Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sermon for April 4-5

Palm Sunday
April 4-5, 2009
Text: Mark 11:1-11
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the ancient world, there was an old king. He knew that didn’t have long. He was bed ridden. His circulation was failing. In one of the cruelest consequences of polygamous marriage, his wives could not care for him. They were jealous of one another. So each of the wives was working hard to make certain that none of the other wives would gain influence with the king by being his care giver. They had to bring in a young virgin to serve as his nurse.

As the king lay in his bed, clearly in his last days, one of his many sons attempted to lay claim to the throne. But there was a secret oath. One of the king’s wives came to him and reminded him of the secret oath. She also reported what the king’s son was doing. Though the king was old and frail, his mind was still sharp. He knew what needed to be done. He ordered the son of this wife to go the Mount of Olives. He ordered Nathan the prophet and Zadok the priest to accompany him. They were also to take the palace guard. This palace guard was largely made up of foreign mercenaries who loyal only to the old king. Once on the Mount of Olives, Zadok the Priest and Nathan the prophet anointed the boy king. They placed him on the king’s own donkey and led him into the city of Jerusalem. The soldiers cried out - Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh. Thus Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba was proclaimed king of Isarael.

What is interesting is how we read the Old Testament in a way that is different that the way the Jewish people read the Old Testament. We might know the story of Joseph. We might know some things about David - that he was anointed king at a young age, that he had been shepherd, and the he killed Goliath. But this portion of the Old Testament is not well known to us. Yet, every Jew would have been intimately familiar with this - Solomon’s entrance. Why? Because it was one of the high points of the Israelite kingdom. More important than this however, was that there would be a Son of David who was greater than Solomon. And He would make His kingly entrance into Jerusalem in the same manner. He had to come from the Mount of Olives. He had to be riding on a donkey. He had to enter with great shouts of acclimation. As a whole, the Jewish people were not looking for the virgin birth. They were not looking for someone who would lampoon their sins. They would not be looking for a suffering Messiah. They would be looking for that kingly entrance. It is significant that several false messiahs entered Jerusalem in just this same way.

We sometimes call this Christ’s coronation entrance, but that is not precisely correct. It was much the same as Solomon’s entrance. Solomon was not immediately crowned king. His father, David was still alive. It would be a short time before he was actually crowned king. So also, it would be a short time before Christ was crowned king. That would happen on Friday. Instead of a crown of gold, it was a crown of thorns. Christ was a different kind of king than Solomon. He did not come to sit in splendor and acquire vast wealth. He came to be a King who fought in the stead of His people. He would, in a sense, fight a battle with another Goliath like character - Satan. He would defeat Satan, not with a stone, but by His own suffering and death.

In a very real sense, Christ was coming to Jerusalem to provoke His enemies. He knew what would happen. He knew that He was coming to Jerusalem to die. That was His purpose. He stated this clearly on many occasions. Unlike earthly kings who might indeed be greeted with “hosanna”, Christ would literally fulfill that word. For hosanna means “Lord, save us.” Certainly man earthly kings saved their lands from foreign invaders and the like. Christ would save us from Satan, sin and death. That is a far greater enemy than any earthly king would face.

In order to understand why this is important, we must see our own need. This is where the Ten Commandments are so important. We need those commandments, to show us our sins. When we rightly understand the commandments, and compare our lives to them, we understand how we are liars, thieves, murders, despisers of parents, despisers of the Word, and abusers of God’s Holy Name. We see that all these sins flow out of the fact that we do not fear, love, and trust in Christ as we should. This is why we have our young people memorize the commandments. This why we read them in church periodically. This is also why in this past Advent and Lent, we dedicated our mid-weeks to the commandments. When we see our lives in the mirror of the commandments, we understand that we our Lord to save us. We need what “hosanna” says. If Christ had come and established an earthly kingdom, we’d still be screwed before God’s judgement. That’s the point. We need just the kind of King Jesus is. We need a King who dies for our sins. We need to be saved.

Interestingly, Christ entered Jerusalem directly into the temple. Christ would overthrown that temple. In the other Gospel accounts Christ, cleanses the temple. He throws out the money changers. Why? Because the temple was to be a beacon to the world of God’s gracious presence in the world. But Christ would not be done. He had earlier told the Samaritan woman that in the future the temple would not be the place to worship God. On Good Friday, Christ departed the temple. Now this is one of these mysteries about the nature of God. We say Christ was a man. On Good Friday He was on the cross. But He was also in the temple, in the Holy of Holies, behind the curtain. At least until the moment of His death. At that moment, we know that the curtain was torn and the Holy of Holies was thrown open. This was Christ leaving the temple. The temple was no longer His throne room. People were to no longer look to the temple. They were to look Christ’s death and resurrection. They were to look for Christ in the break of the bread. It should be noted that in just a few years the temple was destroyed and has never been rebuilt. I don’t believe that God will ever permit it to be rebuilt. Our King lives among us in Word and Sacrament - that is in the liturgy.

On Palm Sunday Christ entered Jerusalem to claim His throne. He came to die. He came to be the perfect Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. But He enters as King so that there is no mistake. He is the true of Son of David. He is the One who truly saves His people as they asked in the word “Hosanna.” He is not like Solomon who built the first temple, but was not faithful. He was not David who was not permitted to build the temple because he had blood on his hands. He is God the Son, the perfect obedient Son of God, the true King of the Universe, in whom God the Father has placed all authority. If we are looking for a savior from sin, in Christ we clearly see it. We see it in a king placed on a cross and crowned with thorns. He would be mocked and abused. But we see the true glory in the gift He gives to us through His death and resurrection.

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