Matthew 21:1-11

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.

Theme and Parts:

“The Son of David is King”

            I. Who Comes in an Unexpected Way (verses 1-5)

            II. Who Saves in an Unexpected Way (verses 6-11)

            Dear fellow redeemed,

            This is not the Palm Sunday we expected. Three weeks ago, I never would have imagined that we would have to be meeting in groups fewer than ten, or that our world would look like it does today. You are feeling disappointed just like I am; this is the start of Holy Week; this is not how things should look! It’s not what we expected and it’s not what we want. But here we are in the midst of the unexpected. In a different way, the first Palm Sunday was also full of the unexpected. The Son of David is King and He comes and saves in unexpected ways.

            In some ways, the Triumphal Entry was similar to the joyous coronation of a king. Jesus certainly is King. He is the promised Son of David who reigns forever as Savior-King. Yet, the way that He rode into Jerusalem that Sunday is full of the unexpected. Where are His soldiers? And servants? And war horses? And weapons?

            After all, isn’t He a king? Many people were expecting the Savior to drive out the Romans and re-establish Israel to the glory days of King David. This false understanding of Jesus’ work is one reason why many of them so quickly turned on Him and called for His death later in the week. The King came in an unexpected way.

            He came in humbleness to save us. We, by nature, are not humble. We are prideful. One of the things that brings out pride is conflict. In the conflict of this pandemic, it’s easy for us to be prideful. It’s easy to look with disgust upon people who have come to a different conclusion regarding navigating this mess. It’s easy to refuse to consider the ideas of others. It’s easy to be happy when someone else’s ideas or predictions turned out to be incorrect.

            In the pride of our sinful nature, it’s easy for us to lose focus on who Jesus is. Many of the Jews questioned Jesus, even rejected Him, when they realized He was not going to be the earthly king they had decided was needed. How are we reacting to Jesus in this pandemic? Have we decided what He must do – whether that be eliminate the COVID-19 virus, or save the economy, or bring about a vaccine now – and then struggled with doubt or anger when He didn’t meet our expectation? We prideful sinners need a Savior.

            It is good for us that the Son of David came in an unexpected way. The humbleness of Jesus is highlighted in the events of Palm Sunday. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of the disciples with specific instructions. “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.” These events would reveal Jesus as the King we need. Jesus displays power over all creation. This was an unbroken animal, and yet the disciples and He had no trouble controlling it. Jesus is the Divine King who has control over all creation. Think of how comforting that is for you. Nothing can happen to you, not even the COVID-19 virus, which He won’t use for your ultimate good. He has the power to do that and He has promised to do that.

            Jesus continued His instructions, “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” Again, Jesus showed that He was no earthly king, no mere mortal. As Divine King, Jesus knows all. Jesus knew what would happen. Jesus knows what will happen with your life. We are facing much stress due to the unknowns about the coronavirus. How will things turn out? When can we get back to our regular lives?  God knows, God will be with you, and God will care for you. King Jesus came in an unexpected, humble way, but He is the King we need.

            By the events in our text, Jesus was fulfilling the words of the prophets. They wrote, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” Here we see a powerful description of Jesus’ state of humiliation – how He did not make full use of His divine majesty. Instead, He humbled Himself. As true man, He put Himself under God’s Law. He is true man, like us, except for sin. Thus, He kept the Law’s demands on humans by showing selfless love. Yes, the Son of David came in a truly unexpected way.

            The Son of David saves us in an unexpected way.  Jesus laid aside the full use of His divine majesty in order to be our substitute, obedient in our place. King Jesus came in humbleness and He lived a life of perfect, selfless love.  Jesus the King, the Son of David, covers our sinful life with His holy life.

He laid aside the full use of His divine majesty in order to be our substitute, suffering in our place. His death on the cross is the climax of His state of humiliation. He endured a most shameful death. Jesus was cursed by God upon the cross. He was charged with the collective sin and guilt of the entire world. He experienced the torments of everlasting hell. What sacrificial love! Jesus became like a worm, despised and scorned, to win salvation for you and me.

In His humiliation Jesus was also the worm who deceived Satan. God acted like a fisherman. A fisherman puts a worm on a hook; the fish sees the worm but not the hook and is caught. Satan never would have attacked Jesus if Jesus’ divine glory had not been concealed. The “hook” of divine glory was concealed by the humble flesh of Jesus. Thus, Satan saw Jesus as a worm and swallowed Him in death, thinking he was successful. But Christ stuck in his gills like a hook in a fish, and Christ was spit out of death. The “hook” of the Divine ripped Satan apart destroying the power of sin, death, and Satan; Jesus victoriously rose from the mouth of death on Easter morning! We are saved in a most unexpected way by the King who lives and reigns forever.

            Finally then, we come to the reading of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. What does the crowd do for Him? They spread their “cloaks on the road,” they “cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” Providing some sort of carpet on the path was a sign of honor for royalty. They honor Him. We honor Jesus by believing in Him, trusting Him as our only Savior-King.

            This is what the crowd cried out as Jesus entered Jerusalem. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.” “Hosanna” literally means “please save” and it took on a form of joyful acclamation. By calling Jesus the “Son of David,” they confessed Him to be the promised Savior-King.  This is the praise we give to King Jesus.

            At the end of our text, the question from some who had gathered was, “Who is this?” Those who knew Jesus well, the people of Galilee where Jesus spent most of His earthly ministry, gave the answer, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” They knew Jesus as The Prophet, the Savior promised to be even greater than the prophet Moses. We know Jesus. We know Him in His Word. We know Him as our Lord in our baptism.  We know Him in a most personal way in Holy Communion.

Today, we again receive Holy Communion. This sacrament has often been called “the medicine for immortality.” Christ’s flesh and blood are life giving. As we receive His glorified and risen body and blood we are assured that though our bodies return to the dust in death, on the last day they will break forth from the grave glorified like Christ’s glorified body and so we will ever be with the Lord.

I don’t know what our Lord’s plans are for the COVID-19 virus, for the economy, or for our individual physical health. I don’t have an antidote for COVID-19. I do know the Lord’s plans for our eternity. I do have our Lord’s medicine for everlasting life. Come, receive the life-giving medicine from your life-giving King.

            Dear friends, is this the Palm Sunday you expected? Is it the Holy Week you wanted? My own answer to those questions is “no,” but it is still the Palm Sunday and Holy Week we need. Jesus is the Son of David, the Savior. Jesus came in an unexpected way and He saved us in an unexpected way. He has done everything exactly as we needed it to be done. He is still your King; He is still in control. Be at peace for you belong to His everlasting kingdom. Amen.