Sermon for Palm Sunday based on Matthew 21:1-9
Dear crowd singing hosanna: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The kingdom of God does not come with violence. Jesus does not force anything on anyone. As powerful as He is, He does not come with His legions of angels to force you to believe, force you to behave, or force you in any way.
He comes in humility, so the prideful laugh at Him. He comes in service, so the arrogant mock Him. He comes in weakness to suffer and die, so the strong deride Him.
God’s children, however, receive Him who comes humbly. They sing, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” We sing this as He humbly comes to us in His body and blood, just as those children of God sang it when He came humbly, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Christ comes to His own, and they receive Him. They are His Church, and He gathers them to Himself. The Church is not a group of spiritual people who decide to get together and do religious things. The Church is God’s chosen people of all times and places whom God Himself gathers through the forgiveness of sins to be the body of Christ. To us Christ comes with salvation, which is why we sing “hosanna,” which means “save us.”
Christ came for the very purpose of saving us. He has saved us from sin, death, and the devil. He has saved us from the punishment that we deserve for our sins. He has saved us from eternal death in hell, which is the just reward for our many sins. He saved us from the Evil One who seeks day and night to devour us.
He saved us by His bitter grief and woe, His suffering and agony, His death and resurrection. He saved us not just by His suffering and death, but also by His life and resurrection. During His life, He fulfilled the Law of God which we have broken. In His resurrection, He burst the bars of death for us and all believers.
He comes to us humbly and in weakness to save us. This is a stumbling block for the prideful and arrogant. Earthly kingdoms come with violence and strife. They spread by means of killing others and taking from them. They grow with political manipulation, betrayals, and lies. Those in power get richer and richer by taxing the people into poverty, oppressing them, and by stealing from the public coffers. Bribes are paid and critics are silenced. This is how earthly kingdoms work. They grow and get stronger until the next earthly kingdom rises up and destroys them.
The kingdom of God does not come to earth with violence. The kingdom of God came through the violence done to Jesus. Now it spreads through the forgiveness of sins freely given. It grows through the Word preached to listening ears. It grows through the waters of Holy Baptism and is nourished through the food of the Holy Supper.
The kingdom of God comes so humbly, it can be rejected. You don’t have to fight it if you don’t want to be part of it, you can simply walk away. You can simply cease to care. You can grow cold. You can grow indifferent. You can simply stop listening to the Word and stop being nourished by Jesus’ body and blood and have nothing to do with the kingdom of God.
Because Christ comes in weakness and humility, do not make the mistake of believing Him to be weak or powerless. Quite on the contrary, He is God in the flesh with all the power and authority of God. He has all authority in heaven and on earth. It is for your sake that He comes humbly.
Our Epistle lesson tells us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
He was in the form of God because He is God. He is of one substance with the Father. Yet He humbled Himself to serve us, and that is the mind we should have among ourselves.
To be Christlike means to serve your neighbour. The strong help the weak. The rich help the poor. Those who have a voice speak for those who do not.
To be Christlike also means to suffer unjustly, which is nearly impossible for us to do without grumbling and complaining. Even when we suffer justly we cannot but complain about our suffering.
If our pride is attacked, we get angry. We want to defend ourselves. We struggle in any way to be like Christ, the Lamb who was led to slaughter without complaint. We cannot bear to hear unkind things said about us. We cannot bear to have our reputations tarnished. We need to repent and follow the example of Christ. We need to turn from our sin and trust in Jesus for forgiveness.
Peter writes, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (I Peter 2:21-24)
Jesus was continually slandered. He is still today spoken against and much evil is said of Him every day. He endures this evil because He desires that everyone would turn from their evil and be saved. He does not return evil with evil, but He grants forgiveness.
The day of His return will be a stark contrast to His first coming. He will not come humbly as a baby. He will not ride into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey. He will not suffer and die. When He returns, Christ Jesus will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. Then every knee will bow to Him, even those who spoke evil of Him. Every tongue will confess that He is Lord, but Christ will divide those who confessed it before His return from those who confess it only on Judgment Day.
Christ will put those who did not confess Him as Lord when He came humbly on His left side and give them the due reward for their wickedness. They will be punished eternally for their sins. That will be justice. They will pay for every sin.
He puts those who confessed Him as Lord when He came humbly on His right side and will give them the kingdom prepared for them from before the foundation of the world. They are not judged for their sins. Their sins are covered by His own blood. They will not be punished for their sins. They are forgiven. To top it off, they are credited for all the good that the Holy Spirit worked through them throughout their lives.
Jesus came humbly on Palm Sunday and He comes humbly today to do everything for you so that you will be on His right side on Judgment Day. He suffered everything for you, so that you do not have to suffer eternally. He has washed you with water and the Word and nourishes you with His own body and blood. He gave His life for you, the sinless dying for the sinful.
What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!
The Shepherd dies for sheep that love to wander;
The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,
Who would not know Him.
The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted;
God is committed.
And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven
To me the crown of joy at last is given,
Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,
I, too, shall praise Thee. (LSB 439 st. 4,5,15) Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.