Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
I remember growing up in Tonga, we sang the same song on Palm Sunday which goes: “Hosanna, loud hosanna the little children sang, through pillared court and temple the lovely anthem rang.” It also says that “the children sang their praises the simplest and the best.” But we sang it in our own native tongue.
I still remember walking around the church “waving the branch of a palm tree high in my hand,” and singing “Hosanna, hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”
We knew about Christmas because of Santa Clause. We knew about Easter because of the Easter Bunny. And we knew about Palm Sunday because of Jesus riding on a donkey.
Palm Sunday is a very important holiday for the church. It is a chance for us as disciples of Christ today to praise Christ as King.
But there is a danger in the way we worship on Palm Sunday. Often times we sing hosannas on Palm Sunday and then we sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” the very next Sunday. The events of Good Friday are not on our personal religious calendars. We don’t completely ignore it. We just move past as quickly as we can to get to the resurrection.
We don’t like to dwell on unpleasant things. We don’t even admit to ourselves that unpleasant things exist.
We don’t want to admit the pain of life. We would rather close our eyes to it like the way we do in a scary movie. We often overlook those who are suffering and in pain. We like emphasizing the positive and eliminating the negative.
Because of this shift to overlook the negative, we sometimes overlook Jesus’ suffering and death. We get all caught up in the joy of singing praises to Jesus as he victoriously enters Jerusalem. We forget that Jesus came to Jerusalem to die. So, when we get to holy week we put our hands over our eyes. We say to the person next to us, “Tell me when it is over.” It may be unpleasant to think about, but Jesus did die.
People drove nails through his hands and feet. They nailed him to a cross. Jesus experienced terror and pain. What’s most important is that he experienced that pain as an atonement for our sins and for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death is our salvation that we must never overlook. So, how we joyfully sing hosannas in the face of Christ’s suffering?
If the people had known, as we do, why Jesus came to Jerusalem, they would not be singing a song of victory. They thought Jesus would come in and take over the throne. Right before this - Jesus had to correct his disciples for thinking that his kingdom would appear immediately. The prophets had said the Messiah would come riding on a donkey.
So, when the people saw Jesus on that Donkey, they though he was coming to lead a revolt. They thought he would go to Herod’s palace and sit on his throne. Then he would order the Romans out of his new kingdom. The crowd was partially right. Jesus was and is the Messiah. But they expected a Messiah to rule an earthly kingdom.
Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem to sit on a throne. Jesus came to Jerusalem to hang on a cross. He said so to his disciples several times. He told them plainly. He said the son of man must suffer and die. How can we sing Hosannas every day? After all it was Jesus’ suffering that saves us.
How dare we sing hosannas in the face of Christ’s suffering! But I realize that I am saying the same kind of thing the Pharisees in our lesson said. The Pharisees tried to keep Jesus’ disciples from singing hosannas. The Pharisees said, “Jesus how can you let them do this? Stop this crowd, silence them! Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
Jesus said, “If these were silent, the stones themselves would shout.” If the voices of humans will not shout: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” then God will give the stones voices and they will shout. By the will of God who made both voices and stones, hosannas will be sung and Christ will be proclaimed as King!
So, what are we to do? Should we return to our old ways of overlooking Christ’s death. Should we forget Good Friday and wipe it off our religious calendars. Can we; forget why Jesus came to Jerusalem and just mix with the crowd of misled pilgrims? Can we blindly yell “Blessed is the King who comes to sit on Herod’s throne!”
Jesus came to Jerusalem to die. That is exactly what the Bible tells us. Jesus is worthy of praise just because he went to Jerusalem to die for us.
Jesus’ suffering was necessary to win our salvation. Once we open our eyes to the suffering of Christ we see him as Lord more clearly than before. Every knee shall bow and all shall shout “Hosanna!” In Christ, we can look at suffering and see something beautiful. Look at the suffering around you. Open your eyes to it, as unpleasant as that may be. Then hand it over to God. And God in Christ will turn that sorrow into shouts of joy. Shalom and Amen!