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Who Is This?

Matthew 21:1-9

Pastor Robin Fish

Palm Sunday
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

view DOC file

Sun, Mar 16, 2008
Sunday of the Passion

Matthew 21:1-9

And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me.  And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them."  Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, 'BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'"

And the disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid on them their garments, on which He sat.  And most of the multitude spread their garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees, and spreading them in the road.  And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!"

Who Is This?

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Once again it is Palm Sunday, and once again we look at the Palm Sunday ride of Jesus.  The account is familiar because we preach on this very text for both the first Sunday in Advent and Palm Sunday, the last Sunday in Lent.  This morning I want to briefly examine the question, "Who is this?".  Of course, we know that it is Jesus.  We know that He is our Savior.  But let us take another look, and see Who Is This?

When we look at Jesus, we someone who is fully aware of what is happening.  He knows where He is going and He knows what is about to happen to Him and He is fully conscious of the resources available to Him.  People often talk about Palm Sunday and the entire Passion as something that happens to Jesus.  But if we take a step back and look at things carefully, we can see that this is all something the Jesus does, not something that happens to Jesus.

Jesus knows the location of the donkeys and their availability.  They didn't just happen to be there.  He knows that the time is right, He expects the crowd, the religious fervor.  Did the disciples just spontaneously place their cloaks on the donkey to form a saddle for Jesus to sit on, or were they prompted, or even instructed to do so?  The text doesn't tell us, but it does seem somewhat more likely that this effort was coordinated at the start, at least, since Jesus set them up with the donkeys.  I don't suppose that Jesus sent for the donkeys and then one of the disciples decided that He should ride them.

No, Jesus was in complete control.  He was ushering things forward to their end, and His end on the cross.  We are sort of aware that Jesus knew what was coming and that He had a hand in making things come about, but if we examine this Coronation Ride, we can see that Jesus was steering every event, and that He was pushing things to their prophetically inevitable conclusion.  What self-possession and sense of mission Jesus must have possessed to hurry events toward such a monstrously painful and difficult goal.  If you are not paying close attention, you could view these things as just happenstance and the incidental confluence of events, but when you look squarely at the thing, it was Jesus pushing and planning and making it happen every step of the way.

How thrilling!  How remarkable!  Oh, not every event or reaction needed to be pushed.  Human nature could account for some of it- the hatred and envy and wickedness of those who sought to put Him to death is something Jesus could count on.  But what love guided Jesus, so that he would shepherd these events and the people involved in them to the end that He would be crucified, though innocent.  What utter self-possession would be required to march purposefully into the work which Jesus had set before Himself to purchase our salvation!

Who Is This?

This is our God, whose love we celebrate each Sunday.  He planned this rescue from eternity.  Things did not "just happen".  He planned from eternity to save us.  Some things were not His doing and planning.  Human sin was not His plan.  He saw it coming and prepared for us a cure and a redemption, but He did not plan the sin.  He did not plan the twisted nature of our society and the faulty values which we see and we must endure, but He knew that they were coming.  They are actually the lot of mankind in his rebellion against God since the Garden of Eden.  He did not plan it, but you can be sure He planned for it in our lives.

The Palm Sunday ride was the Coronation of Jesus Christ as the King of Israel.  It might not have been very impressive by modern standard, or even by the standards of the Roman world of the first century, but it had all of the essential features of the Old Testament coronation of a king.  Jesus was identified for all to see as the One who would take the throne of David, just as Scriptures foretold.  He was the King of David's line, and Israel's rightful King.  It doesn't matter that the world did not immediately recognize Him.  Even King David was anointed king long before he finally held that office in the eyes of everyone around.  David, too, was hunted and hounded, although he was legitimately the king by virtue of the anointing of the Prophet Samuel.

This coronation was important to mark Jesus for who He was - and is - but it is even more significant in the face of the denial on Good Friday by the chief priests when Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your king?", and they answered "We have no king but Caesar!" Israel had begun as a theocracy.  God was truly their king.  They had insisted, after a time, that they have a human king, and God told Samuel that they were rejecting not the Prophet, but God Himself - and gave them a king.  But throughout the history of Israel, everyone understood that God was still their true Sovereign.  On that Good Friday, they denied and rejected and deliberately crucified their true King.  It was no accident.  They knew who Jesus was.  They had seen the coronation.  They knowingly rejected and executed their Messiah - and knowing Him to be God in the flesh, the very Son of God.  They tried to kill God. This Palm Sunday Coronation ride simply highlighted the reality of what they were doing to themselves.  Israel by name was no longer Israel in reality before the Lord, by their own choice.

We celebrate Palm Sunday as something good - and it is!  It is the day our Lord took up the Passion in earnest, and publicly declared Himself our true King.  We party for the joy of it.  We think of Palm Sunday as thrilling because of the impromptu parade and the songs of Hallelujah!  It turns out that it wasn't as impromptu as it may have appeared, but it was delightful - and important.  It was also the first day of the week that ended with the death and resurrection of our Lord.

We celebrate what that week achieved - our redemption.  We can marvel on how thorough our Lord was in His planning and execution of the plan of salvation.  He didn't miss a detail.  Because of Palm Sunday, and Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, and, of course, Easter Sunday, we have been saved!  Our sins have been atoned for.  Jesus bore the wrath of God and paid the price demanded by God for sins - the death of the sinner.  You are forgiven.  You are secure in the love of God.

We can marvel that at the same time Almighty God planned this act of redemption, before the foundation of the world, He was also planning on inviting us into His family and claiming us as His own and counting us - in particular - among the redeemed.  Romans 8 describes it so winningly, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

So, can we now imagine that something that happens this week or this month in our lives can really make a difference that matters?  Can we imagine He does not know, or that He had not planned for it?  We are in the hands of Him who planned so carefully, and then executed so deliberately every detail of such a magnificent and intricate and awesome redemption - and saw it through with such control and steely willed deliberation!  We have the evidence of His will, and the promise that He will be with us, and that He will never leave us nor forsake us, so that in any situation and in any circumstance, we may be confident that He knows, and that His plan is still moving forward, at least as regards us and our salvation, so that we need not fear, but rejoice in His love and give thanks for His gifts and patiently endure and await the final fulfilling of His will for our salvation out of this world and into His glorious presence.

Who is this, who rides into Jerusalem on the pair of animals and receives the praise of the crowd?  It is our Savior, in whose hands we rest and in whose promises we trust.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)

These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.

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