Pastor Eric Schroeder - Palm Sunday - Sunday, April 14, 2019

Text: Luke 19:28-40

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I know that as we celebrate Palm Sunday, we are supposed to talk about Jesus—and we will (don’t worry).  But first let’s consider some of the other participants in the historical account.  For the first small group, it’s a little difficult because we don’t know their names, and we don’t know much of anything at all about them, except for a few words here in Luke’s Gospel account.  So we’ll simply call them “the owners,” because that’s what God inspired Luke to call them.  As much as we can, though, let’s try to put ourselves in their shoes.

Just imagine that it’s a day like any other day, and you get ready to leave your home at your normal time, and you make your way to your vehicle.  How would you react if you walked into your garage or out to the driveway or wherever your car is parked, and there happens to be a stranger opening the door and settling into the driver’s seat?  Your driver’s seat…  Now, some of us might have no idea what to do.  Perhaps we’d run back in the house and call the police; that would probably be a wise thing to do in such a situation.  But let’s just say, for the sake of the illustration, that you have the composure to keep it together and ask that individual, “What are you doing?  That’s my car!” 

And then the intruder does something awfully strange.  He simply smiles and says to you, “The Lord needs it.”  How do you react then?  Now, on that first Palm Sunday, there’s a chance that Jesus had already known the owners of the donkey; and maybe they had even prearranged this signal or password so that the owners could trust whoever came for the donkey, but in the end, we don’t even have the owners’ reaction to those words, other than that they let the disciples take the young colt, because at that moment, all that mattered was that the Lord needs it. 

The Lord needed a donkey.  Why?  Well, we hear one big reason in some words of prophecy that were written many years before, in the book of Zechariah, chapter 9.  Perhaps you remember hearing them, too—most likely as an Old Testament reading on a Palm Sunday:  See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  God had spoken those words through the prophet almost 600 years before Palm Sunday, and now this moment was the exact time for those words to be fulfilled in Christ.  So when Jesus says, “The Lord needs it,” he is talking about a whole lot more than just a donkey.  He is talking about God’s eternal plan of salvation for sinners.  That brings us to some of the other participants. 

36As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Here’s another group of people, and it’s a bit easier for us to identify with the crowds on Palm Sunday.  Like those crowds, we know that Jesus can do great things.  Like those crowds, we know that Jesus can do miracles.  Like those crowds, we consider ourselves Jesus’ disciples, his followers in a world where there are still many who refuse to acknowledge Jesus, much less follow him. 

There’s another way that we are like the people in those crowds, and this one isn’t so complimentary.  We share their faults; perhaps we are sometimes tempted to see Jesus as something different from, something less than who and what he really is.  Here’s what I mean.  When it comes to the shouts of acclamation from the crowds, God’s Word gives us just a little bit of insight as to their motivation.  Luke writes the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.  Now, on the one hand, they were giving credit where credit was due.  They were praising God, and praising Jesus because they made the connection between the kinds of things Jesus had done, and the prophecies God had given regarding the Messiah King that God was going to send his people.  But there’s a very good chance that many of them wanted far less than what the Lord Jesus needed to do for them.  So many of them wanted a better life, without Roman oppression.  They wanted a King who could provide them with peace and prosperity and hope for the rest of their lives.  They wanted a King who could heal their sick and ease their burdens and take away their pains.  Like we so often do, they couldn’t help but focus on the short term. 

Here’s another way to think about it, to put yourself in their shoes.  Let’s just say that Jesus walked into church this morning/evening.  If you could ask him for one thing, what would it be?  Some of us don’t have to think that hard, because we’ve spent plenty of time in our prayer lives (weeks, months, years?) asking him to fix our messes; pleading with him to heal our aches, pains, and illnesses; waiting for him to help us make difficult choices before us.  But what do we really need? 

Palm Sunday is a great day.  It’s the start of Holy Week.  But in some ways, it’s a world away from the end of Holy Week.  So let’s all take a moment to realize that Palm Sunday is nothing to rejoice about without Good Friday.  Jesus needed more than a donkey to be our Savior.  He needed to humbly fulfill the grave mission His Father had set before him.  He needed the cross.  He needed the empty tomb.  And only in the fulfillment of those promises do we look to Our King and have both the humility and the confidence to cry out to him, “Hosanna.  Lord, Save us.”

And if we realize our infinite need for a Savior, only then can we rightly praise our Lord and King.  We need exactly what Jesus needed to do for us.  So take yourself out of the crowd, and have a one-on-one moment with the Messiah, and think about this: Jesus wants more for you than worldly success.  Jesus wants more for you than a fun Friday night and a lazy Saturday.  Jesus wants more for you than a life that revolves around sports and entertainment.  Jesus wants more for you than a good job with great pay and a luxurious lifestyle.  Jesus wants more for you than to have your dream home and a cabin up north and an easy retirement.  Jesus wants more for you than to be so healthy that you take each day for granted.  Jesus wants more for you than to be looked up to and liked by everyone around you. 

Jesus wants more for you, because Jesus wants you to realize that through faith in him, you get to share in his victory, share in his glory, share in the forgiveness and freedom that he most certainly accomplished for you.  That’s why he needed the donkey, that’s why he rode into Jerusalem, that’s why he set aside the miracles and embraced the rejection, and the cross, and the grave.  To take away your sins.  To make you his own.  To serve you as your humble King.  To bring you healing from your guilt and your failures and your disappointment.  To bring you to lasting joy and contentment because you have all you need in him.  To bring you to his heavenly Kingdom, free from fear and death, and all the power and influence of the devil. 

Until then, Jesus wants you to share in his mission to save sinners.  You can’t save a single soul, but you can invite a friend or neighbor to come with you this week and see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  You can’t convert an unbeliever, but you can share the message of Jesus through which the Holy Spirit works to bring lost sinners to faith in Christ.  As long as you live, you get to share in the mission of Jesus, who lives to seek and save the lost, just like he did for us.  That’s a divine purpose that we carry out as a church and as individuals, second only to the divine purpose Jesus fulfilled during Holy Week.

It’s so much more than we would have chosen for ourselves.  But in this gracious calling, in our relationship with him by faith, it is all yours.

Today let’s not keep quiet.  Let’s all rejoice that the Lord did what he needed to do to save us and others.  He is exactly the Lord and King we need.  AMEN.