Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Palm Sunday (March 16, 2008)
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is the Gospel lesson for Palm Sunday from St. Matthew chapter twenty one as follows: “Hosanna (wJsanna») to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
Years before our Lord entered into Jerusalem, another unrecognized King came into the Holy City. A young man, David by name, had been anointed king by the prophet Samuel. He had defeated the giant Philistine, Goliath. Although he was little more than a boy, God had made him a king and a mighty warrior. How is it that this boy defeated his enemies? He defeated them by trusting in the Word of God. He defeated them not because he was strong or sneaky or fierce. He defeated them because David knew that it was the Lord that fights for us, and not we ourselves. So it was that when he entered into Jerusalem with King Saul, the women of the city sang to one another:
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)
You can imagine that King Saul was not happy with this turn of events. David had done nothing wrong. He had done everything right, in fact. He had defeated Goliath. He had become King Saul’s right-hand man. King Saul’s son, Jonathan, had befriended him. All he did was serve the King. The people recognized this, and cried out to him in love and support.
Let’s come back to Jesus now. It is Palm Sunday as we know it, a week before the Passover. Jesus came into His city, Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover with his friends and disciples. Jesus, the Son of David of Bethlehem, had come to His city. Jesus, the Son of God, had come to redeem His people from their sins. He entered into the city on a donkey, an animal of peace. He came because He loved them. He came to die.
The people on that day spread their coats on the road, and they cut down palm branches from the trees and spread them along the road so that the dust would not be stirred up. As they did this they cried out and sang to Jesus,
“Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
Hosanna is an Aramaic word which means “save, I pray” or “help us now, I pray”. It’s the cry of a people who knew what Jesus could do. He had healed the sick and diseased. He had forgiven sins and walked on water. He had preached in their synagogues and on the steps of the Temple. He had raised the dead, even Lazarus, who had been dead four days. It was right they call out to Jesus to save them. That’s what Jesus does. He is the Savior, after all.
So what does this mean for you, dearly baptized? What does this mean for you, who languish in your sins, who suffer under the weight of sickness and death, and who long for the peace that passes all understanding? What it means is this. Christ our Lord entered into Jerusalem much like his forefather, David, did. Jesus was anointed to be your Messiah, your savior from sin, death and hell. When He entered into Jerusalem on a donkey, He did so for you. He did this so that you would not be afraid of Him, so that you would know that He has entered into our domain humble and lowly, and so that you would be at peace.
He did this by defeating the devil at his own game. David defeated Goliath by trusting in the Word of God and not in His own strength and might. Our Lord in the same way defeated the devil by humbly trusting in God’s Word. He knew that the Devil could never understand the depth of God’s love for sinners like you and I. One early Christian pastor put it this way:
So that He might deliver man from the bonds of the death-bringing transgression, Our Lord Jesus concealed the power of His majesty from the fury of the devil. Instead, He offered him the weakness of our inferiority. For had this proud and cruel enemy known the plan of God’s mercy, he would have tried not inflame the Jews with evil hate, so that he might not lose the slavery of all his captives. And so the devil was tricked by his own wickedness. He inflicted a torment on the Son of God which was changed into a medicine for all the sons of men. He shed innocent Blood, which then became both the price and the drink which restored the world. (St. Leo the Great)
He gives that drink today in His Holy Sacrament. This week we journey with our Lord to His cross and death, and He gives us holy food and drink to sustain us on the journey. You king has come to you now, humble and lowly. He comes to lift you up from the depths. He comes to raise you up to the right hand of God Himself. Come now. All things are ready. Come now and meet Him where He is. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.