and if he is the way, the truth and the life, then I want my life to be surrendered to his.  I want to exchange my sorrow, shame and sin (that which keeps me from God), for his way, his truth and his life.  I want to receive his forgiveness and never be the same. 

See God wants to bring new life to not just certain areas of your life. He wants to bring you to life – to be fully alive in His invisible Kingdom! That can begin today. His Kingdom is advanced through faith, hope, and love – through changed lives one at a time, life by life.

 Jesus uses His last week on Earth to dramatically shift the course of human history. He challenges our expectations of salvation. He won by losing. He willingly gave His life for us all and He rose again victorious. His invitation for us is to do the same. Today you can  experience a dramatic shift personally and walk away with a new life for the first time or you can restart this relationship with Him and He will send us to share His hope with the world around us.

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