Sermon for Palm Sunday
March 28th and 29th 2015
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church
Pastor David J. Glesne
Dear brothers and sisters grace to you and peace in Jesus name. Amen.
So if you have been paying attention, you may have noticed that we do a little backtracking in our Gospel trajectory today. Our smooth narrative line does a bit of a zig back to the 21st Chapter after having made it all the way to the end of the 25th chapter of Matthew last week.
Our trajectory allowed us to look at the urgency of Jesus as he heads to the cross; it allowed us to take a closer look at many of his parables the things he taught in those last days.
Today though, we double back so that we might join in the fullness of Holy week that begins with the joyful, exuberant and celebratory entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Jesus expertly times his entry; Jerusalem is already buzzing with activity because of the Passover celebration. A town that was thought to have about 50,000 residents year round would swell at Passover to over ten times that or over 500,000 people from all over the known world.
Even without Jesus arrival the town was already abuzz… but Jesus entry takes things over the top and as the writer of Matthew phrases it the whole city was in turmoil, the root of that word means earthquake. So Jesus entry into Jerusalem shook up everything!
So what is it about a dude riding into town on a donkey that caused such a fuss?
A donkey may not seem like a royal mode of transportation to us but following our narrative back a ways we find echoes of today’s story in other important royal events. King David riding into town on a donkey in 2nd Samuel and Solomon doing the same in 1st Kings, both these events were pivot points for the people of God and the nation.
So here comes this Jesus, his reputation has proceeded him, his healing, his teaching, and his authority all have made an impact.
There is a hopeful expectation that things will be different with this Jesus.
A true thought but in ways the Passover attendees could never have imagined.
Their expectations were grand to be sure, to topple the Roman government is no small task. Jesus, however, is up to something much, much bigger, but it would take most folks until Good Friday to get the hint.
Ever get swept up in a crowd? Its momentum is nearly unstoppable. Once when I was in college, I was walking back to my Dorm when a herd of guys ran past me grunting and shouting about someone getting beat up by a bunch of townies… and off I was! Swept up in the crowd, and I ran for nearly a half mile with this crew until I started to think… wait… I don’t know what this is about and why on God’s green earth am I running… I don’t like running. So I stopped and walked back to my dorm wondering what had just happened.
Then a few weeks back I was in an airport, and suddenly a whole group of people suddenly swung their heads. They were all looking at a stubbly bearded young man wearing a trilby who was waiting to board the flight we had just left. All at once dozens of people pulled out their smart phones and cameras and started to take pictures and ask for autographs, which he graciously supplied. Some guy clambered in front of me fired off a couple pictures on his smartphone and turned to his traveling companion and asked “Who is this guy?”
My point is this there was a little of that going on during Jesus entry, many knew who he was many didn’t but they all seemed to join in the parade! They likely asked as they laid their cloaks down for his donkey to walk upon… “Who is this guy?”
Much like the celebrations of the Badgers victory and entrance into the Final Four, people want to revel in the moment, whatever that moment may be, People who didn’t know who Frank Kaminsky, Travon Jackson, Sam Dekker or Nigel Hayes were two weeks ago are now hanging on their every word even if they are: cattywampus, onomatopoeia and antidisestablishmentarianism. Soliloquy quandary, zephyr, Xylophone. We love a good parade, we want to stay pumped, we wish these things could last forever.
But as those kings did long ago, Jesus changes things, and he does so at the very center of life, culture and everything for the Jewish people. Once through the gates with the roar of the crowd ringing through the streets Jesus makes a beeline to the Temple.
Once there, Jesus causes quite the fuss. There has been a cartoon I wish I could show you; that plays off of the WWJD concept… what would Jesus do? It goes this way… If someone asks you what would do? Remind them that freaking out and turning over tables is within the realm of possibilities.
He throws out the money changers and the dove sellers, and causes pandemonium. I can imagine the priests and visitors to the temple who were just trying to do get their stuff done properly for worship looking at Jesus and wondering “Who is this guy?”
After the cleansing, the blind and lame came to Jesus, and he healed them, and the children join in the celebration by crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” He had a title, but you have to wonder if those who were healed that day paused and wondered just “who is this guy” who does such things!
The joy of that first Palm Sunday must have been incredible.
In some ways our Gospel, this short passage of scripture, this brief snapshot of time is a condensed example of Jesus whole ministry; healing, praise and upset all crammed into one frenetic day.
So why all the fuss? One commentator put it this way when they wrote “If you were a first-century Jew, much of this would have made sense. God’s people had been waiting for the Messiah. They’d be waiting for someone, sent from God, who would rule and change the world. In the Old Testament book of Zechariah, there’s a prediction concerning the world’s one true king and how he would make himself known: “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 ESV). Sound familiar?
Remember all those people who wondered who this guy was? Jesus entry into Jerusalem is his way of saying, “I’m that guy.” I am the true king, and I am about to go to my throne.
No wonder there was excitement!
One other thing I would like to point out is the word Hosanna; we use it as sort of a praise word, but it has deep meaning. Our word Hosanna comes from two Hebrew words that mean… Save us. The people had long been waiting for a savior and hopes were high that this Jesus was to be the one. We know this side of history that he in fact was and is the savior.
The problem was, that how Jesus was going to do this was on no one’s radar. I think we still struggle with this and I came across this little story that I think explains why.
A lady tells about the Palm Sunday celebration at her church. It was their tradition to celebrate Palm Sunday with members marching outside the church waving palm leaves as they sang the Palm Sunday hymns. Because they knew that Palm Sunday was, but a prelude to Good Friday, however, the congregation was careful not to get too giddy as they did this. After all, as she says, “We already know, as Paul Harvey says, ‘the rest of the story. ” It’s hard to put your whole heart into the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when you know what comes next. “So the adults hold back…” she writes, “And somehow we think if we don’t get too exuberant with the palm frond on Sunday, maybe we can escape the nail on Friday.”
Here is the deal though… we can’t and Jesus wouldn’t either. The Good News, the hope of God in Christ for us today as we are swept along by the mobs of life is that Christ rode in as the king of all and gave his all for you and me.
Henri Nouwen once found a sculpture of Jesus on a donkey in a Museum in Germany.
He calls it one of the most moving Christ figures he knows. The fourteenth-century sculpture originally came from a small town on the Rhine. It was made to be pulled on a cart for the Palm Sunday procession.
Nouwen found himself drawn to this sculpture.
He sent postcards of it to his friends and kept one in his prayer book.
Looking at the face of Jesus he reflects, “There is melancholy, but also peaceful acceptance. There is insight into the fickleness of the human heart, but also immense compassion. There is a deep awareness of the unspeakable pain to be suffered, but also a strong determination to do God‘s will. Above all, there is love, an endless, deep and far-reaching love born from an unbreakable intimacy with God and reaching out to all people, wherever they are, were, or will be. There is nothing that he does not fully know. There is nobody whom he does not fully love.”
That Love is given for you, as it is for all though the gift of Baptism. Today that promise of God’s loving grace will be given to Connor William Kaney when he is baptized in the name of the father and the of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, where his old self will be drowned to be raised in Christ.
Christ comes triumphantly into Jerusalem in response to the cry Hosanna, God Save us, and that is exactly what he intends to do.
Even now with our palms in our hands, some tied into knots, some have had their little fringy strings pulled apart, others have already being used to poke a sibling are in mom or dads hand, even now we begin to zag back to the flow of the narrative. In baptism and in the meal we will share together we will be reminded of the events yet to come in our story.
In the days to come in this week we call Holy I invite you to join Jesus as he will sit with his disciples at Passover. On Thursday we gather to hear how He served them, how He will show them a new way to understand the bread and wine. Shortly after that he will be betrayed.
Good Friday comes as Jesus is lead to the cross to die and then laid in a tomb, somber and dark, we still call this day good.
Then on Saturday we wait and we remember God’s promises that arc through this story to the very beginning.
I invite you to join us for these days to worship, to reflect, to ponder and in the midst of it cry Hosanna, Lord Save us… even as the Son rises on Easter and our cry changes… to a word of hope not yet on our lips.