Summary: A Palm Sunday sermon illustraing the turn of events from the joyful shouts of "Hosanna" on Palm Sunday to "Crucify Him" on Good Friday.
As some of you may be aware, today has two names on the church calendar. Most of you know today by it’s more common name, Palm Sunday. It’s the day the Sunday School children process into the church, waving their palm branches, and we as a congregation sing “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna”, remembering the cries of that first Palm Sunday crowd. The cry “Hosanna”, meaning, “save us now!” It’s a picture of victory, of joy! A procession fit for a king! Even the religious leaders of the day at the site of this crowd and hearing their shouts of “save us now!” can see what’s going on, how popular Jesus is at this moment, to the point of making the remark “You see that we gain nothing, look, the whole world has gone after him!”
Yet today is also called Passion Sunday. Quite a change from the Palm Sunday parade. As you will have noticed in our readings for today, the events of that week in Jerusalem take a strange, unexpected turn. Who in that crowd on that first Palm Sunday would imagine that just 5 days later, the crowds that were crying out “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” who welcomed Jesus into their city with palm branches and laid out their coats on the road, would turn into a vicious, bloodthirsty mob. The shouts by Friday would turn to “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” As far as the claims of him being a king, they claim “We have no king but Caesar!” Indeed, quite a change from the beginning of the week, wouldn’t you say?
We’ve marked both events today during our service. We started our service by hearing the Gospel account of that first Palm Sunday. We saw the Palm braches wave, we heard the cries of “Hosanna”; we joined in the joyful song of those people in that Palm Sunday crowd. But then, our service took a dramatic turn, as we turned our attention to the Passion gospel, which you heard read from Matthew’s account this year. Instead of joyful hymns of “Hosanna”, we sing words set to more somber tones, verses of hymns like “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. The two themes sure seem like complete opposites, don’t they? Can they possibly be about the same guy?
In addition to today being Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday, it also marks the beginning of Holy Week, the week of the church year where we focus on Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem. Through the scripture readings and sermons you’ll hear this week, you’ll be transported back to Jerusalem, 2000 years ago, and you’ll be going various places. We already started by being a part of that Palm Sunday crowd, shouting our praises to our King, riding triumphantly into King David’s city! As the week progresses, we’ll go with Jesus to the upper room, see Him institute the sacrament of Holy Communion, pray in the Garden, be betrayed by one of his disciples, arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified. We’ll see a LOT of evil go on in these events. People at their worst moments. We’ll be called to ponder all of this, and ask, so, what’s this week all about?
As you go through Holy Week this year, I’m going to encourage you to see yourself in each of the places we’ll visit. As you do, you’ll realize that at times, we’re all a part of that fickle crowd in Jerusalem. We’ll find at times, we’re ready to praise Jesus so loud, no one can keep us quiet. We’ll also find that because of our sin, we also abandon Jesus. We don’t always speak up for our faith when we should. We don’t always acknowledge that we’re children of God by the things we say, do, or think. We’ll find a bit of Judas in us, willing to betray our Lord for whatever type of silver sin sets in front of us, and we’ll find it’s our sin that condemns him to be nailed to the cross. We’re going to find that in reality, while it’s so easy for us to be angry with those who treated our Savior so badly that week in Jerusalem, that if we were there, we wouldn’t be any better.
But, we also know that the ugly sights, horrific sounds, the undeniable pain that our Savior suffers, is not for Himself, but it’s for us and for our sins. When we look at the cross on Good Friday, and the road that leads us there, we’ll see that Jesus walked that road for you and for me. He did it so that we can be sinless, spotless before our God. We’ll see that there’s no more beautiful, no more important week in our lives, than this week, Holy Week. It’s a journey that I look forward to taking each year, and I pray you’ll join me in taking that journey with me.