Palm Sunday, Lent 6c
Preached: March 24, 2013
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The words of Scripture through which the Holy Spirit shows us Jesus today is Luke 19
As Jesus now approached the descent from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples rejoicing began to praise God with loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He answered, “I tell you, if they would become silent, the stones will shout.” (Luke 19:37-40).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
You know well, dear friends, the events of that first Palm Sunday. Jesus rides to Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowds honor him. They take palm branches and go out to meet him. They lay their cloaks in the road to honor him. They shout “Hosanna!” which means “Please, save!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
You know well that Jesus does this to fulfill the prophecy recorded by Zechariah: “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 NIV84). Jesus is the King who came to save.
And you know well how Jesus would accomplish that. He came to Jerusalem to die, to die for all sinners, including you and me. He came to carry our sins to the cross. He came to take our place under God's wrath and punishment. He came to suffer our God-forsaken hell instead of us and satisfy divine justice for us. He came to save you.
You know all this well. So how are you going to respond?
As we think about that question, let's ponder the words Jesus speaks at the end of the text: “I tell you ... if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40 NIV). What is Jesus talking about? And how does this relate to our response?
Some think that Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that was coming. In other words, when the people of Jerusalem stopped praising him, not one stone would be left on another. In this way the stones would cry out in judgment against their unbelief.
Now there is nothing unbiblical about that explanation. From the Bible we know that Jerusalem rejected the Gospel of Jesus, persecuting the Apostles. From history we know that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.
But might there be a better explanation to these words? Consider the immediate context. The people have been praising Jesus, honoring him, glorifying him. Those are the kind of words that have been shouted out and cried out. So when Jesus talks about the stones crying out, might he not mean the same kind of words? That is, if the people don't praise him, the stones certainly will. For Jesus will surely be praised.
Let's think about that explanation. To whom did Jesus speak these words about the stones crying out? He spoke them to the Pharisees. And what kind of people would the Pharisees consider to be stones?
Maybe we would think first of how the Pharisees looked down on the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other so-called bad sinners among their fellow Jews. They'd probably count them as stones. Even more so, think about how the Pharisees felt about the non-Jews, the Gentiles. They were outside of God's people. They were as spiritually dead as stones.
So Jesus is making it clear to these Pharisees that if they refuse to praise him as the Savior-king, others, whom they consider stone-dead, will become living stones crying out and shouting the Savior's praise.
If you think about it, this is very similar to the language that John the Baptist used when he confronted the Pharisees. “Do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Matthew 3:9 NIV84).
And isn't that what the Lord has done for you and me? He took us non-Jews, us Gentiles, who were dead in sin, stone-dead. In Baptism he made you alive, spiritually alive. Through the prophet Ezekiel the Lord says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV84) -- a living, beating heart that's spiritually alive. Through Baptism we were reborn into God's family and became one of his people. We, who were not the physical children of Abraham, became his spiritual children through faith in Jesus. The Apostle Peter writes, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ ... Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:5, 10 NIV84).
So, dear Christian, hear Jesus' words about the stones crying out and see yourself as one of those stones. He road into Jerusalem to make you alive before God. That's why he went to the cross. That's why he suffered and died. That's why he rose from the dead on Easter. To make stones, like what you and I once were, alive, spiritually alive.
What's our response? If we respond like the Pharisees and remain quiet, refusing to praise Jesus, we will become dead stones again. Jesus will take his Gospel away from us and give it to others. For Jesus will be praised. If not by us, than by others.
So what's our response? How do we shout out as living stones? That's the second question. A few verses after the Apostle Peter called us living stones, he writes, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belong to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV84). And that's what we see the people doing on Palm Sunday, isn't it?
Listen again to their words of praise recorded by Luke. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38 NIV84).
How can we respond to Jesus and shout out with praise? For you see, dear friends, praise is much more than singing of few songs on a Sunday morning. It's the way we live our life each day. In what ways does your life praise Jesus?
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38 NIV84), the people shouted. How can our lives shout out that Jesus is our King? Here are some thoughts to consider. Since Jesus is our King, we want him to reign in our hearts as our dearest treasure. For he is our Lord who has redeemed us to be his own, ransoming us with his blood. He is our King who rules over all for the good of us, his people. So, when we are faced with choices in life, we ask ourselves: “Which choices clearly show that Jesus is more important to me than anyone or anything else? Which choices show that I am trusting him to reign over all for my eternal good?” There may be several choices that do those things. Often there's more than one right choice in the decisions we make. But these are thoughts we want to be thinking through and praying about. So ask yourself: “How can I show that Jesus is my King, reigning over all my decisions and choices?” What a way to respond and shout out praise to Jesus!
The people shouted “Peace in heaven” (Luke 19:38 NIV84). What good news! We were rebels. We were enemies of God. We were hostile sinners. But in Jesus we have peace even before the holy God in heaven. For through his death, Jesus reconciled you to God. He became sin for us and freely gave us his righteousness. What peace through Jesus!
How can our lives reflect that peace? Do you see how having peace with God enables us to live at peace with one another in ways unbelievers cannot? Since we have peace with God, we know that he's taking care of us. Just think about this: While we were still his enemies, he reconciled us by not sparing his own son. How much more now that we are reconciled to him, won't he take care of us? So we don't have to selfishly be looking out for our own interests at strife with others because they might take advantage of us. We have peace with God because our sins are forgiven. We don't need to keep a record of wrongs when others sin against us. Rather forgive, even as God has forgiven you. And where there is forgiveness, there's peace. What a way to praise our Savior who came gentle and riding on a donkey to bring us peace! Respond in praise by living in gentle peace with others.
Finally, the people shouted, “Glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38 NIV84). All glory goes to God. That's why, dear Christians, we can humbly serve each other. We are not in it for our glory. As you serve your family, your church, your employer, your community, your country, we don't do it for the honor, the thank-yous, the rewards. We do it first and foremost for our Savior. For look at how he humbled himself, even to death on a cross! He humbled himself to rescue sinners like you and me, serving us by giving his life as the ransom for all. Praise him by doing everything, even eating and drinking, for his glory.
Shout with the stones. That's the theme here today. Jesus came to Jerusalem to die for you. His Gospel brings life to hearts like ours that were once stone-dead in sin. Believe this Good News and shout with praise. He is your King. Let him reign over the choices and decisions you make. He brings you peace with God. Live at peace with one another. And humbly serve for his glory. Then your life is shouting praise to your Savior, your King. Shout with the stones. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.