Palm Sunday – “Hosanna!” (John 12:12-19

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Processional Gospel, which was read earlier.

The hustle and bustle is here. The Passover is here and that means a plethora of people in Jerusalem, even more than usual. They are all gathered to celebrate the yearly remembrance of what God had done for His people many years ago when the angel of the Lord passed over the Israelite people. The atmosphere has changed, becoming almost electric. And then John records this: The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.” It’s Jesus, the miracle worker. It’s Jesus, the prophet. It’s Jesus, the healer. It’s Jesus…the Son of God?

What exactly is Jesus here to do? Clearly He’s here to celebrate the Passover, but what else is He here to do? Whatever Jesus is going to do, the people flock to see Him. For some, He’s a miracle worker. For others, He’s a prophet. For others, a healer. But for some, Jesus is all of those and more. He is the Son of God. He is the Messiah that the people have been waiting for. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!””

The one who comes in the name of the Lord? King of Israel? Surely that can’t be descriptive of who Jesus is, and yet that’s what the people proclaim. That is indeed who Jesus is if you know your Scriptures. As we heard from Zechariah earlier, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus enters Jerusalem as Zechariah prophesied. Things are beginning to look like Zechariah had proclaimed. Jesus is beginning to look a lot like the promised Messiah of old.

As Jesus made His way from Bethany to Jerusalem, not only did you have the usual traffic of people going there for the Passover Feast, but you also had the crowd following Jesus. As Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, there was a different feeling in the air. The people began to do something that they normally had not done upon entering Jerusalem: they begun to have a palm procession. This wasn’t just any palm procession that they were having; this procession was for Jesus. They cut palm branches and went out to meet Jesus. They received Him as their king, as the Jewish leaders feared they might.

The people had just one simple message they were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” But what was it exactly were they saying? Hosanna, “save, I pray.” This psalm was one that was sung as part of the Passover feast. Jews sang it when the Passover lambs were sacrificed. Now, they sung it for their Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, on His way to be their sacrifice. But they weren’t thinking of sacrifice. They received Jesus as heavenly royalty, Israel’s King.

As they were preparing to celebrate the Passover feast, they didn’t even know that their own Passover Lamb was coming to be sacrificed for them. Today, you celebrate your Passover Lamb coming to be slaughtered for your sins.

For you, Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem. He had an appointment that only He could keep: He had an appointment with the cross. He had come from Galilee preaching and teaching with healing as He went, but ultimately, Jerusalem was the goal of His journey. This sets in motion everything that was going to take place during the week: His betrayal, His arrest, His mock trial, His crucifixion, and ultimately, His resurrection. Everything that was going to take place began with this one moment – His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Most of the people who were gathered there that day had no idea what was taking place when Jesus entered Jerusalem, what it meant to them personally. Jesus had taught them that the definition of the Christ is to suffer, die, and rise from the dead on the third day, and yet, they still missed what was taking place here.

Do you understand what is going on here or are you missing it as well? This is meant for you. Here comes your Passover Lamb, to make death pass over you and earn for you everlasting life. This Lamb goes forth uncomplaining, doing the task by which He has been sent: to bring about the salvation for God’s creation. Unlike every other lamb that was brought to the slaughter for the Passover, Jesus Christ not only died to purge from you your sins, He also rose for you as well. He rose triumphant for you, to proclaim your victory over sin, death, and the devil, once and for all. He has opened heaven for all mankind by His blood shed on the cross.

As John records for us, His disciples did not understand these things at first….” Truth be told, the disciples weren’t alone in not understanding what was going on as Jesus entered. The people were shouting “Hosanna!” but didn’t know why they were shouting it. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take away the reason why they were shouting it. They needed to shout it, just as we need to shout it even today. This is the very reason that He came, was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to occupy His kingdom. By His blood and Holy Spirit, He has swept us clean of all filth, so that all who believe in Him are righteous and blessed, and will someday pass through temporal death into His heavenly kingdom.

It is interesting to note what the Pharisees say to one another: “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” It might have been true at the moment, but would we agree that it is true today? Does the world really go after Jesus or does the world go after something or someone else? Does the world find its salvation in the cross of Christ or is salvation found somewhere else? Maybe a better question to ask is this: do you go after Jesus or do you go after something or someone else? We might find temporary comfort in what this world has to offer, but the comfort that this world gives is fleeting at best. It is here today but gone tomorrow. What Christ has done for you was here yesterday, it is here today, and it will be here tomorrow. The gift of salvation won for you by Jesus Christ on the cross was here yesterday, here today, and will be here tomorrow. We cannot say the same about the false comfort that we receive from the world.

Jesus would fulfill every sacrifice that God had demanded. He would live a sinless life as the Lamb without blemish. He would die the death that was meant for us; a death filled with suffering and eternal separation from God. Instead, we reap from His death on the cross. He gives to us His righteousness in exchange for our sins. It is no coincidence that in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we recite the words of Palm Sunday, singing, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.” You and I can be thankful that Jesus has gone to Jerusalem to pour out His life, for by this He has forgiven our debt to God and set us free. May we forever sing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Passion Sunday – “Christ’s Passion for Us” (Luke 23:1-56)

C-42 Palm SundayGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

You don’t want to hear today’s text. Really, you don’t want to hear what Luke has to say. We would classify it at least PG-13. Some of what Luke has to say could be classified as R. And yet, today’s Gospel reading is one that needs to be heard, read, meditated upon, because it is of great significance to you, whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not.

Luke records for us the Passion of Jesus Christ. When we speak of the Passion here, we are not talking about strong sensual or sexual desires as the word is commonly used. Rather, we focus on the sufferings of Jesus that He experienced when He set His face toward Jerusalem. What occurred on Palm Sunday was not a glimpse of what the week held in store. Sunday, crowds are shouting out to Jesus, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Hosanna is translated as “Lord, save us!” The people were shouting out for the Lord to save them on Sunday, and by the end of the week, He was dead. Their shouts of hosanna were indeed heard, but that will come later.

We now find ourselves at the end of the week in Luke’s Passion account. Jesus is brought to Pilate, the chief Roman administrator in Judea at the time. In accord with a ruling imposed only a few years prior, only the Roman prefect could authorize capital punishment. Pilate, who ordinarily resided in Caesarea, had come to Jerusalem to oversee the Passover festival, since this was a time of year that religious and national fervor could easily boil over into open rebellion.

The Sanhedrin had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy. That charge would mean little to Pilate, whose job was to enforce Roman law, not adjudicate Jewish religious squabbles. While most of the charges meant nothing, there was one that Pilate could not ignore: the self-proclamation by Jesus of being Christ, a king. This was a charge that Pilate could not ignore, since if true, it constituted a direct challenge to Roman rule. No charge would be taken more seriously by Rome than this.

As things proceed, Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus, but that isn’t good enough for the people. They want something more out of Pilate. They want the guilty charge. In order to get what they want, Jesus must go before Herod. Unfortunately for the people, Herod also saw no guilt in Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate.

Things get ugly and they demand the release of a murderer. Pilate, against his own wishes, releases Barabbas and sentences Jesus to death, again, reluctantly. From there, Jesus is led to Golgotha where things escalate quite quickly.

There upon Golgotha’s hill, Jesus is mocked, scorned, and ultimately pleads on the behalf of the people. He cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” No sooner speaking those words, they cast lots for Jesus’ clothing while more scoffing occurs. “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” Jesus doesn’t come down from the cross because, while He can, He can’t. He can’t get off the cross because of you. If He gets off the cross, you are lost. If He gets off the cross, you are condemned. If He gets off the cross, there will never be forgiveness for you.

Now do you see why you don’t want to hear what Luke has to say? When you listen to what Luke says, you must come to one conclusion: you are the cause of Jesus’ death. You, along with the whole of creation, through your sinful human nature, have condemned Christ to the cross. But Christ doesn’t go to the cross because you have condemned Him. He goes to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will, to restore what once was but is no longer.

As Jesus hung upon the cross, the statement, the demand of the one criminal could not have been truer: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Little did the criminal know, that was precisely what Jesus was doing. St. Paul says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

One person, a criminal being crucified alongside Jesus, saw Christ for what He was – innocent. His words were plain, but spoke volumes: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” While he may have been speaking strictly because they were criminals, his words apply to creation as a whole. We were receiving what our deeds deserved: death. Death came with Adam and Eve but with death came the promise of a Savior.

Christ was doing exactly what the criminal wanted: saving him, along with everyone there that day at His crucifixion, along with everyone before that day and everyone after that day. Christ was doing for us what we could not do ourselves. He was earning eternal life. Just as Jesus told the repentant criminal, so He tells us: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

All of creation is guilty and thus unable to do anything about it. Christ, the only innocent, took the guilt upon Himself in order to make creation innocent. In the last moments of Christ’s life, the world around Him began to change. The Creator, who took on flesh and was born into creation, is at this moment of death, bringing in new and eternal life, a new creation. With the curtain of the temple torn, it symbolized the completion of Christ’s victory over death, therefore allowing Jesus to commit His spirit into the hands of the Father.

The death of Christ marked the end of creation as we know it. Sin and death no longer have dominion over creation. Satan lost the keys to creation that he wrongfully stole from God through sin. No intercessions by the priests were needed because the greatest intercession was made. No more animals needed to be sacrificed because the sacrificial Lamb was offered. When Christ uttered the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”, He signified that His work was finished, once and for all. Nothing could undo what had just been done.

Through the life of Christ and His Passion, we have received life – life that came at an expense – the death of Christ. The King of the Jews, who “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross,” died so that all of creation would be reborn in Him, purged from death and made “good” in the eyes of God. This was the way that creation was meant to be and what took place at our Lord’s Passion was necessary for creation to be restored. Today is not a time to focus on the brutality of Christ’s death or death itself, but to focus on what that death brought about – the dying of death and a restored creation. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Palm Sunday – “Palms to Passion” (Philippians 2:5-11)

A-38 Palm Sunday (Jn 12.12-29)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

Today is a day filled with mixed emotions. The day begins with Jesus entering Jerusalem just before the Passover feast. St. John records, “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”” The people seem earnestly happy that Jesus is coming and even praise Him as the King of Israel. Finally! After three years of non-stop preaching and teaching, of healing the sick and performing miracles, the people see Jesus for who He is: the King of Israel. But lest we get too excited, we need to figure out what kind of king the people think Jesus is.

The Messiah had been promised for a long time coming, in fact, He had been promised from the near beginning of time. This gave the people plenty of time to make themselves familiar with what the Old Testament Scriptures had to say about the coming Messiah. The Old Testament gave a good start for a description of who the Messiah would be yet it wasn’t complete, it wasn’t enough. There needed to be more. And so through the generations, the description of the Messiah was expanded until the people knew what the Messiah would look like at a single glance, that they would be able to identify Him with no sort of trouble or confusion.

At first glance, it sounds as if the people got it right. But John tells us, “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.” It seems as if this is a potential letdown. The people come to meet Jesus because He raised Lazarus from the dead. There were some in the crowd who acknowledged Him as the Messiah, but there were plenty who did not have that thinking.

The scribes and Pharisees saw nothing that screamed Messiah about Jesus. He was the Son of a lowly carpenter. He didn’t come from a great line of kings or leaders so it was impossible for Jesus to be a great king who would boot Roman rule from Jerusalem. For those reasons and more, Jesus was dismissed as being the Messiah. But there was more to Jesus than meets the eye.

As we look at our Epistle text this morning, Paul has an important message, a message that was not widely held then and unfortunately is not widely held today either. Paul encourages us to have the same mindset as Jesus, but he knows all too well the mindset of sinful human beings. We are full of selfish ambition and conceit, looking to our own self-interests rather than that of our neighbor. This attitude is nothing new, as it harkens back to our first parents in the Garden. It doesn’t fear, love, and trust in God above all things. It doesn’t love our neighbor as ourselves. Rather, it is all about us and what I get out of it.

While the selfish mindset is what comes natural to us, Paul tells us that we should have another mindset, that of Christ. Listen again to what St. Paul says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We are not called to be selfish, but to model our lives as Christ did and serve our neighbor. But our service cannot compare to that service of Christ. He possessed all glory from eternity and yet He laid it aside for a single purpose – to save us.

If you want to see just how much Christ love sinners, one only need to look at the manner in which He died. He humbled Himself to death on a cross. You might wonder the significance of that manner of death, but it is significant. Death on a cross was reserved for criminals, as we see the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus. Death on a cross was reserved for the guilty and yet Christ was innocent of all charges made against Him.

Today as we celebrate Palm Sunday, we also celebrate Passion Sunday, as we see in our Gospel reading. We go from the people celebrating and welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem to the people mocking and despising Jesus. And throughout all of this, what is that our Lord does in return? He remains silent. He takes the mocking and despising. He takes the beating and scourging. He willingly goes to the cross. He dies. The very direction in which His whole life went was toward emptying Himself. He emptied Himself finally of His very life. And yet says Paul, in the very mystery of that life, in the self-giving of the Son of God in the flesh, on the cross, God has turned the whole universe around. He has opened up for man a new way to live.

When He prays in the Garden, He prays for you. He is your High Priest, preparing to offer Himself as the Sacrifice for sin. He doesn’t want that cup of suffering; but for you He prays to His Father, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” Even today, exalted by His Father, what does He do? He prays for you, intercedes for you: “Father, these are your redeemed, and I have bought them with My blood. Hear their prayers and save them.”

When Jesus stands silently before the High Priest and, later, Pilate, He silently accepts all the accusations and the blame in service to you. The accusations are false, of course: the sins are not His. But the sins are yours: and so He takes them. He takes the blame and does not defend Himself, because He’s taking all of your sins to the cross—to serve you. And so the Son thus declares, “No, Father, do not judge these people for their sins. Judge Me for them instead.”

And that is what the cross is about. In service to you, the Savior suffers far more than physical torment and death. He suffers His Father’s judgment for your sins and for the sins of the world. He suffers hell there for you. “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down His life for His friends,” He once told His disciples, and there is no greater love or service than His cross in your place. Do not miss, by the way, that the Father is serving you at the cross, too: for rather than judge you for your sin, He gives His Son in your place, for you.

That is your Savior—the Son of God who makes Himself of no reputation and becomes obedient to death on the cross for you. By His death, you have life. By His grace, you are now set free to serve others—you are set free from sin to serve as God created you to.

You have the mind of Christ, because Christ joins Himself to you. He speaks His Word of grace, renewing your Baptism and declaring you remain His child. He gives you His body and blood, and so He is with you always. He is with you always to serve. And solely by His service to you, you are sure that you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Palm/Passion Sunday–“Passion” (Luke 23:1-56)

C-42 Palm SundayGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

In order to get a glimpse of Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, one only needs to watch “The Passion of the Christ.” While the movie is not fully accurate, it describes the scene that Luke records for us today. The movie focuses more on the beating and torture of Christ, but not why Christ was beaten and tortured. Since death entered the world, it was no longer “good” as God had once declared it. Something had to happen in order for it to become “good” again and that’s where Jesus’ Passion comes into play.

As we have seen throughout this Lenten season, we have a world that is completely infested with sin with no human cure available. The only cure to sin must be a divine cure, and so we have Jesus, who comes as the divine cure to creation’s problem with sin and death.

Days before His crucifixion, the people sat in the temple, listening to the words of Jesus. Perhaps they thought of Him as the Messiah, maybe someone who would set them free from Roman rule. And when asked the question, “Are you the King of the Jews?”, answering anything other than “no” would surely mean death. But death was what was necessary to remove death. It would require death of the innocent to ride death from the guilty, guilty because of a crafty serpent asking if God really meant what He said.

Throughout the beatings and sneering and false statements against Him, Christ was the King. His being king is correct on levels, though they would only have acknowledged one at best. Christ is the King of creation. Everything is under His authority. This fact they would not acknowledge because there was only one king and his name was Caesar. Any king other than Caesar had to be silenced. The rulers of the people, to put down the perversion of Christ and His teaching, saw one mean to do it – death.

To return to Pilate’s question about kingship, Jesus’ answer was simple: “You have said so.” Christ is indeed the King of the Jews. He is the King of the Gentiles. He is the King of the Romans. He is the king of all who believe in Him. He is the King of creation. There was one thing that this King brought that no other king ever could: forgiveness. Paying taxes to Caesar did not bring forgiveness. Roman citizenship did not bring forgiveness. Simply being a Jew did not bring forgiveness. Forgiveness is the gift of God by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

When the waters of Holy Baptism hit our heads, we were marked as a child of God. Forgiveness comes only through Christ and from no one or nothing else. He plainly says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Faith in anything other than Christ is futile, for it was His body and blood, pierced and broken on Calvary’s cross that defeated death and nothing else.

Time and time again in their mockery did they tell Christ to save Himself. “He saved others; let him save himself.” “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” All of them are mockeries of Christ and the salvation from death that He brought with Him. Maybe the greatest bit of mockery was the sign above Christ’s head, “This is the King of the Jews.” Not only does this mock Christ, but also the Jewish people as a whole. It says that if you want a king besides Caesar, here He is, a pathetic man dying on a cross. It mocks the divinity of Christ, His triumph over death and the belief of the people worked by the Holy Spirit. What they failed to realize is that Christ needed no saving because it was He that came to do the saving.

One person, a criminal being crucified alongside Jesus, saw Christ for what He was – innocent. His words were plain, but spoke volumes: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” While he may have been speaking strictly because they were criminals, his words apply to creation as a whole. We were receiving what our deeds deserved: death. Death came with Adam and Eve but with death came the promise of a Savior.

Death was not meant to be in the equation. It was an unknown variable that set creation spinning a way that it was not meant for it to spin. Through Christ, Satan was defeated and death removed, though we still feel the effects of death.

All of creation is guilty and thus unable to do anything about it. Christ, the only innocent, took the guilt upon Himself in order to make creation innocent.

In the last moments of Christ’s life, the world around Him began to change. The Creator, who took on flesh and was born into creation, is at this moment of death, bringing in new and eternal life, a new creation. With the curtain of the temple torn, it symbolized the completion of Christ’s victory over death, therefore allowing Jesus to commit His spirit into the hands of the Father.

The death of Christ marked the end of creation as we know it. Sin and death no longer have dominion over creation. Satan lost the keys to creation which he wrongfully stole from God through sin. No intercessions by the priests were needed because the greatest intercession was made. No more animals needed to be sacrificed because the sacrificial Lamb was offered. When Christ uttered the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”, He signified that His work was finished, once and for all. Nothing could undo what had just been done.

Through the life of Christ and His Passion, we have received life – life that came at an expense – the death of Christ. The King of the Jews, who “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross,” died so that all of creation would be reborn in Him, purged from death and made “good” in the eyes of God. This was the way that creation was meant to be and what took place at our Lord’s Passion was necessary for creation to be restored. Today is not a time to focus on the brutality of Christ’s death or death itself, but to focus on what that death brought about – the dying of death and a restored creation. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Palm Sunday–“Hosanna!” (John 12:12-19)

B-41 Palm Sunday (Jn 12.12-19)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Palm Sunday Procession from John 12:12-19.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” Here ends our text.

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. The city of Jerusalem is abuzz with the preparations for the Feast of the Passover, a celebration in remembrance of what God had done for His people when they were slaves in Egypt. As Moses tried to get Pharaoh to release God’s people, Pharaoh would agree to their release, only to have his heart hardened. God had sent a series of plagues to make Pharaoh release the Israelites, only to have the whole ordeal repeat itself. Finally, God unleashed the tenth and final plague: the death of the firstborn. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the Spirit of the Lord passed over these homes.

On Friday, Jesus had arrived at Bethany. As John records for us, “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Needless to say, there was quite of following on account of Jesus and what He had done raising Lazarus from the dead. The news had spread that Jesus was in Bethany and large numbers of people headed there to see Him. With the pilgrims in Jerusalem getting ready for the Passover, it wasn’t long before a great crowd had gathered. Besides that, their curiosity was doubly piqued, since they could also see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

As Jesus made His way from Bethany to Jerusalem, not only did you have the usual traffic of people going there for the Passover Feast, but you also had the crowd following Jesus. As Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, there was a different feeling in the air. The people began to do something that they normally had not done upon entering Jerusalem: they begun to have a palm procession. This wasn’t just any palm procession that they were having; this procession was for Jesus. They cut palm branches and went out to meet Jesus. They received Him as their king, as the Jewish leaders feared they might.

The people had just one simple message they were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” But what was it exactly were they saying? Hosanna, “save, I pray.” This psalm was one that was sung as part of the Passover feast. Jews sang it when the Passover lambs were sacrificed. Now, they sung it for their Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, on His way to be their sacrifice. But they weren’t thinking of sacrifice. They received Jesus as heavenly royalty, Israel’s King.

As they were preparing to celebrate the Passover feast, they didn’t even know that their own Passover Lamb was coming to be sacrificed for them. Today, you celebrate your Passover Lamb coming to be slaughtered for your sins.

For you, Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem. He had an appointment that only He could keep: He had an appointment with the cross. He had come from Galilee preaching and teaching with healing as He went, but ultimately, Jerusalem was the goal of His journey. This sets in motion everything that was going to take place during the week: His betrayal, His arrest, His mock trial, His crucifixion, and ultimately, His resurrection. Everything that was going to take place began with this one moment – His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Most of the people who were gathered there that day had no idea what was taking place when Jesus entered Jerusalem, what it meant to them personally. Jesus had taught them that the definition of the Christ is to suffer, die, and rise from the dead on the third day, and yet, they still missed what was taking place here.

Do you understand what is going on here or are you missing it as well? This is meant for you. Here comes your Passover Lamb, to make death pass over you and earn for you everlasting life. This Lamb goes forth uncomplaining, doing the task by which He has been sent: to bring about the salvation for God’s creation. Unlike every other lamb that was brought to the slaughter for the Passover, Jesus Christ not only died to purge from you your sins, He also rose for you as well. He rose triumphant for you, to proclaim your victory over sin, death, and the devil, once and for all. He has opened heaven for all mankind by His blood shed on the cross.

As John records for us,His disciples did not understand these things at first….” Truth be told, the disciples weren’t alone in not understanding what was going on as Jesus entered. The people were shouting “Hosanna!” but didn’t know why they were shouting it. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take away the reason why they were shouting it. They needed to shout it, just as we need to shout it even today. This is the very reason that He came, was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to occupy His kingdom. By His blood and Holy Spirit, He has swept us clean of all filth, so that all who believe in Him are righteous and blessed, and will someday pass through temporal death into His heavenly kingdom.

It is interesting to note what the Pharisees say to one another: “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” It might have been true at the moment, but would we agree that it is true today? Does the world really go after Jesus or does the world go after something or someone else? Does the world find its salvation in the cross of Christ or is salvation found somewhere else? Maybe a better question to ask is this: do you go after Jesus or do you go after something or someone else? We might find temporary comfort in what this world has to offer, but the comfort that this world gives is fleeting at best. It is here today but gone tomorrow. What Christ has done for you was here yesterday, it is here today, and it will be here tomorrow. The gift of salvation won for you by Jesus Christ on the cross was here yesterday, here today, and will be here tomorrow. We cannot say the same about the false comfort that we receive from the world.

Jesus would fulfill every sacrifice that God had demanded. He would live a sinless life as the Lamb without blemish. He would die the death that was meant for us; a death filled with suffering and eternal separation from God. Instead, we reap from His death on the cross. He gives to us His righteousness in exchange for our sins. It is no coincidence that in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we recite the words of Palm Sunday, singing, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.” You and I can be thankful that Jesus has gone to Jerusalem to pour out His life, for by this He has forgiven our debt to God and set us free. May we forever sing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.