Palm Sunday

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Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and His only Son Jesus Christ, Amen.

         Over 25 Kings and kingdoms exist in our world today. Some are great kings; some are wealthy kings and some may be considered closer to tyrant than king. The writings in Genesis speak of ancient kings who became powerful and greedy for power.

         These kings came into their power shortly after the great Flood and the Tower of Babel. So quickly after the purge of the wickedness of man, humankind once again descended into idolatry and other sins.

“And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.” [Genesis 14:8–9]

These kings are mentioned because of what became of them. After the great battle, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah took all their possession & peoples and fled into the mountains. Unfortunately for them, they took Lot, Abraham’s brother’s son with them.

         Abraham proceeded to arm 318 of his servants and, in the night, routed the armies of these kings and brought “Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people” [Gen 14:16] back to Hebron. Shortly thereafter, the defeated king of Sodom came to make a peace treaty with Abraham.

         Since Abraham was not a king, the king of Shalam oversaw and blessed the meeting. This king was also a priest of the “God Most High”. His name literally meant, ‘King of Righteousness’ – also known as Melchizedek.

         He was a king and high priest put in authority over God’s people by God himself. Many thousand years later, God would place another King of Righteousness in authority over His people. His name would be ‘Jehovah is salvation’ and ‘The Anointed’. The first title is that of a priest and the second is that of a king.

         In the history of the world, kings have been made and kings have been unmade. Good kings, evil kings, smart kings and just plain bad kings have come and gone. Some kings ruled for many years while others were killed before they could even sit on the throne.

         Some kings have even declared themselves gods, yet they died as mere mortals. Kingdoms come and go as frequently as the kings who rule them. The greatest kings in all of history, those who conquered the known world of their times, still met death the same way as the poorest beggar.

         We have a glimpse into the minds of a people in the Middle East 2000 years ago. Where, the people of Israel heralded the entrance of their king, a man named Jesus, into their holy city of Jerusalem.

         For millennia the people awaited the coming of their messiah, their holy king, and lifted their hands in prayer and praise. Generation after generation had passed down the history and the prophecy that led to this day. This was not King David or King Solomon or any of the other kings of Judah, but the final and last king, the king of kings.

         They gathered in the streets, a great multitude, waving their colorful cloaks and palm-branches they had cut from the trees. They cheered and shouted praises in joy. “Hosanna! “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

         Little did they know that they would soon be mourning the death of their king. In a few days, he would be put on trial before the leaders and rulers of their country and he would be sentenced to death by crucifixion. This king would never sit on any earthly throne.

         If this Jesus of Nazareth were like every other earthly king, his death would be the end of the story. Many of the people who lauded his entrance into the great city of Jerusalem did not truly know this king.

         They did not know that this man from Galilee, humble and riding on a donkey was their salvation. You see, they were looking for an earthly king, a man and not their God. They were looking for the one who would overthrow the Roman overseers and return to them full autonomy in their promised land.

         Many of them saw the procession. They saw the miracles of healing the sick and of the feeding the crowds. ‘Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.’ [John 12:18] Yet there were others among the people who did not wish to see a new king sit in authority over them, so they plotted and schemed to kill him.

         In their selfish greed, they could not see a good king. Their sin was so thick that they could not see their Messiah. They saw only a man who threatened their power and control. This darkness would not allow them to see whose kingdom had come.

         They did not see and they did not believe. Once Pontius Pilate judged the carpenter from Nazareth for crucifixion, their messiah was no more. Once the palm-branches had been cast aside or burned in the fire, their king was forgotten, and so they did not believe his resurrection from the grave or see his victory over sin, death and the devil.

         We gather here today rejoicing as the people of Jerusalem did so many years ago. We are blessed. We are not in darkness. We know that our Redeemer lives. We have the benefit of the light of our king. We have the Holy Scriptures, which tell us the rest of the story.

         It is true that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried. It is also true that on the third day he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father from whence he will come again to judge both the living and the dead.

         At that time, Jesus Christ will sit in the judgment seat and every tongue will confess him as king over all creation. Why does not God the Father, the giver of the Law, sit in judgment? Because Jesus became human to live in our flesh and fulfill the Law perfectly. Who better to judge humanity than he who, as a man, has satisfied the will of God completely?

         We may confess Christ as Lord with our mouths but we do not always confess it with our hearts. Like the people along the roadside in Jerusalem, we shout loudly, wave our palm-branches and our colorful cloaks, but that is all we do.

         When our Lord and King is spit upon, we do nothing. When the name above all names is removed from our lives by our government, we turn away ashamed. When our children are taught that our Savior was not a real person, we do not protect them. What is worse, is when our so-called leaders and wise men say that Jesus was not really our King, we believe them.

         We are sinners who would rather live in peace and denial than in the confrontation of truth. We do not want to fight for the Gospel because we might suffer or be killed for our beliefs. The devil has done his work well. Like those who chose the release Barabbas, we choose the murderer instead of the life-giver.

         Pilate confessed Christ as ‘King of the Jews’. The soldiers, although mockingly, truthfully confessed Jesus as king. A thief crucified at Jesus’ side confesses him as Lord. And when the centurion, who stood facing him,’ at the foot of the cross, ‘saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”’[Mark 15:39] It is time for us to confess Jesus Christ as Lord with our voices and our hearts.

         If you have denied Christ in the past, return to him now. Our king is a gracious, just and forgiving king. If you have denied Christ as Lord by your thoughts, your actions and your words, do not go into the night in your sin. Repent as St. Peter repented and be made whole again by the grace of God and the mercy of your true king, Jesus Christ.

         We are at the end of our Lenten journey, our penitential journey. This coming week we follow the passion of the sufferings and death of our Savior, the beloved, true and only Son of our Father in heaven. We mourn his death, but we rejoice in his resurrection.

      Ever since the time of Moses the people knew our Lord would save us from our sin. Those who have kept their faith in the One True God and not in an earthly king will be vindicated. Those who followed false idols will not be saved, but those who follow the true king of heaven and earth will be set free. On that day, God will say to His people:

     “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your King is coming to you;

He is just and having salvation, [Zechariah 9:9]

         The blood of the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world. This is your sin and mine. With his blood on the cross, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, a new covenant has been forged and a new king now rules this land and this people.

         Because of the blood of my covenant, declares the Lord, I will set your prisoners free. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double honor to you. [Zechariah 9:12] Today, I will forgive you! No one can usurp this king’s authority. Jesus Christ is the man who became king and is the One True God of all.

         St. Paul tells us, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.’ [Philippians 2:5] ‘God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.[Philippians 2:9] Take comfort in the promise of your King and your God. He has given you life eternal at his side. Do not fear the name of Jesus Christ for it is his name to which every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord. [Philippians 2:10]

All hail the power of Jesus’ name and crown him Lord of all.