Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sermon -- 6th Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday (March 25, 2018)

MARK 11:1-10


In the name + of Jesus.

     It is common for people to long for the good ol' days.  Society was nicer.  People were happier.  The weather was better.  The food was healthier.  And money purchased more than it does now.  Even people in the Church long for the good ol' days.  We long for the days when there were not so many divisions in the church, when the Gospel was boldly preached and people were converted to the Christian faith in mass numbers.  We long for the days when the Church's leaders were neither corrupt nor immoral, and when the Church did not have to contend with hypocrites or heretics. 
     There are two problems with longing for the good ol' days.  First, it is pointless to pine for days that are gone.  You can't bring them back.  Besides, the Lord has been pleased to have you alive here and now.  These are the days you live in—both to enjoy the good things, because there are always good things, and to endure the bad things, because bad things never go away. 
     The other problem is that the good ol' days never happened, at least not like you think they did.  As time goes by, our minds filter out the hard times and we recall the past being better than it was.  There has never been an era that has been free from problems.  The world has been corrupt since the Garden of Eden, producing thorns and thistles in the lives of all people.  Sometimes those thorns poked harder and the thistles scratched deeper than others, but they have never been rooted out of this world, not even in the good ol' days.  Nor has the Church known some golden age when everything was right.  It has always had to struggle and to battle.  It has always been the Church Militant.  Sin has affected every part of life, and the calendar year has not made a difference.
     When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people cheered his arrival because they longed for the good ol' days.  Part of their enthusiasm was because of the miraculous signs Jesus had done.  But the cries of the crowd give us the main reason for their cheers.  Many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.  And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:8-10)  
     “Hosanna to the Son of David!” was the cry on Palm Sunday.  The Israelites longed for the good ol' days of King David.  Even though they had not seen those days, they knew the stories.  David was the king who established Israel as a major player on the world scene.  David was a great warrior who had conquered the enemies around Israel and held them in subjection.  Once those nations were conquered, Israel dwelt in peace.  Under King David, Israel enjoyed a period of prosperity and prestige.  The people in Jesus' day were eager “the coming kingdom of our father David,” (Mark 11:10)  They wanted to have the good ol' days back.
     They also remembered a promise.  This is what the Lord had said to David through the prophet Nathan: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13)  It was as if the Lord had guaranteed that the good ol' days would not only come back, but that once they did, they would last forever.  Therefore, the people greeted Jesus by laying down their garments on the path so that his mount would not touch the ground.  They waved their palm branches in victory.  And they shouted and sang: “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)  
     Hosanna to the Son of David!  “Hosanna!” means, “Lord, save us!”  It is certainly an appropriate prayer, and it is certainly directed to the right one.  For, the name “Yeshua” means, “The Lord saves.”  It is Jesus' name.  It is Jesus' identity.  And it is Jesus' purpose for coming.  He is the Lord who saves.  But the question is this: Saved from what?  The people who greeted Jesus uttered the right prayer to the right person, but many of them longed to be saved from the wrong things. 
     Are your prayers like theirs?  Do you long for the good ol' days because you have somehow convinced yourself that life was better then, and you want to have the better life now?  Are your greatest concerns that money is tight, or that you have doubts about your health, your safety, and your future?  While it is good to bring those concerns to the Lord in prayer, they are not your greatest problem.  Whoever has had money, health, comfort, and security has not escaped death.  Those things won't save you.  Heaven and hell are not determined by money, health, safety, or ease.  These do, however, reveal what matters to our hearts.  Repent.  The only thing that damns you is that long for these things more than Christ.  Outside of Christ and his kingdom there is only sin, death, and damnation.  That is what we need to be saved from. 
     Therefore we cry, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  Jesus does not come to bring some nostalgic reproduction of the good ol' days where things will be happy for a while.  The Son of David has come to establish an everlasting kingdom.  He has come to take your sin and guilt away from you so that you will not be condemned because of your love for money, because you trust in safety and security, or because you fear a loss of health.  That is why when Jesus entered Jerusalem to establish his kingdom, he did not overthrown the governments of King Herod or Pontius Pilate.  He did not hand out money or magic elixirs to cure every ill.  Jesus came to suffer and to be slain.  Jesus made himself the sin offering which puts an end to your sin.  By setting you free from your sin, Jesus delivers you into his kingdom in which you receive forgiveness of sins and salvation.  Forgiveness delivers you from every curse of sin.  And salvation will finally deliver you into a heavenly kingdom forever free from all worry, pain, or struggle.
     Hosanna to the Son of David!  Jesus is the Lord who saves you and brings you into his kingdom of grace, and will deliver you into the kingdom of heavenly glory.  And to strengthen and keep you in the true faith until that day, Jesus answers your songs of Hosanna by coming to you in bread and wine to deliver the gifts of his kingdom to you already now.  Hosanna to the Son of David!  He takes the throne of David and lives and reigns over a kingdom that endures forever. 
     When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds greeted him by waving palms in a procession of victory.  They had hoped to see the good ol' days return to Israel.    But Jesus brings a much better kingdom and a much more enduring glory.  St. John caught a glimpse of that glory in his Revelation.  After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)  Those in heaven don't worry about money or health or crime or pain or sorrow.  They are totally focused on Jesus who is the source of all good things.  He is the Lord who saves and who makes all things well.  Therefore, the Church today is totally focused on Jesus, and for the same reason.  The victorious waving of palm branches is not a nostalgic memory of better days.  This is a taste of the days to come—the glorious kingdom where it is everlasting day.  It is the final answer to our prayer, “Hosanna!”  And it is the kingdom our Lord gives to us.  For he is our Yeshua.  He is our Lord, and he saves us for our eternal good.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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