Palm Sunday / Confirmation

March 25, 2018

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church

Sioux Falls, SD

Rev. Norman F. Seeger

Mark 11:1-10

            As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway.  As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.  When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

 

Mark 11:1-10

“With the Crowd We Welcome Christ”

1)  Jesus, Save us!

2)  Lord, Rule Over Us!

 

Dear Disciples who confess & confirm our God-given faith in Jesus Christ,

Like confirmands answering questions today, Palm Sunday lets us hear faith; let’s us also see faith as crowds welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, where he will celebrate a final Passover before being crucified as that promised Lamb of God who innocently dies as our Substitute so we forgiven sinners can live forever.  Faith is audible; faith is visible as ‘many people’ — souls traveling with Jesus; souls coming out from the city to greet him – as a Palm Sunday crowd offers a king’s welcome, laying coats on the ground & placing palm branches in Jesus’ path while shouting, ‘Hosanna!  Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!’

Riding a borrowed donkey, accompanied by common disciples, not riding in a chariot or on a powerful stallion with soldiers at his side – not flying in on a private plane nor in a bullet-proof limousine flanked by secret service agents — Jesus is not a worldly power who brings earthly blessings, yet this crowd clearly welcomes him as their king, the promised Christ.  Question:  “Will we welcome Jesus as Christ our King; our soul’s Savior?  Will we, with our lips; with our life, cry, ‘Jesus, save us!’ ‘Lord, rule over us!’  Looking at this week; looking to the rest of our life:  ‘Will we refuse to get swept up in Good Friday’s mob; will we never reject Jesus as a self-proclaimed king nor ridicule him as too weak to even save himself, much less save us; save the world?’

Jesus’ unusual appearance cannot confuse souls remembering Zechariah’s prophecy, “Daughter of Jerusalem — Children of God — your king comes to you, righteous; having salvation, gentle; riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Fulfilling God’s prophecies in every little detail, we welcome Jesus as a King God said he would send to ‘proclaim peace to the nations;’ a King whose ‘rule will extend from sea to sea; from the River to the ends of the earth.’  Climbing a cross where his innocent death wins forgiveness for all sins, Jesus will prayerfully announce God’s peace, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing;’ Jesus will specifically promise a repenting thief on the next cross, ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’[LK 23]

In Jesus’ death we see life…our life!  At Jesus’ cross, we see ‘the wages of our sin – death’ – suffered by our Substitute as Jesus is hellishly forsaken by God his Father who gives us his ‘gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.’[ROM 6]  Welcoming Jesus in our heart; in our life, we see the one & only sin-conquering King God said he would send for all nations, for all souls, forever.  We see our Savior, so we sing, ‘Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  Labeling himself ‘Lord’ – in every Old Testament era — God repeatedly promised he would send a Substitute to defeat the Devil for us, to satisfy God’s justice by fully paying sin’s penalty; to bring us back into God’s eternal family by completely obeying his commands in our place.  Recognizing Jesus as our forgiveness-winning Savior, repenting souls regularly sing, ‘Hosanna’ – which means, ‘Save us, we pray, save us from our sins’ – ‘Hosanna in the highest!’

Confessing Jesus is our Savior – as confirmands are doing today; as we all do whenever we repent of our sins in our weekly worship services – God will graciously tell us, as Jesus repeatedly reassures trusting souls, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven;’[LK 5] ‘Neither do I condemn you.  Go now & leave your life of sin.’[JN 8]  Looking to the rest of our life on earth, I would particularly ask our six confirmands – as we see souls who confirmed their faith at Good Shepherd’s altar ten or twenty-five years ago beautifully continuing to confess Christ with us today while we see other souls who similarly confessed faith stepping away from our Savior’s side – as we realize Satan, ‘like a roaring lion, will look to devour you,’[1 PT 5] will tempt you in many different ways to deny Jesus, to throw away faith in our Savior the Holy Spirit has worked in your heart, saving faith; Satan-withstanding faith the Holy Spirit will be strengthening as you continue reading, studying; applying God’s Scriptural truth – looking to our life on earth, we ask, ‘Will we ever turn away from Jesus to cry for his crucifixion?’  How could we when we realize ‘Salvation is found in no one other than Jesus of Nazareth, whom we crucified, but whom God raised from the dead for our justification?’ [ACTS 4/ROM 5]  How could we ever turn away from Jesus as we remember, ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful, God is just; God will always forgive us our sins & purify us from all unrighteousness …for we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense…Jesus Christ, the righteous One, the atoning sacrifice for our sins & for the sins of the whole world.’[1 JN 1/2]  How could we turn away when we look beyond life on earth to hear ourselves sing our Savior’s praises with his saints in heaven, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne & to [Jesus] the Lamb’ …’Amen!  Praise; glory; wisdom; thanks; honor; power & strength be to our God for ever & ever.  Amen!’[REV 7]

‘Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’  Personally praising Jesus with a Palm Sunday crowd, roll out the red carpet, place a ‘welcome’ mat at our heart’s door; greet Jesus not only as your soul’s Savior from sin, but also as Lord of our eternal life, a King who controls whatever we encounter in time; into eternity, for ‘The coming kingdom of our father David’ recalls God’s promise, ‘I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; a son who will do what is just & right in the land.  In those days God’s people will be saved; will live in safety.  The name by which he will be called is, The Lord Our Righteousness.’[JER 33]

Is Jesus our king, our Lord; our life’s Ruler?  Accepting as King a Jesus who has no official position or political power in the ruling Roman society, not even in his own Jewish nation, is as illogical as to expect little shepherd David to defeat a giant Philistine soldier Goliath.  Do you remember the battle where little shepherd David steps forward to fight an overwhelming enemy threatening to destroy God’s people?  Do you also remember the result as Jesus steps forward to fight Satan for us children of God?

Goliath, a powerful, towering Philistine warrior challenges any of Israel’s soldiers to fight him man-to-man, promises all the Philistines will surrender if he is defeated.  No Israelite steps forward to face a military champion whose heavy spear, javelin & unimaginably large armor appear unbeatable… until a little shepherd comes to see how his brothers’ war with the Philistines is progressing.  David hears Goliath not just challenge Israel’s army but mock the Lord God.  David volunteers to physically cut down this giant who is verbally cutting down their Lord.  His brothers laugh.  King Saul rolls his eyes.  All are amused by the unimaginable idea of David defeating Goliath.  No one gives a young shepherd any chance of surviving a battle against an experienced soldier, to say nothing about winning such an obvious mismatch.  Goliath’s earthly eyes see David being as dangerous as a little dog.  David, however, refusing to wear Saul’s oversized armor, will not trust himself to outwit this warrior.  David will not face Goliath one-on-one.  David realizes this is actually a spiritual struggle, not a physical competition.  David relies upon his all-powerful Lord God to destroy ungodly Goliath & whatever powerless Philistine idol might accompany him.

In David’s words & actions, faith is audible & visible.  As unexpected as a #16 seed beating a #1 in ‘March Madness,’ David’s fight against Goliath — an obvious mismatch – ends in a first-round knockout.  The Philistine, however, does not hold up his hands in victory as worldly odds-makers expect.  Goliath lies on the canvas defeated; dead.  Goliath against David becomes ‘no contest’ because Goliath against God is ‘no contest.’  As a young shepherd runs into battle, God causes the first stone David fires from his sling to hit Goliath in such a way it knocks this stunned giant to the ground where David uses Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head.

Descended from David, Jesus will be greater than David.  Jesus will rule God’s people more wisely; will provide better protection for our souls & bodies than David was ever able to offer.  Applying God’s promises of protection in his own life, David defeats Goliath.  Personally applying God’s promises, Jesus rides into Jerusalem as our king, a humble, yet powerful king.  As David walked down into the valley to defeat Goliath, Jesus rides up to Jerusalem to fight our enemy the devil not by slinging a stone at him but by being crucified – by first suffering a hellish separation from God our sins deserved as he accepts responsibility for all sin while never sinning himself; by rising from the dead the third day to overpower death as well as the devil.

With Jesus winning the eternal life God gives us through faith in our Lord & Savior, the question becomes:  ‘Will we welcome Jesus as a King who fights; who defeats sin, death & Satan for us – a king who also commands & rules our lives?’  Paul reminds us, ‘God [raised Jesus from his grave; God lifted him into heaven], God placed all things under Jesus’ feet & appointed him to be head over everything for the church,’[EPH 1] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on earth; under the earth.’[PHIL 2]  At God his Father’s right hand, ‘far above all rule & authority, power & dominion; far above every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come,’[EPH 1] Jesus possesses power to overpower our every enemy.

In complete control today – all-knowing; all-powerful – exercising control Jesus subtly displays Palm Sunday as he sends two disciples to untie a colt they will find in the next village, a colt no one has ever ridden; as he tells them how to answer anyone asking the very question he predicts.  Will an owner let his colt go if ‘the Lord needs it & will send it back here shortly?’  Will a young colt no one has ever ridden calmly carry an unfamiliar human burden into Jerusalem while people shout & toss palm branches in its path?  Obviously in control in Palm Sunday’s crowd, Jesus is still in control in Gethsemane Thursday night — in both Jewish & Roman courts – Jesus is even in control on his cross Good Friday & coming out of his tomb Easter Sunday.

Still in control today, Jesus is ruling our hearts & lives from his Father’s powerful right hand in heaven.  The question for our confirmands; for everyone who confesses Christ, is, ‘Will we follow him faithfully for the rest of our life; for our eternal life?’  Our response is a no-brainer, is it not, like the two disciples who follow Jesus’ instructions to procure the donkey he will ride into Jerusalem? Love our Lord Jesus!  Trust Jesus our Savior!  Follow Jesus our King forever!  Sing today; sing in eternity, ‘Hosanna!  Save us, we pray!  Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  Blessed be Jesus our Savior who wins our victory over sin & Satan,!  Blessed be Jesus our Lord who defeats death & the devil for us!  ‘Hosanna in the highest!’

Amen.