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April 5, 2020

Sermon Matthew 21:9 .  .“Hosanna”

“Hosanna”

Matthew 21:9

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

In an article entitled, A Brief History of Inauguration Parades, author Amanda Hurley writes, “Uncouth, hot-tempered, and shadowed by scandal:  the new president was an outsider who made high society shudder and government officials gnash their teeth.  His win after a toxic campaign was described by one leading statesman as a ‘calamity.’  Even allies thought his cabinet picks were mediocre.  But his supporters lionized him as the common man’s hero and poured into Washington to see him sworn in.  Then they followed him, cheering, down Pennsylvania Avenue as he made his way from the Capitol to the White House.”

Who was that man?  The seventh president of our United States--Andrew Jackson, of course!  

Up until that day in March of 1829, events marking the transfer of presidential power had been rather small and low-key.  When George Washington was sworn in in 1789, for example, he didn’t even have a parade--only fireworks.  In 1801, just as soon as Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office, he had lunch, then strolled back to his boarding house.  Not until Jackson’s time did things get a little more interesting.

In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt decorated Pennsylvania Avenue with 50,000 flags.  Apache chief Geronimo and the Rough Riders helped to draw huge crowds.  Fifty years later, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s was even better.  With seventy-three bands, fifty-nine floats, three hundred and fifty horses, three elephants, and an Alaskan dog sled team, his parade lasted four-and-a-half hours!

We like parades, especially ones that are as important as this.

So it was in the words of Matthew chapter 21.  Please turn in your Bible to page 1049 as I read the words of our text.  Matthew chapter 21, starting at verse 1:  “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” (Matthew 21:1-6).

“Commonly clad.  Uncommonly focused,” writes Max Lucado.  Here on Palm Sunday, Jesus was on a journey, a final journey.  Even the angels were silent, for they knew this was no ordinary walk, and no ordinary week.  For hinged on this week was all of history, from beginning to end.

And with a few short commands, it all began.

Verse 2:  “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.”

And what happened as they brought that donkey and its colt to Him?  Verse 8:  “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  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!’” (Matthew 21:8-9).

But you know, this wasn’t the only parade into Jerusalem that day.  Roman historians tell us that the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, also led a procession of centurions and cavalry into Jerusalem that day.

Imagine the spectacle.  While Jesus entered on the eastern side, Pilate entered on the western side.  And while Jesus rode a donkey, Pilate rode on horseback, as soldiers marched on foot--each one clad in leather armor polished to high gloss.  Hammered bronze helmets gleamed in the sun.  Swords crafted from the hardest steel were sheathed on their sides.  In their hands they held a spear.  Archers slung bows and arrows across their back.

And as drummers drummed and marchers marched, this was no ordinary parade.  Pilate was, after all, the governor of Judea, Idumea, and Samaria.  And it was standard practice for him to be there in their capital city for all religious celebrations.  It was the beginning of Passover, a festival that celebrated the liberation of the Jews.

Though he would have far rather stayed at his headquarters in Caesarea-by-the-Sea, he had to be in Jerusalem--stuffy, crowded, hotbed of religious and political fervor--Jerusalem.  Ever since the Romans took control eighty years before, uprisings were always in the air.  And the one way, the only way, to be sure to squash anything before it got out of control, was to wield his power and keep the peace.

He knew full well that the temple would be the center of all religious activity, so his fortress, Antonia’s Fortress, would be the perfect place to keep an eye on temple grounds.  And his show-of-force entry into Jerusalem would send a clear message to anyone who would dare to plot a strike against the empire of Rome.

But in the place of soldiers and horses and helmets made of gleaming bronze, Jesus rode a donkey, and crowds cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Hosanna in the highest!”

No one had ever seen anything like it.  Bible translators tell of the city’s reaction in different ways.  It was stirred, excited, moved, shaken, trembling, in an uproar, in turmoil, in shock, unnerved, they say.

Vast crowds had gathered.  Rumors swept through narrow city streets that Jesus had come.  Some said He was a good man, a worker of miracles.  Others said He was a fraud.  Could He be the Messiah, the One God promised would come?

As it says in verse 10:  “And when He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’  And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’”

It was the point of no return.

It’s been said that when a man knows the end is near, he bypasses the trivial and overlooks the unnecessary.  Only what’s vital remains.

Jesus knew the end was near.  He knew the finality of Friday.  Not only did He read the last chapter, He wrote the last chapter.  Each step was calculated.  Every act was premeditated.  Fully aware that the last grains of sand would soon slip through the hourglass, what mattered?

Watch Him as He rides triumphantly into Jerusalem.  A donkey brays, priests scoff, children sing, and people shout, “Hosanna!”

Why?  Because God has come into our world to take us home.

If truth be known, nothing would have seemed more unlikely than for a King to come riding on a donkey.  Imagine the Romans laughing as they watched.  A pauper King, riding on a borrowed donkey, His saddle a makeshift layer of cloaks, attended by an unruly mob whose only weapons were thin, green strips of palm.

In the words of a poem:  “King Jesus, why did You choose a lowly donkey to carry You to ride in Your parade?  Had You no friend who owned a horse--a royal mount with spirit for a King to ride?  Why choose a donkey, a small, unassuming beast of burden trained to plow, not carry kings?  And King Jesus, why did You choose me, a lowly unimportant person to bear You in my world today?  I’m poor and unimportant, trained to work, not carry kings--let alone the King of kings.  And yet You’ve chosen me to carry You in triumph in this world’s parade.

“King Jesus, keep me small, so all may see how great You are.  And keep me humble, so all may say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Back in October of 1955, J.R.R. Tolkien published a book called, The Return of the King.  It’s the third and final volume of The Lord of the Rings.

And in that book, he tells the story of a king named Aragorn, the rightful king of the west.  He’s spent years living in obscurity, forgoing kingly comforts to serve his subjects and fight their battles, often risking his life to save theirs.  Finally, after he overpowers the forces of the dark lord, he enters the city where he’ll reign as king.

And as Aragorn comes to claim his throne, the city’s steward proclaims his royal pedigree for all the citizens to hear:  “Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dunedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Numenor.  Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?”

There was another King who spent long years in obscurity, thirty-three long years--unheralded, humbly serving the people over whom He had every right to reign, laying down His life for them.

And now, today, by His overwhelming victory over sin and death, He comes to claim our lives by rights of His royal pedigree.  He is Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, the Bright and Morning Star, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the First and the Last, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, Mighty Second Person of the Trinity, Son of God, Son of Man, Word Incarnate, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

One more thing.  Doctors tell us that each drop of human blood contains over five million red cells.  And if we were to arrange all the red cells from an average person’s lifetime end to end, they’d reach from the earth to the sun and back five times!

Even more, our bodies contain sixty thousand miles of blood vessels, delivering everything we need to live and taking away what would poison us.  Every day, our heart beats a hundred thousand times.  And over our lifetime, it pumps sixty million gallons of blood.

No wonder the Old Testament says, “The life of every creature is its blood.”

And the life of every creature is found in Jesus’ blood.

As the hymn put it so well:  “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are, my glorious dress; midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.”

 

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus, You came as a humble servant, set to do Your Father’s will.  Now we pray that You’ll soon come again as glorious Judge, Redeemer, Savior, and King, for Your sake.  Amen

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