Sunday, March 24, 2024

After the Parade

 Matthew 21:1-9

And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me.  And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them."  Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'"

And the disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid on them their garments, on which He sat.  And most of the multitude spread their garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees, and spreading them in the road. And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!"

Sermon for Palm Sunday                                                   03/24/24

After the Parade

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We have all heard of Palm Sunday.  Most of us have heard it preached about time and time again.  Generally, we know the story.  What we often miss is why the story is significant.  Many churches do pageantry and wave palm leaves and, when there is a large Sunday School, we think it is cute to have the children's parade during the service, usually during the first hymn.  What we want to consider this morning is what makes this day significant - and what makes Palm Sunday significant, and the Palm Sunday ride important is really what happens after the parade.  So our theme this morning is, After the Parade.

Of course, we want to refresh ourselves on the details of the Palm Sunday ride.  It happened during the holy season.  Palm Sunday occurred just before the Passover.  The Jews didn't call it Palm Sunday back then, of course, that is the Christian designation for the day.  It simply happened the beginning of the week which would, that year, conclude with the Passover.  Like Easter, Passover was a moveable feast.  It depended on which day the New moon occurred in a specific month.

Crowds were descending on Jerusalem for this holiest of all holidays in the Jewish church.  Passover was the day of salvation.  They celebrated God's rescue from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.   They commemorated by word and deed – which included the holy Passover Seder – the miraculous deeds of God.  In the Passover, God sent the Angel of Death to strike down the first born of Egypt – and He caused the Angel of Death to pass over the Children of Israel who trusted in the promise of God and marked their doors with the blood of the lamb.  In the Seder they shared the bread of haste that the children of Israel had known on the first Passover because of how swiftly they had to leave Egypt after God's mighty acts, and the bitter herbs which symbolized for them the bitterness of slavery in Egypt, and the meat of the lamb which the children of Israel ate for the first time in this fashion at the first Passover.  They ate lamb because the lamb had been killed to provide the blood which marked their doors to protect them from the angel of death – and because God commanded them to do so.

For the Jews in those days, the Passover was like Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter all rolled up into one – except that, by the time of Jesus, they had lost the sense of wonder at it all, and had lost any awareness of the spiritual dimension of it, and they and let it become a day of obligation rather than the day of utter joy that it was intended to be.  But observing it filled Jerusalem, and so the crowds who had come to the holy city to join in the ancient celebration were gathered.

And they were primed by the modern sense – modern for those days – of the nearness of the Messiah, and the longing for freedom from foreign domination, and a religious fervor which cried out not so much in hope as in desperation.  They were looking for the Messiah, even though they did not often understand what the Messiah was really about.  They pictured another political rescue by another purely political leader.  They imagined Israel would rise as a political power and crush her enemies and then every lust of the flesh would be granted to Israel to demonstrate their favored relationship with the Almighty.

And strange things were happening in their day.  There seemed to be an awful lot of demonic signs and possessions.  Then there were new preachers and prophets – first John, now Jesus – and there were other prophets and Messianic pretenders about whom history tells us, even if they are only hinted at in the Bible.  The time was right, the crowds were gathered, the religious atmosphere was primed, and Jesus got up on that donkey and rode into Jerusalem like a king of ancient Israel on a coronation ride – and suddenly everything came together, just as God planned, to form the coronation ride of Jesus.

The leaders of the Temple complained.  Jesus told them that it couldn't be helped.  If the crowds were silenced, the very stones along the path would have to cry out.  This was not a natural event, but God's work.  He arranged the coronation ride of the King, the Messiah whom no one would recognize and no one would claim, but who was true King and Savior none the less.  The cry was the coronation cry of Israel, Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Although the crowd cried it out in glee and in religious fervor, it seemed as though they did so without understanding the true meaning of the words, but the words really said a great deal.  "Hosanna" – "Hoshia - ah - na" means "Grant salvation now!" or simply "save us now!"  And that is what Jesus had come to do, more fully than they could have anticipated, more completely than they had desired.  They called Him "the son of David."  They understood that the title was a royal title.  They were calling Him the rightful King of Israel, a title for which He would be crucified in less than a week.  But they probably overlooked the Messianic meaning of the words.  They were probably not thinking about the Old Testament promises of the one who would be called "Immanuel", who would take on their sins and die in their place.  But those things are the things which happened after the parade.

They didn't seem to think about the Suffering Servant, come to be Messiah, Savior, and King, but that is who Jesus was – and is.  And this parade was His coronation ride.  It was not of any earthly, political value.  It was not valid in the eyes of the governments of the time.  But it was of eternal and heavenly significance.  For a moment in time, God's people heralded God's Anointed Messiah and proclaimed Him King of Israel and Savior of the World.  They threw their cloaks in His path and formed a spontaneous parade to welcome Him into the holy city.  After the parade, He would ascend His throne.

But it would not be a throne of gold and cushions and comfort and political or military power, it would be a throne of pain and suffering and sorrow and death.  It would be the throne of the cross.  And His crown would be a crown of thorns pressed brutally into His scalp.  His royal robes would be torn from Him and offered as the prize in a game of chance, and His scepter would be a sprig of hyssop with a sponge soaked in soured wine mixed with a common pain-killer from which He would not even permit Himself to drink.  His royal court would be mockers and mourners and two convicted felons, and He would be firmly fastened hand and foot to His throne of agony with large nails.  Just a week later, those who heralded Jesus as King would reject God as their King and claim only Caesar.

This series of events actually began in Bethlehem, and would not be finished until the King ascended His throne and conquered all His enemies, as all the prophets and so many of the Psalms predicted.  And the last enemy to be utterly defeated, the Bible tells us, is death.  His resurrection showed us His victory over sin and death and Satan.  And the good news for us is that He wants to share His victory with us.  He has conquered death.  He has redeemed us from sin.  He has paid the penalty and borne the wrath of God in our place.  His resurrection is the evidence that it is complete and sufficient.

That is why it is so horrible when those who would call themselves Christian teachers try to suggest – or say boldly – that Jesus did not actually rise physically from the grave.  Without the resurrection, there is no Gospel.  That is why the unbelieving world always attacks this foundation truth.  Without the resurrection, there is no forgiveness of sins.  Without the resurrection there is no hope of heaven.  Without Jesus rising from the grave, we have no reason to expect that we will either – and no demonstration of His power to make it happen for us.

But now Jesus has risen from the dead.  It happened after the parade.  Now it is our turn to pick up the palm branches and cry aloud the coronation praise of our King.  He approaches His throne in our lessons once again.  We will celebrate again the events of that holy week so long ago that worked our salvation.  Your sins and mine, paid for and forgiven.  The promises are for us as well – forgiveness and resurrection from our graves and life everlasting in glory with Jesus.  He that believes and is baptized shall be saved!  

And to think, the best part of all of this happened after the parade!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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