The King Comes! Praise God!
The King Comes! Praise God!
Text: Luke 19:28-40
The hour had come. It was now time to go to Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples approached the city from the East crossing over a little mountain that rose 2,500 feet above sea level. It was called the Mount of Olives. That coming week Jesus would spend a lot of time at that Mount on the western side in a little garden called the Garden of Gethsemane. On this day, as Jesus ascended the Mount of Olives he came upon two villages, Bethphage and Bethany.
Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead to go and get a young colt that had never been ridden. Possibly this had been prearranged with the owner. When they returned with the young donkey they put their cloaks on it as a makeshift saddle and spread their cloaks on the ground as a makeshift royal red carpet.
As Jesus road along on the Mount of Olives and came to the point where the road begins to go down the other side, surely many had in mind the words of Zechariah 9 that you heard earlier today. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” As Jesus, who had done so many wonderful miracles, rode on toward Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey, how could those words of prophecy not come to mind?
There, where the road turned down the Mount toward Jerusalem, is where the action started to heat up. Luke tells us this in verse 37: “When 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: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’” This was a quote from Psalm 118. They also shouted “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” praises that remind us of the words the angels sang on the night Jesus was born. And of course we also know that they shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” which means “Save us! Save us!” This crowd of disciples was dialed in to who Jesus was and what he came to do, and it filled them with such joy that they erupted in praises to God.
Not everyone had the same reaction though. The last thing the hate-filled Pharisees wanted was more raucous rabble rousing over Jesus. Enough was enough already! Verse 39: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
But no one can stop Jesus from being praised. “I tell you,” [Jesus] replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” On the one hand, all of creation declares the glory of God. But these words were also a prophecy from Jesus. Because of the rejection of the Pharisees and many of the other Jews, Jerusalem was going to receive God’s judgment. About 40 years later, in the year 70 A.D., Jerusalem was going to be leveled by the Romans. So in a very real sense, the stones and rubble left behind would declare the praises of Jesus the King and judge whom the people should not have rejected.
That encounter with the Pharisees led to one more part of this story that isn’t talked about very often. It’s not even included in the verses in your service folder. But it happened right after this. In between the shouts of praises on that mountaintop and the shouts of praises waiting at the city gates, Jesus had a quiet moment of reflection. Following this exchange with the Pharisees, Luke goes on to tell us this in the next verses (not in the service folder): “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” Amid all the commotion of that first Palm Sunday, Jesus had a tearfully quiet moment to reflect with sadness on the city he could see from that Mount of Olives.
What a shame! What sadness! If they only knew what this commotion was all about! If only they could see Jesus as the promised Messiah! If only they believed that he was entering that city to bring them peace with God through the forgiveness of sins! It wasn’t just the spiritually blind who rejected him either. Five days from now we’ll see Jesus suffering alone and dying alone on the cross and we’ll wonder, “Where are all the disciples now? Where did all the shouts go? Why are they sad? Why are they afraid? Why are they running away from Jesus?” If only they knew on that day what peace their King was bringing them!
How many people in the world today are still like those people of Jerusalem? How many people would Jesus weep over saying, “If only they knew! If only they knew the peace I had to offer!” Wouldn’t Jesus still have the same tears over Jerusalem today, saddened by the Jews who still reject him and the Muslims who think they have a better prophet in Mohammed? Wouldn’t Jesus have tears of sadness over the 1 billion Hindus in the world who believe in some one million gods, but not one of them is Jesus.
And we join Jesus in these tears of sadness. In our Palm Sunday celebration today we sing our shouts of praise to Jesus. But like the Pharisees of old, there are so many who are angry about this. They hate what we believe and stand for. They think we are wasting our time. They have other things to do that are better. A nation that once had a population predominately Christian is now a nation with a population who predominately doesn’t care. That saddens us. They’re blind to the peace that Jesus offers.
Then we start thinking about our friends and our family. That neighbor we keep inviting to church but who purposefully has an excuse every time. Our high school or college age child who would rather surf the web or catch some Z’s than get up for church. That sister or mother or husband whom you plead with to give time and attention to Jesus, but, “That’s just not for them,” or, “They’ll never be church goin’ folk.” We weep with Jesus that they don’t know the peace he offers to them.
You may not associate with those unbelieving Pharisees or people of Jerusalem in the story, but what about that crowd of disciples? What about that crowd of disciples that mysteriously disappeared later in the week? They shouted their praises for the procession of their King, but when the going got tough they quickly got going later in the week. What about the 12 disciples who were taught by Jesus and then warned by Jesus? They should have known what Jesus was there for, yet they were so confused. They should have listened to Jesus about temptation and sin, yet Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and all the others abandoned him.
This fills our eyes with tears of sadness too, because we know that this often describes us as his disciples today. One day we are belting out praises, singing and shouting, “Hosanna!” the next day there are all kinds of other words coming out of our mouths. One day we are happy and cheery and smiley greeting one another in church with love, the next day happy and loving would be the last words used to describe our actions. One day we read in the Word or hear in worship about the peace that Jesus gives and it fill us with joy, and the next day we are so overwhelmed by worry and anxiety its like we completely forgot about the peace that Jesus offers.
How many of us might Jesus weep over one day because we were too tired to read the Bible, we were too busy for church, we didn’t understand or treasure his gifts like Communion? God forbid the day that Satan and sin steal our hearts and Jesus the judge is left to say in tears, “If you knew on this day what would bring you peace!”
So on this Palm Sunday we gather near the crowds of people on the western bank of the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem and we listen very carefully to the praises they sang: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
This isn’t any old person riding along on a donkey. This isn’t some YouTube sensation, or the Super Bowl MVP, or the winner of the 15th and final season of American Idol. This is a king—a king who comes in the name of the Lord. This is a king who was sent from on high for a specific purpose. This is a king who came to set aside his power, honor, and glory to humble himself. This is a king who was born in a barn, raised by a carpenter, and who rode on a donkey. This is a king who later this week will stoop down to wash feet, who will turn his back to a whip, and who will open his palms to nails. This is a king who came in the name of the Lord to answer our cries of, “Hosanna! Save us!” This is a king who set aside his crown to come in humility so that through his suffering and death you could be crowned with forgiveness and salvation.
Then the people continued their shouts of praise, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Like the angels sang the night this King was born, there is glory to God in the highest heaven because there is now peace with God’s people on earth. Into a world filled with chaos and torment and suffering and pain, into a world filled with evil and wickedness and sin of every kind, God sent peace in the form of his own Son. That’s why Jesus overlooked the city on that first Palm Sunday, wept, and said, “If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace.”
If they only knew what we know. Jesus was about to ride down that mountain into Jerusalem to make peace with God for sinners separated from him by sin. Just as you drove into the Christ the King campus this morning in that beautiful angled driveway lined with palm trees and directly in front of you on a beeline through the middle tower window is this altar up front, so also Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem to waving palm branches and was going to make a beeline for the cross to offer himself as the sacrifice for all sin. His blood shed on the altar of the cross is what atoned for sin, appeased God, and brought you peace with God for all eternity.
Look and listen carefully on this Palm Sunday. See the crowds surrounding Jesus. Hear their shouts of praise. See the King riding into Jerusalem for your salvation. Praise God for his grace and mercy!
Then, with eyes of faith, see the King who still comes. Know that he brings you peace still today. The Bible is not just some old book that we like to argue about and that makes us feel fuzzy on the inside. Know that King Jesus comes to you in the Bible through the message of the Gospel to give you peace. When you read the Bible you grow closer to Christ and grow in that peace he brings you.
Know that the King comes to give peace in Baptism. Know how important the peace given to you at your Baptism once upon a time truly is. Know how important it is for your friends and family and children to be baptized. Know what an incredible miracle it is each and every time we have a baptism here.
Know that the King comes to give you peace in his Supper. In a very real way he comes with his very body and blood to you. The same body that entered Jerusalem and was nailed to a cross, the same blood shed for your sin—they are both truly given to you for the forgiveness of your sins. Some of you may know—what do I always say right after Jesus’ words when we have Communion? “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” to which you resoundingly respond, “Amen!”
Finally, know that your King is going to come to you one final time yet. Know that he will come on the clouds with all his angels on the Last Day to crown you with victory for eternity.
You see, this great day, Palm Sunday, when we shout the praises of our King Jesus is not just about one day in time 2,000 years ago. Today we shout and sing of peace because our King came once as our Savior, he comes now through Word and Sacraments, and he will come back soon as triumphant King. What joy we have on Palm Sunday and every day—The King Comes! Praise God!