Lent 6 Palm Sunday 2024

Lent 6 Palm Sunday
March 24, 2024
Matthew 26:1—27:66

Palm Sunday
March 24, 2024 A+D
Psalm 118, St. Matthew 27:25

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Psalm 118 is at the center of Palm Sunday. It serves as a guide for how to read the Passions. It teaches us to take the wicked words and even blasphemies of all the unbelievers at the trial and crucifixion of Jesus and make them our own. It is a confession of our own culpability, responsibility, and even complicity in the death of Jesus. We are Barabas and cowardly Pilate and the thief who mocked Jesus on the cross. But we also learn to turn those wicked words on their heads and to let them be transformed by grace into the most pious of prayers.

Psalm 118 is the source of the people’s response to Jesus astride the colt. From it they cry: “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” It is a Psalm of thanksgiving and a call to trust in the Lord. The Psalm begins and ends with a call to thanksgiving based on the Lord’s eternal mercy.

1 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good:
Because his mercy endureth for ever.

The Psalm goes on to explain that it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It exalts in answered prayer. The psalmist is confident in the Lord’s mercy and deliverance. He will not die but live. Men are wicked and bring much suffering upon him, surrounding him like bees, mocking him, even torturing him, but he says:

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: What can man do unto me?” and
“The LORD hath chastened me sore: But he hath not given me over unto death.”

The Hosanna and Blessed is He come in the last verses. The King James Version translates the Hebrew word “Hosanna” as “Save now.” Here are the verses in their immediate context:

22 The stone which the builders refused
Is become the head stone of the corner.
23 This is the LORD’s doing;
It is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the LORD hath made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD:
O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD:
We have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.
27 God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light:
Bind the sacrifice with cords,
Even unto the horns of the altar.
28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee:
Thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
29 O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good:
For his mercy endureth for ever.

The Stone which the builders rejected is the Stone that followed them in the wilderness, the Stone from which fresh, clean water flowed. That Stone was Christ, rejected then and rejected now, without honor on the earth which He created and loved. There was never grief like His, never a betrayal so unfounded or unreasonable, never a pain so deep. But He has become the chief stone, the foundation of the Church. The faith of all believers rests on Him. He is still without honor on the earth, but He has reserved for Himself more than Elijah’s 7000. He has set the solitary into His family, has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept us by His grace. We are not of the earth. We belong to heaven. We should die but will not. Jesus lives and so do and so will we.

Thus we look upon the cross, the rejection of the Christ and His sacrifice, and say:

23 This is the LORD’s doing;
It is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the LORD hath made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

And because of that sacrifice, only by that sacrifice, we make a bold demand: Hosanna.

25 Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD:
O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD:
We have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

In that euphoria of the Spirit, that holy confidence in God’s good providence, we even command the crucifixion. We say:

Bind the sacrifice with cords,
Even unto the horns of the altar.
28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee:
Thou art my God, I will exalt thee.

Who is my God? The one bound to the Cross, who is lifted up from the earth to draw all men unto HImself. Blessed is He! He comes in the Name of the Lord. This is the Lord’s doing. It is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made, the day when the sun went dark and water and blood flowed upon the earth outside the city gates. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Reading the Passion together and making ourselves say things like, “Give us Barabas instead of Jesus” and “crucify Him” and even “let His blood be on us and on our children” is painful. There is a part of us that hates that this happened, that Jesus suffered so. We stand accused by the Law. We are guilty. We have betrayed Him, failed Him, turned away from Him. We repent. We turn back to Him. We love His Word and Law. We love Him. We want to do better.

At the same time, even though those people meant those sentences for evil, there is an irony here beyond description, and that irony is the heart of the Gospel. Consider this: if we asked the Father whether He would have Barabas released or Jesus, what would He say? He would say “Barabas.” He would say this not because He does not love Jesus. He would say it because He loves Barabas. He sent Jesus to redeem the wicked. He believes that He can do it and He is right. The release of Barabas and condemnation of Jesus is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.

The height of this, for me, is when the people cry out: “Let His Blood be upon us and on our children.” In their mouths this is blasphemy. They don’t care if Jesus is innocent. They test God. They are saying that they do not think He can or will do anything to them no matter how many innocent people they will kill as many as they want. We, too, have acted as if God’s Word did not matter and we mattered most.

And yet, in faith, redeemed by Christ, we use the same words, “let His Blood be upon us and on our children” to mean something completely different. We want His innocent Blood upon us because His life is in the Blood. He washes us clean and marks us as His own by His Blood. His Blood is poured over our hearts through our mouths to protect us from the angel of death. We want what He gives in and through His Blood for us and for our children. What we meant for evil, God uses for good. “Let His Blood be upon us and our children” is a prayer of faith. It trusts that the death of Jesus is the Lord’s doing. It is marvelous in our eyes.

Thus the whole Passion, the whole life and ministry of Jesus, and even our own personal stories become holy histories of God’s intervening grace and providence. The outcome was never in doubt. Let all those who fear the Lord say, that His mercy endureth forever.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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