March 25, 2018: Palm Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You have told us that “God humbles the proud but exalts the humble.”  Since Your Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem is marked with humility, and since Your resurrection is all about exaltation, we see just how true that statement is from Your life.  Today, set us on the road to humility, too, so that by Your grace we can also attain exaltation. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR HUMBLE KING!

TEXT:  Luke 19: 28-40

Dearly Beloved By Christ:  

Palm Sunday is a study in contrasts.  In fact, most of the Bible is a study in contrasts: light vs. darkness; love vs. hate; the seemingly weak vs. the strong and powerful; mortality vs. immortality; human glory vs. the shame of the cross; and of course, pride vs. humility.  And paradoxically to the human mind, God always seems to take the opposite side of where we would expect Him to be. This reminds us that the ways of God are far different than the ways of sinful human beings.

I

It was about a week before the great Passover celebration.  Pilgrims from around the world came to Jerusalem for their once-in-a-lifetime celebration of this event.  The population swelled so much that the city could not hold the crowds. So, they camped out around the outskirts of the city walls.  Thousands of people were climbing out of their bedrolls, eating breakfast, and generally waking up. It was Sunday, Palm Sunday.

Jesus had stayed the night, probably at the home of Mary and Martha, along with the newly resurrected Lazarus.  The disciples are following Christ into the city as the dawn rises. Two of them are instructed to go ahead and find a little donkey colt which has never been ridden and bring it back with them.  Jesus even tells them what to say to the owner so that he agrees to this. And lo and behold, it plays out exactly as the Lord prophesied.

They come closer to the city by the Mt. of Olives road.  The disciples take off their cloaks, pile them on the colt creating a make-shift saddle and “put Jesus on it.”  They start down the hill towards the mass of campers and “As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.”  What a unique sight this must have been? And amazingly, it was all spontaneous! There were no advance men to plan it out.  There were no followers stirring up the crowd. It all just happened. It was the Lord’s doing, the will of the Almighty caused it all.

II

Never in the annals of history has any King ridden into His capital sitting on a humble donkey colt.  A war horse? Yes! A chariot? Yes. But a little beast of burden? Yet, it’s fitting, isn’t it? For the Lord Himself was the ultimate bearer of all humanity’s burdens and sorrows.  He was carrying the sins of us all.

Luke adds an interesting note: “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.”  The disciples were caught up in the moment. They didn’t comprehend the extent of what was going to happen over the next few days, but they just knew that this moment in time was exciting and celebratory. The began the chant: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”  In essence, it was the same song sung by the angels at Bethlehem 33 years before. The Miracle Worker, the King, was coming to save His people not in pomp and grandiose power, but in humility and gentleness. He was coming to free them from the almost ageless burden of sin, alienation from God, and death. His miracles had given them glimpses into this golden age of the Gospel.  And now they were welcoming it, even though they didn’t fully grasp it all—yet.

The crowd begins to join in the chant.  More cloaks are strewn in the road to cushion His journey.  Palm branches are stripped from the trees, waved in the air, and the roar of the crowd builds and builds.  As always, naysayers are present in the form of some Pharisees. They yell at Jesus: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”  But Jesus simply tells them: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Yes, God is all powerful. His Son is all powerful.  Jesus alone is worthy of honor and praise—especially as He begins His campaign to vanquish Satan and death. All creation has been groaning in pain and waiting for this moment of deliverance since Adam and Eve’s fall.  God will not be denied. If no people sing His praises—then He’ll make the stones do so! Yes, the study in contrasts between human expectations and Godly reality drips from every word of Luke’s account.

III

But, we’re not there, we’re here in cold Massachusetts.  We have no Christ riding to meet us. We have no palm trees.  We have no grandiose setting fit for a King, either. So, what do we have?  We have our sins. We have our mortality. We have our pride. And yet, this exact same King comes to us right here today!  He comes to meet us, to greet us, to save us, to comfort us, and to lead us to the heavenly city. How? Again, it’s a study in contrasts.  Christ promises to be with us with His loving presence and forgiving voice in the humble words of the Gospel, in the humble waters of Baptism, in the humble elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.  Just like those Pharisees of old, the world scoffs at this. Just like that donkey colt, the world scorns such simple tools of carrying God’s Love to us. But they are the means God has chosen of conveying His unmatched grace, His eternal loving, His forgiving heart, to each of us.  Yes, the Gospel in its various forms is the “power of God unto salvation to all who believe.” Since God’s means of grace are simple and humble, they can be rejected by humans. If you hang on to your pride and think you understand how God should be, rather than what He really is, this will be the result.  But, if, by that same Grace you humble yourself before Him, grasp hold of Him, praise Him with your whole being—well, then your exaltation will follow.

The older I get, the more I appreciate what my sainted Prof. Glenn Reichwald used to say: “Knowledge cubed.”  That is, the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know—in a cubed form.—3 to 9 to 81 to infinity.  In other words, true knowledge humbles you, if you’re honest. True knowledge isn’t about skyscrapers, bullet trains, computers, apps, algorithms, or artificial intelligence.  It isn’t about human achievements. None of that takes away the stress of mortality, instead it contributes to it. No, true knowledge is about timeless truth. The truth that God died for my sins.  That God suffered to save me from such an eternal fate. That God rose from my grave to make me alive eternally with Christ! And that God always uses simplicity to overcome evil because “God is love.”  The first Palm Sunday worshippers were given such insights and responded accordingly. Today, you’ve been given such insights, too. Yes, our humble God humbles the proud and our resurrected Lord exalts the truly humble.  Hallelujah! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! Amen