Palm Sunday- April 5th, 2020
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Sermon: Shouts of loud Hosannas!
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I need not remind you that thousands have been infected with one of two strains of this deadly Corona Virus 19. According to current news reports on March 20th, 14,500 people have tested positive around the world. 205 people have died from this virus just in the United States. Countless people in America are out of work, quarantined in their own homes. Schools, colleges, restaurants, hotels, cruise lines, airlines, and far too many other businesses are severely affected. Churches and funeral homes have transitioned to live streaming or electronic worship. Meetings of more than ten people are prohibited.
No more appropriate word comes to mind but “Hosanna!” In Hebrew, Hosanna means “Save us now!” There is nothing more important than God’s saving grace. God alone can guide medical researchers, the manufacture of ventilators and protective personal equipment like masks, suits, and gloves, and the development of a vaccine to combat this virus. God alone can inspire our nation, its leaders, and dedicated medical professionals. God delivers us from slavery by sin and death. God delivers us from exile whenever we are separated from his side. God sent his Son down to earth from heaven to be our Savior and Redeemer.
On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem exactly the way God had planned it. He walked straight into the hands of his accusers not as a triumphant soldier with a vast army, but rather as the Savior on the back of a donkey. We should carefully read the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, where we find details about the arrival of the Coming King: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Originally, “Hosanna” represented a prayer of hope. The people of Israel longed for a powerful military leader, who would lead his army to deliver the people from Roman military occupation and severe taxation. Our financial situation in America, although very serious, pales in comparison to cruel eighty percent taxation from Rome. Any word of guerilla action or rebellion was immediately squashed and silenced by mass crucifixions, with up to one thousand men dying each day. Little wonder the crowd joined the disciples with shouts of loud Hosannas! They hoped for a king like King David, who would serve as their Messiah to save them.
When the crowd heard that the King was coming, their expectations climbed to a fevered pitch. Palm branches were waived, cloaks laid on the ground to honor the coming king, and they shouted with loud Hosannas. The foundation for their faith in God is clearly defined in scripture. Listen carefully as we review one powerful prayer of the faithful from Psalm 118:19-29:
Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise you, for you have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. God is the Lord, and he has given us light; bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, I will exalt you. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! For his mercy endures forever.”
We often lose sight of what happened next. We hurriedly skip from Palm Sunday to the Last Supper, to the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the trial before Pontius Pilate, and the crucifixion on Mount Calvary. Many other important events occurred as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Jesus went straight to the Temple, where he cleared the money changers’ tables and declared that “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Next, he healed the blind and lame who were gathered in the Temple courts as children praised him with loud Hosannas to the Son of David. The chief priests and teachers of the law were indignant, so Jesus returned to Bethany where he spent the night.
Early the next morning, Jesus cursed a fig which had produced no fruit. Do you suspect Jesus might curse churches today which produce no fruit? Next, Jesus returned to the Temple courts and began teaching the people. Once again the Jewish religious leaders became indignant, questioning his authority. Jesus’ response was priceless. He asked whether John the Baptist’s baptism in the wilderness came from heaven or from human origin. They wrestled with their answer. If they said, “From heaven,” Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe. If they said, “From human origin,” they would be insulting people who considered John to be a prophet. So they sheepishly answered Jesus, “We don’t know,” and Jesus did not reveal the source of his authority.
Next, Jesus taught the people with two parables: The Parable of the Two Sons to illustrate that even tax collectors and prostitutes repented of their sins and believed in him; and the Parable of the Tenants to illustrate that the religious leaders would perish for not producing good fruit. These priests and teachers of the law looked for an opportunity to arrest Jesus, but resisted because the crowds considered Jesus to be a prophet.
Jesus found opportunities to teach even more. He taught about the wedding banquet to emphasize that many are called, but few are chosen. How have we responded to his call? Next the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking him about paying taxes. Jesus answered, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Again, they were amazed by his words and left his side.
Then he taught about marriage at the Resurrection and baffled his listeners by teaching that there was no marriage in heaven, for we will all be like angels. He closed Chapter 22 by teaching about the Greatest Commandment and addressing this important issue: “Whose Son is the Messiah?” When Jesus finished this series of teachings, no one dared ask him any more questions. Jesus filled the rest of his days addressing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees for killing the prophets and stoning those sent to save them. He completed his remarks by saying, “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” That would be Palm Sunday. Now, you know the rest of the story!
We may not be together this Easter season, but we will be in God’s presence when we consider his passion, death, and resurrection. Remember that this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Take a moment to shout Loud Hosannas to the Coming King. Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. And all God’s people waving their palm branches said, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”