Palm Sunday March 24, 2024. . . “Bible prayers: Hosanna!” Matthew 21:9

Palm Sunday March 24, 2024. . . “Bible prayers: Hosanna!” Matthew 21:9

March 24, 2024

“Bible prayers: Hosanna!”

Matthew 21:9

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

Everyone loves a parade. And why not? After all, parades are one of our best-loved American traditions, with flags flying, marchers marching, and drummers drumming.

Think, for example, of the Tournament of Roses Parade. It’s held every year in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day. With its thirty-nine floats, twenty marching bands, and a crowd of eight hundred thousand, it’s one of the biggest parades on the planet.

Or think of the Presidential Inaugural Parade. That parade’s been one of our nation’s traditions ever since the inauguration of our third president, Thomas Jefferson. It’s all of 1 ½ miles long and features groups from all fifty states, not to mention the District of Columbia.

And there’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Lasting three hours, it’s known for its elaborate floats and its huge inflatables like the Pillsbury Doughboy, SpongeBob, Snoopy, and Charlie Brown, as much as five stories tall.

And let’s not forget about New Orleans and its Mardis Gras Parade, New York and its ticker tape parade, or even our local parades, like Webb Lake and its St. Patty’s Day Parade, Shell Lake and its Town and Country Days Parade, and Spooner and its Rodeo Parade.

Everyone loves a parade.

But of all the parades that have ever been or ever will be, there’s one that’s more important, more exciting, and more inspiring than all the rest, and that’s the one that happened in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

I’ll read the words of Matthew chapter 21: “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).

Then what? Just as soon as they brought that colt to Jesus and spread their coats on the road, the Bible says the whole multitude of His disciples, literally thousands of those who loved Him and believed in Him, began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that He had done.

And with one voice, they shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” (Luke 19:38).

It was a time of joy, of commemoration, and of celebration, for Jesus, the Lord, the Savior, the Messiah had come!

There was just one problem. In the midst of all that joy and celebration, that wonder and adoration, there were words of conflict, argument, discord, and disagreement. As the Pharisees said, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples” (Luke 19:39). In other words, “Better settle down, Jesus. You’re causing quite a stir, Jesus. There’s going to be trouble, Jesus. Better stop now, Jesus, or else…”

So why would they say such a thing? What had Jesus ever done to them?

Well, quite a lot, really.

He called them what they were--whitewashed tombs--beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, they were full of dead men’s bones. He said they strained gnats, but swallowed camels.

He said in Matthew 23: “You pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders, but won’t lift a finger to help. Everything you do is just to show off in front of others. You even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on your foreheads and arms and wear big tassels for everyone to see. You love the best seats at the banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. And when you’re in the market, you like to have people greet you as their teachers” (Matthew 23:1-7).

So it’s no wonder they said to Jesus, “You’re causing quite a stir, Jesus. There’s going to be trouble, Jesus. Better stop now, Jesus, or else…”

And think of all the other parades and public demonstrations just like this. Zealots often led violent rebellions against Rome and none of them ended well. Every one of them turned into a bloodbath that led to even deeper persecution by Rome. So for the sake of stability, for the sake of peace, there had to be some sense of quiet and control.

And into this melee came Jesus of Nazareth, this supposed son of a Jewish carpenter, who claimed to be the Son of God. He healed on the Sabbath. He cleansed lepers. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He even claimed the right to forgive sins, something no one but God could do.

So this Jesus wasn’t simply some teacher or miracle worker or lunatic to be shunned. He was a threat to the very fabric of Jewish religious and political society. People flocked to Him. Rome took notice of Him. And the leaders of the Jews were afraid.

No wonder Caiaphas said to the fellow members of his Sanhedrin, “Do you not realize that it is better that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish!” (John 11:50).

Yet here He comes, over the crest of the Mount of Olives, riding a colt, the foal of a donkey, surrounded by a ragtag throng of people

And what do they cry? It’s a prayer really. “Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

And as the Pharisees command Him to rebuke His disciples, what does He say? He said, “If they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

That’s strange! What do You mean, “The stones will cry out”?!

Interesting choice--stones. Why not trees? Why didn’t Jesus say the trees would wave their outstretched arms toward heaven, showing the colors and the rhythms of God’s beautiful creation?

Or why not the waves of the sea, roaring and crashing their mighty chorus of praise?

Or why not the sun, the moon, and the stars praising God from their high heights? Surely they could speak of the wonder of Jesus!

So why stones?

Maybe it’s because stones would do what none of them could do.

Remember? When Moses went up on Mt. Sinai in the thunder, lightning, and smoke, the Lord took stones and wrote on them with His hand: “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not.” And from that moment on, those stones would always remind them of God’s love.

Think of Jacob, fleeing from his brother Esau, who used a stone as his pillow as he slept through the night. And as he laid his head on that stone, he dreamed of a ladder reaching up to heaven, with angels descending and ascending to God.

Think of David as he picked up five smooth stones from a riverbed to face Goliath. “You come to me with a sword and a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel,” he said (I Samuel 17:45).

Or think of Jesus as He went out to the wilderness to pray. For forty days, no one was there to witness His hunger and His struggle with temptation, except stones. That is, after all, what Satan said: “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).

Or think of the woman caught in the act of adultery. “Caught…in the act,” the Bible says. And as those smug, self-righteous Pharisees picked up stones to stone her, He wrote on the ground and said, “He who is without sin may cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Or think of the stone on which He fell in the Garden of Gethsemane, that felt His anguish and heard His prayer: “Father, if there is some possible way, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not My will, but Thine be done” (Matthew 26:39).

Or think of the stones that would soon tell of Jerusalem’s destruction, Jesus’ prophecy come true: “Do you see all these things?” He said. “Truly, I tell you, not one stone will be left standing on another” (Matthew 24:2).

Of course, if the people kept quiet, the stones would cry out!

Even more, let me ask, if the stones would cry out, what would they say?

Would they tell of Jesus’ compassionate care, how He strengthened the lonely and gave hope to the discouraged? Would they tell of His kindness toward women and children, the poor and the oppressed? Would they speak of how He challenged those who were in authority and His wise teachings? Would they worship Him as Savior and King?

We can only guess. All we know is what Jesus said: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

It was April of 1975 and Gary Dahl was sitting with a group of friends in a bar in Los Gatos, California. And as he sat sipping his drink, he listened to them complain about their pets and all the time and money they spent walking, grooming, and feeding them.

That’s when he said he had an idea for the perfect pet, something no one would ever have to feed, bathe, groom, or walk. Even better, he said it would never die, become sick or disobedient.

So what’s the perfect pet, you ask? A pet rock, of course!

So he bought some beach stones from a building-supply store in Baja California, some hay, some boxes, and printed a 36-page instruction manual on how to properly train and care for your new pet rock.

While “Sit” and “Stay” were easy, “Roll over” took a little more effort, and “Shake hands” was nearly impossible, “Attack” was pretty simple, with a little help from its owner.

Believe it or not, over the next six months, he sold close to 1 ½ million pet rocks and became an instant millionaire!

But we don’t need a pet rock, or any other rock for that matter, to give praise to God, for even we, by the grace of God, are privileged to say, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9).

We thank You, dear Father, for the wonder and the miracle of that first Palm Sunday. Grant us now the privilege to walk with our Savior from the mystery of the Upper Room, to the anguish of Gethsemane, to the horror of Good Friday, and finally, to the joy and the wonder of that first Easter Day, for Jesus’ sake. Amen