Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we have come to sing You our hosannas. Today we offer You praise, honor, glory, and thanksgiving. Our hearts are overjoyed that You have agreed to reign in our lives with Your eternal love. Our hearts sing out in thanks for Your gift of saving faith. Lord, today we ask You to sustain our joy and keep us from letting You down. Do just that by infusing us every week and every day with Your life-changing message of eternal life! Amen
BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD! HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!
TEXT: Mark 11: 1-10
Fellow Redeemed Worshipers of the King:
This past Wednesday was a memorable one. Who will ever forget those images of free Iraqi’s pulling down that statue of a dictator? Who will ever forget the joy on those faces as people sang the praises of the American troops? Who will ever forget the flowers they handed tank drivers? Who will ever forget them pulling pieces of that fallen statue through the streets of Baghdad?
In recalling those images, you get some sense of what it must have been like on that first Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. In a spontaneous outpouring of emotion, people within the city and countless Passover pilgrims camped just outside the city walls sought to honor Christ as their King! The very word “hosanna” means: “Save” or “help us!” When the crowds shouted: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”—they were honoring God and honoring Christ as God’s representative, as God’s Son, in their very midst. Heady times indeed. So heady that we still do the same almost 2000 years later.
But then comes the rest of the story. You know what happened. Just 5 days later the masses turned on Jesus and shouted: “Crucify! Crucify!” Mob joy turned to mob hate. Mob praises turned to mob disgust. I was taught that a sermon theme should encapsulate the chief thought of a text along with its application. With that in mind, today I say to every single one of you:
HOSANNA TO BOOO—DON’T LET IT BE YOU!
Christ didn’t arrive at the gates of Jerusalem on a tank. He didn’t arrive with troops behind Him. No, He came that day in total humbleness. He came riding on a yearling colt, “The foal of a donkey” as Zechariah prophesied. Christ came with but a few men accompanying Him in the person of those humble disciples. So, why did the people respond as they did? Why did they take off their cloaks and place them in the roadway? Why did they cut down palm branches and wave them overhead? Because again, as Zechariah said: “Christ will take away the chariots and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.” These people were celebrating peace, not war. They were celebrating God making eternal peace with them via the Prince of Peace—Jesus Christ. Obviously they wanted a better life. Obviously they wanted to be free of the guilt over their many sins. They wanted to live in the sunshine of God’s grace. Christ was the One Who would bring such peace. And so with hearts inflamed over hope for a better life—they celebrated by honoring Him!
Human emotions are terribly fickle. That’s why in the upcoming weeks I’m sure we’ll see some Iraqi hosannas turn to boos, too. It will be a sad time that the media will focus on. But no matter how it all turns out, it will never compare with the sadness of Good Friday.
Every year at Christmas time people sing about “peace.” They pray about “peace.” That’s because they connect earthly peace with the coming of the Prince of Peace. Of course, such folks suffer from the same problem that this massive crowd on Palm Sunday suffered from. That is, we humans value earthly peace more than spiritual peace. We value daily bread more than the Bread of Life. To most the body is far more important than the soul. And if you doubt that, just look around this Palm Sunday. What percentage of Americans are in church today and what percentage remains at home in bed?
The crowd wanted a King who would overthrow the Romans. They wanted a King who would give them an easy life where human honor and glory would be showered upon them. They wanted a golden age where the King would cancel their bills and free them from having to struggle just to make ends meet. Christ canceled our debt of sin on the cross. He freed us from having to struggle eternally with sin and alienation from God. But that’s not what the crowd had in mind later on Holy Week. And so their hosannas turned to boos.
Hosannas to boos—Don’t Let It Be You! That’s the point that we all need to keep in mind as we journey to the cross and later to the empty tomb.
Today we join in singing hosannas. We like to do that, too, as the inflated attendance shows. But on Maundy Thursday, as we contemplate a suffering Savior in Gethsemane, I seriously doubt the church will be as full. Likewise, Good Friday, when we look at the cross and see the agony our sins caused God. The fact of the matter is: Palm Sunday and Easter are popular because they are pretty. They are joyous. They feed out need for an emotional high. Whereas the other days are a bit darker and so we shy away from honoring Christ at those times with our presence. The same is true in our every day life. We make time for Christ when joy is on our mind—a baptism, a wedding, Christmas, and yes, Easter. But all too often the rest of the time, especially during non-joyful times—we ignore Him and/or give Him the leftovers of our emotional commitment. When I was a little boy I often wondered why that is? As I’ve gotten older, the answer has become obvious. Looking inward and seeing the magnitude of human sin is not fun. Repenting isn’t fun. Humbling yourself before God isn’t an ego booster. But it is a soul booster!
Let me ask you this. Who is more joyful?—The fellow who cuts his finger and has it heal, or the man who is cured from cancer? Who is more joyful? The woman liberated from death squads, or the woman who just got a $50 tax refund from the IRS? Christ did not come here to do little things. He didn’t come merely to remove some uncomfortable splinters from our lives. No, He came to do big things! He came to remove the 2×4 spike of eternal shame and death that our souls were impaled upon. And He did that by allowing Himself to be impaled on the cross for us!
Ignoring Jesus except when it is convenient and we feel we need an emotional fix is exactly the same thing the Jerusalem crowds did during Holy Week. However, you and I have the benefit of hindsight. We’ve been given the bigger picture. So, today I leave with but one thought: Hosanna to boos—don’t let it be you! Amen