Updated: Apr 8
St. Matthew 21:1-9
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
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!”
Dear Fellow Redeemed, who eagerly receive the same Savior into your homes this morning, that the Palm Sunday worshipers received in the Jerusalem streets:
This is the sixth and last Sunday of the Lenten Season in the church year. It’s also known as Palm Sunday.
The prophet Micah had written of the Lord’s coming. He’d written of it to people who were eager for it. There was good reason to look forward to this one’s coming. He calls Him, the Messenger of the Covenant in whom you delight.
There was reason for sober consideration as well. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? Micah had written. For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap (3:2).
We talk about this text in Advent with sort of the same idea: How will this Lord appear to us? Will He completely overwhelm us who are in need of this refining and this cleansing? Will He consume us in His wrath over our sins?
Of course, the answer in the Christmas account is a child born in a stable and placed in a manger. That is how the Almighty God chose to appear in this world. He brings peace on earth, good will toward men (Luke 2:14) - God’s declaration that He will be merciful, making sinners righteous through His Son.
The texts on this Palm Sunday bring the same message about this individual thirty-three years later. This king who comes is a different kind of king. He is a humble king. According to the words of our Old Testament lesson, He cuts off the chariot, and the war horse, and the battle bow. He hasn’t come as a conqueror, like other kings have; He has come as a Savior. He speaks peace to the nations. He’s the One Who would have all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).
He has gone about this saving by emptying Himself, according to our Epistle lesson. This God-Man has put aside (for the most part) the Godly attributes that make Him invincible in favor of vulnerability. That’s what it means in our Epistle lesson when it says He, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. What was important to Him was saving sinners, not consistently demonstrating His equality with Father and Spirit (though it was always the case).
Another translation of this passage says that He, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. That does a good job of demonstrating that He was, is, and always will be God. He wouldn’t be improperly taking something for Himself by claiming that. But it was His desire to put aside godly attributes so as to be able to sympathize with our weaknesses, to be tempted as we are, yet without sin, as put by the writer to the Hebrews (4:15).
Without sin. Jesus was without also the sin that St. Paul addresses in our Epistle lesson. It’s from the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians. Leading up to the portion that serves as our reading, he encourages oneness. He writes: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. And then, of course, he goes on to describe Christ as the One Who brought Himself down from the highest place in order that He might become the lowliest servant to save sinners.
On a second Sunday, now, you hear this message - not sitting in a church pew surrounded by friends, but rather, isolated in your homes. From the very beginning of this coronavirus pandemic, I was thinking as I listened to the experts advising, that this is really a switch. We’re all ears when someone is telling us how to protect ourselves, how to enrich ourselves, how to satisfy ourselves. We’re really good at listening to that kind of advice. We welcome it. We seek it out, even.
But this time it’s different. This time it isn’t about what we all do for ourselves; this time it’s about what we do for each other. Isn’t that interesting? It’s about us sacrificing some of the freedoms that we have always enjoyed in order that we might protect, especially, the most vulnerable among us. It’s about us sharing the things that are available so that, not only we ourselves are provided for, but that others are as well. It’s about us not putting ourselves at risk so that we might need the attention of medical professionals whose services are more badly needed by others.
Paul’s exhortation to count others more significant than yourselves, to look to others’ interests rather than only your own is actually what experts consider to be our wisest policy in this crisis!
Shouldn’t we lament the fact that we have to be told that, that it isn’t our most natural move to see to others’ interests above our own, to serve people, to love them? Paul is speaking this to Christians. He’s speaking it to us. Our nature has been, and continues to be, to count ourselves more significant than others, to look to our own interests rather than to the interests of others.
The first one who ever did this was Satan, before God expelled him from heaven, and consigned him to the place prepared for him and his followers. He’s the one with whom we have aligned ourselves in our selfishness and in our greed. That place prepared for him and his followers is the place we have deserved according to our sins.
In the interest of rescuing as many as possible from that, the humble king rides into Jerusalem in our text. He rides there for you. The ‘Hosanna’ shouters are correct in their assessment: this is the Son of David, this is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. This is the Messiah, promised of old.
He enters Jerusalem in fulfillment of an eternal salvation plan. He enters as the reality of what the Passover Lamb had represented. He is the One without blemish Whose blood makes satisfaction for the peoples’ sins. His perfect serving and His perfect loving of people has been put onto your account by God as if You had done it. All of your sins are forgiven in Him.
You welcome into your homes this morning, the same Savior King the Jerusalem crowd welcomed on Palm Sunday, the same who humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross for you. Put your trust in Him, cling to Him as you wait out this interruption of life, and every day thereafter. Amen.
Other Texts for Today:
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.
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 emptied himself, by 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.