Posts Tagged ‘Palm Sunday’

They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road-St. Matthew 21: 7-8

 The other time of the Church year the Palm Sunday Gospel of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is read is the 1st Sunday in Advent.  Advent and Lent, beside rhyming, have this in common both are about the Incarnation, the , Word becoming flesh. The Lord shed the clothes of His equality with God, the form of God and took on human form, born of the Virgin Mary.  Advent points us to  the Word became flesh, the Son of Mary, wearing the mantle of mortality.  Now in Lent and Holy Week, as the weight of His flesh sat  upon that donkey, riding triumphantly to the defeat of sin and death, mankind’s sin and death, by bearing sin and death for us all.  The donkey bore Him who bore the sin of the world and the crowds laid their cloaks on the road. No donkey, no man can carry the sin of the world, except the Lamb of God, true man and true God, 100%, 100%.

Natalie and I both noticed that the Palm Sunday hymns all mention children and she asked where are children mentioned in the narrative of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem?  We heard it in the Matthew 21.  The children in the temple, right after the triumphal entry,  were crying out in the Temple, the Temple, the Lord’s House, Hosanna to the Son of David!  The chief priests and scribes were indignant that the children were singing to Jesus.  Earlier Jesus was indignant that the disciples were preventing the children from coming to Him.  He said, for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.  It is said, Christmas is for kids…so is Holy Week. All who receive His kingdom, His reign as a child, trusting our heavenly Father who sent His only begotten Son.

I think it is reasonable to suggest Mary and Joseph told Jesus the reason they fled to Egypt, because King Herod killed all the male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem.  The only begotten Son who said that if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Jesus to sin it would be better it if a millstone were put on his neck and he be thrown into the sea. We must remember that as we look at abortion, sexual and physical abuse of children, children left on their own with parents in the home.   Only in Matthew’s Gospel is it recorded Jesus’ prayer to the Father:

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

The wise and the learned, the scribes, elders, rulers don’t get it.  Grace is His gift and then to trust in true faith the One who entered Jerusalem to save us all.  The children made sweet hosannas sing.  If you don’t get grace you do not get grace, though His grace is abundant through the Gospel.  The children get it, as do all who know they can not save themselves.  The prayer just cited is part of our Lord’s invitation, come to Me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  The children, along with the lame and the blind Jesus healed in Temple get it.  They were coming to Him just as He approached, the crowds laid down their cloaks, their spotted, soiled, sweat stained and sun-burned cloaks, even beautiful coats,  at His feet.  This laying down of the cloaks can mean to us the following:

First, laying down the cloak of deceit and sin,

“…we similarly are to deny ourselves, to denounce our fame, throw away our glory, remove from ourselves praise of self-righteousness. We are to give all glory to Christ alone. We are to acknowledge that only this King is able to do the highest good. His name alone is worthy of all glory (Psa. 115:1). That’s how the blessed elect in heaven toss their crowns before the throne of Christ and say: O Lord, not us, rather You alone are worthy to receive praise and glory and might (Rev. 4:11).” (Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard)

 Secondly,  the laying down of the garment of sin reminds us that in Holy Baptism we are clothed in Christ, as it is written in Galatians 3: 27, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  Christ Jesus is the Church’s “Sunday best”.  He is your Sunday best.

It is written in Jude 23:

“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people,devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

The Lord’s Sunday Best, His mercy, is for your neighbor as well.

 Thirdly,  The cloaks of sin can be laid down, when we see in mirror of God’s Law, the 10 commandments how filthy they become.  We lay that down in Confession and contrition.  He alone absolves, makes clean, as we prayed Psalm 51 some 40 days ago, this still is part of the Church’s prayer every day:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Baptized into His Name, the Name above all names,  washed us in His forgiveness or absolution. When we are tempted, we call upon the Name of the Lord. When we fall, we call upon the Name of the Lord.

Fourthly, The laying down of our cloaks reminds us of death, physical death, and the hope of the resurrection unto eternal life with Jesus.  Our souls will not go on naked in eternity but in Christ, who rose bodily from the dead we to shall so rise.  As it is written:

 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5: 4-5

 Finally, this is the same Lord who chides us all about worrying about what we are to wear, And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (St. Matthew 6)

Fair is the sunshine,
Fair is the moonlight,
Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels in the sky.

 Jesus’ light would not shine this week. The One who was transfigured before Peter, James and John would be disfigured, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold beyond all recognition and human semblance.  Stricken, smitten and afflicted by God, a  Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53) would Himself willingly cast aside the beauty of His cloth, seamless and whole and die naked on the cross. The crowds and the children sang Hosanna, literally, Lord help, Lord save. The children knew only Jesus could so ride by Himself into Jerusalem.

 It’s as if the apostle wants to say: There are many of those who preach themselves, who present dreams and ordinances of men, who direct everything to the end of themselves being held in high esteem. But that should not be. Christ alone must be set upon the colt. He alone with His Spirit and Word should rule in the hearts of mankind. His glory alone should be sought and proclaimed…(Pastor Gerhard)

 The Lord Jesus entered into the world in His first coming, His Nativity,  so He could enter into Jerusalem and so He will come again a third time in the Resurrection on the last day.  Thy Kingdom come is for that Day and for this hour now. He entered into Jerusalem so He enters His Church daily, and has made our bodies His temple receiving the fruits of His Cross, the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord came down from heaven and died on the cross and has entered my heart. Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.

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These two photos are of one wooden statue depicting our Lord riding the donkey…complete with wheels! It is on display at The Cloisters in Manhattan which is a museum of nothing but Christian Medieval Art. This particular statue was used in churches on Palm Sunday.

Psalmody:  Psalm 118:19-25

Additional Psalm:  Psalm 9

Old Testament Reading: Numbers16:23-40

New Testament Reading: Luke 19:29-48

In the daily Lectionary, today’s New Testament reading is the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the meditation below reflects this Gospel.  The meditation below is by Pr. Scott Murray in his excellent devotional A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year. The emphasis is my own for a post-script reflection.

Meditation:  When John Goodman’s character in the movie King Ralph is suddenly catapulted from utter obscurity to become the King of England, he initially exults in the power it gives him. He has a bowling alley installed in Buckingham Palace. However, it isn’t long until he realizes that power’s crown weighs heavily on the brow that bears it. 

Jesus comes from Galilean obscurity to Jerusalem, receiving the accolades of majesty from the frenzied crowd. Although they did not surprise Him, the burdens His kingly crown brings with it weigh upon His sacred head, wounding it for our transgressions. His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need. Like the unfortunate baseball manager who inherits a last-place team, Jesus has nothing but woe ahead of Him. King Jesus is acclaimed to humiliation and ignominious death. He comes not to subjugate, master, and overpower, but to suffer and die. His throne is nothing other than the cross. The crowd thought their hosannas would acclaim His power, and they were right in that He came to save. However, He came to save not by employing His power but by hiding it. He came to save not by menacing His enemies but by forgiving them. He came not to drive His subjects, but to make them His sons. Such is the one whom we hail as King.

 “What mental suffering the Jewish rulers must have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King (Luke19:38)! But what honor was it for the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship overIsraelwas not for exacting tribute, putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, or subduing His enemies by open warfare. He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, hope, and love were centered in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews is in the heavens the Lord of angels” (Augustine, Tractates on John, 51).

Post-Script:  “His coronation day is not an elevation to office, as we humans might think, but a condescension to our need.”  This reflection works well for Ascension. Ascension is the Lord’s enthronement in heaven when He sits at the right hand of God the Father.  The versicle  and response for Ascensiontide’s daily prayer makes this explicit:

The King ascends to heaven. Alleluia!/O come, let us worship Him.

He ascends to heaven still to descend in “humble water, humble words, humble food”, for His Body, the Church, that is, in Holy Baptism, Preaching and Teaching of the Pure Word of God, Law and Promise and the Holy Communion.

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1)

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
   and he gave gifts to men.”

 9( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended intothe lower regions, the earth? 10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4)

For 1,979 earth years He has been at the right hand of God the Father,  to be with us all and by  His scarred hand to preach and administer Word and Sacrament for His Church, for the life of the world through those whom He has called.

 Let us pray…

O King who comes in the name of the Lord, through Your birth and death, earth and heaven were joined together in peace. May Your coming as King into Jerusalem in humility on the donkey help us to see that You continue to come to us as our King hidden in humble water, humble words, humble food; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (Prayer of the Day)

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34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15)

When we were in New Jersey, I led a regular Communion service at the Lutheran Home for Aged Women in Jersey City.  The director was a nun.  One day we were talking and she pointed out something a priest once told her.  There are volumes in the Roman Catholic  Church of canon law, the massive rules and regs in the Roman Catholic Church. The priest pointed out to the sister that canon law is based upon the 10 commandments and we would not need canon law, if we just obeyed the 10 commandments.  I don’t know what I said then but I preach today:  Just keep the 10 commandments? Give me a break…but there is none. Therefore, invent canon law, more rules to keep the rules?  Now I do not want to take a swipe at Roman Catholics because this indicates in a big way that natural man thinks he can make it to heaven…and maybe God is our little helper. Bookstores are chocked full books of rules to keep the rules in the religion department and are bestsellers and most are Protestant, by folks who say they believe in His salvation by faith alone through grace.  Those bestsellers  are so-called ‘spiritual’ books.  There is more than a hint of desperation and fear in such and people buy them because they know the fear and desperation of not being right with God.  We heard it as a nation not so long ago with the financial meltdown:  “We’ve got to do something!”  No. Sin is usually we have done enough and always too much.  Be still and know that I am God, prayed the psalmist.  After all the taunting, there is silence at the Cross-It is finished.  It is finished, that is sin, death and the power of the devil and we did nothing.  The Law we could not keep is kept and fulfilled. He did it all, pure God and pure man. The equation is so simple and so profound:  Jesus + nothing = everything. The fullness of His life plus the nothing of my life apart from His equals everything:  salvation, peace, shalom. Peace with God is once more is made.  The kingdom of heaven is open to all believers.

If we can do that, keep the rules, then the Scripture, the Gospel of His death for us all is not needed:  just more rules are. However, all of the real Scripture is the red-letter edition of His grace, mercy and peace for us all. There is no “let’s make a deal” on Golgotha.  At the foot of the Cross-there is no bookstore selling volumes on 40 days to the new you or God is dead theology or spiritual atheism.  He knew that from the inside out in His God-forsakenness. The Gospel writers did not give us some of the 1st century street language, Aramaic that Jesus spoke for literary flavor.  It underscores and emphasizes the deadly literalness of His dereliction from the sin of the world in which He became:  Eloi, Eloi, lema sabacthani.  Moreover, the life-giving literalness of the Aramaic we can now cry and pray to God daily:  Abba, Father because of the love of God pour out through Jesus’ veins for you and for me in the attestation of the Holy Spirit. There is no tit-for-tat religion in the room locked for fear by the disciples as in their midst the risen Jesus came and showed His hands and His side with the wounds from the Cross and said, Peace be with you. Only sheer life and love He gives us by His Word to us all:  yesterday, today, tomorrow…everyday.   There is no death in Him now, no condemnation: only love’s pure light.

I wish everyday were Christmas. It is.  Everyday is Good Friday. It is. Everyday is Easter. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It is, because Jesus Christ is the gate of righteousness by whom we have entered into His presence. “Our Lord came down from heaven, died on the Cross and entered into my heart”. He is the door of the sheep.  He was made flesh in the virgin’s womb.  He suffered and died.  He is risen.  Everyday is Christmas, Good Friday and Easter by His death and life.  Life is no longer a matter of life and death.  It is His way of death and life.  His grace, mercy and peace are ours and we fear no powers not of earth, nor sin and death.  “Nothing in my hand I bring, but only to Thy Cross I cling.”

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