Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
25 March 2018
Today begins the most solemn week in our church year: Holy Week. The week when we remember our Lord’s last journey into Jerusalem into to suffer and die. This week is solemn and holy and even somber. But not because we’re having a funeral. No, we the faithful of God enter this week knowing where we’ll be next Sunday. We know the end, and what’s more we know the purpose. Jesus suffered and died for us, and then rose from the grave. We don’t mourn for him. We’re not somber on his account. Instead, this week we remember especially our sins, and mourn them. It is the culmination of all our Lenten fasting and reflection and prayer. The final reminder that Jesus is the Lamb of God who had to suffer and die on our account to take away our sins. And so we’ll sing sad songs, and we’ll turn lights down, and strip the altar bare leaving only black linen. Because of our sins and what they cost our dear Lord.
But that’s not how we begin this week. Hear again our reading. “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” We’ve all been to parades and experienced how much joy there is in the air. And on this Palm Sunday we remember and celebrate a similar scene: Jesus riding into Jerusalem while the people shout and cheer. It was obviously a day filled with joy and excitement. People jumping up and down, children running around waving palm branches. The people shout to Jesus, ‘Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of Lord!’ Their Lord Jesus was coming to them. The man that had healed so many people and even raised Lazarus from the dead. He was coming! He was there! Their savior. He would save them from everything that caused them trouble in this world. He would reign forever as their King! Joy abounds. But they should’ve known something was up.
Even as excited as all the people were Jesus didn’t come into town like a king. There was no beautiful horse, or golden chariot. No fancy clothes or body guards watching the crowds. Instead, Jesus road into town on a donkey- a lowly animal, a beast of burden. He wore regular clothing, looked like everyone else. He didn’t look or act at all like a king, because he wasn’t coming to be the type of king they wanted. Jesus’ humble ride into Jerusalem wasn’t the ride of an earthly king preparing to take his seat on the throne. This was a death march.
Jesus had not come to Jerusalem to take power, he came to die. He knew what was about to take place. He couldn’t pretend like he didn’t know. Just like we can’t pretend that today is just a gloriously happy, palm-waving, joyous-song-singing day. We all know that in a few short days we’ll be sitting in this very sanctuary with the lights low singing hymns of Jesus’ pain, suffering, and death. No palm branches, no excitement in the air- just the reality that our King, our Lord and Savior had been nailed to a cross for our sins. So why even get excited? Why not just sing “Go to Dark Gethsemane” and stop kidding ourselves with “Hosanna, Loud, Hosanna.” We know the truth!
Jesus knew the truth as well. He was there at the creation of the world. He had seen the beauty and sinless perfection. And then he saw Adam fall into sin. He knows the truth about the sin of the world. He knows the truth about you. He knows all of your sins. Your false confessions and weak faith. He knows he’ll be rejected and mocked. He knows all of it. But that doesn’t deter him. Jesus knew that going to the cross was not a good deal. That he was giving up his life for a bunch of unfaithful, ungrateful sinners, who weren’t going to change any time soon.
And yet there he was riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, preparing to take his place on his throne the cross, out of love for you. This is why we celebrate today, in the midst of our solemn Holy Week. Because even though our Lord knew the truth about us he went to the cross to forgive our sins our of great love for you. He rode into Jerusalem as a king preparing to triumph over sin and death. This is our King! He came to be glorified upon the cross. And so today we cheer him on. Like spectators urging runners on to the finish line, we sing joyous songs begging Jesus to run to the cross. “Ride on, ride on!” we shout. Go now to your glorious throne and bring to us the salvation that we so desperately need. Go to the cross so that we might live.
And we know the truth. That our king came as a lowly servant, humbled to ride a donkey, humbled to be hanged from cross to die. We know that he did this for our salvation. Palm Sunday is truly a joyous day. It is a day that begins a joyous Holy Week when we mourn our own sin, yet we rejoice at the salvation Jesus has won for us. And that is why today we can and must shout “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Because our God loved us to the point of death, so that we would live. In the name of Jesus, Amen.