Faithlife Sermons

Palms Up

Lent '22  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:22
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Matthew 21:1–11 NRSV
1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Palm Sunday often feels like a long-awaited day of celebration in the season of Lent. We haven’t reached Easter yet, but getting to wave palm branches and shout “Hosanna!” still feels like a reprieve from the somber tones of fasting and repentance that have consumed the rest of the season. Yet we forget while we shout “hosanna” that the word is actually a cry of desperation that means, “Lord, please save us!” It is a plea for rescue. The people in the crowds that day weren’t singing songs of joy and worship in the ways that we typically think of those things; they were singing songs of liberation. They were an oppressed people who needed a savior—and not in a metaphorical sense but in a very real sense—because they were suffering, and they longed to be saved. Sometimes we ridicule the crowd from that day as though they missed the point of Jesus’s coming. We treat their expectation for a political revolutionary to come in and overthrow the current government as ludicrous. Yet wouldn’t anyone in their circumstances long for the same? And the truth is that, even though Jesus came in unexpected ways (peaceful instead of violent, humble instead of flashy), he did come to liberate them. His liberation was going to look very different from what they thought, but it was never meant to be about a spirituality that was separated from the physical suffering of the oppressed; it was meant to encompass all of it. If we aren’t careful, we can gloss over all of that reality when we try to rush to the praise and celebration of Palm Sunday. If we aren’t careful, we can gloss over our own realities, our own suffering and pain, our own need for a Savior in the entirety of our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical lives. We can gloss over the deep-hearted cries of “Hosanna!”—a humble, desperate cry for a Savior that we very much still need to be crying out in our world today.

The Disciples, The People and Jesus

Up to now, Jesus has had a close daily relationship with the disciples. He is trying to teach them everything about the life God intends for us. They pray with him, eat with him, travel with him, and minister alongside him to those in need.
Jesus’ ministry has increasingly become public and they probably sense that changes are coming. Jesus is teaching them to trust and obey even as they head into the final week of his life. So he gives them tasks to complete in preparation for his going public in Jerusalem. Sometimes having stuff to do for the Lord can keep us from overthinking it. So taking on responsibilities in a ministry can be a good way to fill some space and give structure to your relationship with Christ. We’ve got stuff you could do, if you’re looking for a way to serve.
The people were connecting to Jesus in their own way. They are hoping he is the answer to their prayers, instead of aligning their prayers with who Jesus came to be.

As Always, They wished for a King

It seems like God’s people are always looking for a human leader to fulfill their dreams. That continues down to today. We tend to look at politics as a way to protect our comfort. Jesus looks at leadership as a way to help the needy. He wasn’t craving earthly power. He wasn’t going to be everything these people wanted because they wanted some things that weren’t good for them. But on another level the people were right. He was the Messiah. He was sent by God. He was here to save them.
Matthew 21:9 NRSV
9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Hosanna was the cry—LORD, Save us! God, deliver us! Or in this context it’s almost like saying God’s deliverance to the Son of David. Or Lord, give the Son of David success in delivering us from our enemies! The Son of David being the King descended from David who would save them. They had the right guy. They had the right prayer. They weren’t thinking big enough.
Sometimes we zoom out when God is zooming in. Sometimes we are zooming in when God is zooming out. God always hears our cries. God always cares. But God is the one who gets to reframe our circumstances. These people were oppressed. They legitimately needed political deliverance. But Jesus was on a once and for all mission. He only had one shot to come into our world and deliver. Politics are always changing and different all over the world at any one time. What Jesus had to do was for all people in every nation under every authority and their children in every generation to come. Yeah you could say God was zooming out. To meet the needs of the whole human race. But it was the cry of a specific people, his own chosen people, that drew God’s loving action for us all. Our suffering matters. Justice matters. But human brokenness goes deeper than any temporary political solution. Jesus goes deeper than our pain and problems. But he also goes deeper that we ever dared to dream. What he offers us is life.
So here he comes a little man on a little donkey in a small vassal territory to a brutal empire. Its just no match really. It wasn’t even close. The Roman Empire and the Devil combined never. had. a chance!! They brought greed and weapons to a battle for the soul of a people. They brought hate which is no match for the power of holy love.
Jesus did call on people who had more to be generous. Jesus did call on leaders to not forget the poor. Jesus changed the lives of many who were lame and unable to work so they could get back to living. He planted seeds that would be the undoing of an empire based on greed, violence, and conquest. He showed us how to live with compassion and mercy. But the regime change he was going for was God enthroned in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. God who cares for everyone. God, to whom every earthly leader has to answer.
God can deliver all of us from every kind of oppression and darkness in life. Sometimes God moves on our circumstances and brings large scale change. More often God heals us and enables us to overcome despite the challenges. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. You can leave old patterns behind. You can find new pathways to follow. You can find a way through where there seemed to be no way. Where everything feels like a dead end, you can experience new life.
But all of it starts with Jesus coming into our world. Aren’t you glad he did? Hosanna! Take you branches again… Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!
His whole life is coming down to this final week. As Jesus entered into the city...
Matthew 21:7–8 NRSV
7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
Jesus was making the turn for home. He wouldn’t be sleeping in an earthly castle fit for a king. The shadow of the cross lingers over this scene. The noise, the chaos, the excitement was palpable, you could feel it all and more. There was no hiding who Jesus was. Those in power were not planning to lay it down. Jesus was willing to lay down even more power than they ever imagined. In strength and in love, Jesus stepped into history, stepped into his destiny. Things were happening now. It wouldn’t be long...

Holy Week

So as we stand at the head of another Holy Week, what’s your take on Jesus? Is he your Messiah? Is he the one you look to for forgiveness? with loyalty and obedience? Are you serving and preparing for him to be revealed in our world today? Then wave those branches and give thanks that the Son of David has come we are ready to celebrate and remember all he did for us. Make this a week of special devotion. Join us Friday night at 6:30pm as we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. Join us Sunday morning at 10am to celebrate the victory Jesus won at the empty tomb. What a week it’s going to be! Let Jesus be revealed to you for all that he is. Receive him as he is and bow in wonder and worship.
If you’re more like the crowd, still wanting Jesus to make your dreams come true, consider zooming out this morning. If your dreams are good ones, chances are there will be fulfilling moments ahead. But it begins with a head bowed in humility. Go ahead and wave your branches to today. But open yourself to the idea that Jesus has more for you than you realize. If you take all that he’s offering you’ll find a more fulfilling life. You, too could join us Friday night and Sunday morning. It might be a life-changing week for you...

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Let’s pray...
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