Palm Sunday (A)
April 5, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace 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 Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I can’t wait to see what happens next!” you know that tone of voice reveals how they feel. If they’re excited it’s, “I just can’t wait see what happens next!” If they’re full of dread, it’s more like, “I can’t wait to see what happens next.” Or to put it another way, “I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Maybe you know people who are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, maybe this is how you feel most of the time. You probably know that it’s not healthy to go through life with a pessimistic attitude like this, but it’s common feeling now isn’t it? The worry about what’s going to happen next. It’s the fear of the unknown. It seems like every day things get a little bit worse, or at least it appears that it could get worse. Our state hasn’t issued a “stay at home” order, and we’re glad. We don’t know what’s going tomorrow though, do we?
First school was cancelled until April 13th, then it was April 30th, will it be entirely cancelled next? How do teachers, students, and families plan? Prom and graduation are scheduled, it’s only tentative though isn’t it? I’m sure our seniors, and their parents, are anxiously expecting the other shoe to drop at any time. There’s a lesson in all this that while we can plan and look forward to things, nobody knows what’s going to happen next.
I feel so bad for you who have been laid off or had your hours cut short. You’ve entered employment limbo, not knowing if or when you’re going to get back to work. The hit this economy has taken will affect everyone, and many of you are afraid of what’s coming next. Will the car break down? Will my family get the virus? Maybe the stress is through the roof now that your family is stuck at home together; more than you’ve been in a very long time. And if the Governor issues a stay at home order, what happens next to me, you, our community, our church?
I don’t need to tell you that life is a big unknown. And we don’t like it one bit! Even if we didn’t have the current situation with Covid-19, we just don’t know what’s going to happen next.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we’re blessed to know what the day meant and what came next. The people standing on the sidewalks with their palm branches didn’t have a clue. Saint John tells us that they came to see Jesus because they’d heard how He raised Lazarus from the dead. If this man can raise the dead, what else can He do? Could He free them from Roman tyranny? Can He satisfy all their physical needs? Could He be the one to restore Israel to her former glory? What can He do next?
The attitude of the religious authorities was more like, “What will He do next?” Jesus was a threat; He criticized them publicly and He made them look bad by interacting with everyone, regardless of who they were. John says, “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him.’” They saw Jesus as a threat to their religious power and as a threat to their freedom because if Jesus kept riling the people up, the Romans might just come in and squash them all. You can hear a mournful tone when John says, “Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him.?”
The disciples probably spent a fair amount of time asking, “What’s He going to do next?! He healed the sick, fed 5,000 people, walked on water, and then He raised a man from the dead! There’s no way He can top that! As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, we’re given a peek into the minds of the disciples, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.” In hindsight they knew what Jesus was going to do next, but that didn’t help at the time. They went through these experiences not understanding or knowing what was next. As a result, they were confused, frightened, worried. Sound familiar?
That Palm Sunday, and for the entire week, the people didn’t know what was going to happen next, Jesus did though. He’d told everyone who would listen. He’d repeatedly explained it to the disciples. He said to the crowd, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Jesus knew what was next. He knew His entire life what was next. More importantly, He knew the why of what was next. He knew, He promised, that what would come next, His arrest, suffering, and death would save us from our sins. He would draw us to Himself where we would find all the blessings that come from being part of His Church. He died for your sins, all of them, and this forgiveness means that you can trust Him, even when you are afraid of what’s coming next.
You don’t know what’s coming next. You might be afraid of the Great Unknown, but Jesus is by your side. As the Lord says to you in Psalm 91, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” Jesus knows your fear. He knows your anxiety. He knows every single emotion that you’re feeling or will ever feel. He knows it because He willingly went through it all for you. He hasn’t deserted you and He’s not going to. Look at everything He did for you! The suffering, the thirst, the hatred, the death, were all for you. If He didn’t desert you by dodging His death on the cross, He’s not going to desert you now in your time of need.
You don’t know what’s next, but He does. God says in the first chapter of Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” He is the God of the past, present, and future. Jesus is the Savior of the past, present, and future. He rescued His people in the past, He will rescue His people now. We don’t know what’s next, so we don’t know how He’s going to save us from these hard times, but we do know He will. That’s His promise! He says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” That’s what next! Your deliverance!
No matter how much we plan and schedule, we never know what comes next. The people in Jesus day had no idea what was coming next either. The religious leaders schemed and plotted Christ’s death, but they had no clue as to what was going to happen next. The disciples didn’t know, but when they learned, they shared the glories of the Risen Savior! We read the Palm Sunday account, and we know what’s coming next, and yet, sometimes we forget. We worry and fret and forget that with Jesus, the what’s next doesn’t have to be frightening. Have courage for the Great Unknown has given way to the Greater Known, the Risen Savior Jesus Christ, who walks with you today into whatever comes next.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen