Sermon for Palm Sunday, AD 2021

Matthew 21:1-9; 26:1-27:66

Today begins Holy Week. Why is it holy? It is holy because we set this week apart to hear and remember Jesus’ suffering and death for our sins, His Passion. This so we can look forward to and understand all the more the joy of Easter, Christ’s resurrection. So why is it a week? Well, for one thing these events did take place over a week. Jesus’ triumphal entry was on Sunday, His Last Supper the following Thursday, crucified Friday, and then rose again very early Sunday morning the next week.
           
The week is the only time period that doesn’t correspond to any natural phenomenon. The day follows the rotation of the earth, the month the phases of the moon, and the year the revolution around the sun. Yet, “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The week was brought in as God created the heavens and the earth. He took six days to create everything, and then rested on the seventh. So God set the standard for the week, and no other creature on earth but man uses the week.
           
It is no wonder then that when it comes to the most important event in human history, it takes place over a week. History was created by God so He could come into it as Jesus Christ, God and man. The week was created so Jesus could live out His passion, be crucified, rest on the seventh day, and rise on a new first day, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the day of resurrection. Everything, even time itself, is prepared by God for this moment. Christ’s passion is the culmination of human history.
           
Jesus shows this by sending his disciples ahead of him, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” If it were any of us doing this, it would seem to be theft, but this is not the case with Jesus. For He knows this donkey and colt have been prepared for their Lord’s entry, that the man who is also the God who created them is to ride on them today. The owner will not resist. For this took place because the Lord had need, to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah.
           
Later, Jesus says to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Nothing about this take Jesus unaware. Again, he sends the disciples before Him and says, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ No more planning is needed than that for Jesus to have a place for His Last Supper. All follows God’s perfect will.
           
Consider how easily Jesus prepared for His death. He could send His disciples to ask and have anything done for Him. Had he decided His kingship would be of this world, he could have raised up armies and made leaders follow His commands. Jesus did not submit to His death because He had to, because any man could have forced Him to. He submitted to His death because He submitted to His Father’s will, that will which they shared in love to have compassion on sinful human beings like you and I.
           
Jesus had entered Jerusalem many times before, but He came this time, on a donkey to fulfill the scripture and show His intention toward us. As the prophet wrote, Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. You, believer, are the daughter of Zion. The king is coming, but not in conquest. He is coming humbly. He is the burden which the donkey is carrying, and He has come to bear the burdens of the whole world. As the people wave their palms and throw their cloaks before Jesus, saying “Hosanna!” they don’t know what they are saying. They know what kind of king they want, a mighty conquering king, but this is not the kind of king they need. Jesus is the Son of David, not to conquer a piece of land for their people, but to conquer sin, death, and the devil.
           
This would not be done by force, as Jesus rebuked the disciple who cut off the servants’ ear, Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so? Do what they will, bring swords and clubs against Him, beat Him and mock Him, this is not the way Jesus will be conquered. All this follows His Father’s plan. For He takes on our shame, our hurts, and every temptation that we face, as a man. He bears the scars on His own body.
           
The devil, who was defeated in the temptation, must have made a last-ditch effort through His pupils before the cross that Friday. “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Jesus would not save Himself. In so doing, the temple of His body would be rebuilt in three days. So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Jesus would not listen to their lies. He could leave the cross, but He would not because He is the Son of God.
           
For the truest sign ever made was the one put by Pilate on the cross – “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” There, as Jesus cried out from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He took on the sins of the world and the Father turned away. All of God’s wrath was put on Jesus, all the punishment you deserve for your sins. For God willed all this to be done because you put Him there. Your sins caused His beating, nailed Him to the cross, caused His suffering. You like the people who praised Him on Palm Sunday have turned away from Him, even opposed Him in your sin.
           
What He responds to you is love. The love that would send Him to the cross. The love that would bear all things just to save you. For just as the mocking priests could not make Jesus come down from the cross, neither could your sin overcome His mercy and grace, now that He has paid for it. This cross means Jesus died for you, Jesus loves you, and you are forgiven.
           
After all, God created the very week for you, most of all the holiest of weeks where Christ was sent to suffer and die for our sin. The week ended with his rest in the tomb, but there is a new week, a new Sunday that follows. The day of resurrection. His grace never runs out. He is the reigning king who wishes to give you all good things. So we gather on the day of His resurrection. Every week. And we sing hosanna to our king who comes to us in His Word and body and blood. Every week. For in our baptism we have begun our resurrection with Him, and now we see that the cry of Hosanna to the one who comes in, with, and under bread and wine means that He is our Lord now and forever.

Come, let us greet the one who comes in all humility and keep the feast in sincerity and truth. Amen.

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