Palm Sunday (B)
March 28, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle reading, which was read a few minutes ago.
There’s a hymn in our hymnal called Prepare the Royal Highway. It’s a wonderful Advent hymn with powerful words that sing about the coming King. We almost could have sung it today, for this morning we too celebrate the coming of the King, but the words weren’t quite right. The road into Jerusalem is the royal highway, and it is walked by the King of kings, but the road into Jerusalem is also the Way of the Cross. Crowds of followers accompanied Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday but it ended with Jesus making the trek to Golgotha completely alone. Today is a day that sees a transition, one that takes us from the joy of Palm Sunday to the pain and agony of Good Friday. The one who is acclaimed with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna” is the blessed King who just five days later is sent to his death with shouts of “Crucify”. So this Palm Sunday, we remember the who has come to die for us.
Our text from Philippians focuses on how Christ set aside His heavenly kingdom to come to us as true man. “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”. When Jesus came and walked among us, He remained God. He never lost any of His divine abilities like His ability to heal the sick, raise the dead, calm the raging storms or know what people were thinking, but most of the time He kept them hidden. To have shown His divine power all the time, would’ve taken away from His human nature and it would have run contrary to what He had to do. Grasping equality with God would’ve put Him on a path that led away from the cross instead of towards it. He was made man, so that He could come, not as the almighty ruler that the Hosanna singing followers were hoping for, rather He came as a servant to all of us. As Paul writes, that the Son of God “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.” As Jesus tells us in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
Christ’s humility went beyond being a servant. As Paul says, “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. We human beings, sadly, must obey the call of death. Our inbred Sin and our total corruption of God’s creation, leaves us no other option but to die. This is a terrible curse that Satan foisted upon us, one that has brought heartache to literally billions of people and when it comes calling, we cannot escape.
Jesus could’ve escaped it, but He didn’t. Instead, He willing embraced it. And not just any death, but the death that each of us deserves because of our sinful minds, bodies, and souls. Jesus willing went to His death and He would allow nothing to detour Him from His final destination. In Luke 9 we’re told, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” When Jesus set His face, it meant that nothing would stop Him from making the journey for which He came to earth. The Palm Sunday parade is a parade with a purpose, to get Jesus to Calvary and to make sure that while death does dictate to us, it’s not our master, because Christ broke death’s power with His resurrection.
Because of His resurrection, Paul can say, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name”. This exaltation didn’t occur in spite of the cross but rather it came through the cross. The Son was obedient to the Father’s will, doing all that was asked of Him, even to the point of dying and being abandoned to the terrors of Hell. This was His time of glory, for while no one could see it, the glory was His suffering. I know, it doesn’t look like it, but it’s true! God’s glory is seen wherever sin, death, and the devil are conquered and they were conquered once and for all in the cross. And now the Father has exalted Him above, well, everything. His exalted Name is the greatest of names, for His name, Jesus is how God has revealed Himself to us. Do you want to know how much God loves you? Look to Christ on the cross. Do you want to know if God could forgive you? Look to Christ on the cross. Do you want to know that God will be with you no matter what happens in your life? Look to Christ on the cross. It is in Christ on the cross that that you will see His love, His glory, His humility, and your strength and forgiveness.
On that first Palm Sunday, there were a lot of knees bowed before Jesus as He entered Jerusalem and it must’ve been really something to see. But even still there were people who didn’t believe He was the Christ. There are people living today who don’t want to know Him and who flat out reject Him. But you know what? Our text has a message for them. Paul writes, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. There will come a time for everyone when they will have to bow before Christ and confess that He is Lord. For those who don’t believe, they’ll do so in unending shame because they will recognize, too late, that He is God.
For those who love Christ though, it’ll never be too late. In our humble faith we confess Jesus as Lord and we bow down before Him in repentance, love, and trust. Our faith bows down in the recognition that the Crucified King is the Risen King. Before, we belonged to the king darkness and death, but through His death we live under the King of Light and Life. Christ came in humility, but He rose from the dead with an unsurpassed glory that will never again be hidden.
In the Bible, palms are used as symbols of victory and we see this beautifully in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 7, we read of a great multitude that no one could count from every land and language. They are gathered with palm branches in their hands as they praise the Lamb of Salvation, singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” We sing this same song today also, for the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings came to this planet to suffer and die so that we might receive our salvation. Risen from the dead, He gives us the fruits of His victory in His body and blood and bestows upon us eternal life. So we praise Him, we praise Him now and forever as we sing our own “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen