The Six Sunday in Lent – Palm Sunday April 14, 2019
Text: Luke 19:28-40 ILCW Series C 19:2124
Theme: Here Comes Heaven’s King
At this time of the year, the city burst with people. Everyone who could possibly get there came to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. If you have ever visited a city where a special festival is taking place, you know how the streets are jammed with people and traffic. The same was true for Jerusalem, although probably worse.
The streets in the old city were narrow, crooked, and steep. They were choked with people going to and fro from the temple… merchants hawking their wares…bulls, sheep, and goats being herded into the city for the sacrifices…paupers begging for alms from travelers…Roman soldiers in larger groups than normal, patrolling the streets lest rioting occurs. Anyone who could spare a room in his house rented it out to visitors. Many pilgrims spread their bed rolls on the flat roofs of the homes of friends or relatives. Some stayed in the open, in parks like the Garden of Gethsemane outside the city walls. Others found lodging in the many nearby smaller villages. Activity choked the city of Jerusalem at Passover time.
It had been like this every year for many centuries. But this year something special was added. There was extra excitement in the air for nearly everyone had heard of the miracle working Rabbi, called Jesus. Just a few weeks before this, He had raised a dead man back to life who had been buried for 4 days. Unbelievable! Many reliable witnesses saw it and said it was so.
Would He come to the festival? Some doubted, for there were rumors afoot of the secret plans of the Jewish authorities to have Jesus arrested. Suddenly the shout rang out: “He’s on His way from Bethany.” The news spread like wild-fire throughout the city. People rushed through the gates to see for themselves this One who spoke like no other man ever did, and who performed miracles impossible for man to do.
And what did they see? A glorious king, arrayed in scarlet and cloth of gold, astride a snow-white horse, preceded by trumpeting heralds, and followed by marching soldiers? That would be a sight a visitor might expect to see – a king coming to lead them in battle, a king coming to drive out the hated Roman conquerors, a king coming to restore the fortunes of the Jewish people to where they had been of old. There was wonder and excitement in the air as the
people rushed to see Him.
Oh, they saw a king alright, but not the kind of king they expected, for this King commanded not just the hands of His subjects, but He commanded their hearts. He ruled not by sword and bow, but by His redeeming love. He won His kingdom not by fighting earthly wars, but by calling to repentance and by preaching the Good News of a Savior from sin – a Savior was coming to die for His people.
Oh, they saw a king alright, but not a king riding a horse with a saddle of the finest tooled leather and bejeweled reins. No, He was coming on a donkey, barely a year old, the animal of poor men, used to plow the fields and carry all kinds of burdens. The donkey did not even belong to this King. He was so poor that He had to borrow the lowly beast for His grand entrance into the city. He had no saddle to sit on, so His friends took off their coats and laid them on the donkey’s back to soften the ride.
Surprise struck many at the sight, perhaps some disappointment, and for the Jewish authorities, scorn and hatred. Still His disciples and others were acclaiming His arrival to the earthly city of God with loud shouts of praise. They took off their coats and laid them on the ground to provide a royal carpet for Him as He passed by. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road before Him.
“Hosanna!” They shouted. “The Lord saves! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” All, both friend and foe, would repeat those very words from Psalm 118 just 4 days later in the Passover celebration. Did they understand what they were really saying?
The procession grew larger as it drew near to the city. Shouts of praise were heard throughout the streets. The commotion shook the whole city (Mt.21:10). Some citizens shook with excitement, but many shook with fear – fear of the religious authorities and what they would say of this man and anyone who followed Him, for the authorities despised Him to the point of planning to get rid of Him. “Teacher!” they cried. “Tell your followers to stop shouting like that!” They thought it blasphemy to be using that psalm in praise of Jesus. Little did they comprehend that the Passover psalm was about Jesus, the Lamb of God who was coming to take away the sins of the world. Such glad news could not be stopped, and if the authorities would try to stop it, the Lord Himself would let the stones give testimony to the Gospel. Dead stones would come alive with praise
to God when living hearts were cold as stone to Him.
So our Savior was proclaimed heaven’s King that day so long ago. No person ever deserved such royal praise more than He did.
Years ago, in our time, when the queen of England visited here, the city officials where she landed rolled out a red carpet for her. In a similar way when I was a boy, I remember the church would lay out a white runner which ran down the center aisle up to the altar for a bride and a groom on which to walk on their wedding day. Those are ways that people are welcomed and honored on a special day.
On Palm Sunday some of Jerusalem’s citizens rolled out the so-called red carpet for Jesus. Some carpeted the street with their cloaks. Others cushioned it with branches cut from the fields. We can only speculate how many of them recognized Jesus as their promised Savior. Even the 12 disciples had difficulty. We do know that by Friday many of Jerusalem’s inhabitants called for His blood to run on Calvary’s cross. And yet He came, unprompted by them.
We can’t prompt Him to enter our hearts anymore than Jerusalem prompted Him to enter their city. What did those people do to get Jesus to enter there? They did nothing. He came on His own accord without them doing anything. And when they finally came out to meet Him, He had already begun His entrance there. He came freely, un-commanded, of His own. In such a way He comes to each of our hearts through Word and Sacrament, for He knows He must enter there.
And when He comes, when He takes over our hearts, when the Holy Spirit leads us to see and understand Jesus’ loving determination to save us, then we ought to respond to the mighty things He has done for us.
Red-carpet treatment – that’s what our Savior deserves from us every day. Heaven’s King of love did not draw back, but He came so that by His wounds we might be healed. He should have my undying adoration. Heaven’s King of love came so that He could rise from the grave to prove that His blood paid for all my sin. He has a right to unending royal treatment from me. Heaven’s King of love will one day come again to receive to Himself all who trust in Him, elevating them to rule with Him in glory. He expects me to treat Him like my gracious ruler every day.
I’d better not criticize the citizens of Jerusalem or the disciples for so quickly rolling up the red carpet they had given Jesus that day. I do the same all too frequently. Better by far it is for me to ask my King to come and help me keep the red carpet rolled out for Him always.
So, as He comes, dear friend, do not overlook Him. And after He has come, openly show to the world that you have a holy, important, and heavenly guest in you. It’s your Savior. It’s heaven’s King come for you. God grant it in our lives of faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.