Summary: A sermon for Palm Sunday
Oftentimes when we read through the passages in Scripture, we come to passages that seem to be out of place. And every year as I come to Palm Sunday, I come to this passage that seems to be so out of place. The story itself is one of the most beautiful pictures in all of Scripture, beautiful in its remarkable simplicity. We see Jesus Christ, the carpenter from Nazareth humbly entering the city of Jerusalem, entering the city on a borrowed colt, like so many of the other simple people who entered the city on that day. And as he enters there are crowds of people strewing cloaks in his way. They are going out into the fields and cutting big leafy branches from palms and other plants. They place all these things in his path to show that he was entering, not just as a simple man, not just as a simple carpenter, not just as a simple teacher, not just as a simple prophet from Galilee, but he was entering as a king. And we hear their cries of Hosanna, their cries of “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
So, why does this story seem so out of place? Because we know where Jesus is going. We know he is not going to Herod’s palace. We know he is not going to confront the Roman authorities. We know he is not going to topple the corruption of the temple leaders. We know he is marching through this city, going through this triumph, heading for a vicious cross. And we wonder, what do the words of triumph mean. What do their hosannas mean? Hosanna is a word that means save us. And you can imagine the people as they saw this man they thought was their king, and they thought he would save them in the way other great leaders had saved them. Looking to be saved from the oppression of a Roman occupation, from those in the temple who collaborated with the occupiers. And I could not help but be led this week as I thought about Jesus entering in triumph in Jerusalem, to the American soldiers. They still entered in triumph into the city of Baghdad. They heard voices of celebration from the people who were there. It is the same picture. You can imagine the Iraqi people climbing palm trees and waved branches and tried to show the world how happy they were to be free and to be liberated. To be free from years of tyranny and oppression.
But Jesus entered also in triumph. And they expected so much from him. They expected a life that would be filled with so many blessings, blessings of the earthly, worldly type. But as we look back on it now, at their cries of hosanna, save us, they were looking in the wrong direction. Jesus does not always save us from the burdens that we carry in our earthly life. Jesus does not always save us from illness. Jesus does not always save us from poverty. Jesus does not always save us from high taxes. Jesus does not always save us from poor health care, and poor education systems. If we are looking to God to save us from these things, he is not going to do it. Our salvation is not going to be done in that way. This salvation does not come from a sword. This salvation does not come from conquest. This salvation does not come from militaristic words. This salvation does not even come from a ballot box.
But when we cry our hosannas here, when we cry out to God to save us in this place, we are calling on God to life our hearts from the fog. To life our minds from the sense that we only have ourselves to deal with, that we only have ourselves to care about, that we only have ourselves to depend on. And Jesus says to us to follow him on his path through Jerusalem to the cross. And we know from the life of Jesus that people will turn against us. The world will turn against us. The world does not want our message. They do not want to hear us. So they shuttle us off to this little hour on Sunday morning. We need to take this hour and make it more. To take this hour with us, as Jesus took his disciples with him on that march to the cross.
Because we also know there is another story beyond the cross. We know that the glory and triumph which we see on this one Sunday, this Palm Sunday, is but a small glimpse. It is a petty picture of the glory that comes next Sunday, Easter Sunday, when the tomb breaks open, and Jesus defeats the power of death. We know that this is but a glimpse of the great glory when Jesus Christ comes again. But like Jesus Christ we have to go through the cross to get there. We have to go through the taunts and jeers of the crowd; we have to go through the pain that Jesus Christ went through. We have to take up our burdens and follow him. And he will lift them from us. And each one of cries our hosannas, for each one of us has something that holds us back. Each one of us has something that causes us to come to God and say lift this from me. Save me from this. As he rides on in majesty, we too ride on in the majesty God has given to us, the majesty of being chosen of God, the majesty of being children of the living God. Jesus Christ has lifted himself that we might know the power of unmistakable and irreplaceable love. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna. Hosanna. Hosanna!