“The Root of Jesse Will Come” (Romans 15:4-13)

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
April 17, 2011

“The Root of Jesse Will Come” (Romans 15:4-13)

On Palm Sunday the crowds welcomed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, hailing him as their king: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Great excitement! Great joy! Cloaks and palm branches spread in front of him, a welcome fit for a king! Here was the one they had been waiting for. “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your king is coming to you.’” This was the Son of David they were welcoming, the long-promised Messiah, who would deliver Israel from all her foes.

Well, good for them. But they were Jews. We are Gentiles. Does Palm Sunday leave us out in the cold? How do we get in on the action? Our reading today from Romans tells us that, no, we Gentiles are not excluded. We were part of the plan all along. Reading now from Romans 15:4-13, as follows:

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

“For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’ And again it is said, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’ And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.’ And again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

You see, St. Paul is saying here that God’s plan all along was to include the Gentiles, that is, the non-Jews, in his plan of salvation. When you stop and think about it, doesn’t it make sense that the God who created the heavens and the earth and all mankind, if he’s going to do a big rescue mission by sending his own Son from heaven to earth–wouldn’t it make sense for the Creator of all to rescue all, and not just one small insignificant nation? Well, yes.

And as we look back in retrospect through the whole Old Testament, we can see that this indeed was God’s plan from the get-go. Way back in the Garden, all mankind fell in Adam’s fall, and death descended over the whole human race. God promised the seed of the woman, who would undo the curse. Later, God called Abram, while Abram was still a Gentile, and promised that through Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth would be blessed.

So the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the children of Israel–they would be the channel through whom the blessing would flow and spread out to cover the earth, God doing the universal through the particular. The salvation was never meant for just them.

God’s plan took a more particular turn when we come to the time of King David. The Lord promised that it would be through one of the sons of David that the divine deliverance would come. The Son of David, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ–when he comes, there is your great end-time king, O Israel. And that is who the Palm Sunday crowds are hailing. But the Messiah, the Son of David–he too was meant for all nations, not just Israel. So Paul cites the Scripture from Isaiah 11: “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”

“The root of Jesse”–that’s the same as saying “the Davidic Messiah.” Jesse was David’s father, you see. So the great Messiah would be both the origin, the source, of the Davidic line and its offspring. And when the eternal Son of God then comes in the flesh, descended from the line of David–that description fits Jesus to a ‘t’! “The root of Jesse,” “the Son of David”! Hail, hosanna! Here comes the king of the Jews!

And the good news for us today is this: The king of the Jews is also the king of the Gentiles! We’re included! The end-time reign of grace and blessing prophesied with the coming of the Christ covers all of us. Jew and Gentile alike–there is no distinction. We all are sinners. We all need saving. And Jesus is just the man to do it.

So today we get to join in the Palm Sunday joy and praises. Our hosannas sound just as loud as the crowd’s back in Jerusalem. We get to wave the palm branches too. God has turned us pagans into praisers. We’re not left in the dark, groping around, wondering who God is or how we get right with him. God has made it known–made himself known, made his salvation known unto the ends of the earth. We Gentiles have been brought from worshiping images of wood and stone to knowing the one true God, who has acted to save us in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gentiles hailing the king of the Jews. That’s us. And what a joy and a blessing it is that we can praise him as our Savior. But the irony is, first our Savior had to undergo mocking praise from Gentiles who did not know him. The Roman soldiers, having fun with their prisoner, put the scarlet robe on him and place the crown of thorns on his head. “Hail, King of the Jews!” they say, in mocking derision. Nobody knows who this Jesus is, neither the Gentiles nor the Jews. They all are blind to the truth. This is in the nature of sin, that we are blind to God’s ways.

But God’s plan to save mankind took a mysterious turn in this Holy Week. The Messiah rides into Jerusalem to suffer and die, not to wield sword or scepter. This is the only way for God’s plan to reach its conclusion. God himself would take the load of our sins, the sins of all mankind, carrying them on his back to the cross. This is not the kind of king we would expect, not a glory-king. But this is the only kind of king that would get the job done.

The king suffers for the sins of his own people, and for all people. Sins needed to be paid for, and the Son of God’s holy precious blood is the only currency big enough for the job. This is how the seed of the woman stomps on the serpent’s head. This is how the seed of Abraham blesses all nations. This is how the Son of David extends his reign to cover more than just some Mideast real estate. God is doing a whole-world job! God is doing a heaven-and-earth job! Salvation for all nations! Restoration for all creation!

Yes, hope is spreading out in all directions! You have this hope, my friends. It is located in the one who rides in on a donkey and goes to the cross. You have the forgiveness of sins through faith in his name, Jesus Christ. You have the resurrection from the dead, assured, for you–you have the sure hope of everlasting life, because of this one who conquered death, who defeated and deflated death, took the wind out of its sails and the sting out of its tail.

Hope abounds! Yes, hope, even in the face of death–or fear, or disease, loneliness, family feuds or financial setbacks–whatever the misery or misfortune that would weigh you down and rob you of your joy. You have a hope that is greater than the sum of all your sorrows. God is working endurance in you, God is encouraging you, with this great hope you have in Christ. These are not just empty words; this is the real deal.

Hope abounds! This is something worth shouting about! Worship and praise abound, even as our hope abounds. With repentant joy we praise our king as he comes to us this week, riding on in lowly pomp. On Palm Sunday we welcome our conquering king, Christ our Savior, who welcomes even us Gentiles into his kingdom.

And now “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Published in: on April 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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