“Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:1-9)

Palm Sunday
April 14, 2019

“Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:1-9)

Here comes Jesus, riding into town. Like a boss. Well, maybe not like a boss. More like a servant, sitting on a donkey, a beast of burden, rather than on a war horse. Yet as he enters Jerusalem, Jesus is greeted like a king. Which he is, only not the kind you would expect. There are a lot of people pouring into Jerusalem at this time. There’s a big holiday coming up, Passover, and all the Jews are supposed to go to Jerusalem and to the temple for the occasion. So lots of crowds on hand to greet Jesus as he enters. They had heard of this man Jesus. Many of them had seen his miracles and heard his teaching back in Galilee. Jesus had made a big impression on them. Now these pilgrims are coming to Jerusalem for the week of the Passover, and there’s a buzz running through the crowd: “Could this Jesus–could he be the one sent by God as the promised Messiah? We’ve never seen anyone do the works this man does! We’ve never heard such wisdom like this man speaks!” The excitement, the electricity, is palpable.

The crowds were looking for a new king, one who would throw off the shackles of Rome and make Israel great again. They were hoping for a new David to restore the glory of the nation. And indeed, the Lord had promised that one day he would send a son of David, one of David’s descendants, to be that king who would usher in the messianic age of blessing and glory. Could this be the one?

So the crowds start cheering. They’re welcoming Jesus in a grand way. People are throwing their cloaks before him. They’re strewing palm branches before him, a symbol of victory, fit for a conquering king. And the people are shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Let’s talk about this shout of acclamation with which the people are greeting Jesus, as he enters the holy city. And let’s find out how it applies to us here today, for Jesus is coming into our midst also. And so our theme: “Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!”

As I say, it was Passover week coming up. And for the Passover festival, there were certain psalms appointed to be sung. So those psalms in particular would have been on the people’s minds and on their tongues. One of them was Psalm 118. We read a portion of it earlier in this service. There it says, “Save us, we pray, O Lord.” Guess what the Hebrew is for “Save us, we pray”? It’s “Hoshiana,” or, as we say it, “Hosanna.” “Hosanna! Save us, we pray, O Lord!” It is an appeal to God to deliver us from all that would oppress us. And this prayer for God’s deliverance became a shout of praise, because God had promised to do just that–to save, to deliver his people–and God is faithful to his promises.

And note, the crowds are shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” In other words, the crowds are acclaiming Jesus as the Son of David, that is, the promised Messiah, through whom God would indeed save us. And that is who he is!

But the crowds are not done with Psalm 118. They go on to the next verse: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This is acknowledging Jesus as the “coming one,” which is to say, the Messiah. The Lord God has sent Jesus to do the divine deliverance job, to be the Savior sent from heaven. Zechariah had prophesied it: “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” Psalm 118, Zechariah . . . Jesus is checking off all the boxes! And this is what elicits their shouts of praise: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

The crowds have Psalm 118 on their mind, and they’re quoting from it in order to welcome Jesus as the Messiah and to praise God for him. All this is well and good, and it was appropriate for the crowds to welcome Jesus in this way. But Jesus would be the messianic king and accomplish their deliverance in a way far different from what they were expecting.

Jesus was not going to bother with throwing off the Romans. He’s got bigger fish to fry than that. Empires will come and go, but we’ve got more serious oppressors to be delivered from. Here are the powers that need to be overthrown. They’re called sin, death, the devil, hell. Unless you get rid of those bad boys, any political liberation will fall short. So that’s the task that Jesus has been assigned: Deal with those oppressors, strip them of their power, and everything else will fall into place in the end. So that’s what Jesus comes to do. That’s why he’s riding into Jerusalem this week. To accomplish the Big Saving.

How is that going to happen? Not how you would expect. Let’s lay it out. I said that everybody is pouring into Jerusalem. And I mean everybody. There’s Jesus and his disciples. There are the crowds of welcoming pilgrims. But also in town for the week are a bunch of people who do not like Jesus. You’ve got the scribes and the Pharisees, those self-righteous experts in the law, who had grown to hate Jesus, because he had exposed their hypocrisy and undermined their prestige. So they’re out to get Jesus. And at the same time, you’ve got the chief priests and the Sadducees, whose business was the temple in Jerusalem. They didn’t like Jesus either. Remember the incident with Jesus overturning the tables in the temple. They sure did. So they’re out to get Jesus, too. On top of that, you’ve got the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, in town to oversee any potential trouble and to maintain crowd control. So it was a perfect storm of hostility and tension brewing there in Jerusalem.

This is where the plot thickens. Jesus’ opponents manage to get him arrested under the cover of darkness, and their ruling council, the Sanhedrin, hands him over to Pilate. Pilate doesn’t care about Jewish internal religious disputes, but he does care about maintaining law and order and preventing riots. So he buckles under crowd pressure and sends Jesus off to be crucified.

Now here is where God’s mysterious ways find their climax, in an unexpected way to do the saving job. It’s in Jesus dying on the cross! Who would have thought it? God did. It was his plan all along. For in order to get us out from under the rock, the boulder–no, the mountain–of sin and death, it would take exactly this to get the job done. God’s justice demands that sinners must die, and that’s us. We’re guilty, we’re the ones who deserve to die. But Jesus steps to the plate and takes our place. He dies for us, the righteous one for all us sinners. And because he is the very Son of God, his holy blood has infinite value to cover all the sins of all the sinners who have ever lived. Including you! You are forgiven by the saving, cleansing blood of Christ! And because you are forgiven, now there is no condemnation, no eternal death, hanging over your head! Christ’s resurrection shows that the victory remains with life.

Kevan Phillips, you learned all this in the catechism class we just completed, didn’t you? Remember what we learned in Luther’s explanation of the Second Article of the Creed? “I believe that Jesus Christ . . . is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

But that all happened back in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago. How does what Jesus did on the cross–winning forgiveness, life, and salvation for you–how does all that get delivered to your address? You can’t go back there. So how does God get these gifts to you? That’s where the Third Article of the Creed comes in. Again, from the catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith,” and so on.

This is talking about God’s delivery system, how God gets what Jesus did for you straight to you here and now, with your name on it. Kevan, remember that diagram I put on the board for you? Folks, you can see it on the back of your bulletin. There you can see Jesus dying on the cross for us, back around the year 30, in Jerusalem. That’s covered in the Second Article of the Creed. But then God’s delivery system is covered in the Third Article. The Holy Spirit uses the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, to deliver Christ’s gifts to you–yes, even to Kevan Phillips in Missouri, in the year 2019. Marvelous, isn’t it? God’s got it all covered!

And so now we come full circle, back to the shouts of the crowds on Palm Sunday, the “Hosannas” and the “Blessed is he.” Because we are welcoming Jesus right here into our midst here today. And this is why we will sing those very words in just a few minutes: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” That’s right, we sing those words of praise to God every Sunday in the Sanctus, because Jesus is coming to us, right here, right now, to save us, to be our king! Right now, in this service, Jesus comes and speaks his words of life into our ears. Right here, at this altar, Jesus comes and puts his very body and blood into our mouths, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Kevan, dear friends, this is why it is so important to be here, in church, as often as possible. Because Jesus has a standing appointment to be here for every service, and he never misses! Jesus always has something new to say to us, for our good, for our growth and our strengthening in the faith. Jesus is always here to forgive us and to speak his life-giving words. Jesus is always here, coming to be our blessed Savior and King. And so what could be more appropriate than to be here to receive from him everything he has to give us? What could be more fitting than to welcome him with our praises? “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This is most certainly true.

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Published in: on April 13, 2019 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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