Summary: Sermon dealing with what Palm Sunday looks at and what Passion Sunday sees. And showing how neither means anything - - without the cross.
MARK 11:1-11a [Christian Standard Bible]
‘When they approached Jerusalem, at Bethpage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples and told them, “Go into the village ahead of you. As soon as you enter it, you will find a young donkey tied there, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’
So they went and found a young donkey outside in the street, tied by a door. They untied it, and some of those standing there said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the donkey?’ They answered them just as Jesus had said, so they let them go. Then they brought the donkey to Jesus and threw their robes on it, and He sat on it. Many people spread their robes on the road, and others spread leafy branches cut from the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting,
“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
And He went into Jerusalem and into the temple complex.’
As I said this morning, today is Palm Sunday. It is the day that the Christian church celebrates the beginning of Jesus’ last week on earth. We get the name "Palm” Sunday because some of the older translations said that as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the disciples laid down palm fronds on the road ahead of the donkey. Some of the translations today that go back to the earliest Greek and Hebrew texts refer to them as “leafy branches cut from the fields.” Now, it is not as important what they laid down as it is the reason they laid them there.
In the culture of their day, a king would ride into town on a horse if he wanted the people to know that he was ready for war and that he was their warrior king. However, when a king rode into town on a donkey, that symbolized the time of peace was at hand. Jesus chose a donkey to show that the time for peace and love had come. The people were awaiting the king, but most of them thought the king would be an earthly king that would readily protect Jerusalem from all enemies. Jesus, however, came as a king of peace. And they threw the branches in from of Him as a symbol that they accepted Him and worshiped Him as their king.
I think preachers from all over the world have had some difficulty with today’s sermons, because today is also known as “Passion Sunday.” Do we preach on the palms, or do we preach on the passions? If I preach about “Palm Sunday”, I would have to mention about people traveling great distances just to hail Jesus as king of the Jews. I would have to talk about how they laid down branches in front of Jesus as he made His way to Jerusalem. I would have to tell you about how happy they were to see Him. How they were so excited they literally took the coats off their backs and laid them in front of Jesus, too.
If I preached about “Palm Sunday”, I would have to talk about how these events fulfilled the prophecies of long ago. The prophecies that Zechariah foretold about the king who would ride into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey and how the people went crazy with hope that they would be saved from the cruel Roman Empire. And they sang. And, if I were to preach about “Palm Sunday”, I would have to tell you how this day was like none before. It was a day of great hope for people who had lived in hopelessness.
But on the other hand, if I preached about “Passion Sunday”, I would have to tell you a very different story. I would have to tell you that this parade was really a funeral procession. This day marked the beginning of the end; the week of betrayal; and the week that would end in suffering and death.
If I preached about “Passion Sunday”, I would tell you the stories of the last supper, and how Jesus shared with his disciples those things he wanted them to remember most. I would share with you the familiar stories of the arrest, the torture, and the crucifixion. If I were to preach on the passion, these would be the stories I would tell.
Once a young farm boy lived on the outskirts of town. He was coming home from school one day and saw some men putting up a poster on a fence. He hung around until they finished, and then he went over to read it. It told of a real live circus coming to town; one that had animals and everything!