YOU THINK OF THE NEWLY anointed King David conquering unconquerable Jerusalem and crowning his triumph by bringing into it the ark of God as all the people made merry with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals. You think of the pope himself proclaiming Charlemagne emperor and augustus on Christmas Day and all Rome going mad with enthusiasm. You think of Shakespeare's Henry V comforting his troops on the eve of Agincourt and of the grands levers of Louis XIV, which rivaled in splendor the rising of the sun. Muffled drums and vast crowds of mourners followed the deaths of kings, and the peal of bells and dancing in the streets their births. The person of the king was so sacred that affronts upon him were punished with the most horrible of torments, and his touch had the power to heal.
Passionate loyalty, adoration, terror, awe—no words are perhaps too strong to describe the feelings evoked in his subjects by the mere sight of him, and it's no wonder. He held the power of life and death over them. Their destiny was in his keeping. He defended the kingdom against all enemies both from within and from without. He was the kingdom. If he rejoiced, it rejoiced with him. If he was angry, the earth trembled and the crops might fail.
"Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!" proclaims the Psalmist (24:10). This rich metaphor is used again and again in Scripture. Yahweh alone was King over Israel, the prophets thundered: to be feared, to be loved, above all else to be obeyed. When the people decided they wanted a king of flesh and blood like all the other nations, Samuel warned them that the consequences would be tragic (1 Samuel 8:4-18), and history proved him correct in every particular. In the long run Israel as king and kingdom vanished from history altogether.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, it was as King and Son of David that his followers hailed him. If it was a king like David the conquering hero that they were looking for, they were of course bitterly disappointed. What they got was a king like David the father, who, when he heard of his treacherous son's death, went up to his chamber and wept. "Would I had died instead of thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" he cried out. They were the most kingly words he ever uttered and an uncanny foreshadowing of his many-times great-grandson who some thousand years later put his money where David's mouth had been.