Palm Sunday 2022 Palmarum
April 10, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Palm Sunday is a day that many of us enjoy. I remember as a boy always loving this day, in fact, it was one of my favorites with the pomp and circumstance. It is always fun to begin church with a procession holding palm fronds while we sing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.” Here, as in many churches, the children join in the procession, as we enter in the most important week of the year for our faith.
Every year, God’s people came from far and near to celebrate the Passover, to retell the great victory and deliverance God had granted His people as He delivered them out of slavery in Egypt and in that hopeful expectation of the promised Messiah, especially as many felt enslaved to the Romans. The crowds had gathering singing and praising and welcoming Jesus as king, as the Messiah quoting Psalm 118 and being reminded of Zechariah’s prophecy from God about the Messiah. And yet, I think they would have been disappointed. I don’t think they would have been impressed with the first Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, certainly not by the end of the end of the week.
The prophet Zechariah worked around 520 B.C. In 587 B.C. the Babylonians had conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and taken the people of Judah into exile. God’s people lived in exile in Babylon until the Persians conquered them. Then in 538 B.C., the Persian King Cyrus issued a decree that the Judahites could return home and rebuild the temple.
In the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we hear how it goes with those exiles newly returned. In the second year of their return, the people laid the foundation for a new temple. The older people who remembered Solomon’s temple that had been destroyed wept because this new temple could not compare with the one they had lost. The foundation was laid, but the rebuilding project lingered on for some twenty years. Outside interference from enemies slowed the work, but the biggest problem is that the people were just not as dedicated to the project as they needed to be. It’s not hard to understand why the people were discouraged. They had returned from exile to a devastated city that had no walls. Judah was no longer a nation, but instead a small province in the massive Persian empire.
And so God sent Zechariah, as well as his contemporary, Haggai, to urge and encourage the people in their faithfulness and dedication to God. Zechariah encouraged the people with the news that God was going to act decisively. Just before our text, Zechariah proclaimed the word of the Lord in judgment against the nations, the enemies of Israel and of God Himself. And then in our text he says, “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. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; His rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:9-10).
It is clear that God is talking about the Messiah – the descendant of King David. The promised one is going to come and will be better than anyone can imagine. God will free the prisoners, restore double to those who have lost, grant peace that will encompass all nations. And the Messiah will reign. This was a vision of the future that gave the people hope. And the people went on to finish the temple in 516 B.C.
A little over 500 years later, the events that we heard about this morning took place. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Both Matthew and John tell us that this happened in fulfillment of Zechariah’s words. But would the people of Zechariah’s day would have been satisfied with this? This isn’t exactly the glorious king that most would have imagined. Yes, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. And what is more you just heard in the Passion according to St. Matthew how this “triumphant” visit to Jerusalem turned out. Jesus enters Jerusalem on Sunday. By Friday afternoon he is hanging on a cross after being mocked and tortured. War had not ended and peace had not come. God’s people were not free. They were under the yoke of the Romans, constantly battling against them that would end up with Jerusalem and the temple being destroyed again. Like it was when they were carted off to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness to God, this time God’s wrath would come upon them because of their rejection of the One who comes in the name of the Lord.
No, I don’t think of Zechariah’s time would have been satisfied with how God had kept His word. And the truth is that often we aren’t either. God says again and again in his Word that He loves and cares for you, and yet suffering still comes. God promises healing, but family members and friends get sick and die. God promises peace, yet war and conflict exist among the nations, and even within our families God promises provision, and yet so many times we feel want and need. God promises hope, yet we often feel hopeless. We cry “Hosanna!” save us now, yet here we are.
We experience evil and injustice and Jesus doesn’t always live up to our expectations and standards. It causes us to doubt God. It causes us to question God. It causes us to accuse God of being false, or evil, or a liar. If God really were all loving and all powerful then none of these bad things would happen.
And what is God’s answer? “Fear not, daughter of Zion, behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” The answer is Jesus, which is not the Messiah that many expected, but the One that we all need. Jesus comes as the king to be enthroned on the cross. He hangs on the cross with the sign posted over His head that says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Jesus comes as the Messiah who will die to swallow up death forever. Jesus comes as Messiah to end the war between God and man by taking God’s wrath and divine punishment over your unfaithfulness upon Himself. Your sins are forgiven. Your salvation won. Your eternal life secured.
While we enter Holy Week and remember again the great sacrifice of the Son of God who shed His blood of His covenant for you, we do not end here. Jesus lives, and reigns on high, seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence, He will come to judge the living and dead. The risen and ascended Lord has promised that he will come again. He will do so in power and glory and might, not in humility. He will come in a way so that every knee will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
When He does, He will bring all of the things that Zechariah describes, and there will be no disappointment at that time. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, that is God in the Flesh, whether there had been saving faith or not. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem. He will cut off the battle bow and speak peace to the nations. The risen Lord will rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth, in a new creation, the new heavens and new earth where the righteousness of God in Jesus the Messiah remains forever.
This week, return to your stronghold, oh daughter of Zion, return to Jesus, the promised Messiah. Let us believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection and the assurance of our forgiveness. Let us trust in God’s love no matter what is happening. Let us rest in God’s peace in the reign of Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Some of this sermon is based off a sermon by Pr. Mark Surburg http://surburg.blogspot.com/2017/04/sermon-for-palm-sundaysunday-of-passion.html