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            Grace, to you peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Our text for this morning's Palm Sunday sermon comes from St. Matthew chapter 21 verses 7-9 which say; "They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' "  This is the Word of the Lord, Amen.

          Today is Palm Sunday.  In recent times it is becoming known as and  celebrated as 'Passion Sunday."  That's because in many places people aren't willing to come to church for mid-week Lenten services and Good Friday services; where it has been traditional to hear the readings about Christ's Passion.  So, Palm Sunday, that should chronologically be about Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, has now been hijacked into a Sunday dedicated to pain and suffering.  I think there is great value in keeping the storyline intact and therefore keeping Palm Sunday as Palm Sunday and looking to Good Friday to hear about the Passion.  I think our children need from an early age to have the events of Jesus' last visit to Jerusalem presented and told to them in the clarity of proper order.  The contrast shown between Jesus' triumphant entry on Sunday and His being led out of the city for execution on Friday is valuable to us adults as well.  So, today we observe and celebrate 'Palm Sunday.'

          Palm Sunday has some very important symbols.  Let's look at them.  What about the palms the people were waving?  In those times, the palms were a symbol of patriotism.  They also symbolized that the people acknowledged Jesus as royalty.  They symbolized that they expected Jesus to do something about the Roman invaders.  The symbol seems wrong for Jesus.

          What about the praise the people sang ?  The 'Hosanna' they sang clearly identifies Jesus as the Messiah.  However, their view of the Messiah was one of a savior who was a miraculous warrior king who would deliver them from their earthly problems such as hunger, disease and the occupation of their land by foreign invaders.  Again the symbol seems wrong.

          If Jesus was there to fight a war, there is a problem with these symbols as understood by the people.  Now one symbol had to surprise them.  Scripture tells us that Jesus was riding a donkey as prophesied by Zechariah.  This symbol appears to be backwards.  A triumphant conquering king rides an imposing symbol of might like a big white horse or rides in a war chariot; at the very least on a special bred mule like King David and Solomon.  But Jesus was riding the lowliest most humble animal.  Zechariah is explicit in saying that the 'king' would ride a donkey.  So this symbol is in accord with Scripture, but not in accord with what the people expected of a man who would be their miraculous warrior king.

          The problem with this and the other symbols was the mindset of the people of that day.  They had put worldliness over spirituality in their concept of the Messiah.  When they thought about someone who was there to fight for them; they thought mainly in earthly ways.  Jesus was there to fight for them; but He was there to fight for them in spiritual ways to win the great spiritual victory.  So when Jesus died on the cross, in a worldly sense it appeared He had lost and been defeated.  However, in the spiritual realm we know He had won a great victory.

          Gen. George Patton of WWII fame is credited with saying words to the effect of 'No one ever won a war by dying for their country.  He won it by making the other soldier die for his country.'  That is often the key to success in an earthly war.  But Jesus wasn't fighting an earthly war.  He was fighting a spiritual war.  A war that required sacrifice.  A war that required that a special perfect someone, would in love die for the benefit of the people.  Jesus said; "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

          Love, not military might was the key to victory in Christ's battle with sin, death and Satan.  That wasn't understood by the people or even the disciples that day in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago.  We are blessed today to have had that revealed to us.  Now we know why Jesus went to Jerusalem.  Now we understand how He took conventional wisdom and knowledge about the world and turned it upside down.  He wasn't there to rectify the problems of the earthly realm, but was there to set right the spiritual realm.

          We need to remember this today.  Jesus' priority is always for our spiritual good.  That doesn't mean that He doesn't care or doesn't work for our worldly benefit; He most certainly does.  But He knows what is the higher good for us.  He knows that the availability of forgiveness and a restored relationship between God and humanity is a benefit that will last us for all eternity.  The saving of souls; rescuing them from the devil and giving to them eternal life in the new creation, this was always (and still is) the priority goal for Jesus.

          So Jesus changes how we see things.  The palms of patriotism become the palms of peace between God and man.  The lowly donkey becomes the transport of the King of Kings.  And the hosannas aren't sung to the warrior descendant of mighty King David, but to the one who was truly blessed and came in the name of the Lord.     

          The King of Kings came in the name of the Lord to allow His enemy to subject Him to temptation, suffering and ridicule.  He came in the name of the Lord to win life in death on the cross.  He came in humility to win our everlasting thanks and praise.  He came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves and to give us what our human nature doesn't deserve.  He came to redeem you and give you a new life.  A life everlasting in a loving relationship with God.  Palm Sunday marks the beginning of His final acts in that gracious atoning work.  In those final acts He would give us many more important teachings, He gave us the example of humility in service to others, in that week He blessed us with the gift of the Sacrament of the Altar, and finally He gave His life for us. 

          Then having completed all of that, He would show His victory in the glorious Easter Resurrection from the dead.  A Resurrection to which you are connected through your baptism.  A baptism in which God regenerates us from lost and condemned creatures into redeemed and saved lambs of the eternal flock.  Our 'Good Shepherd' went to Jerusalem to bring this about.  It is right that He had a triumphant entry, it is the least He deserved.  For from Him all blessings do flow, especially the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of everlasting life.  For this higher good, from us to Him, be all glory, laud and honor, now and forevermore, amen.


          Now may the peace of God that passes all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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