Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Palm Sunday

"So, who is this Jesus anyway?"

Matthew 21:6-11

April 9, 2017

It was the day we call Palm Sunday. Jerusalem was abuzz. "Jesus is coming! Sing the "Hosanna's! Blessed is He!" The crowds shouted "Hosanna," which means 'Lord save us!' Truly, that's exactly what Jesus came to Jerusalem to do. He came to save us. Little did the people who shouted their glad "Hosanna's" understand how literally true that was going to be for them.

Yes, blessed He is, but not in the way most of them were thinking. They wanted a new king. They wanted a return to the glory of Solomon and the riches that went with it. They wanted free bread, like the 5000 who Jesus had fed. They were eager. They were ready. But, they were going to be disappointed. Why, because they really didn't understand who Jesus was.

Matthew 21:6-11 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 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!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

Think about it. What's changed since that first Palm Sunday? Not much. People still want to be part of the excitement. They want to share an exhilarating group experience. Look through the church yellow pages. What are the hot church buzz words advertising churches: exciting, dynamic, cutting edge, relevant, meaningful, and victorious. If you think about it, these words describe the Palm Sunday crowd. They were pumped. The adrenalin was flowing. They'd heard all about Jesus but they really didn't know Him.

The Jesus they expected often disappointed them. It's the same today. Very little has changed. What happens when Jesus doesn't deliver the exciting, the victorious, the wealth and success they had expected? What happens when the problems come, when the cancer isn't cured, when their dreams are not realized? Will they join those who ended up cursing Jesus because they didn't know or understand who He is and why He came to us? It's a huge problem when at the end of the day people still don't know/understand who Jesus is.

In the end, many of those who were so excited came away disappointed. Sadly since so many were carried away with the emotion of the moment, we might suspect that some of them could have been yelling "crucify Him, crucify Him!" by the end of the week. Even today we see that on one day people can be cheering for someone while later they were cursing that same individual. So it was with Jesus because, tragically, they did not really know who He is. The emotional high and excitement of Palm Sunday didn't sustain them for even a week.

This morning we're sharing the excitement of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Unlike many who wondered, we know who Jesus is. This is the lesson you need to take to heart. Jesus didn't come to us for Palm Sunday, He came for Good Friday. He came for Easter. If your faith peaks on Palm Sunday, what meaning will Easter hold for you?

Where were the enthusiastic crowds on Good Friday? Who watched at His cross? There was nothing exciting, dynamic or cutting edge happening. Good Friday was painful and down-right ugly. The message of Good Friday was not about excitement but love. We are not Palm Sunday people, we are Easter Christians.

Sometimes, when a celebration is over, there's a sense of letdown. It's over. Now, what? The disciples may have had that feeling after the Palm Sunday parade. It's over. Now, what will happen next? Little did they envision the cross, let alone Easter. Sometimes, it's better if you don't know what lies ahead.

Yet, at the end of Palm Sunday, it wasn't over. Through the week, the disciples continued to walk with Jesus. Even though they weren't always faithful, even though they scattered into the night when He was arrested, even though they denied Him, He forgave and restored them.

You may not always remain as faithful as you should. You may even deny Jesus. Yet, there is good news. He will always be there for you. He will be waiting to forgive you. Life isn't going to be perfect. You know that already. Who knows what challenges you'll face, what obstacles you'll need to overcome, what heartache may be yours. Never forget that the Lord is with you! You know that the Lord will see you through them all. At the end, you can say, "it's over." Yes, your trials will be over and you will have a new beginning.

Each time you say "it's over," whether in joy or sadness or relief, remember that the next day will be a new beginning. It will be a new page in your book of life. You will see how the Lord was with you, protecting and guiding you. You will thank Him for what is over. Then, as you begin anew, you can thank the Lord for being with you as you begin a new chapter in life.

God is faithful. He keeps His promises. Jesus went to the cross on Good Friday to die for people who didn't know who He was. He died for those who thought they didn't need Him. He died for those who mocked and beat Him. He died for those who cried out "crucify Him!" He died for the faithful few who gathered at the foot of the cross. He died for you and me.

Jesus Christ has redeemed you from the power of sin, death and the devil not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death that you and I may be His own and live with Him in everlasting innocence, righteousness and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

Who is Jesus? He is the eternal Son of God, who took on our humanity. He went to the cross to die for our sins. He took our punishment upon Himself. Whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. This is the Good News. Faith is not about living with a new set of rules and impressing God so you can get more stuff. Faith is living day by day where the Lord has placed you. Faith is struggling with the challenges of life, sometimes doing well, sometimes not. Faith is knowing that God loves you, forgives you and that this love flows from you to others.

Faith recognizes who Jesus really is and, therefore, sings all the more joyfully, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" Blessed holy week, blessed Easter, and blessed are you whom the Lord has called to be His people. Amen.


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