John 12:12-19 (Palm Sunday)                                             

St. John, Galveston 4/10/2022

Rev. Alan Taylor

 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

 

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The traditional Palm Sunday service has been joined with the Passion narrative from the Gospels for some time now. Thus, today is both Palm Sunday and the Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion. The reason for the change was that we have seen fewer people attending Good Friday Services over the years. The addition of the Passion Narrative then allows that Gospel to be shared with more people. That said, the message this morning focus’ on the traditional Palm Sunday text, Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, as recorded in John 12.

People were crowded into Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. It was an annual festival that commemorated God’s deliverance of His people from their bondage in Egypt. Centuries earlier, by the command of God, the angel of death went through the land of Egypt and struck down the first born of every household. God, however, provided a way of escape, a way of salvation for the faithful.  They were to slaughter an unblemished lamb and spread its blood around the doorposts to the entrance to their home. The angel would see the blood on their doorpost and “Passover” the house, thus, sparing those inside the awful agony of the curse of death. 

It was during the frantic preparations that Jesus made His grand entry into the holy city. Though the people were there to celebrate the festival, they held diverse opinions about Jesus. Some people in the crowd thought of Him as a deliverer like Moses. That is, they believed that He was sent by God to right political wrongs. Remember, the Egyptians held the Israelites in bondage for 400 years. For some, it seemed like it was Rome’s turn to rule over them, a situation that many were none too happy about. In that sense, they saw Jesus as the New Moses.   

As He made His way into the city, the people cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Of course, you couldn’t tell who THEY were, that is, those who were disappointed with Jesus, but they knew who they were. They knew they wanted to define Jesus’ life and mission in their own way. They knew they weren’t interested in a spiritual kingdom. No, they wanted something more visible and more tangible. Ultimately, they wanted a king they could point to with pride and say, ‘now, THERE is a King!’ ‘There is OUR King!’ 

It was with those expectations in the hearts of many that Jesus entered the city riding on the back of a donkey. Some in the crowd must have already begun to have doubts about Him and about His Kingdom. Here they were crying out, Hosanna, which, by the way, means, “Lord, save us, please!!” How though could this humble servant of God save them!? How could He save anyone!? Indeed, in the days ahead, it would be become quite evident that He couldn’t even save Himself!

It’s true, God vested in the garments of humility and of servanthood, crowned with thorns and writhing in agony upon the cross, leaves us having to conceive of His Kingdom of God in a different way. It forces us, if you will, to re-evaluate virtually every aspect of our lives as His dear children. Central to that re-evaluation is the realization that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. It’s a realization that often frustrates our utopian dreams and aspirations. It’s a realization that forces us to look beyond this world to the life of the world to come.   

Still, on this Palm Sunday, as did the ancients, we cry out to our God, saying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Indeed, “Lord, Save Us, please!!” 

Save us, though, from what? Save us from the guilt and the eternal condemnation of our sin. That we might be set free from the worst bondage of all, the bondage of sin and death, take our sins upon yourself, become what you were not that we might be what we were not. Grant us, we pray, your holy absolution, those words and promise that conquer our guilt and send fleeing the troubles that harm and oppress our souls. Let the words, “I forgive you,” ring in our ears with a certainty that cannot be denied, or, forgotten. Yes, Lord, save us from the guilt and eternal condemnation of our sin.

Save us from setting our minds on things below, rather than on things above. This place where we live is our abode, but it’s not our home, our eternal home. Save us, therefore, from holding too firmly to the pleasures and the comforts of this world. Indeed, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, (help us to) think about (such) things.” Yes, Lord, save us from setting our minds on things below, rather than on things above.

Save us too from being disillusioned with Your Kingdom and with Your reign over our lives. It’s true, in Your Kingdom, we live under the Cross.  As our Lord has said, “If we are to come after Him, we must take up our cross and follow Him.” We suffer in this world, not simply because the world has fallen into sin and is broken, but because, in our baptisms, we have been marked with the sign of the cross on our foreheads and on our hearts. That cross is like a big bullseye, if you will, for the devil. He pursues us, he pursues you precisely because you are not your own. Rather, you are a holy priest in the Kingdom of God. Indeed, “From the days of John the Baptist, until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” So, save us, Lord, from being disillusioned with Your Kingdom and with Your reign over our lives.     

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Lord, save us, please!  In His grace and mercy, God, in Christ, has saved you from those things that would hinder you from living joyfully and fruitfully in His Kingdom. But he also has saved you, not simply from those things that would harm you, but to something, namely, to a holy purpose.

It is critically important for you to know that you serve a valuable purpose in the Kingdom of God. You are God’s ambassador, His priest wherever He has planted you. As such, your life is meaningful, it filled with a sacred purpose. Indeed, as the Apostle writes, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 

Luther wrote extensively about the Christian and his or her various vocations in life. The fact that God saved you to something is what Luther emphasized in his writings on Vocation. Whether you are a mother, a father, a grandparent, a friend, an employee, you are a holy priest in those various vocations, put there to serve God by serving others. So, you have been saved from those things that would harm you, but you have also been saved to a life of service in Christ. 

And so, as our King comes to us today, the cry goes forth from our lips. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  “Lord, Save Us, please!” 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +