Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Palm Sunday C, March 24, 2013
“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [John 12:12-19]
This Sunday morning is a special Sunday; some call it Palm Sunday and others prefer Passion Sunday, because it is the first Sunday in Holy Week. I say, why do we have to choose? Let’s remember both, and so we have by preserving all of the Gospel readings assigned (John 12:12-43). This morning, God wants us to answer this: “Who is Jesus to me?” I believe that is the question many who gathered on that first Palm Sunday also were struggling with. Let’s be honest, there were many who were there just for the show, for the hope of witnessing another miracle, another demonstration of unexplainable power. Our reading this morning makes that clear: “The crowd that had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet Him was that they heard He had done this sign.” So I guess a second question I could ask you this morning is, “Why are you here?” But I think that question will answer itself once we answer the first question. Who is Jesus to you?
Prophet yes, but also so much more! In His flesh a man, but not just a man; no, because you see He is also God… the living Word of God to be exact! This is Jesus, our Prophet, our Priest and our King! This is the One who has come and is coming again; He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! He is the one who comes with all of God’s power and authority. Why? Because He is God! He is the one who comes to us humbly, mounted upon a donkey. He comes with compassion and mercy, but He also comes to judge and punish. He is a God of contrasts, a God who comes to kill and make alive; to wound and to heal. And when He acts, none can deliver out of His hand! [Deuteronomy 32:39b]
In our Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 32:36-39), God, speaking through Moses reminded the Israelites about His anger for their past sins and He warned them about His coming anger for their future sins. But why was God angry? What was this sin that angered Him so strongly that He would judge, punish, wound, and kill? It was the sin of worshiping false Gods! They did it in the past when they longed to return to Egypt as slaves, just so they could get their fill of the food they were accustomed to eating. They did it when they tried to replace Moses as their leader, because they didn’t like the message. And of course they did it when they created the golden calf to worship. And now, God is telling His people that He will judge them. He challenges them to turn to their false gods, their false means of hope for protection from His anger. Listen to how God mocks their false gods: “Then I will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge”. [vs. 37]
Through Moses, God reminded the Israelites then and He reminds us today of our sinful tendency to be fickle and run after what ever new thing peaks our curiosity, and thus forgetting about the God who has never changed and never stopped saving us and providing for us in our time of trouble. When we try to seek God in any way outside of His Word and Sacraments, we are setting up false gods to worship and follow. Through Moses, this morning God is warning us to “Return to the Lord your God, for He is faithful and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love!” What false gods have you set up in your life?
For some, the false god maybe in the man made government or political party that they are affiliated with. For others, another false god in their lives can be found in their own self-sufficiency. Maybe you’ve experienced this sin as I have. It happens when we trust our own resourcefulness instead of having complete trust and confidence in God. Another false god that we must consider is our family. While it’s true that love for family is important, sometimes we can love them more than the God who gives us our family. Sometimes our love for our children or other family members can lead us to do things that we know are wrong.
Finally, perhaps the most insidious false god may be the very comfort that God’s blessings bring to those of us who are part of Christ’s church. We who make up Christ’s body have been blessed with eternal life, washed clean in the waters of our baptism. We enjoy a certain peace of mind and soul that no other person outside of grace can ever experience. Every day we are protected from the attacks of the devil and we have prospered. We love our comfort and long for more of God’s blessings yet we ignore the leading of the very God who provides all of this for us. How do we ignore Him? By neglecting worship or the study of His Word; by forgetting that we too need to cry out to Him like the crowds on the first Palm Sunday, Hosanna! We need to live a life that demonstrates praise to our Savior God and to Him alone; a life that gives back to Him just as generously as He gives to us!
How do we do this? By knowing God as He really is. How do we know God? We know God by knowing Jesus! By knowing who Jesus is for us and who He is for our neighbor our lives will be transformed! God wants us to know that Jesus is more than just His Son; He wants us to know that He is also our brother. He wants us to know that Jesus is at all times both God and man. He is eternal; He is the Son of God, who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit are eternally worshiped and glorified, yet… Jesus was also born of the Virgin Mary. What a mystery… God was born! But even more mysterious, Jesus died… the God who is eternal and cannot die did in fact die—but not just any death… He died upon the cross. He died the death of a slave, the death of a condemned criminal.
And to all of this truth, our sinful minds cry out, “But how can any of this be?” But asking “how” is the wrong question friends. It is wrong because God’s ways are not our ways; His ways are far above ours. The right question to ask is “why?” If we understand the why, then the how becomes unimportant. Hosanna! Hosanna to the Savior God!
When the Son of God took on our flesh to save us, He chose to make Himself nothing by becoming our servant, so that as our servant, He could suffer and die in our place. The God-man Jesus Christ humbled Himself for us, by dying for us! From the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit He chose to be born in order to die. Now here is where God’s ways become very mysterious to us; at no time did Jesus cease being God. Not in the womb and not upon the cross. Out of love for you, Christ put aside His deity and chose to live out your humanity. At any time He could have walked away from our flesh, but if He would have done that, then He could not have paid the penalty for your sins. If He would have allowed His angels to save Him from your death, the death that you should die, then He could not have won salvation for you!
Dear friends, by taking on your flesh and dying your death for your sins, Jesus became your Warrior King. When He rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, He indeed rode in as a warrior king. But not the type of warrior king the people expected. Warrior kings ride in on strong stallions, suited with armor and with sword and shield in hand. But Jesus rode in on a donkey armed with only our flesh, our mind, and our sin.
He who is Spirit and truth, and without sin took on our flesh and our sins so that He could fight and win for us! But these strange weapons were exactly what He needed to defeat sin, death, and the devil. They were in keeping with the work that He came to do. He didn’t come to conquer nations or empires; He came to conquer your sin; YOUR SIN. This was God’s means of waging war against our enemies. Jesus had to be our substitute, and He could only do this by being obedient to the Father’s will; by suffering and dying to pay for our sins. And make no mistake friends; He could not have done this without His full deity. He had to attach the full weight of His deity to His human flesh in order to be obedient unto death, even death upon the cross. And as we will proudly proclaim and celebrate next week on Easter morning, He must have all of His deity in order to rise from the dead. So, even in death, Jesus was mighty God so that by His death and resurrection we could be assured of the very same thing happening for us. Hosanna! Hosanna to our Savior King!
Dear friends, by knowing and believing in this truth our hearts can’t help but cry out Hosanna! We will naturally cry out Hosanna when we know whom our true Savior King is and how and for whom He came to save. He came to save you dear friends, but not just you… He came to save your neighbor. You have a message to declare… you have a story to tell. It’s a story that God wants you to share with as many people as possible. But what shall you tell them? Tell them that they have a God who comes to them as a Savior; a Savior who put Himself to death so that they could live. Tell them that by putting Himself to death for them God was able to heal the sins of the entire world… even their sins. He is our true God and all that He asks from us in return is that we would worship Him and Him alone. He asks us to trust only in His love for us and then rest in His presence and protection.
Friends, it’s no wonder that the crowds came out on that first Palm Sunday shouting “Hosanna in the highest!” But in five short days, another crowd would gather at the Roman headquarters shouting, “Crucify Him!” This morning let’s be on our guard to assure we don’t become one of those who make up the fickle crowd. Let’s resolve to continue gathering around God’s Word and Sacrament as we are moved to continually turn by faith to Jesus as our Messiah, the Savior God. I pray that each of us will be moved to praise Him with our time, talent, and treasure, as we share His message of forgiveness with whoever God puts in our path. Let’s try to remember each day that it is the Lord alone who delivers us from all of our enemies, even sin, death, and the devil. Let’s try to thank Him each day that He has not only given us grace, but the faith to believe that Jesus died for each of us.
Dear friends, we say hosanna to our Savior God because it is He alone who saves us; He saves us from all harm. He has defeated all of our enemies. His name is great, and His name is …. Jesus. There’s something about the name Jesus. Some thing about the name Jesus; it is the sweetest name I know. And at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. AMEN