Saturday, March 23, 2013

The World that Worshiped a Servant

Palm Sunday
William Hemmerling
"The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:12-13

So why palm branches on Palm Sunday? Emperors used to distribute then among their nobles as exotic gifts. Before the time of Christ, the Romans used them as trophies of victory in games and in wars. Even the Jews carried them during festivals thousands of years before Jesus walked the earth. Today, we often make the ashes for Ash Wednesday from palm branches, and still today on our altars, on Palm Sunday, these same ancient leaves are placed on the altar instead of the flowers we ordinarily use. That's because that's what the crowds used to worship Jesus as He entered Jerusalem to begin what we now observe as Holy Week—the Sunday before Easter.

For Christians today, palm branches are still a sign of victory: victory over Satan, sin, and death, the victory of our True King, the King of all kings, the King born in a manger, the King riding on a donkey. That's right. No elephants, no golden crowns, no jewels, no trumpets, no exotic women in veils scattering rose petals before Him. The King of kings rides a small donkey, alone and quietly humble. The King of kings defeats death by dying, sin by becoming sin, weakness by being weak... This King of kings was no king at all according to what the world thinks a king should be. He was simply the son of a carpenter.

And yet the Pharisees tell us, “The world has gone after Him,” (John 12:19). You see, even though Jesus didn't look like much with His average looks in His plain robes on an average donkey, part of the world always knew better, while the other part couldn't believe their eyes. When Jesus was born, a giant bright star marked His birth and wise men came to worship Him while Herod wanted Him dead. All along the path from His birth in Bethlehem to His death in Jerusalem, demons trembled before Jesus in fear and confessed that He was the Son of God, but His own family rejected Him. Sickness and injury disappeared to make way for Him, even death itself retreated in the face of the Christ as Lazarus was brought back from the dead, and yet there were those who plotted against Him, seeking to kill Him. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, while many stood by and grumbled, thousands upon thousands of people rejoiced and cried out at the sight of Him, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” The end of the Salvation of the world was only a few days away. “Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us now! Please, God, save us now!”
The Crucifixion
Anthony van Dyck

When Jesus died, the earth physically groaned. The sky turned dark although it was the middle of the afternoon. This was literally the world's darkest hour in every sense, seemingly Satan's finest hour: we have killed our own Savior, the Son of God Himself, out of hate. The ground shook: sinful with drought and flood alike, it shuddered at the greatest evil it has ever witnessed or will ever witness. The temple curtain tore: Jesus, the true Temple of God, was destroyed. God would no longer dwell in any temple built by man. The dead got up from their graves as if to say that no death when compared to this death of One so perfectly innocent, so perfectly pure, so perfectly loving as to become sin for our sake is any real death at all.

Hosanna... hosanna... who will save us now? Don't put away your palm branches yet. Part of the world has always known who Jesus really was, and so, while one part of the world still grumbles and rolls its eyes, our part of the world is not finished waving its palm branches of victory: Jesus lives! We have killed our Savior, yes, but that was His plan all along. Jesus made Himself nothing on purpose: an ordinary man with an ordinary birth riding an ordinary donkey and dying an ordinary death. He made Himself nothing for us , and in that, He is EVERYTHING to us.

Hosanna – Save me, please – I am sorry – Thank You. AMEN.

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