Summary: 12th in a Lenten Series on Psalm 51
Psalm 51:12 3/25/18 (Palm Sunday) (Create in Me a Clean Heart #12) “The Joy of Salvation”
I’m sure I’ve said before that Palm Sunday was a weird, weird day. The Bible says that as Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, Jesus was on a donkey, fulfilling a prophecy of Zechariah that the Messiah would come in this way. Jesus’ popularity had been growing and the crowds had been waiting to see if He would come to Jerusalem for the Passover even though the Sanhedrin was out to get Him. So once people caught sight of him they began to get more and more excited and started spreading their cloaks on the road before Him, and the Bible says that:
Slide: “…the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”” (Luke 19:37–38 NIV)
John adds that:
Slide: “They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!’” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!”” (John 12:13 NIV)
Again Matthew says that:
Slide: “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”” (Matthew 21:9 NIV)
And there are some big clues here that show us what kind of celebration they were staging. Palm branches (circle) were a symbol of victory for the winners of contests and for Kings. The word “Hosanna” (circle) means “The Lord save!” “Save us, God.” And how did they hope that was going to happen? “The Son of David!” (circle). Again, Jesus had been going about his public ministry for three years. They knew who he was. They knew He was a descendant of David. Often those who were sick would cry out to Him, “Have mercy on us, Son of David”, and they knew that God had promised King David that: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:16 NIV)
So, they were looking for that kingdom to come back and even named Jesus, the Son of David, as the “King of Israel” (circle)
It was truly a big moment that we echo here with the Palms and the Palm Sunday reading. Because of course, Jesus IS the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He deserves all of that praise and more. At the same time we know that
Slide: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41–42 NIV)
There’s a reason that Jesus wept while everybody else was filled with joy. He knew their joy was misplaced. The “joy of salvation” they wanted was salvation from the yoke of Rome. They liked thinking of David because he had beaten back the Philistines and finally conquered the Promised Land. And they wanted all that back. They wanted a new King to rise up and conquer the Romans and give them back their glory days. So, they wanted the David that beat Goliath and established the kingdom, they didn’t want the David on his knees, repenting of his sin and begging God for mercy.
David could have told them – and tried to tell them and us in Psalm 51, that the true joy of salvation was not to be had that way, but in the salvation that only God could bring to the sin-sick soul. The joy of being forgiven of our sins and restored as God’s child. But they couldn’t see it. So they totally missed who Jesus Really was and what He came to bring them.
That’s why I fully embrace the two different emphases the church has given to this day: Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion, so that we too don’t lose ourselves in the Palms. That’s why we also hand out the Palm crosses. And by the way, you can take a strip of the other Palms that we have at the entrance to the Sanctuary and jump on Pinterest to find out how to fold them into crosses yourself. It’s good and right that we should shout our “Hosannas!” and give to Jesus all the praise He deserves. But at the same time, we know how the week ended: with shouts of “Crucify”. And with the beating and scourging and crucifixion of Jesus. And with Jesus on the cross, crying out: “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” And of course, they didn’t.