Intro.:In the movie Alexander the mighty general, Alexander the Great, is seen entering the city of Babylon where the crowds welcome him. There he is parading through the city mounted on his stately white horse, flanked by his generals, and followed by a massive army of soldiers who have devoted their lives to his military campaigns. The citizens of Babylon, a conquered people, are forced to greet Alexander with cheers and songs of praise. They throw flowers and leafy branches before his path. Such parades were common in the ancient world as the rulers and generals ordered the crowds to praise them and threatened to kill anyone who did not obey.
Today, we join the Palm Sunday parade in which a very different kind of king enters the holy city where he will fight the battle that has won the final victory for us. As Jesus entered Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday there was such excitement and hope as...
I. The crowds sang praises to their King.
The people of Jerusalem who heard the news that Jesus was coming did not line the streets because it was commanded by a vain king. They did not lay their cloaks on the ground and wave branches out of fear of being punished by a mighty general. Instead, they willingly and joyfully sang their praises, because of the gentle majesty of Christ who was coming to bring them peace.
A. The people of Jerusalem had already received their fill of powerful kings and fearsome generals entering their city on war horses and chariots to enslave them. Jesus, the Son of David, had shown them that he was different. He was gentle and loving. He healed the sick, cast out demons, and dealt compassionately with sinners. And now he was coming to them just as the prophet had foretold, gentle and riding on a donkey.
We are here today to praise him, also, because of the gentle and loving way in which he deals with us. By His grace He never fails to give us much more than we deserve, and by His mercy He has turned away the punishment that we deserve. He enters our lives as He did that first Palm Sunday to forgive us, heal us, and serve us. So we are here to join the crowd of saints throughout the ages who love to sing praises to their gentle and loving king.
B. And yet, beneath the gentleness of Jesus the crowds of Jerusalem saw something more. Those who initiated this spontaneous parade also sang praises to His saving power. Our Gospel tells us that: “the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen (saying); ‘blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.’” (vss.37-38)
The people greeted Jesus as the long promised king who would sit upon David’s throne forever. They confessed who He was and His Divine work when they shouted, “Hosanna! (Which means: Save us please) Hosanna, Son of David!” This was their way of welcoming him into their lives as Savior and pledging their loyalty and undying love to Him as their everlasting King. This day marked a new era of hope for God’s people with a promise of great things to come!
Because of the faith we have been given through the Word and in Holy Baptism, we also have claimed Jesus Christ as our Savior and King. Many of us, on the day we were confirmed, stood before the Lord’s altar and declared our allegiance to Jesus. Full of hope, and promise for an abundant life with Him we made our vows of loyalty and undying love. Even though Jesus had already claimed us for Himself, we were glad to confess and praise Him as our Savior and King in the presence of all His people.
C. Today, we are blessed to continue that song. We are here to sing His praises, not out of force or fear, but because our Lord Jesus Christ has revealed himself to us as the King who comes to bring us peace. So many of the people of Jerusalem lived every day, knowing that they had declared war on God by their sinful rebellion. Their hard life under Roman rule was a daily reminder of the enmity and strife between them and the Lord.
In the same way we struggle everyday with the consequences of our own sin and the sins of humanity. Injustices, injuries, cruelties, conflict, sickness and death surround us. We know that we enter this world as enemies of God and war against him every time we give into thinking, saying or doing the things we know He has placed off-limits. Like the people on that first Palm Sunday we want to have peace with God, with ourselves, and with one another.
That is why we are here, to sing songs of praise to Christ, because he is the one and only King who has come to bring peace between us and God. He is the King who came not to serve but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for us on the cross. By Spirit worked faith and love He then gives us peace with ourselves through forgiveness and a holy desire to live at peace with one another.
Transition: The prophet promised that the Christ would come as a King, gentle and riding on a donkey, to bring salvation and peace to all people. That is why the crowds sang His praises then and why we sing His praises here today. But what happened to the crowds who sang Jesus’ praises? What happened to the loyalty and love they had pledged to their King? More yet, what has happened to those who once joined us in singing His praises, to those who welcomed Jesus into their lives as Savior and King, to those who made their vows at the altar? Where is their loyalty, now? Where is their love, now? Where are their voices, now? Sadly, we know that...
II. By the end of the week the crowd stopped praising Him.
A. Those who were joyous on Palm Sunday, were in mourning. In Luke 23 the evangelist records that as Jesus made his way to the place of crucifixion, “a large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.” (Lk. 23:27)
By Good Friday, their enthusiasm and their hope had faded away. Their songs of praise were silenced when they saw Jesus being tortured and shamed and hung on a cross to die. What kind of Savior was this? Could such a king benefit them? What was there to sing about, now? The crowds no longer praised him because by Friday Christ was dying or already dead to them.
Even in our congregation the voices of those who were once filled with joy, have turned to mourning, because Christ has died or is dying in their lives. [I remember so many of the young adults, don’t bother looking around you won’t see them, but I remember how they used to love to come to Church and go to Sunday school and to sing their Jesus songs. I remember how they would giggle with glee when they talked about God and His love. I remember them walking up that aisle waving their palm branches with great big smiles on their faces.] The love that once overflowed in enthusiastic praise has grown cold in so many of them and in so many others. The gentleness of Jesus who died so willingly on the cross for their sins to bring them peace seems to mean nothing to them, now. So many, by separating themselves from Christ and His Word, have put him to death in their hearts, so that now it is little more than a faint memory. My dear friends I pray that such a life of sorrow without Christ will never come upon you
B. And what happened to the crowds on that first Palm Sunday who sang praises because they were excited by Christ’s miracles? Standing before the cross of Jesus on Good Friday many of them were ashamed of him. Some who stood watching, Luke tells us, “sneered at him”. They said “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” (Lk. 23:35) What had happened to Jesus’ strength, to the One they had asked to save them? He looked so embarrassingly weak on that cross? The powers of the world seemed to have gotten the best of him.
Many of us also have turned from singing praises, to acting as if we were ashamed of Christ. How many times have we taken a word of Christ, a direction he has given us for our lives, and a promise he has made, and failed to act on it, because we have convinced ourselves that it just won’t work. We have allowed the devil to deceive us into believing that the powers of the world are greater than Christ. So when given the opportunity to stand up for Christ, and stand out against the world, we falter because we are ashamed of the Gospel. We do not speak or act as we should because of the apparent foolishness and weakness of the cross, which is in truth the power of God unto salvation.
C. If disappointment and shame were not enough to silence those who sang their praises on Palm Sunday, there was one more thing which might work. Fear! Many, even the Lord’s closest disciples, who were so bold in declaring Christ as their King and who pledged their loyalty and love to Him were turned mute by fear. Already in the garden most of the disciples at the sight of the armed mob turned and ran for their lives. For days they hid themselves away, afraid of what might happen to them. They did not sing their Hosannas. They did not shout their praises. They secretly and silently locked themselves away from the world.
In the same way here in our Palm Sunday celebration we boldly profess our faith. But what happens when we leave this place? What about tomorrow when we are at work, or school? What about next week when it becomes necessary to speak up for Jesus to our best friend, or to do what we know is right when it means offending a family member? Where will our courage be then? Too often, we hide from such opportunities. The voices we use here to confess Christ our Savior and sing praises to our King, are silenced by fear. But thanks be to God, through the forgiveness and new life we have received in Christ’s resurrection...
III. The praise of the crowd will go on, even for all eternity.
A.For the crowds of disciples, the resurrection turned their silence into praise again. Even the most despairing and detached disciple, like Thomas was able to declare the eternal Lordship of Jesus, saying, “You are my Lord and my God!” Disciples like Peter, who had rejected and denied him, were given the opportunity to confess again, “Lord, you know I love you!” What a difference the resurrection made in the lives of those disciples! Never again would their sounds of praise be silenced! Never again would they remain silent when given the opportunity to share the glorious love of Christ!
In the same way doesn’t the Lord’s promise of forgiveness, salvation, and a resurrection to eternal life open our mouths to sing His praises. Even though we will leave this sanctuary next week in silence on Good Friday, on Easter morning we will blow the roof off of this place with songs of praise! We believe and are certain that though we have sinned against the Lord, he has forgiven us, lifted us up again, and given us the opportunity to confess Him as our King and declare our love for him in word and deed.
B. His promise is also that, even if some may turn silent, He will continue to raise up new voices to sing His praises. When some of the Pharisees asked Jesus to silence the crowd that praised him on Palm Sunday, he told them that if they would not sing, then the stones would cry out. By this he meant specifically the Gentile. Even those people who were as spiritually dead as stones could be made alive by the Holy Spirit to sing His praises. And that is exactly what happened, and what is happening here today.
So let us never doubt that if or when we grow silent the Lord will raise up others. Even now as we see such a terrible falling away from the church the Lord is raising up others to take our place. As we see the love of many for the Lord in this nation growing cold we are encouraged to know that in other parts of the world the Gospel is bearing fruit, crowds are growing and songs of praise continue. The Lord will never leave this world without witnesses. I can only pray that He will continue to work in us to be among them.
C. Today, we continue to fill the world with the sound of praise to our Savior and King, Jesus Christ. As Jesus told his disciples: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” (Lk. 24:46-47)
Even as Jesus sent his disciples to bring the sound of praise to all people, so he is sending all of us, this great crowd to be his angels, his messengers, to declare His praises to all people. And as long as we have a breath that is what we will do. And then, when that breath is gone, we will join the even greater crowd of saints and angels in heaven before the throne of our Savior King, where the sound of praises will continue forever and ever!
So come, all of you who know the gentleness and love of Christ, all of you who have welcomed your King of Peace, join the crowd that praises Him forever. Amen.