Summary: A Palm Sunday sermon that explores the difference between people’s words and actions on Sunday with their words and actions on Friday.
April 4, 2004 — Palm Sunday
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
Where’s Your Faith on Friday?
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our glorious King and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Word of God for our meditation this Palm Sunday is John’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, 12:12-19:
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 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!"
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt." At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.
Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!" (NIV)
This is the Gospel of our Lord.
Dear Friends in Christ:
There’s a haunting spiritual that takes us to the foot of the cross on Good Friday and asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” But that’s Friday — what if you were there on Sunday? What if you had been part of that cheering crowd? Let’s picture that for a moment.
Children — imagine you were one of the kids lining the streets of Jerusalem that Sunday. You would have been filled with all kinds of excitement. You may not have understood exactly what was going on, but you would have known enough — the king was coming, he was here, he was right in front of you! You would have shouted out with all the grown-ups around you, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” On your way home that day all you’d probably be able to talk would be — “I saw the king today — and I think he saw me, too, ‘cause he smiled right at me! The king of the Jews came today!”
Men — imagine you were a traveler in Jerusalem that day, come in from the countryside a little early for the Passover. You knew about this Jesus, but there was something special going on today. For months people all over Judea and Galilee had been talking about Jesus, wondering if maybe he could be the Messiah, the long-awaited king who would save his people and re-establish David’s throne. You couldn’t argue with his miracles, and it was clear from his teaching that he was a leader with confidence and courage. You’d heard that he actually was a descendant of David, and so when you heard the noise and saw the crowds, you ran to see him, and you gladly joined in their shouts of joy and welcome. Because he had come — the Son of David had come to claim his rightful place as king of the Jews, and he would be your king.
Women — imagine yourself as a resident of Jerusalem that day — a businesswoman who prided herself on knowing just about everything that happened in your city. You were excited to hear that Jesus had come again, and you were very hopeful that he really would be the king and Messiah everyone said he was. It would really be good if someone else were in control of Jerusalem. The Romans took too much of your profits as taxes, and the Pharisees were bad for business, but you had seen Jesus stand up to them. It seemed that finally something good was going to happen for the Jews. And so you closed up your shop and joined the crowd, joined their happy hosannas, and you pledged yourself to your new Messiah and Savior.
Or maybe we should just imagine ourselves as one of the 12 disciples. They were probably the closest to understanding what was really going on, but that’s not saying much. The dominant thought in most of their heads probably would have been something like, “Well, it’s about time!” They had decided he was the Messiah a long time ago, and it was good to see the people of Jerusalem finally coming to the same conclusion and cheering their master. And you have to imagine that the disciples would have been feeling at least a little bit of personal pride as they entered the city with Jesus — at least some of that glory had to rub off on them. But still, the disciples probably understood by now that their Master’s purposes here weren’t entirely political or temporal. They believed — Jesus wasn’t just coming “in the name of” the Lord — he was coming as the Lord. And he was their Lord.