Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sermon: Palmarum

16 March 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Matt 27:11-54 (John 12:12-19, Zech 9:9-12, Phil 2:5-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

We began holy week the way those first witnesses did – carrying palms and standing outside of the portal of a place called: Jerusalem, also known as “Salem.”

We sang “All glory, laud, and honor” to our Redeemer-King. We sang “hosannas” and acknowledged the holy presence of “David’s royal Son.” We praised Him on high – with “the company of angels” and the “multitude of pilgrims.”

And to Him, before His passion, we sang our “hymns of praise.”

But unlike those first followers of Jesus into that original Salem carrying those prototypical palm branches, we know exactly what comes next. In fact, as we processed into this holy place, this place where our Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme as King, we followed behind a cross, held high on a pole, lifted up between heaven and earth, bearing the image of Him in whose image we were created.

The joyful crowds who carried the palms and “made sweet hosannas ring” followed Him through the gate into David’s Royal City. They had come for a coronation, and they bloody well got one.

The governor of the Jews interrogated our Lord Jesus: “Are You the king of the Jews?” For this is what the crowds had been saying as they sang His praises, followed His royal donkey, and threw branches before Him. This was the charge the Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, and the elders would bring before the Roman authorities. For in the kingdoms of this world, Caesar is the king maker. And as our Lord had previously instructed, we are indeed to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s but unto God that which is God’s. Unlike Caesar, Jesus is the King in a Kingdom not of this world.

Pilate himself understood this – at least to some extent – for he sought to release Jesus. He called Him a “just Man. He understood that Jesus was no threat to the empire, and that small men sought His life “only out of envy.” Pilate’s wife suffered in her dreams for the sake of this different kind of King.

Ultimately, Pilate would give in to the Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, and the elders. Pilate would release a terrorist and allow the execution of the Prince of Peace. And yet, when it came to the crucified King’s throne, a cross, Pilate was to make a confession: “This is the King of the Jews” – just as we, in our creeds make the confession that our Lord was crucified by Pilate.

This King was crowned – not with gold and ermine but with thorns and blood. Soldiers of the Praetorian Guard would mock this King with a purple robe, with genuflection and bows, and with the greeting: “Ave Rex Iudaeorum!” This is the same Praetorian Guard to which Paul would preach Christ crucified – some of whom would become soldiers in the army of this different kind of kingdom.

This King was finally enthroned on the cross, held high above His realm, hands spread wide pointing to the vastness of His domain. The crown jewels of His authority were His garnet wounds which dripped upon the ground of His redeemed creation.

This creation had rejected Him, the shouts of “Hosanna!” being replaced by “Crucify Him!” and the acclamations of adulation giving way to exclamations of blasphemy. Waving palm branches ceased, while wagging heads and tongues abounded.

Even in the mockery, our Blessed Lord’s Kingship was acknowledged even as he was called “Savior.” The chief priests, scribes, and elders jeered: “He saved others, Himself He cannot save.” Indeed, He did save “others,” for they, out of the hardness of their hearts, refused to be saved.

And even as our Lord recited Psalm 22, those who should have recognized the Word of God were clueless – thinking He was invoking St. Elijah for salvation. They were so ignorant of the Word of God, they could not discern that they were hearing the very Word of God with their own ears – the Word of God through whom all things were made, the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was God.

Ironically, the people of God who knew the written Word, could not recognize the living Word. Rather it was a Gentile, a centurion along with his fellow Roman soldiers, who made the good confession on that day: “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

The soldiers in the Praetorian Guard were disciplined men, disciples, if you will. They knew about authority and how authority is passed down from on high. They understood loyalty and devotion to duty. And these men, unlike the Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, and the elders knew who their true King was.

The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of misfits. The religious, the priests, the elders, the scribes, the lawyers, the rabbis, the wealthy, the scholars of Holy Scripture, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and the vast majority of those who sought the Messiah for the most part did not recognize Him – neither on a cross, nor on a road strewn with palm branches, nor in His preaching, nor even in the Scriptures.

For while the Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, and the elders scoffed at the King “coming to [them] lowly and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey,” the King was greeted and hailed by a motley kingdom of children; of the poor; of healed lepers; of reformed tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves; by a veritable army of forgiven sinners, singing Hosanna to their Redeemer-King.

And we continue to follow this different kind of King, even today, dear brothers and sisters. We still wave palms and sing Hosanna, we still follow the cross, and we still acknowledge Him not only as the King of the Jews, but as the King of the Universe.

For consider the proclamation of St. Paul, who would later preach to the Praetorian Guard, through whom God promises: “at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow” – every knee, those who genuflect in worship as well as those who knelt in mockery. And “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” – whether in confession of faith or in profession of hatred. For whether or not one worships this King, He is still King. Whether or not one resists the gift of salvation, this King is also the Savior. Whether or not one accepts the blood of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus as payment of the debt we could never pay, those debts have indeed been paid by our Redeemer-King, robed in purple, crowned, enthroned, and covered in ruby red – even as his outstretched arms survey His realm and His royal fiat goes forth: “Father, forgive them.”

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey…. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea.”

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.

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

1 comment:

hits4pay said...

Learn how to make a cross out of palms