Hosanna!

Each of us is entrusted with a “palm” from the day of our birth – the palm of our heart & soul. So let’s do due diligence to discern what and whom we are waving our palms for, amen?

+Scripture Reading: John 12:12-16 

The next day the great crowd that had come to the [Passover] festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day we in the church set aside for going out to meet our King, the King of Kings. And first of all, we give thanks to the Lord that we live in a place where we can say, “Jesus is the king of kings,” and we don’t have any jealous king getting mad at us saying, “off with his head” — but we should be humble and remember that there are places where this does happen, and some of our brothers and sisters have come from there and lived to tell the tale, and we are all bound together by our mutual vow, “Never again.” Let’s pray for them. 

Palm Sunday is the day we remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, two thousand years ago. Even though Israel already had a King, King Herod, the people waved royal palms at Jesus, and cried out to him, “Hosanna – save us! You are the King of Israel!” Now it shouldn’t surprise you that a man being hailed as a king, in a country that already had a king, should end up charged and executed for sedition.  

But this man, this king, I hope we all know, rode into his city unarmed, leading an army of unarmed people – men and women who, for 3 years previous, he’d taught the ways of God, the mysteries of his kingdom, and whom he’d sent out as angelic messengers, likewise unarmed, into the cities of Judea to proclaim the Kingdom of God was at hand – a Kingdom of justice, a Kingdom of mercy, a Kingdom of love, a Kingdom of heaven – and that was a promise! 

Yes, the word had spread like wildfire very quickly. These messengers told Jesus, “people are on fire for God and His kingdom”, and Jesus said, “they’re so on fire for it I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning”. They made a splash, a huge impact. And now in Jerusalem, these people were all gathered for Passover – it was their duty to make this pilgrimage to capital city every year, everyone was there — and they all expected this Jesus they’ve been hearing about to take his throne and lead a rebellion against King Herod, and his Roman handlers.  

People weren’t happy under Herod or Rome – they weren’t free. So when Jesus-on-the-donkey and his crowd of followers marched on the capitol, and as he purified the temple with a whip of cords, and as he drove out money changers and overturned tables, they said — “Yes, this is the man we’ve heard about these past three years – this is the king we have been crying out for and promised!” 

Yes, not just crying out for, but promised. John tells us that Jesus rode in on a donkey to fulfill a promise from Zechariah: “Fear not, daughter of Zion – your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” Oh, but how dangerous it is to take scripture out of context. Dare we read what follows? – Lord knows how much more dangerous it is to put scripture in context! Well, we have to, because it’s in the Bulletin. Let’s read it together responsively: 

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Daughter of Jerusalem! 

See, your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 

And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem, and the bow of war will be broken. 

Then He will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. 

As for you, because of the blood of My covenant, I will release your prisoners 

from the waterless pit. 

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; even today I declare that I will restore to you double. 

These words were for those people who saw Jesus coming in to Jerusalem, two thousand years ago. These words, which we are still reciting millennia later, they were not for us first, but for them first – because they were the words of promise by which they would recognize who was riding on that baby donkey, and what he was riding it for!  

Now we have to consider all these words fulfilled, since these words were for them, speaking of Jesus, — they’re ancient history! – but here’s where we’re going to really learn what Palm Sunday is all about, and what it means for us… 

…Because every Sunday I’m preaching about freedom and love, freedom and love. Two things that everyone very much wants and needs. People who finally find love sing, “All I need is the air that I breathe and to love you,” and people who finally find freedom sing out, “Free at last, free at last, thank God all mighty I’m-a free at last!” What is this going to tell us about freedom and love? 

So, back to Zachariah. 

  1. The Kingdom is a Kingdom of Peace. “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem, and the bow of war will be broken. Then He will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea, and from  the River to the ends of the earth.” 

What did they say when Jesus marched in? “Hosanna in the highest, the King of –?” Israel. Jesus is the King of Israel! Now, how was Israel founded? War. Joshua went down and an army took it from the Canaanites. How was Israel protected? War. By armies and the sword. Now, most importantly, how was its territory increased? How did its “dominion extend” further? By war with the nations. This prophecy says that the dominion of the King of Israel – his territory – will extend from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth. A universal kingdom. Well, surely all that territory did not belong to Israel. Would it be taken by war?  

No, it says, “He will proclaim peace to the nations.” This king of Israel won’t expand its borders by war – but by proclaiming peace. And this what it means when it says, “the bow of war will be broken.” This is a parallel prophecy to Isaiah’s promise, “They’ll beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks – neither will they learn war anymore.” The Kingdom of Israel under King Jesus wouldn’t rule, wouldn’t guard, wouldn’t expand, by the force of war, but by the promise of peace. Not by a sword of steel, but by the sword of truth — by preaching peace, not waging war. The Kingdom of Israel was about to be transformed under its new King Jesus Christ of Nazareth – from earthly to spiritual.  

  1. The Peace is Made in Christ, It’s A Done Deal As for you, because of the blood of My covenant, I will release your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; even today I declare that I will restore to you double. 

This is a done deal! Paul tells us in Ephesians that this work of peace is complete: “For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jews and the nations] one, and [He] has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees…through the cross, by which He extinguished their hostility.” 

“Through the cross.” That’s when Jesus “[blotted] out the handwriting of commandments that was against us, which was adverse toward us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Col. 2:14) He did this by dying for the forgiveness of sins, that’s the new covenant – at the last supper Jesus spells it out, he says “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” 

This is how Christ fulfilled the promise of Zechariah that “because of the blood of my covenant, I will release your prisoners from the waterless pit” — the waterless pit where the rich man was burning up and couldn’t get a drink of water, the pit of the dead – the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. Well guess what, when Jesus was raised, he raised up many others, many prisoners, with him, from that waterless pit, as recorded in Matthew 27:25 (“the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life”). 

All fulfilled! Old news! 

Yes, but many of the people who greeted Jesus with palms had no idea that all of that was about to unfold in the next few days. What was about to be fulfilled – But they soon found out when they saw it with their own eyes – and their testimony is what we’re reading here. 

So, to us reading this, two thousand years later – what does this all mean for us?  

*** 

“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope” — what are we but prisoners of hope? Week after week, I am preaching Christ, and I keep saying – we have this freedom in Christ – “the glorious freedom of the children of God”. Yet we are prisoners too – because this freedom is given to us because God so loved the world that he gave His only son – we are free, but God’s love compels us, imprisons us, to live lives worthy of his love.  

It’s a pay-it-forward model – he gives us hope, so we gotta give it too. He gives us love, so we gotta give it too. He gives us freedom, so we gotta give it too, and all of this means, we sometimes have to put ourselves aside for others who don’t have hope, don’t have love, don’t have freedom – in order that they will have hope, have love, have freedom. 

“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope” — who is our stronghold but God? What is our stronghold but prayer and worship, when we pray by ourselves in God’s presence or lift high His name as a community here on Sundays and throughout the week in our day-to-day’s? As my wife and I watch our daughter grow, we have conversations about how we want to raise her, what sort of values we want to instill in her, and what sort of worldly values we will need to prepare her to see through and discern – and I just keep coming back to God in Christ, God’s truth revealed in Christ.  

I want to share with you this lesson we’re learning as a family: 

I don’t know what’s right and good if I don’t know what God’s purpose for us – for myself, for my wife, for our daughter, is! But I believe that God has fully revealed Himself and His purpose for us in Christ, laying it all out at Calvary. His purpose for me, for my wife, for our daughter – His purpose for you, for this church, and for our human community on this planet that He has lovingly made with His own hands – His purpose is clear, if we look at that cross and understand what that Great Love compels us to do, who Christ’s love compels us to be, and how to see ourselves and the world around us. 

We don’t have to live in a world of darkness, of confusion, no. We can live in Israel, in the New Jerusalem, conquered, protected, and grown not by waging war but by preaching peace. By living for the King who died for us. 

So today we greet our King, and we say, “Hosanna!” Hosanna means, save us! And so we should say, “Save us!” because in case you haven’t noticed, life has plenty of challenges for you on the day-to-day. Doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, you are not exempt from the challenges that deserve a hardy, “Hosanna!”  

We might live in a place where we won’t be beheaded for saying Jesus is King of Kings, but somewhere in all of our hearts is the potential for some good old-fashioned evil – whether we mean it or not. The road to hell is paved in good intentions, right? If you lose our footing on the way of God, if you start to build on any other foundation than Christ, if you build on those worldly values that harm and don’t help — you bet you could end up blindly building on them, entrusting your soul and the souls and those you love to vanity.  

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity” — we’ve all read the history books. How is it that humanity repeats the same mistakes over and over? By straying from the way, and by building on another foundation than Christ. Christians are just as guilty of this sometimes we’re the best at it! But here’s the smell test: if it smells like freedom and if it smells like love, it’s that aroma of Christ. If it doesn’t — if it smells like war, if it smells like hate, if it smells like slavery and if it smells like deceit – the aroma of Christ is ain’t.  

Now each of us is entrusted with a palm from the day of our birth – the palm of our heart & soul. So we do due diligence to discern what and whom we are waving our palms for, amen? May indeed we say “Hosanna, save us” because our hearts are humble, and we know there is much to be saved from, and such a glory of riches to be saved for in Christ. He’s mighty to save on both accounts — He’s got you, if you put your trust in Him.  

Now please stand, and join me in waving our palms for the Lord. When I say “Hosanna”, you say “Hosanna!” 

Let’s not wave our palms for the one riding chariots that God has promised to take away;  

Let’s wave our palms for the one riding on a humble donkey! Hosanna! 

Let’s not wave our palms for the one bending the bow of war God promised to break 

Let’s wave our palms for the one preaching peace, Hosanna! 

Let’s wave our palms for the one who sets us free from being prisoners in the waterless pit, that we may be prisoners of hope. Hosanna! 

Let’s wave our palms for He who is our stronghold, who declares to us that He will restore to us double. Hosanna! 

To God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray with confidence, “Hosanna, save us,” and we bless Him who saves us with the words, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Hosanna! Amen. 

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