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April 14, 2019

Sermon Matthew 21:9 . . . “Bible songs:  Hosanna!”

“Bible songs:  Hosanna!”

Matthew 21:9

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

In an article entitled, Why everybody should have a donkey, the author, Paul Craft, writes:  “Donkeys are a great conversation piece and fun animals to have around.  They’re forever alert with their ears perked up, and surveying every direction like radar spinning on top of a battleship.”  And he writes:  “Sometimes I just catch myself looking out the kitchen window, staring at the donkeys.”

So why should everyone have a donkey?  For one thing, they’re the “helping hooves of humankind,” the original beasts of burden.  In fact, in many countries around the world, they’re still the best and most reliable ways to get around.  Do you know why the Egyptians were so rich?  Because donkeys carried their gold from African mines.  And they carried grapes for the Greeks, deftly walking among the vines.  Horses are fine, but donkeys are truly “all-terrain.”

And not only are donkeys smart and strong, they’re stronger than a horse of the same size!  And they have ears like you wouldn’t believe.  Supposedly, they can hear another donkey call from sixty miles away!  

And not only do they live a long time, (as long as fifty years!), they have an incredible memory.  They can recognize other places and other donkeys they haven’t seen for twenty-five years (which is better than most humans!)

But donkeys are stubborn, you say.  You’re right--they are stubborn!  But there’s a reason they’re stubborn.  It’s because they have a highly developed sense of self-preservation.  You can’t force them or frighten them into doing anything they don’t want to do.  They don’t think it’s safe.  

But one of the best reasons to own a donkey is because they will protect the family farm.  If any predator should ever dare to come close, they’ll rear up on their hind legs and fight and bite.  And if all else fails, a kick from their back legs will break bones!

Shouldn’t everyone have a donkey?

Donkeys were pretty important in Bible times too.  Abraham rode a donkey, Moses rode a donkey, and King David rode a donkey too.

Even the Ten Commandments talk about donkeys.  As God said in commandment number ten:  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

And sure enough, as Jesus came into Jerusalem on that very first Palm Sunday, of all things, He rode a donkey.

Please turn with me in your Bible to page 1049, as I read the words of our text.  Matthew chapter 21, starting at verse, “The Triumphal Entry.”

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her.  Untie them and bring them to Me.  If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord needs them,” and he will send them at once.’  This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your King is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”’  The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.”

Now, if you don’t mind me saying, all this is very strange.  If you’re going to make a grand entrance into your capital city, there are a lot better ways to do it, (with all due respect!), than riding a donkey.

Take the Romans, for example.  Whenever a Roman general marched in triumph, he would first paint his face red, then wear an all-purple, gold-embroidered toga, not to mention a laurel wreath on his head, to mark him as “near-divine.”  Then he would ride a four-horse drawn chariot, followed by his army, his captives, and the spoils of war.  Then at Jupiter’s temple, he would offer two flawless white oxen as a sacrifice of victory to his god.  And as priests burned incense, the people cheered, and threw flowers on the ground.

But our Lord’s triumphal entry was nothing like that.  He didn’t wear a laurel wreath or a gold-embroidered toga, and neither did He ride in a horse-drawn chariot.  Instead, He had nothing more than a quiet, humble, beast of burden--a donkey.

So why a donkey?

To show that He was not the kind of King everyone expected Him to be.  To show that He came to bring peace, and not a sword.  And to show that He truly was the One God promised would come.  For as the prophet Zechariah once foretold five hundred years before:  “Behold, your King is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

And as He came to Jerusalem that day, what did the people sing?  Look at verse 9:  “And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!’”

That’s an interesting word--Hosanna.  But what does it really mean?

It’s a Hebrew word, or rather, two Hebrew words.  The first is, “yasha,” a word that means, “to save,” “to deliver,” and “to make us free again.”  And the second is “na,” a word that means, “Please do it now!”  Put them together, “yasha-na,” “Hosanna,” and you get, “If there’s any possible way, save us!  Deliver us from the hands of Rome!”

And as Jesus entered Jerusalem that day, riding a colt, the foal of a donkey, the people couldn’t help but shout and sing:  “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Back in the early 1800s, two Lutheran brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm told the story about a king named, King Thrushbeard.  

And in their story, they told of a very beautiful, but very proud and arrogant princess who refused to marry anyone, because she was so arrogant and proud.  

So her father, the king, sponsored a great feast, and invited all the men from both near and far, in hopes of finding someone who would agree to marry his daughter.  Then he lined them all up according to their rank and standing--dukes, princes, barons, earls, and members of the aristocracy.

And as she met one after another, she found something wrong with every single one.  One was too tall.  She said, “Thin and tall, no good at all.”  Another was too short.  She said, “Short and thick is never quick.”  Another couldn’t stand straight.  She said:  “Green wood, dried behind the stove.”

But there was one more, a man whose chin had grown a little crooked.  “Look!” she cried out laughing.  “He has a chin like a thrush’s beak.”  So she sent him away, cruelly calling him, “King Thrushbeard.”

Now when her father saw that she had mocked every single one of his guests, he promised that the very first beggar(!) to come to the palace the very next morning would be her husband instead.

And sure enough, the very next morning, a young minstrel, a country musician, came to the door, dressed in dirty, ragged clothes, hoping to sing a song for a handout.  And the king, just as he promised, offered him his daughter’s hand in marriage.  He said:  “I will give you my daughter for a wife.”

But he didn’t want her.  He said she wasn’t strong enough, and neither did she seem capable of doing any practical work.

And she didn’t like him either.  He was, after all, just an ordinary minstrel.  But the king had given his word, so the priest was called, vows were spoken, and off they went to live out their days in a humble country cottage.

And as they went, they passed by the fine lands and properties that belonged to King Thrushbeard.  That’s when the princess began to regret what she had done.  She said over and over again:  “Oh, I am a miserable thing.  If only I’d taken the Thrushbeard King.”  

Then when they arrived at his humble, country home, a house fit only for pigs, he treated her as if she were a commoner.  He made her work around the house, weave baskets, and sell pottery, things she could hardly do.  Finally, last of all, he told her the only job left was to work as a servant at the nearby castle of King Thrushbeard.

At first, she was completely ashamed to work for a man she had so harshly scorned.  But she managed to put her pride aside, knowing her husband was counting on her to make some kind of living.  And as she worked in the king’s castle, she did the absolute dirtiest of work.  And she carried jars in her pockets, hoping to bring home the leftovers.

Until one day, she discovered that King Thrushbeard was about to be married.  And when that day came, she was forced into the great hall for a dance.  And as she spun and whirled around, the jars of food she carried in her pockets flew all over the floor.  As everyone laughed at her, she fled the hall crying.

Then much to her surprise, a man suddenly stooped down to help her.  And dressed in finery was her husband, the minstrel, who smiled and asked why she was crying on her wedding day.

You see, all along, the minstrel was King Thrushbeard.  And in spite of her pride and arrogance, and their secret marriage through her father’s vow, he had fallen in love with her.  And her ordeals were meant to punish her for her cruelty towards him, and to cure her of her spoiled ways.

And though she was not worthy, he forgave her and took her to be his wife.

And as the story ends, maids-in-waiting dressed her in the most beautiful of clothes, and the two lived happily ever after.

Is it just a story?  Not at all, for Christ has come to take home His bride, the church.  And there, by His rich grace and unimaginable blessing, we’ll live with Him, happily ever after.

Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!


All glory, laud, and honor to You, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.  As You received their praises, accept the prayers we bring, O Source of ev’ry blessing, our good and gracious King, for Your sake.  Amen

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