March 18, 2018 A+D
St. Matthew 21:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We know that every Sunday is a little Easter, because it was Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead after resting in the tomb Friday, Saturday, and the first part of Sunday. But our weekly divine liturgy has preserved for us a little piece of Palm Sunday. This is so that we are reminded weekly that Jesus came to Jerusalem, came to His people, led His people, and was welcomed with Hosannas on His way to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies. “Hosanna” is the Hebrew word for “save us,” and the promises of God, the OT prophets, and the biblical accounts of God rescuing His people all show His plan to save us.
The Sanctus during the Holy Communion liturgy has us singing Hosannas with those people welcoming our Lord. After the verse from Isaiah sung by the angels in the presence of God, we have “Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” And for good measure we tack on another refrain of praise, “Hosanna in the Highest.” It’s a praise song first confessing with Isaiah our inherent unworthiness to stand in the presence of God, but then the Sanctus is praise for His coming to us for our salvation, to cleanse us from sin. This is what we confess about the Lord’s Supper, that our Lord is present, and we are invited to partake of that bodily presence for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, your Lord is on the altar in His flesh for your salvation—And that certainly deserves praise by those gathered together.
The people of Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday recognized the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy that their king was coming to them righteous and having salvation; that He was humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. And so, the daughter of Zion rejoices and shouts for joy. They shout in the words of Psalm 118. “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps 118:25-26), and then for good measure, they tack on the additional praise reminiscent of what the angels sang the night of Jesus’ birth, “Hosanna in the highest.” They recognize this Messianic moment by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. They know God’s Word as recorded by the prophets and David, and the Holy Spirit creates faith in them by the Word so that they rejoice at the coming salvation.
St. Matthew connects the dots for us by recording the phrase “in the highest.” He wants us to recognize that there is a connection between worshiping the birth of the Son of God and worshipping the Messiah as He enters Jerusalem. That’s why we have this same account from Matthew on the first week of Advent and on Palm Sunday. In support of this point, St. Luke, who records the angelic praise at the incarnation even goes so far as to duplicate that praise in the mouths of the people, making the unmistakable connection between Christ’s coming in the flesh in Bethlehem and His entrance into Jerusalem. Luke records: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38). Those people knew their Scriptures.
We would be remiss if we did not also recall our Scriptures and understand the day of our salvation. From Genesis to Revelation, the Holy Spirit works through words to create faith in you. That’s why it’s so important for you to be in the Word of God, to go to Bible Class, to read it at home, and to hear it in the Divine Service. The Spirit works faith by the spoken and written Word. These Words all point to the mercy and power of God in Christ Jesus. He is your Help and your Salvation. He is the righteous one who came to give His righteousness to sinners. To rescue those in bondage, to answer the pleas of the contrite, and to set prisoners free.
This rescue and redemption is an easily missed scriptural connection that is present in Psalm 118. The entire Psalm is a Psalm of praise. It’s a great example of the praise that believers owe to God for everything they have in this world, but most notably for the salvation that God has granted them in Christ Jesus. The Israelites would have known this to be a Messianic Psalm because before David writes “Hosanna” he writes about the praise of Moses after the Exodus. The Exodus is the OT salvific event that points most clearly to God’s rescue from sin, death, and the devil. In the Exodus, God rescues His chosen people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. He heard their prayers and cries for mercy and responds. He sends Moses to deliver them. He sends the plagues to show His power over creation, He institutes the Passover to foreshow the coming Messiah as the Passover Lamb, but it is the crossing of the Red Sea that seals the rescue. The satanic Pharaoh, beyond all reason, pursues Israel into the paths of the Sea. And even as that path saved Israel by God’s mighty hand, it destroyed Pharaoh and his legions. Water saved God’s people but destroyed God’s enemies. This event is Israel’s source of confidence that God would one day rescue His people from sin, death, and the devil. This is the type that points forward to God’s ultimate work of salvation on the cross. And the people in Jerusalem that day recognized this.
David borrows language from Moses in Psalm 118. David writes “The LORD is my strength and song and is become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly. The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly” (Psalm 118:14-16).
These references to the “right hand of the Lord” are borrowed from Moses who confessed them 400 years earlier. They are references to the second person of the Trinity, who rescued Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt, and who would come in the flesh and ascend to the right hand of God after His victory over sin and death (Exod. 15:6).
God’s rescue of His people out of Egypt is the back drop for the Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem praising God for sending Jesus, humble and riding on a donkey. They are echoing the praises of their ancestors after God’s deliverance at the Red Sea at the beginning of Passover week.
And so today, we should also take note that the Exodus and its fulfillment in Christ is the back drop for us at the beginning of this Holy Week. We join the Christian pilgrims around the world who know that “we have no lasting city [in this world], but we seek the city that is to come [the heavenly Jerusalem; Heb. 13:14]. We join with all true Christians and the whole company of heaven to worship and praise our Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for us. And even today on your pilgrimage, You eat and partake with angels and archangels the meal prepared for you by God himself. Now, as Christ comes to you in Word and Sacrament, you take off the spotted garment of the flesh. (Jude 23) You lay aside the old man in you (Eph. 4:22), like the people taking off their garments and strewing them on the road before Jesus. That is to say, you subdue and kill off the sinful lusts within you by repentance (Gerhard Postilla, p. 290). If Christ is to be your redeemer and dwell within you, the old man must daily be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires—drowned like Pharaoh in the waters of Holy Baptism—that water, reddened by Christ’s blood poured over you to rescue you. Then, the new man emerges to live before God, praising His victory, and receiving the righteousness that He won.
That is behind your praise of “Hosanna.” You cry out “Save us Lord” as the Lord comes this morning. In the midst of sadness and grief at loved ones who have preceded you into the new Jerusalem, your Lord comes to comfort and promise that He will always be with you and that you will join them soon. In the midst of joy at the birth of new sons and daughters, your Lord comes to strengthen you for the solemn parental task. In the midst of the responsibility of raising sons and daughters in the Christian faith, your Lord comes to you to guide you with His Word. In the midst of your repentance and sorrow over sin, your Lord comes to you with mercy and forgiveness.
When you sit in the community of the saints and hear this morning our children sing “All glory laud and honor To Thee, Redeemer King, To whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring” you hear the Church passing the words of praise down to the next generation. When you sit in the community of the saints, even this small community here at Redeemer, and sing the Sanctus with the faithful around you, you are on the heavenly streets to the new Jerusalem with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are with the multitudes of faithful who have come before you, those who have already entered into the new Jerusalem—the faithful departed, your loved ones, the prophets and the patriarchs, all those who have died in the faith, the choirs of angels and the hosts of heaven—singing the praises of your Redeemer King. And having joined them, you too, follow Jesus to this altar. And before this Sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus, you fall down upon your knees, worshiping, giving thanks, and praising Him by receiving Him as your Savior upon your lips and on your tongue.
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, today!
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.